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Hello Everyone,

If at first you don't succeed...


I have been working on making a blade that is an acceptable partner to the fittings I got from Charles Wu. This is a little backward from the way I normally work, trying to make a blade to go with fittings. However, he offered them, and they are beautiful. So, here I am, making a blade to go with fittings that are already made.


The fittings are small, and in the Han Dynasty style. This means I need to make a duan jian blade, and a handle and sheath in the Han shapes.


"Duan," means something like, "short," or, "small." So, I am making a double-edged short-sword, of the style used during the Han Dynasty.


But, I am NOT doing a clay heat treatment on this attempt. I tried that the last 2 times, and both broke when I tried to straighten them. I am not up for that again.


This blade is made of nice, friendly 1075 and 15N20. I am going for some interesting pattern welding. I have been playing with a pattern that I have been calling a River Eddy or River pattern. It is, by my own admission, not as cool as a Turkish Ribbon. But, it is an interesting pattern, and I thought it was right for this blade. Two reasons for this. 1) Duan jian were often used by river pirates in China, blade like a river pirate would use, it should get a river pattern, 2) aesthetics - this pattern has a bright line of 15N20 that stretches up each side of a double-edged blade, and I think it looks cool.


I did not take pics of the initial stack of 1075 and 15N20. Most everyone who will read this has seen that hundreds of times, in person and in pics.


I chose to start with the steel already welded together, drawn into a bar of .75" square. It had 40 layers across and 4, "crushed" layers deep. I took this and made it into a round of .62" diameter. Then, I put this into the Twist-o-matic 3000.




Here is the bar in the twist-o-matic.




side view. Notice, the forge scoots along the rail. Each of the marks on the bottom rail are 1" apart. I move the post that the forge sits on to the next mark, and twist the bar 1.5 revolutions. That is just what I have come to like. This is done at welding heat, so it gives maximal integrity to the twisted bar (I hope).




Twisting wrench, complete with arrows so I don't forget the direction to twist. The bar is resting on a support post that is just to the left of the pic frame.




In the forge for squaring after twist (at .62" square).




Twisted and squared bar.




Not shown - the bar was cut into four pieces, and face milled square and clean on two sides, and ground clean on the other two sides. Then, the above pic shows the four bars welded into the corners created by a cross of 15N20.




Here is the cross for the 4-way mosaic. It is pretty ugly, but it is there. The steel packet is 1.25" wide and thick, and 7" long. That will be our 21" duan jian.




On these sorts of welds, I use this flux.


Plenty of it, too.


Everything before the packet was welded without flux.


more on the way...


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Hello Everyone, Here is the pro pic of the sword and fittings. Coop worked his magic yet again.   Thanks for reading/looking.  

Here comes more...




At this point, it has been welded with squaring dies, then squashed with a 1" stop in the press, with 90 degree rotations between squishes. Finally, I have started forging, "on the diamond," with this same 1" stop in the press.


I will eventually forge this flat, using a .75", then a .5" stop in the press, all on the diamond. I have found that gentle, controlled movement, is better for this pattern (and also for the more traditional multi-bar twist billets- I ruined the last blade by screwing up the pattern with aggressive drawing in the press. Blade was great, but the pattern didn't look right, so new blade was needed).




.5" stop in the press.




Mosaic welded and flattened.




Layout for laddering (I just cut the grooves with ye olde angle grinder).




Laddering grooves cut in.




Bar for sword forged out, complete with all tapers. No real bevels yet, though. The pattern is a diamond shape, with the edged being essentially twisted crushed w's. They will benefit from being ground into a lot.




layout for grinding.




draw filing edges, prior to layout for grinding.




rough grinding done, point ready to be filed in.




whole blade rough ground. Ready for filing. No secret, I do the precision work with files, and then refine with drawfiling. I do the same with a ridge on a single-edged blade, but I do grind a bit closer on those.


Remember the advice from Don Fogg's old tutorial, get a good, flat blade, and then approach the flat slowly to create a crisp ridge!




This was to make sure the blade surface is truly flat! Grinding lengthwise on platen with magnet. You have to learn how to do this with a blade that has non-linear distal taper, but it can be done. It is worth the work for the benefit.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Last set for today!




file guide for shoulders.




making sure the shoulders are at the right angle to the blade to get the guard to line up perfectly with the ridge line. Get a look at that guard! Great stuff, isn't it?




Here is the whole blade. It is 21.5" from shoulders to point, 1.25" wide at shoulders. There is a profile and a distal taper. The blade is .25" at medial ridge at the forte (which is the size of the hole in the guard - I met my goal!). It tapers to .15" at about 3" from the point, and slowly tapers down to .13" from there.


The first three or four inches of the blade from the forte taper pretty rapidly in thickness, and somewhat in profile, then the taper becomes very gradual until the last 3 inches.


The tang is about 10" long. I have not actually measured it, but the final goal is 10-12". There were a lot of short swords with these long handles carried during the Han Dynasty. They were sort of like wakizashi, in that they were carried by civilians and soldiers, alike. These were very common personal side arms. The long handle provides counter balance, and I think could be used as an extension of the short blade in a pinch.


OK - here is the fun part.




Here is a sneak-peek at the pattern. It is very rough, and not heat treated. It will change a good deal on the sides, and become more interesting, due to grinding. But, this is an idea. The cross of 15N20 leads to the long shiny lines that run up each side. It is these, with all of the undulations between them, that make this pattern remind me of a river.


Of course, this view of the pattern comes from when the blade was totally flat, so the final pattern will be a lot different from this, and better! Remember, the edge elements are essentially twisted w's. They need the grinding to really shine.



Wish me luck. More to come, tomorrow, hopefully!


comments are welcomed, as always.



Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Here is the progress for today.

Good news - the sword survived heat treatment. So, if I can shape it right for the remainder of the build, it will live!




Getting started with the big bastard file.




smaller file for the tip. still push filing at this point.




I had to heat it and straighten it at one point. The grinding a filing let it bend.




push filing the body of the blade.






This is what it looked like when it came out of the Parks 50.

Big thanks to Matthew Parkinson for the hardness testing chisels I bought from him. These were perfect for this situation. You see, my heat treatment kiln draws more power than my generator can supply. So, I had to heat treat this sword in the forge. Having the chisels to test the hardness was a great asset.


It is alive!




Here is another.


I am excited. I think it will be nice when I am done. The fittings are awesome, and I am working hard to make a blade that can go with them.


Until next time,


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  • 2 weeks later...

The blade is heat treated and polished. Here we go...




I hardened the blade, and then tempered it to 57 RC, as measured by Matthew Parkinson's harness chisels. The blade is 21.5" long, and it is more than half 15n20, so I thought that would be soft enough. If anyone thinks I am wrong, please tell me, so I can soften it a tad.


The above pic shows the Simmonds Black Oxide Smooth Cut file that I used to draw file after heat treat and final grinding. I set the bevels on this with the files, and then used the grinder as a sander to take out the file marks. I had the KMG down to about 30 percent, and just removed file marks. I did most of the actual shaping and removal with files.




Speaking of using files for shaping, this pic shows the amount of swarf created by drawfiling for 10 secs with a smooth-cut file.




In this one, you can see the ripples caused by the belt grinder. Even when using the platen correctly, the belt bunches near the edge, so the bevel isn't really flat. Drawfiling fixes this.




Polishing begins, 220 grit Rhynowet backed by a file that has been ground smooth.




This is what it looks like when 220 grit hand sanding meets 400 grit machine finish. They meet at the ridge.




On to the next part of sanding, 400 grit. The two most important tools for this are above. The optivisor makes sure that I can actually see and remove all of the scratches. I use the file with just one layer of paper on it (smooth ground old file, remember, no teeth) to polish the ridge. I wrap a couple of layers around it to polish the edge. I did this with 220, also. This gives a blade that is slightly convexed from about a third of the way down from the ridge out to the cutting edge. Just what it should be!

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Here comes the fun stuff.




I have the blade hanging like this for touch up on each side after sanding. The side I polished first and then taped often needs the most touch up.




Here it is just out of the etch. oooh, aaaahhhh. I always love this moment!




crappy full-length pic first




Now, the tip!




And the ridge! This is why I called it the River Jian. I used the pattern that has the two lines of 15N20 running vertically up the blade, and it reminds me of a river with lots of eddies and swirls and stuff.




Here is the whole blade for perspective. It has a 10" tang, with a 21.5" blade that is 1.25" wide at the forte. I still have to do just a little filing where the two bevels meet to form the point. That is going to be close and delicate work. It will cut and thrust well for a blade of its size, though, for sure. Plus, that tang will have a 12" handle on it soon, and so you will have the option of choking down on the handle to get extra extension if you are in a situation that calls for it.




OK, that is it for now. The blade is DONE! Now, I have to modify the tang a tad to get the fittings to work. That will be next.


This has been an exercise in persistence for me. This is the 4th blade I made for these fittings. One, the hamon didn't look right. Two, the blade broke when straightening. Three, the twisted bars got out of alignment. So... Four, the River pattern mosaic (4-way with twisted and crushed w's, put in a cross of 15N20, welded, squashed on the diamond, drawn out, laddered, and forged).


This blade won't be ashamed to be seen in public accompanying Charles's lovely fittings, I hope!


Comments are always welcomed. thanks for looking,



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I honestly cant wait to see this completed. I love the Jian blade shape, and hope to one day make one or two for my own personal use.

Keep the awesome pics coming.. That is going to end up being a gorgeous blade.

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This is a great project Kevin. That pattern is just sick, and the name you came up with is very appropriate. Like Robert, I can't wait to see the finished project. You might need to send this guy away for the pro camera shots.

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Wes, pro shoots (Coop) are a definite once I get this one assembled. I still have to do all of the wood work, though.


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Wow Kevin... great thread! will have to be in touch with you on your twisto-matic. I have some composite pw projects coming. Will have to decide if I should make something more 'mechanical' for my twisting.


Anyway.. looking forward to seeing it all together.

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Well THAT certainly came out great!


While it is too late to comment, particularly since I don't know enough (or anything, really) about jian to comment on the level of hardness, especially given the 15n20 will add serious toughness and it is not very long. So, just for the record, if it were a European sword of 30 inches or longer I'd be uncomfortable with anything over RC 54, preferably Rc 50-52. But it isn't, and I'm in over my head, so I'll just be quiet and enjoy looking at that lovely blade while waiting for you to put those awesome mounts on it. :lol:

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That pattern is very pretty! Aptly named as well.

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Thanks Everyone!

Scott - the welds on that twist-o-matic were the first thing I ever welded, with the first crappy welder I ever bought. It is dead easy to make. All you need is two sizes of square tubing, one with an ID that is .125" or so larger than the OD of the other. Everything is made by drilling holes and welding 1/4 20 nuts over them, and then using 1/4 20 cap screws. Cheap. The only thing that cost more than $10 was the mini forge, but it pays for itself in propane savings in a couple of months if you use it for your smaller and faster heating jobs.


Alan - thanks for the info and the kind words. I am tempted to temper again, but at this level of polish that would sure suck. I deliberately made the blade more than half 15N20, and I chose the temper accordingly - but there is still that lingering doubt. You know the one. Next time I will go between 54 and 56 (although I may have to get Matt to make me a couple of chisels calibrated for lower hardnesses).


Salem - thanks, appreciate it, and especially since you know a great deal about this general class of blades.


Nav - this sort of welding is a whole lot of fun. I find that if I don't use flux, I have to grind a little more away, and work harder to get the faces flat when I restack. But, I have a facemill with replaceable inserts, so getting things flat isn't that hard. It is a LOT better than getting to the end of a few weeks of work and finding a slag inclusion from trapped flux along the edge of your blade. The hydraulic press has a tendency to make the edges of the metal squirt out and wrap around the top and bottom, creating cold shuts and trapping flux. So, no flux, and a little extra grinding (plus careful press work) are a good way to go when pattern welding. At least, for me.


Mark - thanks man! That's how I feel when I see your bloomery work or tsuba.


Stormcrow - I had forgotten that you don't do pattern welding. It opens a lot of artistic doors, but is just another form of the same sickness. Thanks for watching the thread. I have always thought that your Gunhilda was just about the most impressive shop-built tool for our kind of work that I have ever seen! It is up there with Batson and Fogg and the resurgence of the hydraulic forge press, in my opinion, in terms of creativity and ingenuity.


If I was trying to make a living from this, I wouldn't be able to do a lot of pattern welding. It sure isn't an efficient way to do things, at least not given what people are willing to pay me for my work. Hopefully, by the time I retire from my State of CT job, I will have built a better market. Right now, the only thing I make any money on are the hunting knives and puukkos. Everything else is because I want to stretch my skills and for challenge. When I make a sword, I miss puukkos and full tang hunters. When I make them, I miss making a sword. When I am doing pattern welding, I miss working with hamons. You know the rest.


Wes - thanks for watching and the kind words.


Andrea - thank you. Welcome to the forum!


Robert D - I can't wait to see this completed either. I always enjoy the process a great deal, but in this case, I really want to see the final thing.


I am having difficulties envisioning the final handle wrap. The fittings are small, so there will definitely need to be a wrap to increase the diameter of the handle. I don't often do handle wrapping, so I am trying to decide the best approach. I still may buy some thin leather, but leather cord seems to be the more traditional approach. The thing is, this dynasty was so long ago, the, "traditional," approach is just a guess. More so, because I can't read Mandarin.


Thanks. The opinion of the people on this forum means a lot to me. This is the place I post things looking for true feedback from friends and peers (as well as a whole array of people more skilled than I am, for sure). After all, almost everything I know, I learned here and at Ashokan.


take care,


Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Awesome thread, and a totally awesome blade. Next time you are firing up the twist-o-matic I'd love to come over and watch. It's looks too ingenious and effective not to replicate ;)

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You're killing it! That pattern is sweet.

One question I have is: when I'm draw filing, it has trouble biting well, and easily gets clogged and gouges my blades. How do you remedy this?

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I used to have that problem, too. It is simple, take short and fast strokes, lift the file often. Also, clean the file often. I use a nylon brush, a file card, or the side of a very thin piece of brass, actually the corner of the brass. Just depends on what is stuck. The nylon brush I use very often (like every couple of minutes).


Black oxide files my gall a little less, but I was using them because they seem to be a little harder. Filing stuff as hard as this wears your files out (I went through the best part of 2 or 3 with this blade).


Matt - I will let you know. I need (and want) to make a dao next. You can put one of these together in an hour or two.



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You can see the stamp mark on the tang. Of course, it won't be a takedown, so no one will see it. Oh well.






There are a scabbard and a handle hiding in that board, I hope.




I mill most of the slots out for scabbard and tang/handle. Not all, but most of the material I remove with the mill.




The rest comes out with these. I mill almost to the lines, and use the chisels to do the final cuts that get to final dimensions.


ASIDE: I realize this is a knifemaker's forum. However, I want to suggest that possibly the best video series one can watch to learn about hand crafting handles and fittings and such doesn't have anything to do directly with making handles and fittings. I put it to you that Hershel House's video series about making a Kentucky Longrifle is actually the best thing available to demonstrate working wood and nonferrous metals.






Epoxied, and sitting over the stove, because it was 10 degrees that morning, and the shop is the same as the outside air until I have a good fire going. It never gets warm, exactly, but I can work without going numb after the fire is going good.




Fitting guard onto the tang. Ain't it pretty?




Peening to make certain the fit is ultra-tight. I think when I make my own fittings, I am going to make the part that seats to the shoulders of the blade first, and recess the blade into it. Then, make all of the other parts after. With this fitting, there is no way to recess the blade down into the surface of the piece of copper that touches the shoulders of the blade.That little bit of recess makes a large difference.


Later, I figured out that I could drive the guard on really hard, and use the sword shoulders as a swage, and make dents for them to fit into. That helped a lot. Still, next time that plate that forms the bottom of the guard is getting made first.




Handle time. Part of same board from earlier.




More milling.




Normally, these are done with a ring as a bolster at the end of the handle where it transitions into the guard. Unfortunately, these fittings are too small, and using a ring like that would not fit correctly, and would have left the handle too narrow. Instead, I have chosen to have a tenon of the handle that projects up into the guard (not a dovetail, though).




Japanese backsaw to set the lines for the tenon of the handle.




cleaned up with the mill. Not shown, some chisel work (after chisel sharpening).




Hopefully, this makes the tenon of the handle thing clear. I love this guard, by the way. There are some definite problems with making a blade to match the fittings, but it is worth it, in this case.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Sheath hollowed out and epoxy is set.




Rough work prior to inletting the guard down into the sheath (I will do the hard part of this tomorrow when I am fresh).




Getting a mark on the end so I have an idea about final size. Isn't that chape cool?





Lines showing material to remove on the bandsaw.





Back to the handle. I shape the ends first, and then work the middle to fit. At least here I am doing that.


I hope I can do a good job of getting this thing round without a lathe!




Shaping handle to match guard.




I am doing the square-octagon-round thing with the handle. You all know it from forging.


That rasp is German, and I think it has hand-raised teeth. It is so much better than any other rasp I have ever bought, and I scored this from ebay. Of course, I got tricked later, because Sears had a crappy machine-made rasp coated with chromium stainless junk. They had a factory in Germany make them during the 1950's and/or 60's. I saw a rasp with a German name from the 1950's, and so I bought it. Piece of Sears crap for the American dumbass market. They got this American dumbass with it, second hand.




This is where we are headed. That is the size of the cap/pommel that must fit over the end.




This is it for today. Tomorrow, we round!

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