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Workshop ~ A(nother) blogging experiment...

Well, that first try didn't work! I'm trying again to post pictures of the pieces I’m making on spec (there may still be ramblings both random and pointed on the difficulties and joys of the craft - and I may one day finish that tanto!) and try and give an insight as to the way a blade is produced. Let's get started with a recent retrospective; after that, I'll try monthly round-ups...


April-May 2014. Here's an eastern-design inspired sgian from sketch to etch...
Habaki Sgian Design
Finished roughing out...
Uncarved Sgian
Carving started...
Carved Habaki Sgian
Blade polished and etched...
Habaki Sgian Etched
Feb 2014. My experiments in forging up the 1/2" cable were not going well, so I made this to keep from getting disheartened - a laminated viking knife in 15n20 and 1095... This mix is really fun as the working properties are comparatively similar, so it just takes one welding pass, and the rest of the consolidation is done while forging to shape - got one slight delamination forging down the tang, but I caught it in time, and it welded back just fine...
Forged Blade
August 31st 2011 (for previous posts, go here) You may not be surprised to notice that I've fallen down on this recently - a combination of summer (and associated visits etc.) and having lots of work on. I've not actually had a chance to get much further with the tanto I was talking about, so check back for that at some point. But I do have notes from a couple of projects, which I'll try and get up here soon...
April 13th 2011: I'm not long back from attending another forging workshop hosted by Owen Bush, and I'm about to go away travelling for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, though, I'll fill you in on the progress of that tanto build (previous stages are now here).

Day 3

This is a hangover day, and so I don’t want to be doing anything near the work that’s already done, in case I screw up. No polishing and definitely no habaki making – swinging a hammer that close to the hardened edge is asking for trouble. I decided instead to make the fuchi and kashira, as if I mess them up I can just start over.

Tanto fittings

Tanto Fuchi and Kashira

The fuchi is fabricated from copper sheet, hard soldered together, while the kashira is raised using a punch and die made from mild steel – you can see the punch in the second pic. The fuchi has a nickel silver rim and a brass butterfly soldered in place, while the kashira has a brass dragonfly. The kashira blank was purposefully left slightly undersized, so that the skirt which forms as you punch it through the die could be forged down to give an organic, fungal feel. I also started the habaki, sawing out the blank and forging it into a U shape, before calling it a day.

Day 4:

This is the proper habaki day. The U shaped piece of copper needs to be heated to a dull red to soften it enough for shaping round the tang of the blade. Heat, shape, heat, shape, until it fits tight on the blade. Then you have to make a little thing called a machi gane, the bane of every habakishi’s life. This little wedge has to be perfectly shaped to seal the habaki, wedged into place, and brazed there without moving. After that is done, the habaki is soft again after the heat of the brazing, and so you work all over the surface with a hammer to work-harden it. This is done on the blade, so as you harden it up, you’re also ensuring a perfect fit. The fitted habaki is then sawn, ground and filed to its final shape:

Tanto Habaki

After getting the habaki to this stage, I decided to make a tsuba. I went with an idea for this that I’ve been toying with for a while: a tsuba with a hamon. I cut the blank from a piece of 3/16ths 1095, pierced the nakago ana, and ground the edges into a rounded shape. Then I clayed it up with a radial pattern of ashi, heated it in the forge, and quenched into water. From what I can see of the hamon, it looks pretty cool, but I won’t know how effective this idea is until I get it into full polish. The last thing before bed was to pierce the nakago ana in the fuchi, so I could get everything lined up and see how it’s looking:

Tanto Tsuba with Hamon

Next up – tsuka making...

(for previous posts, go here)
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