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Touzai Fusion Tanto

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The seed that began this project was the question of what would result if a historical Japanese knife maker working at a time when exposure to the west was very limited was asked to create a western style knife based only on a description.


The resulting piece retains the lines and techniques that would have been familiar to the maker, but incorporates the most obvious elements of the foreign style which would have been transmitted in that description. The wide guard and hardwood handle would have been immediately recognizable to a western traveler, but the construction of the scabbard and other fittings are quite eastern. In viewing the final work, it seems that this particular fusion of eras and origins have unintentionally captured many of the influences normally associated with, dare I say it, the steampunk genre...


"When we attempt to adapt a new style or design that is foreign to us, we tend to work from our own frame of reference, relying heavily on what we know as a foundation. The most obvious elements that differ from the familiar are the ones that tend to get emphasized and filtered through our own paradigm, often to the point of caricature. Similar to examples of pre-photographic illustrations of strange new animals from other lands, the interpretation is sometimes quite unlike the actual subject."


more here: islandblacksmith.ca/2015/12/touzai-fusion-tanto/



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Forging the Blade


Chisel-cutting the bolt and separating the century-old shear steel leaf springs from a horse-drawn carriage.


Hot-cutting the end off the bar to create the tip of the sunobe. This technique ensures the grain of the steel layers flows along the edge of the tip. Note the future cutting edge is facing downward in the photo.


Forging is finished. The only tool used to shape the blade to this point is the hammer.


Clamped in a sen-dai, a sen scraper and files are used to remove the forged surface and clean up the shape.


The blade is coated with a thick and thin layer of clay mixture to provide the insulation layer for differential hardening.


Immediately after yaki-ire, the blade has been born. Note the location of the small flake of clay that popped off the centre of the spine right as it hit the water, this will show up later in the polished blade as an interesting artifact of its creation.


Beginning the rough stages of polishing and shaping before making the fittings. The final polish will be done after the entire mounting is built and completed.

Edited by DaveJ
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Forging the Habaki




Reclaimed copper bus bar is forged into a tapered jacket that fits snugly around the tang.




The jacket is shaped roughly and then a small copper wedge called machigane is inserted for soldering.




A reducing atmosphere softwood charcoal oven is built and the copper heated carefully until the solder flows.




The piece is removed immediately and allowed to cool slowly. In addition to forming a stand while in the forge, the rusty iron wire provides tension while heating but doesn't stick to the solder.

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Fuchi, Koiguchi, & Seppa




A small slice of thick-walled ~1" diameter copper bus bar forms the sleeve of the fuchi.




A large copper washer forms the face of the fuchi.




After several rounds of hot and cold forging, the two begin to resemble their final forms.




Careful filing creates the proper nakago-ana shape and fits the two tightly together. Oxidized steel wire holds the assembly together for soldering in the forge.




The kouguchi is forged to match the fuchi. The outside profile will be filed and polished to refine the shape.




A ring-style kurikata is riveted in place on the omote side of the koiguchi.




Seppa are made from reclaimed copper bus bar, incorporating the hole at the end to form the nakago ana.




Most of the copper fittings roughly shaped and installed in order. The seppa will be cut to shape after the handle is carved and fit.

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Forging the Tsuba




Forging a sea-salvaged rod into a tsuba blank to accommodate the size of the soapstone pattern. Note the visible temperature difference along one edge that indicates a split has partially separated a strip.




Drilling, cold chiseling, and filing to open the nakago-ana slightly larger than the tang.




Filing to check the flatness and inspect the surface. Next the surface is oxidized using high heat and an oxygen-rich charcoal forge blast, periodically dipping quickly into water and wire brushing the surface. This weathering process is known as yakite or yakinamashi.

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Making the Sekigane


When working with wrought iron or steel guards for Japanese style takedown knives, small copper inserts called sekigane are often used to prevent contact between the tang/blade and the tsuba.




After yakite/yakinamashi, the notches are filed and then chamfered for the sekigane.




Reclaimed copper lightning rod is cut to length for the plugs, estimating the approximate volume required for each.




The thick wire is cold forged into rectangular billets that just fit into the notches, and then tapped into place. Very thin needle-nosed pliers are used to hold and stabilize the small pieces on the anvil during forging.




Turning the piece over frequently and working from both sides, the plugs are expanded to fill the chamfers that lock them in place. A smaller and slightly rounded hammer is used for the final work.




The goal is to have estimated the volume of copper so that when fully forged down they fill all gaps and lay flush or below the surface of the tsuba. If they protrude, some trimming with a small tagane cold chisel will be necessary.




The sekigane can now be filed out close to the original tang profile in preparation for fitting. A small needle file is helpful for this stage. The sekigane should be the only contact points on the tang.




If the blade is polished the sekigane can be filled to final fit, but if the blade is unfinished some extra copper should be left until later to prevent a loose fit.



Read more about making copper sekigane here: islandblacksmith.ca/2015/12/making-sekigane-for-a-wrought-iron-tsuba/

Edited by DaveJ
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Finishing the Tsuba




The excess iron is cut away using a hack saw. Note that this is not a common historical pattern tanto tsuba but a fusion style piece with western proportions.




Filing the edges prepares the piece for finishing. Note that to employ the benefits of yakite/yakinamashi on the rim and expose tekkotsu (iron bones), the shape should be cut and filed before filing in the notches for sekigane.




Soaking for several hours in a vinegar and water solution dissolves the scale and surface slag, highlighting the organic wood grain structure of the metal. Note that if a rust patina is desired, the copper sekigane should be inserted at the very end, after the patina is achieved.

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Shaping the Kojiri




Copper water pipe is annealed, split, flattened, cut and bent in a wooden form.




Curved are laid out using antique springs and the copper is cut with shears and filed clean.




As each section is finished it is bent closer to final shape.




After a final annealing, it is soft enough to be fit carefully to the tip of the carved wooden scabbard.




All of the copper fittings are given a patina in a simmering bath of copper salts.

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Carving the Tsuka




Two Sapele hardwood halves are carved to fit the tang and then joined together with nori-urushi, a mixture of natural lacquer and rice paste glue. When cured, the outside of the handle is carved to shape, beginning with the fitting of the fuchi. When the final shaping is complete, the tsuka is coated with several thin layers of natural lacquer. The fukiurushi technique seals and protects the wood while highlighting the grain and imparting a rich, warm glow.

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Carving the Saya




The inside of both halves of the scabbard is carved to fit the blade and snugly secure the habaki.




The two halves are joined with sokui, rice paste glue and tightly wrapped and wedged until dry.




The koiguchi is fit in alignment with the fuchi and then the block squared down to final dimensions with a hand plane.




The rest of the scabbard is shaped with chisels and planes.




As a compliment to the ring-style kurikata built into the koiguchi, an inset area is carved where the sash or belt can rest.

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The scabbard is coated with a wiped-on layer of raw urushi lacquer and allowed to cure. Then a leather wrapping is attached with nori-urushi, a mixture of urushi and sokui.




Nori urushi is used to attach the kojiri to the tip of the scabbard and allowed to cure for several days.




The saya is coated with a layer of urushi and dried tea leaf powder (from reclaimed tea bags) is sprinkled on while wet to create a texture base.




When cured, the tea is saturated with urushi and allowed to cure for several more days, creating small lacquer mountain peaks, a texture known as ishime-ji, stone surface.




A decorative highlight is built up on top using the same technique.




When fully cured, the edges are enhanced with a small file and a thin coat of fukiurushi seals the saya completely.

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Assembling the Touzai Tanto




The natural Japanese waterstones used for the final polishing stages reveal some interesting details of the hamon that were hidden before.




The completed tanto blade and fusion koshirae ready for assembly. Century-old spring steel, wrought iron from the sea, reclaimed copper bus bar, lightning rod, and waterpipe, Sapele, Nootka Cypress, leather, bamboo, tea leaves, natural urushi lacquer, and rice glue.





長さ/刃長 Nagasa: 7 sun 7 bu 6 rin (235mm)

元幅 Motohaba: 8 bu 6 rin (26mm)

重ね/元重 Motokasane: 2 bu 5 rin (7.75mm)

反り Sori: uchizori

中心/茎 Nakago: 3 sun 6 bu 4 rin (110mm)

柄長 Tsuka: 3 sun 5 bu 7 rin (108mm)

拵全長 Koshirae: 14 sun 2 bu 5 rin (432mm)


形 Katachi: hira-zukuri, iori-mune

刃文 Hamon: suguha, bo-utsuri

帽子/鋩子 Boshi: ko-maru, nijuba

中心/茎 Nakago: futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana, signed near the tip

銘 Mei: hot stamped katabami-ken kamon

拵 Koshirae: chisagatana, issaku


Materials: Century-old spring steel, wrought iron from the sea, reclaimed copper bus bar, lightning rod, and waterpipe, Sapele, Nootka Cypress, leather, bamboo, tea leaves, natural urushi lacquer, rice paste glue


More info: islandblacksmith.ca/2015/12/touzai-fusion-tanto/

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Touzai Tanto


Touzai (東西) can be literally translated East West and carries the idea of spanning across distance or covering and including everywhere. There is also a saying, kokontouzai (古今東西) which means for all time and all places, literally old, now, East, West. This project began with the concept of ideas from different times and places coming together in a specific way.


Though this piece is a classical tanto in most respects, there are some elements that reflect a more antique western aesthetic. The seed that began this project was the question of what would result if a historical Japanese knife maker working at a time when exposure to the west was very limited was asked to create a western style knife based only on a description. The blade is approximately 9.25″ long, overall length is around 14.5″, and the overall length when sheathed is about 17″.


Read more here: islandblacksmith.ca/2015/12/touzai-fusion-tanto/















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much appreciated, @Alan, incrementally learning...and mostly enjoying the struggle ^___^

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Dave you continue to present these superb sequences of work that is so satisfying. Not at all bound by tradition but just close enough to ring with the past.

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thank you, @Kelso~san...yes, it was an interesting and challenging thought experiment to explore this alternative meeting of times and places...

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thanks for the detailed thread. It is lovely to see it all come together. Great work.

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