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Brian Madigan

Shaping insides of saya

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I was arguing with my brother (who is a professional luthier) about making Japanese style wood scabbards. He says my method takes way too long.

I use home made chisels and some bent rifflers and no power tools or abrasives. He wants to use a Dremel with a routing attachment because if it takes more than a hour or two he loses interest.

I used my big router once, but didn't like it and went back to chisels and rifflers.

SO, if anyone here makes sayas the old way, what kind of tools do you like? I'm not aware of many tools specifically made for hollowing out sayas.

The chisels I made are something like this:

 

http://www.nihonzashi.com/DIY/saya_chisels.jpg

 

and rifflers:

http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/ProductImages/fileraspriffler/126006.jpg

Edited by toxonix

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Master Bell does things the old way because that was how he was taught 30 some odd years ago in japan, I had the privilege this past summer to watch him work on one for a couple days for Yoshihara. We sat in his studio and talked while he worked. It was amazing to watch between chasing my son around and listening to him talk. Keep doing it the way YOU are comfortable doing it. With the exception of using a sander to shape the buffalo horn, he was using hand saws and chisels and hand planes.

Edited by WmHorus

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Abrasives are a bad plan for the inside of saya. They can leave particles in the wood of the saya and cause scratches in your highly polished (at great expense of time and material or money).

 

Power tools are ok if you can control them adequately to not make the fit sloppy. The special chisels are called saya-nomi, and consist of a hard face, soft body bar, with a curve that is actually much like koshi-zori in a sword. There are two main styles, square and curved cutting edges. I think maybe namikawa has a picture of one on their web site. If you can make a sword, you can make saya-nomi. :)

 

Anything done in traditional style concerning Japanese style swords (or any other traditional craft) is likely to use hand tools, and require a lot of time, until one gets proficient at it anyway. Sometimes short-cuts work, sometimes they do not. Throughout most of our species history, time was abundant, and materials were not. Our modern world has this upside-down. Now materials are greatly abundant, but time is precious. I dunno that it's better, but it makes it harder to put yourself in the shoes and mind-set of ancient craftsmen. We view things differently, because we have a different world. Impatience is a modern plague in some ways.

Edited by Howard Clark

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I do make the chisels similar to that, the ones made by the Japanese smiths are pretty expensive. I have some less expensive but hand made Japanese planes that are really worth the money. I just use 1/4" round music wire forged to shape, quenched in oil and then ground on water stones. The cutting edges are about 3/8", so they're a little small. I use small straight V gouges too for the edges.

I think this shape is ideal

http://japantool-iida.com/chisel_others/2008/06/sayanomi-by-takahashi.html

Edited by toxonix

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Speaking of shortcuts...When I needed a quick "saya-nomi", I took a store-bought chisel, got it hot, bent it and re-hardened. Voila.

 

It's not as long as a specialized saya chisel, so I have the bend closer to the neck/tang-end of the chisel but it got the job done

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