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Making a Sue Bizen inspired Katana


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Once I was happy with my sunobe, I forged the tip back and started working bevels. I had to pre curve the blade as I decided to quench in parks oil. These pics will catch up to where I'm at now. Also

I've debated on whether to start a new topic for the new sword, but since it is the same project to me, and the discussion is still going, I think I'll just keep it all here for simplicity.   Realiz

Alright, after a lot of various life circumstances keeping me from starting sword # 2 (including my old forge being totally worn out and building a better one) I have finally got the ball rolling agai

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Jesus, do you have any insights on profile in thickness? Without seeing old swords in person I have been left to a lot of guess work here. I know that Bizen muromachi period swords were thicker with a high shinogi, but the only measurements I can find are thickness at machi. Which I still have to figure 500 years of careful polishing.

 

So far I have a high shinogi .340" at the machi and .250" at the yokote, and intend to thin this down slightly. Blade has a lot of power in the cut, but doesn't feel unbearably heavy. just a little slow without mounts on compared to modern katana I have.

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I applied the idea of relating the radius of the mune to length preportions on a Mino school katana also of the Muromachi period, and the resulting circles gave me nagasa and nakego perfectly, but not an obvious placement of the funbari. However, the placement of the funbari change near the machi as well as a change in radius further down the length were placed at exact 1/3rd increments of the total length. This is getting quite interesting.

Mino Katana.jpg

 

Editing to say "funbari" is correctly spelled with an "n". My bad, I have seen it spelled both ways and did not check which was correct. Also, this word seems to always be used when talking about the change in width near the base, not overall length even though I have seen a few sources translate it to sound that way. I will use it to describe the area near the base only though, so as to simplify my own wording.

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Sorry, Austin. All data reported only shows width at machi and yokote. The best advice I have given in the past and will continue to give is to handle originals. As many as you can as there are many variations in blade geometry which ultimately translate to the interpretation of the polisher. Museums are one way to see originals but even better Japanese sword trade shows (token kai) because you get to hold the swords in your hands.

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Jesus, I appreciate the reply! I will continue to look for such opportunies. For this sword I think I will try not to change what I have too much as I seem to be real close to what Sukesada smiths' made based on some additional photos and measurements I was able to find.

 

J Broddrick, thank you for the photo! What a place to visit that would be!

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I will follow your project with great interest......are you familiar with the Nihonto Message Board? Lots of great resources there, and lots of knowledgeable people.

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Hi Steve, yes I am! Knowing there are many Nihonto owners there I was considering asking for photos of mune there for koto katana, but that may be a project for the future.

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Update:

 

I have almost finished all my file work! Today I finished getting the sides symmetrical, with the shinogi placed right where I want it. Now all that is left before heat treat is to finish filing in the mune and file a high spot out near the tip on the left side. Then I may or may not go over everything one more time with a fine file to make sure everything is even. I expect to be putting clay on tomorrow night. Not sure on when heat treat will happen due to weather here in Michigan...

 

Dimensions pre heat treat:

Nagasa (blade length tip to machi): 26.5" (67.31cm)

moto-haba (width at machi): 1.295" (32.9mm)

Saki-haba (width at yokote): 0.886" (22.5mm)

Moto-gasane (thickness at machi): 0.310" (7.87mm)

Saki-gasane (thickness at yokote): 0.241" (6.12mm)

Kissaki: 1.588" (40.34mm)

Sori: 1.25" (3.175cm)

 

Sorry for blurriness, I will start borrowing a nice camera once I start polishing and such.

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Mune-machi

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Edge alignment

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Edited by Austin Mys
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Well, I got the mune completely filed and all the high spots leveled. However I did not get to thermocycling or putting clay on as I decided to rebuild my forge this weekend (it was getting real rough). I ended up converting it to a vertical forge with a 6" diameter chamber, plus 3" long chambers where the doors are. So I should have a 12" long hot area with a 6" even hot spot. I'm hoping this will be enough to get the whole thing up to even temperature with passing the blade back and forth, but ordered extra inswool to make a bigger forge if needed. Hoping to quench Monday night depending on if I need a bigger forge and weather.

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Al, you are right. I was just reading through the heat treating section in "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" and sure enough he talks about fine tuning the curvature by heating or hammering the spine. This is significant because it shows that the final shape can be very finely controlled if the smith desires, which adds weight to the idea of exactly planned curvature.

As I understand it, curvature was frequently adjusted post-quench, by various means.

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All clayed up. Debating on heat treat tonight or tomorrow as it's 8° Fahrenheit outside right now...

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Accidentally chipped a piece of clay off last night right before quenching, so I didn't quench. Gained an extra thermocycle, blade is still totally straight, and I removed all the clay last night. Will reclay and attempt yaki-ire again tonight!

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While, it didn't go too hot... Literally! Forge not big enough, so I'll be building a bigger one and will update when I have successful yaki-ire. In my stubbornness I tried it anyway and the top 6" did not harden. Also, I got positive sori with parks 50 oil... I'll have to grind out decarb, fix the curvature, normalize, stress relieve, and retry I suppose. Probably not before Christmas...

 

 

 

Editing to say, sori went from about 1.25" to about 1.5" in the oil. Reread through Jesus' post "Inducing positive curvature (upward sori) in a shinogi-zukuri katana using OIL" and figure I got my oil too hot. My temperature probe in the tank I believe is broken as it would not go higher than 30 degrees Fahrenheit last night after quenching a bar of steel twice before I put the blade in. So I will be switching that probe out as well before continuing with this project.

 

RIP clay

kat fail.jpg

Edited by Austin Mys
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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I have been real busy preparing for the retry on yaki-ire.

 

So far I have built a new heat treat forge, heat treated a cheap 1060 katana several times as practice (then broke that up to check grain and make tools out of), made 2 small W2 knives playing with hamon patterns, and 1 1084 tanto purposefully broken in a water quench for curiosity's sake.

 

I ended up having to do a bit of re-forging on my katana in order to get the excessive curve out and re straighten every thing. I then normalized 3 times, ground the scale out, filed it down, and clayed it up. After a bit more study I also adjusted the proportions a little bit and did a lot of work on the kissaki to get it right. Now it is a bit thinner than I originally wanted, but still thick enough to make a solid cutting blade. I am hoping to do yaki-ire tonight, but there is a lot of wind and snow going on so I'm just waiting on the right time at this point.

 

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-Austin

 

PS I scared myself today while doing some Google research on Sue Bizen Katana finding my pictures and thread coming up everywhere, so I reread through everything and edited some posts to make sure my information is as accurate as possible for other people researching the subject. For anyone researching the subject, it should be noted that at this point my sword is not as close to the Sue Bizen style as initially intended due to mistakes on my part, and more represents an interpretation than a replica of any sorts at this point. I plan on continuing to learn and make attempts at recreating the style of Sue Bizen smiths in the future, and already know a few things I will do differently in the forging steps. I will also continue to pursue the Kani-no-tsume (crab claw) hamon, this sword is more notare based than gunome based as you would find on Sue Bizen katana featuring the Kani-no-tsume pattern.

Edited by Austin Mys
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It's finally born!

26.125" nagasa, 1.825", a healthy sword with lots of personality!

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It just didn't want to curve downwards this one! I think this is due to needing more oil in my quench tank. I'll try to get some pics of what the hamon looks like tonight, I've been traveling with all my gear so I need to get my grinder and stones unpacked from the car before I can clean it up and get a look...

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Congrats on the successful quench. I have enjoyed watching your progress.

 

I know what you mean about the google search. A few years ago I did a pretty extensive WIP on a model steam engine I was building. Back then if you googled "PM Research No.1" it was the first hit. (Proabably still is) I felt like I beat the internet!

 

Then I realized how many people were reading my misspellings and type-os :blink:

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Haha! Exactly Brian!

 

Unfortunately, I may have to scrap this sword :( Hamon was not high enough, so I forged the curve back down and normalized at 1600 thinking I got the grain too fine. Same result on the next quench. Took me a third try without (this time no clay) before figuring it out. The ha and mune were up to temp but the ji was not as it turns out. This was partially on purppose trying to go for utsuri (a blackish area above the hamon that looks like a reflection of it), but that heat zone was exaggerated too much. I was able to see utsuri though, but could't get it on camera with such a rough polishing. Anyway, I'll quench this again until I get the hamon where it should be but the sword itself is not going to end up looking pretty at this point. I'll be ordering more 1075 and starting again from scratch... at least I don't have to make my own steel first!

 

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Also, I think when I got positive sori I had too much clay on the spine which heated the oil up too fast. I didn't have this problem on the last 2 quenches.

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Hey Connor, that's exactly what I did. I need to adjust the hot spot in my forge (I'm thinking of converting it to a double burner) so I don't have to draw the blade in and out as much, that way I can run it closer to the exact temperature I need and the edge won't heat up too fast.

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Well, I said I'd quench until I get a good hamon and that's just what I did!

​The sword itself is bent out of shape past any amount of worth, but it still had value for learning. I ended up quenching 3 times last night, once with clay, two times without. After the first which yielded the same result of too low a hamon near the point of percussion, I brought the steel up to 1800, then 1600, then quench heat in an effort to eliminate the grain size variable that had me worried. Same Result. After the 3rd try, which yielded the hamon bellow, I figured out my problem... Up until this point the only steels I've heat treated by eye in recent times is W2. W2 can harden from just barely over nonmagnetic. However, it appears this 1075 really needs to be around 1500 degrees to harden the way I wanted. This is a noticeably brighter color. The video bellow is of the area I thought I over heated in the last quench, when in reality it was the only area I got hot enough. I figured this out after deciding to bring that whole half of the blade to 240 grit to check the hamon everywhere. I'm planning on quenching this mangled mess one more time a bit hotter so that I have practice and know for sure what I'm doing with the next katana I do. I'll probably then hang this guy in my room as a reminder of how hot I need to heat this steel!

 

Edited by Austin Mys
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I'd also like to say thank you to everyone who has taken a look, and given input to this thread. Making a katana has been a long time dream and passion of mine, and this has been a very fun and rewarding process even though this blade wont have so glorious of an ending. It has certainly jump started me on the path to making something I can be very proud of. I hope I have provided some level of valuable information to people here, and hope to refine my abilities to share knowledge in a more streamlined fashion in the future.

 

Thanks again!

-Austin

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I feel you on the hamon problems. I am working on a hirazukuri tanto right now, and I am on the second attempt of the knife. The first was W1, and was quenched three times, and the hamon was garbage each time. The second is W2, and I quenched that 5 times before I got a hamon that I am happy with. I got some wicked negative sori though, since I quenched in Parks 50. Thankfully there is enough blade there, that I can grind the negative sori out. It has been a completely frustrating process.

I am glad you posted this thread though since it has been a good read. I am glad you got something out of the whole process. What is it that they say? "When you don't get what you want, you get experience."

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I am NOT a Japanese sword expert, or Japanese-styled sword expert.

 

I have heattreated a good number of 1075 (and W2) blades with hamons, though. Usually, shaped a lot like a Japanese tanto's. So, take this for what it is, or is not, worth.

 

To be safe, I humbly suggest taking 1075 (or W2) to 1475 or 1485 F and holding. W2, hold for 3 to 10 minutes, 1075, only until you are sure the whole thing is that temp. You will get activity and even utsuri because of the change in cross-section and low hardenability. You don't have to worry so much about keeping the spine below austenite transformation. If you try to do that, you will frequently encounter the hamon being pushed lower to the edge than you expected given the clay layout.

 

 

That has been my experience, anyway. I hope it helps. If you think it is worth a try, check it out.

 

take care,

kc

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