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Alright guys, need your help.  I am working on a japanese tanto, and I want to jump out of a window.  The saya is, for the most part, done.  It was mortised out, fit up and glued together.  When i carved it out, I didnt leave it messy.  It was scraped to be smooth.  I did not sand, so there would be no particulates in there.  But I am finding that when the blade slides in, it comes out with small scratches on it.  

Any ideas?  I am afraid that somehow, the inside picked up a few particles from somewhere and they are lodged in there.  Any ideas on how to fix this?  Please note, the last think i want to do it cut this thing apart.  That is the LAST thing I will try.  It would probably result in the sayas destruction.

Thanks guys!

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Hey man I've been following your progress and am super excited to see it done! That being said I know exactly the problem, you're having and may have some ideas. 

Saya were often beaten into the ground in use, and repaired several times during their lives, sometimes being taken apart for cleaning or to be fit to a new sword. When taking it apart was impossible due to the lacquering or whatever finish was on the saya, they would use a saya file, which is literally a rasp on a three foot stick. I'm afraid the historic fix to your problem is literally forging an extra long file. Scratches generally happen when the blade's fit is too close to the saya, ideally you only have contact on the tip, spine, and the top and bottom of the habaki. This point is contested as some makers want contact on the entire habaki and consider it to be a question of good fit versus sloppy craftsmanship. I've seen quite a few saya split in two, all original, and they are always smoothed nicely, probably scraped like yours was. On one I saw some rough file marks, indicating a saya rasp was used to remove some material that was causing a scratch or making contact. I would say your best bet is to ascertain where the scratches are coming from and modify or make a small file to really get in there. 

 

I hope that helps some!

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I would suggest taking it apart and relieving the areas of contact other than the spots Emilliano is referring to.
I'm assuming you wood glued it.
You can hit the seam with a heat gun and gently start to pull it apart.
Or you can soak a rag in vinegar and saturate the seam and then wrap the saya for 15 minutes and start to wiggle it.
As it begins to come apart apply more vinegar.
 

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You could try a long bodied scraper instead of a file, might be a bit easier. Bend the body so that its curved and will be under tension in the saya, the tensioned curve should be able to apply force through the scraping edge. 

Man that thought is hard to put into words...

I've been in the same situation before, not sure if I tried a long scraper but I think I might have.

 

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I don't know if what I'm about to suggest is a harebrained idea or worth trying, but it just kinda came to me. Any chance, if you plan on pulling it apart, that you can put some powdered graphite or similar on the blade before doing so? That way when you pull it apart, whatever you put on the blade will transfer to the spots that are rubbing and will tell you exactly where to tune the saya. Anyway, just speculating.

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Emiliano's points are excellent. When this has happened to me it wasn't because of something accidentally getting in rather because the wood has embedded in it tiny stones from when it grew as a tree. The saya file has been my best investment but trying to fit the saya to avoid contact on the sides to begin with is best.

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Firstly, thank you everyone for weighing in.  I appreciate all of the ideas.

On 6/12/2017 at 8:07 PM, Chris C-S said:

Bummer Wes, cannot contribute here but good luck. :unsure:

I will take whatever moral support I can get :)

 

On 6/12/2017 at 7:37 PM, JJ Simon said:

I would suggest taking it apart and relieving the areas of contact other than the spots Emilliano is referring to.
I'm assuming you wood glued it.
You can hit the seam with a heat gun and gently start to pull it apart.
Or you can soak a rag in vinegar and saturate the seam and then wrap the saya for 15 minutes and start to wiggle it.
As it begins to come apart apply more vinegar.
 

 

15 hours ago, Mike Andriacco said:

I don't know if what I'm about to suggest is a harebrained idea or worth trying, but it just kinda came to me. Any chance, if you plan on pulling it apart, that you can put some powdered graphite or similar on the blade before doing so? That way when you pull it apart, whatever you put on the blade will transfer to the spots that are rubbing and will tell you exactly where to tune the saya. Anyway, just speculating.

 

Ya, there is no way to get this saya apart, at least not without destroying it.  The wood is stabilized, so I did not use wood glue, but instead used a strong two part epoxy.  There is no heating it to pull it apart.  The wood is weaker than that glue bond is.  Instead of powered graphite, i was using Dykem on the blade, it was showing me exactly where the blade is being scratched, and it gives me an idea where the bad spots are.

 

On 6/12/2017 at 8:32 PM, steven smith said:

You could try a long bodied scraper instead of a file, might be a bit easier. Bend the body so that its curved and will be under tension in the saya, the tensioned curve should be able to apply force through the scraping edge. 

Man that thought is hard to put into words...

I've been in the same situation before, not sure if I tried a long scraper but I think I might have.

 

This is not a bad idea at all!  I spoke to a buddy of mine who came up with a similar idea, so I think it bears possibly using.  If filing the areas like Emiliano and Jesus suggest does not work, then I will certainly be trying this.

 

On 6/12/2017 at 6:44 PM, Emiliano Carrillo said:

Hey man I've been following your progress and am super excited to see it done! That being said I know exactly the problem, you're having and may have some ideas. 

Saya were often beaten into the ground in use, and repaired several times during their lives, sometimes being taken apart for cleaning or to be fit to a new sword. When taking it apart was impossible due to the lacquering or whatever finish was on the saya, they would use a saya file, which is literally a rasp on a three foot stick. I'm afraid the historic fix to your problem is literally forging an extra long file. Scratches generally happen when the blade's fit is too close to the saya, ideally you only have contact on the tip, spine, and the top and bottom of the habaki. This point is contested as some makers want contact on the entire habaki and consider it to be a question of good fit versus sloppy craftsmanship. I've seen quite a few saya split in two, all original, and they are always smoothed nicely, probably scraped like yours was. On one I saw some rough file marks, indicating a saya rasp was used to remove some material that was causing a scratch or making contact. I would say your best bet is to ascertain where the scratches are coming from and modify or make a small file to really get in there. 

 

I hope that helps some!

 

15 hours ago, Jesus Hernandez said:

Emiliano's points are excellent. When this has happened to me it wasn't because of something accidentally getting in rather because the wood has embedded in it tiny stones from when it grew as a tree. The saya file has been my best investment but trying to fit the saya to avoid contact on the sides to begin with is best.

Thank you Emiliano for the great idea and thank you Jesus for confirming it.  I have some small files that totally will fit in the saya.  The handles aren't quite long enough, but I can certainly fab something up really quick to make the handles longer.  When carving out the saya, I did try to make it where the spine was the only part that was making contact, but it seems that there are few small parts that I missed.  As far as the throat of the saya, I made it so the bottom and sides of the habaki are in contact. Again, thanks guys, I really really appreciate your input, and great ideas.  

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4 hours ago, Jesus Hernandez said:

You to make it clear. The saya file is actually a rasp shaped like the distal 6 inches of a katana blade on a long and skinny handle.

Thanks for the clarification Jesus.  I don't have any small rasps, but I think I manage to get some needle rasps that might serve.  The width of this blade is probably 3/16 at the munemachi, so I need something pretty small

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I managed to find some needle rasps at Woodcraft which I think will work really well.  They also have some rifflers like you are talking about Steve, so I made modify one of those if the needle rasps don't work.  Thanks everyone!

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