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I just finished my first habaki; see picture below. I have a number of questions that people might be able to answer. I started with 1/8in copper bar stock that I cut about 3in wide and 1 1/4in high. I established tapers in both the horizontal and vertical directions before bending it over a little wooden jig - triangular openings with different angles to get the bend going. I then clamped some bar stock in the middle and continued bending on the vice. The rest of the fitting was done with the hammer on the tang of the sword. The mune was established with the hammer and improved the fit of the habaki on the inside. Frequent annealing really helps. I shaped the machi gane on the grinder; by making it longer than needed I had something to hold on to with vice grips and was able to make a reasonable wedge fairly quickly. However, I have a number of questions.

 

1. What is the typical ratio for the height vs the width? I have read 90% - 70% depending on the size of the sword. I don't have any habakis lying around here and no sense for aesthetics yet.

2. How much of the habaki is usually brazed? I only brazed the part that was covered by the machi gane; in particular, the part where the ha rests in the habaki is not brazed and shows a small gap. Is that ok?

3. How do you prevent scratches on the tang when fitting the habaki. I got a whole bunch of scratches on the tang I have to remove; I presume it's from not completely sanding down the inside of the habaki. I used the side of the copper with the least hammer marks for the inside. After brazing, I used a small piece of wood to work the habaki back and forth until a tight fit was established.

4. How do you make the cat scratches? I tried a 6in double cut bastard file, but the file marks did not look right.

 

Here is a picture of the completed habaki. It took almost a whole day to make it.

 

Habaki.jpg

 

Thanks for any help,

Niels.

Edited by nprovos
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I'm not an expert, but I've talked to people who are..... :-)

 

1. I don't think there is a definite ratio, but the width is less than the height. The habaki you see when people don't realize this looks wrong.

 

2. The little gap is fine, hard not to have it if the habaki is shaped really close to the ha.

 

3. This is getting a bit out of my abilities too, but it is my understanding that the habaki is not supposed to touch the polished sides of the blade (spoiling the polish). It is supposed to grip at the ha and mune. Again, not something I can do, but has to do with squeezing the habaki to bow out the sides. Maybe Patrick will jump in on this one.

 

4. The decorative pattern scored in with a file is done with a special file, I believe. Very knife edge looking thing. I've tried to make something that would do out of hack saw blades and whatnot, but nothing truly successfull yet.

 

BTW, Niels, that is an outstanding first habaki. You have done your homework on that.

 

Dan

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Another issue I had was with brazing. I got 15% silver brazing rods like you suggested. However, the corresponding flux would bubble away before the filler would start flowing. I had part of the habaki in a vise, so that might have been too much of a heat sink. Next time I might try resting it on fire brick and using borax as flux.

 

Nielsl

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Excellent first Habaki.

 

Habaki length being 90 percent of the height is the maximum for a good proportions. They can be shorter and some styles are nearly 50 percent (seen on tanto) Two piece Habaki are shorter , but were talking about piece heree. The one or two I have seen that are longer than 90 were clearly amateur works.

 

The gap being ok or not depends on your judging criteria. If you were trying to win a contest in japan the seam should be closed all the way up. The solder ahead of the machi gane might only be a couple thousands thick. Its very touchy to do this correctly.

The gap would be considered amateur in the highest circles, but there is no functional difference between the two approaches IMO. My advice would be to make it clean and clear that its intensional. In other words if you leave a gap do it with confidence.

 

Copper will not scratch your steel. Oxidation, flux, or abrasive grit are the culprits here. pickle your copper clean after each anneal and after soldering. When you grind on a habaki or use sand paper or anything that can leave grit behind you need to clean it throughly before it goes back on the blade. Clean clean clean = no scratches.

 

I do Cat scratch with a graver/chisel

 

Hang your Habaki with wire or make hook out of of 1/8" round stock. You need to be able see clearly on all four sides of the joint. Copper conducts heat away like crazy. You can't have the copper in contact with a heatsink like a vise. Hang the Habaki up and your flux will likely work just fine, that is if they are meant to work with each other in the first place.

 

patrick :ph34r:

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This is going to be a silly question. How do you pickle your copper clean? Do you soak it in vinegar? I had some rags lying around and would run them through the inside of the habaki several times after annealing, brazing, grinding. As far as I can tell the brazing material climbed up the walls and coated them with a thin film. I used sand paper to remove most of that - but that was after I already committed the scratches.

 

Thanks for your comments.

 

Niels.

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I use Muriatic acid. Available at hardware stores or pool supply. there are commercial product available through jewelers supply and many home brew pickles on the net. Submerge the Habaki 5-10 minutes after anneal. Take all the proper precautions when working with acid.

 

patrick :ph34r:

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3. How do you prevent scratches on the tang when fitting the habaki.

 

Nice habaki, Niels!

I'm interested how you will decorate the surface - I "haven't the heart" to try deep cat scratches yet and made only shallow marks (I should practice first...).

 

I have made two habaki - for selfmade stock removal tanto. There weren't any problems with the tang BUT

what about an old real blade with a thick tang and a thin polished blade?

How is a proper fit possible without scratching the tang or bending/pressing the habaki when mounted?

 

habaki_02.jpg

 

habaki_03_01.jpg

habaki_03_02.jpg

habaki_03_03.jpg

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I do not do restoration Habaki and have often asked these same questions of those that do. The answer is usually "very carefully" yes its just as helpful as it sounds...

The two piece Habaki design may in fact have come from refitting tired blades. The short design being further divided in two allows for a much higher degree of flex when the Habaki is slid into place. So it can "spring" over the high spots. The top and bottom areas of the nakago do not get polished so this dimension never really changes(no hump is developed on these plains). These two surfaces are where its meant to precision fit. The sides are still meant to be precise, but can bow out as much as is necessary to get the Habaki in place without damaging anything. You don't want it to be loose, but you do what you have to to deal with a poorly shaped blade. Be it tired or just badly shaped to begin with. I often have to deal with less than perfect shapeing as a given smith refines there understanding of this area.

The two Habaki below are examples of patterns made with gravers.

 

Habakiaaa-017.jpg

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And this is why, just about every time I get half way through a habaki, I think to myself "I aughta just have Patrick do this" :rolleyes:

 

So what was I thinking with the scratched polish, Patrick? I'm thinking I transposed the habaki fit to the saya. You never know where my brain'll go these days.

 

Niels, on the brazing part, the copper needs to be glowing dull red, or somewhere in there, for the braze to flow. I messed up several times until I got the heat control right. We're talking wearing a #5 lense and everything you'd do like brass brazing. Can be done with MAPP gas torch because such a small part, but oxy/acetalene goes faster.

 

Dan

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Dan, I still don't know where your brain went! Can you rephrase the question :) ?

patrick :ph34r:

 

 

I was thinking that the 'proper' fit of habaki to blade involved a minute space between blade and copper due to a conversation we'd had about the subject. What I'm thinking I was thinking was a similar conversation about fit from habaki to saya, that the mune and ha sides of habaki fit snugly to the saya, but the sides don't, so it doesn't spoil the decorations and finish of the habaki. Or something like that.

 

Dan

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Ah I get it now.

Yea I get conflicting input from those more experienced that myself. Leaving a gap that a piece of paper cans slip into between the copper and the steel is not a bad way to go. It is often necessary to get over any swells in the nakago anyway. This gap still requires that the top and bottom corners register without a gap to keep the Habaki from moving left and right. Creating this gap and keeping the Habaki "still" can be tricky. If the mune of the nakago has a some niku (rounded edges) the Habaki will register tightly preventing side to side movement making the gap creation easier. If this surface is dead flat then the Habaki will tend to slide left and right. In that case any gap needs to taper off perfectly at the corners to get it still. That being said I prefer to work on blade with some slight rounding on the Nagako mune.

 

For the Saya the best way to describe might be to say that any heavier contact is done along the mune and Ha portions of the Habaki. The sides touch wood, but only just so. Only the lightest contact is needed to provide the friction fit. Anything but light (uniform) contact will create enormous splitting forces on the weakest point of the saya.

 

 

There are many ways to just get it done without getting caught up in all these nuances. I know many western craftsman find this Japanese stuff "tradition" and the like to be pretentious. Thats fine I don't wish to change anyones approach. I am just putting my opinion out for those that are interested.

patrick :ph34r:

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  • 3 weeks later...

Patrick, on the picture of the two habaki above, what method was used to get the coloring on the one on the right?

I like it!

 

Glad you like it. It is the classical Japanese patina called Niage. That Habaki was prepared by polishing with a Horse hair brush with wet powdered charcoal of the magnolia tree. Then its washed in the pulp of Daikon raddish. Then its cooked in a solution of water containing a pinch of Roshuko and Rysando (copper sulfate). Roshuko has no off the shelf equivalent and is only manufactured in Japan.

patrick :ph34r:

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  • 5 years later...

This is going to be a silly question. How do you pickle your copper clean? Do you soak it in vinegar? I had some rags lying around and would run them through the inside of the habaki several times after annealing, brazing, grinding. As far as I can tell the brazing material climbed up the walls and coated them with a thin film. I used sand paper to remove most of that - but that was after I already committed the scratches.

 

Thanks for your comments.

 

Niels.

I use hot vinegar with a little borax in it for copper jewelry work. it's very fast.

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Have you tried Easy-45? I've found that works very nicely on copper and brass.

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