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small Moroha-Zukuri tanto design...


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...This is the my first habaki.

 

Again... I'm so excited about this. I think this might one of those projects that are turning points in methodology...

 

right on, good attitude! you've got a long long line of smiths and craftsmen standing behind you now!

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looking good. my only criticism would be that the machigane does not look to be well soldered at the bottom and there seem to be sizeable gaps between the nakago and habaki on both the mune and especially the ha sides. are you planning to put the seam of the saya well off the center of the blade?

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looking good. my only criticism would be that the machigane does not look to be well soldered at the bottom and there seem to be sizeable gaps between the nakago and habaki on both the mune and especially the ha sides. are you planning to put the seam of the saya well off the center of the blade?

Joe...

 

I don't actually have the habaki soldered at all in that picture as I have not been able to get my soft solder to hold while fitting. And I've held off trying to use hard solder as I started to notice something about the overall shape of the primary edge which required that I do some re-grinding.. which would require some adjustment to the habaki.

 

I've been wondering how to handle the seam since it seems that the correct way to make the saya is to carve the recess for the blade on only one side... but I may be misunderstanding. Anyway.. it won't be as far off center as it appears in that picture as I had to plane down the flat side of that piece of wood. As things stand now.. I've carved the recess for the habaki in both sides of the wood... and have let some out for the shinogi on one side. My seams don't usually show (as long as the surfaces are properly flattened to not show glue line) so the positioning of the actual seam didn't seem to matter to me.

 

I have been running into a few issues here and there due to improper sequence of things. i.e. the positioning of the mekugi-ana in the wood changing by flattening the ends (although this was luckily made up for almost perfectly with the addition of the seppa). And now.. placing the mekugi secures the blade.. but does not put enough pressure on seppa into the habaki! Ughh.. so many things can go wrong on this stuff!

 

Also... regarding the gap at the mune and ha..I was getting a good tight fitment of the habaki with those gaps. But I suppose the issue is that you want the habaki fitment to be accomplished with the mune and ha to avoid contact with the actual blade? Looks like I will probably have to make a new machigane to bridge the gap....

 

edit: It just occurred to me that the seppa and habaki are not secured because the pin might be pushing the blade up just a hair. You can see just a tiny bit of the mekugi-ana on the nakago when peeking in. What would be a good solution for this? edit: that makes no sense at all. :-) I'm hoping the issue is that my mekugi pin is not tapered.

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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i should say that i've only been making knives for about a year and have only made two habaki in my life, so i am not an expert by any means, but i have been doing my homework on these issues and have been facing many of the same challenges you have. i am fortunate to know several craftsmen with expertise in japanese style swords who have helped along the way, but there is often not total agreement on how things "should" be done.

the habaki seems to be something with considerable variation in manufacturing technique, especially with regard to the machigane. i use 15% silver solder on the advice of one craftsman, but have been told by others to use something harder (seems to me like 15% for a tanto should be just fine). i don't think anyone would dispute that a snug fit of the machigane within the habaki is key and having most of the contact happen against the nakago (such that gaps should be kept to a bare minimum) is also vital.

 

i always thought that the saya seam should be off-center to avoid spliiting due to edge contact, but i have rarely actually seen that done in any japanese blade i own -- they seem to all be straight down the middle. of course, the edge really shouldn't ever come in contact with the saya -- stored and drawn properly, that contact should occur along the mune.

 

i am no expert on mekugi ana (and i don't even own a drill press!), but i believe you definitely want to drill those last (along with the nakago?), use a tapered drill bit, and make angle of the drill off from perpendicular so that the mekugi enters and exits at an non-90' angle allowing it to act properly as a wedge.

 

on a side note, i am currently working on a piece with a copper tsuba, leading me to wonder about the function and necessity of a seppa. of course it's like a washer and i suppose should help seat the fittings, reduce movement of the tsuba, and maybe protect the habaki from contact with harder metal, but they are usually omitted in shirasaya as well as with aikuchi/tsubaless fittings. like you, i only have the one piece of metal between the tsuka and the habaki.


by the way i am jealous of how crisp your lines are. how much farther are you going to polish it down? not sure what grit you're at, but of course if you remove metal it may loosen the fit of the habaki. i was told to take it to at least 1000 before fitting the habaki.

 





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Ahhh.. tapered drill bit! Of course. I could probably go up one dimension on the mekugi and then taper.

 

I'm only at 400 on the blade. Okay.. well I might as well just plan to refit the habaki after polishing. It won't take much and it shouldn't effect the fitment of everything else. I was just holding off on polishing since there would be less to worry about with making the shirasaya. But in retrospect... this kind of project requires tight tolerances.

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@joe pierre, your eye for detail and willingness to study and learn will serve you well in this pursuit!

 

@Scott A. Roush yes, lots of tweaking and adjusting as you pull everything together, you will find places that are good to leave overages and then remove bit by bit in the adjustment stages...you are already far more on track than i was for my first traditional build...first was many years ago (no photos, trying to track down the owner), second is here, so much improvement between the two and even more since then!

 

_______

 

i only study and make tanto for the most part, so what i can offer is based on this form only, not the larger context of all nihonto...i am still constantly working to fill in some gaps as far as knowledge of traditional methods and technical details as i go...

 

habaki are difficult, and i have very little experience with the moroha-zukuri shape, one thing you may find works in a pinch with your nickle-copper blend is thin brazing rod...but give it another shot or two with solder and see if you can get it to go without starting a new piece of mokume-gane...make your next couple habaki copper and hira-zukuri to give yourself some encouraging successes! if you are hand polishing and you have already established the geometry well, you will not remove too much after the rough polish, but with belts it may be good advice to polish well before making the habaki...

 

thoughts on tsuka/saya making:
i make the split slightly off center, but mainly on the edge, so that the width of the ha side of the nakago is fully on one side of the wood, and the mune side is split down the center...i push the split farther from the viewer when in display position (the omote, edge up and handle on left) by carving the edge shelf into the omote side and then only taking out as much from the ura side as necessary to get the fit, the saya follows suit.

thoughts on mekugi/mekugi-ana:
the majority of historical tanto do not show evidence of an off angle hole, though some modern factory swords do as this makes fitting easier with lower tolerances...tanto koshirae as well as shirasaya have a slightly tapered mekugi, and the hole through the tsuka is not really tapered if at all, but does often expand a bit as the harder mekugi is fit to it...for example, the tang of a chainsaw file used as a reamer gives more than enough taper to the hole...the mekugi-ana in the nakago is quite a bit larger than the diameter of the mekugi, and the mekugi puts pressure only against the back side of it (towards the tip of the nakago)...this allows you to enlarge the hole in the tsuka to one side if you have overshot on the depth...also, shape your mekugi so that the outer wall of the bamboo plant faces the back of the handle, that is the part of the nakago it will contact...(the side of the bamboo with more holes in it is the outside wall, the strongest part)


Kensen~san answers questions about mekugi: http://www.thejapanesesword.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=180
...you can see in his first photo how the mekugi is carved from the bamboo in such a way as to preserve the full outside surface along one edge for strength...

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Thanks a ton Dave.. I'm going to have to go through this and read again.. but in a bit of a rush right now. One quick note.. I'm actually making my mekugi from ebony. Do you (or anybody else) foresee problems with this? The ebony goes with the other ebony and I figured that it is a very hard, durable wood that work well for this... at least in my way of thinking.

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interesting information dave -- so much to learn. i will have to post my own pictures soon to open myself up to critique.

 

i don't necessarily think that hard is good for mekugi. i think bamboo is used -- and a particular type of dried/smoked/cured bamboo called susudake -- in order to maximize both strength and flexibility. you don't want something prone to fracture with the stress.

Edited by joe pierre
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some information on mekugi and an interesting point that i've often wondered about concerning drilling the ana in the nakago. i have been doing it first and then drilling through the tsuka to align them to avoid the issue of burring the nakago ana within the tsuka. don't know if that's right... probably not.

 

http://toyamaryu.org/mekugi_replace.htm

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one of the cool things about bamboo is that it has such flexibility and strength at the individual fiber level that it will often keep the blade in the tsuka even if it is broken...ebony is a bit brittle as far as hardwoods go, but i see no problem with it or other hardwoods on smaller tanto, especially if your fit and tang geometry are good...horn is often used in place of bamboo on tanto as well...it will be a lovely accent...

another option, if you are adept at wood trickiness or want to add some more challenge to the project, would be to use the ebony to make a nice contrasting rectangle/square/circle around the mekugi as is sometimes done with ebony, horn or bone...

http://cdn3.volusion.com/srtwp.zfabc/v/vspfiles/photos/017-AT999-36155-9.jpg?1323808100
http://www.japanese-swords.com/pages/DSCN5044%20copy.jpg
http://www.swordsantiqueweapons.com/images/s843b.jpg

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some information on mekugi and an interesting point that i've often wondered about concerning drilling the ana in the nakago. i have been doing it first and then drilling through the tsuka to align them to avoid the issue of burring the nakago ana within the tsuka. don't know if that's right... probably not.

 

http://toyamaryu.org/mekugi_replace.htm

 

 

yep, i would always drill with the nakago outside of the tsuka for sure...generally the nakago in advance of the tsuka, but you could reverse it by drilling the tsuka, then marking the nakago and removing it to drill...first way is the way it is done most of the time (think of all the shirasaya and koshirae that are made for blades already finished and mounted long ago...) ...some useful information on that page.

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while we're on the subject of tanto tsuka -- and not to hijack this post -- i have really struggled with fitting horn at the koiguchi so that it forms a mortisse/tenon with the tsuka wood. looks to me like scott just stuck the ebony on the end the way it's done on western knife handles.

 

i've seen how this is done in seconds on a lathe with japanese kitchen knives and pavel bolf shows how he does it here freehand with what looks like a utility blade (

), but for the life of me i can't get these cuts precise so that the fit is really flush. either my cutting knife isn't cutting it or the wood (i usually use alder) is a bit too hard or fibrous -- it can't just be that my skills suck, right!? ;)

i must say that i also cringe watching pavel with that knife -- if that were me, i'm sure it would slip down right into my hand!

Edited by joe pierre
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Yeah Joe... I learned about the horn fitting at the koiguchi after I started this. I put the ebony there simply as spacer material for color contrast. So yeah.. it's just glued to the osage. I've done it in the way you are referring to with copper ferrules.. which is way easier due to the flexibility of the copper. I'm not sure that a small tanto needs the kind of support that a saya for a waki or katana requires? Not much force involved I would think....

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yes, kitchen knives are pretty quick because they are round...and then the horn is heated in almost boiling water to allow it to flex and fit quite snugly...
that's some careful cutting, i have seen it done with a saw and chisels...on smaller and price limited pieces where i am using a modern glue i have put the slab on with little worry of strength issues...


here are a couple of great walk throughs from tirado~san, you can see the use of a fine saw to cut the depth for the koiguchi horn/copper ferrule...

 

shirasaya:

http://sayashi.com/project%20pages/shirasaya.htm

tsuka:

http://www.sayashi.com/project%20pages/tsuka.htm

koiguchi:

http://sayashi.com/articles/koiguchi.htm
http://www.sayashi.com/project%20pages/koshirae_saya2.htm
http://www.sayashi.com/project%20pages/koiguchi.htm

and an article on saya with some great vocabulary, noteworthy is that a good shirasaya does not even need a mekugi!
http://sayashi.com/articles/saya.htm

*after re-reading kensen~san's post, a note re: an angled hole through the tsuka...if it is done, it is only to slightly adjust for the position of the mekugi in relation to the wrapping while using an existing hole in the nakago...

...and found this in my files, some habaki for inspiration: http://www007.upp.so-net.ne.jp/m-kenji/habaki.html also http://sayashi.com/articles/habaki.htm (i should post some of these links in the resources section so i can find them later)

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Joe I cut that step pretty easily with just a knife. If you have a surface plate and a height guage/scribe.. it's easy to mark an even line around the circumference with the scribe. If you have a good scribe it cuts a pretty deep mark when you turn the wood. With that it's easy to use a knife to cut down to that line. For the harder part would be fitting the horn.. but getting it hot and wet first sure makes sense.

 

Well I've now got a very good fit between the tsuka and saya, the nakago is firmly fitted into the tsuka and zero gap between tsuka and saya. The only issues left are to figure out how to remove the 1mm gap between tsuka and seppa/habaki.. and then to address gap and joint on habaki after polishing. The ha will be taken care of by a new machingane.. not sure what to do about mune.

 

 

Man... reading through that sayashi stuff... I have so much to learn.

 

Dave.. I just saw your post on my thread on Blade. BC has native pure copper ingots eh? Come to think of it.. I do kinda recall seeing something about the Pacific northwest and copper. But I have quite a bit of it now if you ever want a piece to forge into your own tsuba blanks. Trade of some sort?

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yep, would be very interested in some native copper, or even some smaller pieces for smelting into shibuichi or shakudo...will send you an email...we apparently have a lot of metals out here, even the precious sort but i've yet to stumble across any...need to hike more streams i guess!

with a kitchen knife ferrule, there is lots of wood left and the horn is thin, but for koiguchi the horn would need to fit quite accurately as any pressure would cause trouble for the habaki fit by compressing the thin wood left around the kuchi...so maybe a hot fit is not so useful in this case...nice, surface plate and scribe is a great plan!

 

if i was in your situation with the fit, i would expand the diameter of the mekugi-ana in the nakago, leaving the back edge right where it is, but filing the rest of it out to create a larger but still circular hole, then expand the hole through the tsuka in the opposite manner but only slightly, then make a larger mekugi to fit the new hole and pull the nakago back into its home...hopefully there is room inside for it to slide back or you will need to file a matching bit off the tip of the nakago...

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Cool! I'm glad it is serving some use. But I would give the credit more to Dave and Joe.. I'm just the wandering fool. :-)

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Yeah Joe... I learned about the horn fitting at the koiguchi after I started this. I put the ebony there simply as spacer material for color contrast. So yeah.. it's just glued to the osage. I've done it in the way you are referring to with copper ferrules.. which is way easier due to the flexibility of the copper. I'm not sure that a small tanto needs the kind of support that a saya for a waki or katana requires? Not much force involved I would think....

Good thing that this is a pinned topic because everyone can learn from the lie I just told above. :-) You need a reinforced koiguchi. I just fractured mine and must now start another.

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you should not have fracturing issues if the fit is right, most shirasaya are solid honoki, nothing else...reinforcement is important for larger blades, especially for iado/iaito as there will be continuous strain on that area, more so for beginners...

pressure should be as the last third/fourth of the habaki pushes in, and not so much that it is a chore to open, just enough that it will never work loose on its own...mainly the mune should be where the pressure is coming from, the sides are just snug without pressure.

 

got a photo so we can see which way the damage occurred? can it still be glued and clamped and then filed out for a better fit?

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I think it was just the ebony itself. I'm cutting my ebony from a large rough cut piece that has a lot of check and voids in it. The termini of these run out into very small delaminations that are hard to see. And it breaks very easily along those flaws. It happened at the mune side.. and it looks like it came apart at one of these natural flaws.

 

But I'm sort of glad it happened as there were several things bothering me. I decided to go with a pretty flattened shape for the tsuka and the wood was getting very thin and was threatening to open up into the inside... which was affecting how I wanted to shape things.

 

So I'm going to make another and use this method .. from the Sayashi site.

 

The simplest method of reinforcing the koiguchi involves the cutting of a 1.5 mm wide channel around the circumference of the saya approximately 5-6mm down from the koiguchi edge. This channel is than bound with a hemp cord of small diameter and glued.

 

 

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mune split meaning there was pressure from the sides of the habaki? yes, i have had similar chunks of things do that...purpleheart was the one that gave me trouble...

 

if you still want to use the ebony, you could cross glue two thinner slices so you have strength both ways...the hemp and sokui/urushi will definitely strengthen it but unless you are filling and laquering over it, you will get a look more like a japanese outdoor knife than nihonto...i still think you would be fine with just the osage orange if you play with the fit...

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no... there is no pressure from the sides. I meant the mune pushed that section away and it broke. All the pressure is from the ha and mune sides of the habaki. I will try to get a picture!

 

Okay on the hemp. I do have plenty of horn.. but then it wouldn't match the ebony on the tsuka. Or maybe I will just leave it as osage then. Simple...

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