Jump to content
mross

Gabon Ebony

Recommended Posts

Hello all,

I have a tanto blade I want to fit out. I will be amking the Tsuka and scabbard. I've never done either so this will be fun. I was thinking to use Gabon Ebony because I thought the black wood would set off the blade nicely. I have read that ebony is not a good choice due to it's tendancy to split and crack. Is this true? Is there a way to make it so it won't crack and split or should I find another wood?

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the short answer is no...when makng tsuka/saya for japanese blades, there are several requirements that greatly reduce your options for wood selection...most if not all exotic woods are pretty much a no go...poplar is probably your best bet...ive also used bass wood before, but its too soft and too light (weight) in my opinion...you want to avoid oily wood, acidic wood, anything that cracks/splits easily, etc, etc...on the bright side, laquering of the saya opens up almost endless avenues for creativity...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bummer. The ebony is so pretty, thought it would look great. What are the requirements for the wood?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yeah, i know how you are feeling...i too have gone through the "bummer" stage...selecting wood for saya is practically an art in itself...preferably you would want something that was quarter saw, but its wastefull, so not the easiest to find...you need a wood that is able to compress a bit, isnt oily or acidic, and something that machines easily...japanese ho wood of course fits all these criterias, but getting decent ho wood in the us is practically impossible...your best bet would be poplar...its readily available, cheap, and fits the requirements for saya/tsuka wood...your best choice would probably be alder, but isnt as easy to find as poplar...its probably the closest to ho wood without actually being ho that you will find in the states...i like poplar just because it is very available in my area so no matter what day of the week or time of the year i always have a good selection to pick through...another couple options would be bass wood (as mentioned earlier)...its very easy to work, but is really light weight...too light in my opinion, but a good choice other than that...i have also heard cheery mentioned before, but have never used it myself...there are other hardwoods that could be used i suppose, but it seems like it would be more trouble than what its worth...remember, you shouldnt use any abrassive in the process, so using hand chisels to hollow out oak (kinda acidic anyway, so not great for the blade) or something like that just seems like it wouldnt be worth the mental anguish a person would have to endure to complete the task...sooo...just to sum this up, my list would look like this...

 

1. japanese ho (used for a coupe thousand yars in japan...obivously the prefered choice...hard to get any decent quality in the states)

2. alder (very close to ho...not always easy to find...selection may not be great...more expensive than poplar)

3. poplar (not as nice to work as alder...readily available...good selection...inexpensive)

4. bass wood (extremely easy to work...very light weight...sometimes hard to find an acceptable piece...can be kinda picey, especially if you have to buy from a specialty shop)

 

ok...with all that said, im about to blow your mind, so hold on...depending on how much work you are willing to put into it...you could always hollow out your ebony, and then make an insert out of poplar to glue to the inside of the ebony...

 

hope that helped a little.

Edited by Mike Fegan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I was going to go to the trouble of doing like Mike said and hollow out the hardwood to install a soft wood core, I'd go to African Black Wood. It's not as likely to check. Just, as a precaution, clean the gluing surfaces of the Black Wood with acetone. However, if I were doing it, black lacquer on a soft wood is cheaper.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I was going to go to the trouble of doing like Mike said and hollow out the hardwood to install a soft wood core, I'd go to African Black Wood. It's not as likely to check. Just, as a precaution, clean the gluing surfaces of the Black Wood with acetone. However, if I were doing it, black lacquer on a soft wood is cheaper.

 

Doug

I have heard of the liner method. I have a tanto that is in a bone tsuka and sheath that used this method. The blade is not very good and I suspect it was made for those who travel. I had looked at the black wood, it's not quite as pretty as ebony and I'm not too crazy about its dust. I believe it can be irritating. I do think the liner method is probably above my current skill level. This will be my first. So I may go to poplar wood. One reason I was not going this route was I did not want to have to do lacquer work that is still a strong negative. I was hoping for a pretty wood that would not need lacquer, which was why I was considering the ebony. I kind of like interesting wood to accent the blade. I am not worried about it meeting Japanese standards. The blade was not made in the traditional way and I will be doing the polish using sand paper.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well...you might could try cherry in that case...i still vote for poplar though, especially since tis is your fisrt knife...on the laquering issue...laquering will still be easier than trying make the ebony work...im not exactly sure what look you are going for, but you could always use automotive laquer...its not traditional or ideal, but it will work,and doesnt require much of an investment in money or supplies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be careful with any wood dust. The stuff's not meant to be breathed. I did make a handle with Africa Black Wood once and I didn't brush the dust off my T-shirt before chucking it into the laundry basket. It left a permanent stain on the shirt. All woods can vary in appearance. I had one piece of Black Wood that was every bit as black as Ebony. I've had other pieces that displayed some dark brown streaks through it. Great for handles but I could see why you wouldn't want that appearance in a scabbard.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be tempted to try birch for the saya; its a harder softwood, easily carved & works nicely. To my knowledge its not overly acidic or resinous so it shouldn't affect the blade. Its a commonly used in millwork & furniture, you should be able to get your hands on it easily.

 

Other woods that may work but you'd have to do some research on beforehand are cherry & boxwood.

 

I'd suggest against poplar, the stuff I have in my neck of the woods is soft & difficult to carve. You may have a different species that work much better however.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ok, I wouldn't use the ebony mostly because if you've never done it before you don't want to waste nice wood, my first saya attempt was out of Jatoba wood and it was an epic failure on my part because I didn't have the necessary skill to work it correctly and it didn't end well.

Alder, Ash and Poplar are probably your best bet, they are good starters and are much easier to work then very hard woods.

And to tell you the truth most of my saya I now make with exotic woods, so my advice is to work yourself up to it and once you do the reward is well worth it-most of them are able to take a much higher polish and im my humble opinion look a great deal better and are much more durable than there softer counterparts (that's why Japanese Honoki is lacquered so heavily)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys. Right now I have 0 skill doing wood work. I can build a deck or a porch but have never done any fine woodwork. I was planing on taking it slow with just hand tools and maybe a belt sander. I know sanding is frowned upon with Nihonto, but I do not currently have the skill to do it the traditional way. Since it's my knife and I'll be doing the polish on the blade, shame on me if the sandpaper messes up th polish. I had the ebony idea because I had a vision in my head of how it would look, OK maybe more of a fantasy given my skill level. All the suggestions are noted. When I finally do start it I'll be sure and document it and post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...