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Hi guys.

 

I finished this little "pocket nihonto" today. The handle measurements (95.6mm x 14.3mm) are the measurements used for the making of a "kozuka" , the handle of a katana's companion knife.

The blade is 1070, the handle is hand carved wrought iron.

 

Bark+kozuka+2.jpg

 

Bark+kozuka+3.jpg

 

Bark+kozuka+1.jpg

 

Questions and comments welcome!

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Outstanding work! Your texturing is magnificent and the blade is worthy of the effort!

 

John

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I would have put money on the table to bet that was some kind of burnt tree bark had you not explained it was wrought iron. The effect you achieved by "carving the wrought iron", well its fantastic. It makes for a whole new take on friction folders! :oB)

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Very well done, Tiaan! That's some of the best bark I've seen. It's also such a nice flat dark color - what patina method did you use?

 

Shibuich_Miseretto_Centipede.jpg

Now for your next one, let's add some vermin lurking under the bark. :D You guys in South Africa should have some real doozies to play with............

 

And please tell me you took some WIP pics as you made this? If so, let's see them... :rolleyes:

 

Tom

Edited by tsterling
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Thank you all for the feedback!

 

Very well done, Tiaan! That's some of the best bark I've seen. It's also such a nice flat dark color - what patina method did you use?

 

Shibuich_Miseretto_Centipede.jpg

Now for your next one, let's add some vermin lurking under the bark. :D You guys in South Africa should have some real doozies to play with............

 

And please tell me you took some WIP pics as you made this? If so, let's see them... :rolleyes:

 

Tom

 

 

Hi Tom

After carving I did a etch with 10% nitric acid. Too strong to show the layers in the wrought, but it worked great to get an even matt surface. I then did a nitrate hot gunblue:

1 liter water, in a deep iron bowl, add 500grams Sodium Hydoxide, bring to a boil. This stuff tends to come to boil very suddenly, a deep and wide bowl is better than a deep narrow bowl, as it tends to shoot out of the bowl if the surface area is too small.

Add 250grams ammonium nitrate a bit at a time, standing downwind. Lots of sinus clearing ammonia gas is liberated. You can use LAN, limestone ammonium nitrate, available from plant nurseries, just check the label, any bone meal, phosphates, etc will mess up the process.

Degrease the work, put in the boiling solution and check once in a while, it should be black within 30 minutes. Rinse with boiling water, pat dry with a soft tissue, apply oil and let it be for a day, in a dark corner of your workshop so the patina can get time to cure as it is quite fragile for a while.

 

As too the critters, challenge accepted. I have another three handles of the shape and size ready for carving.

 

I did not take enough work in progress photos, I will fill the gaps with the next couple of handles.

I started by annealling a piece of wrought iron sheet, then bending it cold as shown

 

Bark+kozuka+wip1.jpg

 

The next step was done at red heat. I put a bit of steel in the V and squeezed it closed in the post vise. Back to the forge, hammer on the back and sides, re-heat, hammer, ad infinitum. It takes about seven heats to form the handle over the mandril.

File and polish the back and sides of the handle to shape, 400 grit is good. Measure the width from the spine, and file or saw the handle to the right width. It is important to have the handle bulge out very slightly in the center, as a long narrow shape will look like the center is thinner even if the sides are perfectly parallel. 1/32" is about enough.

Making and fitting the blade is standard bladesmithing, for this knife I filed the blade to shape, and used a diamond burr to cut the hollow above the blade sides.

Carving a piece of bark is an altogether different bag of bugs. The problem is that the human mind thinks in pattern, and sees in pattern. We tend to reduce a surface to its simplest shapes.

To carve bark, get a piece of bark and copy it. To think you can do it from memory will lead to failure.

 

Bark+kozuka+wip2.jpg

 

You might have to reduce the depth of the texture on the carving to compensate for the thickness of the metal. Texture punches of various shapes and sizes helps to get rid of the ordered chiseled surface and turn it into the chaos of nature. On the photos you can see the various steps in one piece. Towards the right I am busy establishing the general shapes, in the middle I am working on getting the depth and detail, and to the left I am working with texture punches. After the texture punches I went back with the chisels and touched up some detail, then textured again. The fine cracks on the upper surface were copied using a small punch with a round cutting edge. By round I mean that the edge is flat viewed from the front and on edge, rounded when viewed from the side. I also used this punch to deepen the cracks where my smallest chisels were still too wide.

 

I will take lots of pictures when making the next three and compile a proper WIP post.

Edited by Tiaan Burger
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Works for me. The last bark-handled folder I saw was by Marco DiFrancesco, and he did his by making rubber molds of actual bark and casting them in bronze. Yours look equally realistic. B)

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Thanks for the hot bluing info, Tiaan.. I've been resisting going in that direction, but your results are so encouraging that I'm going to have to reconsider.

 

Excellent carving info - thanks for the WIP, and I'm really looking forward to the next! When you do that one, let's see the tools as we'll;)

 

Tom

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I started on the next folder, the first step was design. I have been working on dragonfly themed fittings for a while, the things just got stuck in my head. The drawings were done at a scale of 2:1 as it it much easier to see compositional errors.

 

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+1.jpg

 

I then drew the design on a 1:1 scale

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+2.jpg

 

I do not carve with the blade in place, I use a strip of steel of the same thickness inside the handle to keep the side I carve from bending due to many hours of hammering.

With the rust cleaned off I made a light drawing of the reeds with a pencil, and put a series of light punch marks on the drawn lines just to make sure I did not inadvertently wipe the design off. The drawing was then outlined with a square tipped chisel, used at a slight angle so only the corner on the line did the cutting.

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+3.jpg

 

Relieving the background was done with a round nosed chisel, followed by a flat chisel. (I have no idea what happened to the bottom of the photo, at least the working bit is showing clearly.)

 

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+4.jpg

 

With the shapes and depth of the reeds established I proceeded to bring the rest of surface level with the area around the reeds. This is to prevent the reeds from sitting in an obvious hollow. The chiseled surface needs very little work to become a suitable background for the composition. Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+5.jpg

 

From beginning the drawing to the photo above took about four hours. The next step will be to refine the reeds, then cut the dragonfly's part and inlaying them. I am in two minds about the dragonfly. A copper body and silver wings will look great on the dark iron, but a silver body and wings will be so much easier to make and it will still look good.

 

Question time!

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No questions? Oh well...
Today being Sunday I did not do much carving, just enough to drive my wife up the walls. She hates that texturing punch! The biggest problem with relief carving is separating the design from the background. This is done in two ways: Textural differences; the foreground has a different texture than the background, and well defined edges. In woodcarving undercutting helps to create a shadow area which makes the subject stand out a bit more.

 

The picture shows the bit of progress I made today, and three punches. The one on the right I used on the bark folder to get into those deep cracks and turn the flat bottoms into V's. On the reeds I used it as a small fuller to suggest the joints on the reeds. The middle and left punches are texturing punches. These are made by knocking a soft chisel blank tip against a suitable surface, in this case I used a second-cut file. The punches are then hardened, else the tip will be worked smooth with a minute or two.

On the photo you can see how the reeds are coming forward from the matt background.

 

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+6.jpg

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Once again astounding. Your carving just gets better and better all the time! I actually thought it was a piece of resin impregnated bark until I read the post.

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I started at eight this morning, working non-stop until five, with two very short coffee breaks. First order for the day was to cut the dragonfly's body and trace it onto the handle. I filed the body so the edges slope outwards, i.e. the bottom is larger than the top. This allows the inlay to "doveltail" into the wrought iron.

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+7.jpg

Next came cutting the hollow for the inlay, about 0.5mm deep. The bottom edge of the hollow was deepened using a wedge shaped punch, driving the upper edge slightly upwards. I place the inlay in its hollow and lightly hammered it down, followed with careful tapping along the side to level the raised edge of the wrought iron. This loocked the inlay firmly in place.

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+8.jpg

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+9.jpg

Putting the wings in place was almost the same, except that the open end on the edge of the handle does not allow a mechanical fit, I had to resort to solder to keep the inlays in place. After they were soldered I started working them down with a round nosed chisel, I believe in a bit too much rather than starting over!

Dragonfly+and+reeds+kozuka+10.jpg

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