Information on Restoring a Japanese Folding Screen

Written by melissa sherrard
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Information on Restoring a Japanese Folding Screen
Japanese folding screens are known traditionally as "byobu." (japan flag button image by Andrey Zyk from

Folding screens are an art form the Japanese adopted from China in the 8th century, and within a few hundred years folding screens became the centrepiece of Japanese interior design. The restoration of Japanese folding screens can consist of many different procedures, with some methods requiring several hours and certain technical knowledge.

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Frames & Hinges

To restore the wooden frames of Japanese folding screens, you must know something about traditional construction techniques. In building a Japanese folding screen, a wooden lattice frame creates the "bones" of the piece, and the square panels are fixed together with alternating paper hinges, a revolutionary technique introduced during the Momoyama era. In restoring the frame, no metal should be used, as the bamboo nails used in traditional Japanese frame construction maintain their strength for more than 100 years.

Paper Panels

Once the frame is intact, the paper panels of Japanese folding screens must be repaired. Traditionally, several layers of different hydrostatic papers---meaning they easily give off and absorb water according to the humidity---are laid down over the frame and secured with paste around each edge. To dust Japanese paper folding screens, use a clean feather duster and move vertically from top to bottom. Never wash your Japanese folding screen in an effort to restore it, as the paint and gold or silver foil are easily removed this way.

Imagery & Decor

To restore the decor of Japanese folding screens, great care must be taken to ensure none of the original imagery is distorted or lost. The most common decor is Chinese-inspired art or Yamato, an art form that depicts Japanese traditions and history. Since many traditional folding screens are composed of up to eight panels, it is important to take all of the imagery and decor into consideration when restoring a piece. Once the restored artwork is properly reattached to the wooden frame, a silk border secures the mount and keeps the look of the folding screen uniform.

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