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Damascus Tai Chi Sword

James Higson

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Finally got this sword finished! Hoping for major brownie points as it's for my girlfriend's mother. She has been into Tai Chi for a long time now and has always wanted her own short sword.


There were a lot of new things I had to do for this one, particularly the bronze cast, took me 3 attempts to get as good as these and they have many flaws. Casting in plaster of paris (herculite 2) with a terracotta pot to reinforce it (as the first 2 the molds exploded!) lost wax. If anyone can give me any pointers, that would be amazing as it really was quite traumatic :)



Blade - 40cm 15N20/1095 100 layers

Handle - 15cm Purpleheart

Crossguard and pommel - Home mixed bronze, Yinyang and Aum symbol


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James........... you seem to be using the wrong type of material for the casting "mold". Plaster of paris is very dangerous when casting,either use metal casting investment or if you are a do-it yourself type person use a tried formula and steel flask. See info here http://www.artmetal.com/w-agora/view.php?site=techtalk&bn=techtalk_casting&key=989876621

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Cheers for that! I'll definitely try one of those mixes next time, I didnt think about adding vermiculite or grog :D this is why this forum is so awesome!

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I've done a bit of casting over the years--but usually pretty small pieces--fittings like that are quite an undertaking! Greensand casting is probably your best bet--if you don't have a vacuum chamber, spincaster, ect. I tried plaster of paris for awhile, and I would get about 60% success. But the big thing there is making sure it is very dry (like put it in the oven at 150 for 2 hours, then up the increment by 50 or so degrees per hour for 5 or so hours). I usually do the wax burnout and drying at the same time with that. I think the recipes Dan posted have some merit--I think I'll play with some of those, too. Another thing everyone forgets is have upward vents, and have a hot mold! Helps prevent inclusions, exclusions and wrinkling.

I've heard good things about silicone molds--but it's pretty expensive (about 10$+ a cast, for something as large as you're doing). Another option is to--I haven't tried it, but it's an idea--cast pewter in plaster of paris--which should be fine (it casts like a dream, unlike it's finicky sister), then plate the bronze onto the pewter. Plating that is a different story--you might have to play a bit with Zn and Cu salts to get the mix right. I'll try mucking around with that next weekend.

Enough on that.

If you're doing smaller things, cuttlebone casting is beautiful--and I personally think it goes great with damascus--though it wouldn't be traditional for something of this style, but I've had 95%+ casting success with that, without prior experience.

For straight bronze, in this style, and this big, I'd do greensand, for sure. It generally does require a bit of cleanup--but wont give you bubbles like plaster will.

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Thank you very much for that! I did try greensand once or twice but either I kept getting the sand mix with grog etc and water content wrong or I was missing some crucial step but never seemed to be able to get it to work properly. After 4 or 5 failed attempts one tends to get quite demoralised . I'll definitely give it a try in the future though. I have been trying with cooler bronze and heating the mold in the oven to 300 degrees C but it still fizzes and pops when it hits the plaster.


Cheers again,


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