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Aiden CC

Winter Tanto

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Posted (edited)

I actually started this in December, but it sat around pre-ht until recently and I only finish-ground it yesterday. I have some plans and concept drawings, but I think I'll just show this as it comes together.

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The clay and profile after finish grinding. I think the tip/last few inches might need a little re-work to get that distinct tanto shape. I think more about it.

 

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A preview of the suguha hamon. I've gotten burned in the past with hamon problems near the tip, so I did a quick polish, looks like there's hard steel all the way, I may take the profile down so the thickness stays more consistent. Also, does anyone know a way to polish a hamon so the edge portion appears as the lighter color? This was just a quick inspection, alternating ferric chloride swabs and polishing compound. Having the steel on the edge being an even white strip with some fuzziness on the inboard side is the look I'm going for.

 

I haven't done a KITH for a while, I'm excited to be back in it!

Edited by Aiden CC
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I’ll be honest, the habaki is giving me some trouble (they always seem to). The nickel silver is proving a lot harder than copper and also is work hardening faster. I guess that’s what I get for being too cheap for real silver! It ended up deforming the corners of the steel bar I was using to shape it, and the spine side has a high spot in the middle. The plan is to make a piece of hardened tooling to make those corners nice and square and also make a slightly concave surface. I’ll also probably make a curved chisel for the saya/tsuka. 

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Posted (edited)

Got a little bit more done on the habaki. Making a slightly round hardened punch did the trick. I fit it up then made the metal wedge that gets soldered in on the edge side. 
1A83B0DA-9AD6-41B2-8B7D-8DAEF7FA915B.jpeg

 

Next I set it up with flux and hard silver solder and soldered it in my forge. 
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You can see that in the current fit up, the habaki is a bit shy of the mune and ha machi. This is so I can do a little filing and hammering and get it snugged all the way up. I’ve had problems with loose habaki in the past, trying to avoid that here. 

Edited by Aiden CC
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Well, this KITH has some really cool stuff going on.

Sorry I cannot help you with the Hamon at the tip question. I recently got a quick lesson on Hamon from another smith who drastically changed my whole concept of how to do them.

I can tell you this, where it happens is where the phase transformation is. It has much more to do with thickness during the quench, and depth of grind pot HT, than any clay application.

AFAIK, the lighter color is the softer steel. I don't think you want that on the edge. You can achieve it by sanding out the activity and get it shiny, but that's not what you really want.

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First, the shape of the tip is perfect for that style of blade. The only reshaping I'd do would to be to taper the profile of the nakago more (on the ha side) - it'll make it much easier to fit a nicely shaped tsuka.

 

With the hamon, a lot of the contrast you see on traditional blades is down to the lighting and photography, and a hamon will look white from some angles and dark from others. That said, there are some things you can do to increase the frosty look. Some people use pumice or rotten stone and work it only over the hardened portion, but I think it can give a muddy look and wash out details, though it could work well on a suguha hamon. On mono steel though I think the best bet is to etch quite deeply - you're not just looking for surface oxides, you need to etch into the actual microstructure of the steel, and then you need to polish out all the oxides with a paste abrasive - I use autosol, but I think simichrome is preferred if you can get it. You can also buff with a soft cloth wheel after a deep etch, or etch at a lower grit, say 800, then burnish with 1500 on a soft backing. The point is that the traditional frosty look is a result of a mixture of nie and naoi particles - small and large grains, which scatter the light. On a mono steel blade, you can generally only get one or other, and you don't want large grains, so you need to etch more deeply and polish it back to get the same light scatter...

 

one other thing I'd note is that traditionally a habaki is always wider, ha to mune, than it is tall, nakago to kissaki. The ratio can be anywhere from just over 1:2 to just under 1:1, but it's always there. For some reason western makers, myself included, often seem to want to go thew other way...

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The habaki is basically done now, though it's still a bit snug and I may make it a bit shorter. The base is currently 27mm with a height of 24mm, so a bit less than 1:1 like Jake was talking about. This is the finish off of a sharp 120 grit belt. I may leave it there unless I get some stroke of inspiration for a way to decorate it that fits the theme.

 

8 hours ago, jake cleland said:

On mono steel though I think the best bet is to etch quite deeply - you're not just looking for surface oxides, you need to etch into the actual microstructure of the steel, and then you need to polish out all the oxides with a paste abrasive - I use autosol, but I think simichrome is preferred if you can get it.

I have done some deeper etched hamons for western style knives (~5 minutes in dilute ferric chloride), but that seems like a bit much for this? The picture in my first post shows the results of alternating between swabbing with FeCl3 and polishing with paste abrasive. I'll probably try a short dip. I also heard somewhere that rust powder in oil can be used to darken the area above the hamon, so I may try that as well. The image I'm going for is "blanket of freshly fallen snow" so I'll likely try a variety of things until I get something that looks like that.

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Posted (edited)

My hamon finishing method is basically finish to 2000 grit, etch for five seconds in strong ferric, and then use high grit silicon carbide powder to remove the oxides using a cotton pad dipped in powder on my thumb, as if it were a finger stone. This has worked pretty well for me with modern steels too. The higher polish is key for the coloration I've found, a deep etch and lower grit polish give me more grays than polished silver steel and a white hamon.

 

This was 800 or 1000 grit with a deep etch and silicon carbide powder. I use 4500 grit powder. 

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And this is similar material with a 2000 grit polish and a shorter etch. You can see the nie in the habuchi really clearly and the hamon is whitened a bit, though the lighting makes that hard to see. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Emiliano Carrillo
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Posted (edited)

@Emiliano Carrillo, I'll give the high grit before etch a shot. I may or may not be able to get loose abrasive in the time window I want to work on this, so I'll first try with what I have (Brass-o and some kind of automotive polish) and see if I can get he effect I want. I also may try some red/black oxide mixed with oil to darken above the hamon. Anyways, I got some more done on this:

 

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The tsuka and saya are both made from a piece of alder, which I've heard is a decent analog for the wood traditionally used for this. It carved alright with my ugly saya nomi. Right now, the fit in the tsuka is very tight, the hope is that it will relax a bit when I do the filing on the tang after polishing the blade.

 

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After carefully squaring up the mating surfaces, I shaped the outside of the assembly. This is going to be a kaiken style knife, so it won't have a lot of features distinguishing the right from left side. I added just a bit of curvature to the mounts and a slight asymmetric taper to the tsuka which is very hard to see in the photo. This means that the side with the edge is visibly discernible and once you get used to it can be reliably determined by feel. You can also see a sneak peek of the narrow suguha hamon in the second picture. Not shown is the mekugi ana which drilled so I could go into lacquering.

 

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Right now, this is just a tanto with a suguha hamon and a slightly odd choice of habaki material. The thematic elements of this piece really come from the lacquer and polish, so I've been doing some experimentation. Above are four test coupons I have been applying lacquer to over the past few days. The base color is going to be black, so I've been testing that. It looks like my procedure will be to apply a coat every 8-12 hours sanding to 220 in-between. Yet to be decided is if the black will be satin or buffed and whether I will use clear lacquer on top of the black and design elements. I don't plan on using sepa (though I will make one if things start to rattle), so I also put a few coats of lacquer on the exposed surfaces of the tsuka and saya. Going through the process of making a tanto for the first time in almost five years has been fun, but I'm also really excited to start getting into some of the thematic parts of the build.

 

Edited by Aiden CC

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Looking great! I like how subtle the shape of handle  and sheath is.

 

What kind of lacquer are you using? it looks like something sprayable.

 

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Thanks! I was worried for a bit that it was too subtle. I’m using spray can lacquer from the hardware store for this, looking at the specs online I believe it is acrylic. It drys fairly fast, which is nice as well. I guess I could’ve saved some masking/cleanup and brushed on the black, but my plan for later requires something sprayable, so I just went with it for everything. 

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I got most of the polishing done today. Decided to try lemon juice for the etch, I like the results, though I may go for a few more cycles. There is some funny stuff going on at he kissaki, with the hamon getting a bit washed out. I was going for a blanket of fallen snow, but it seems like some storm clouds may have rolled in too :D. I say this when I did a test etch too and I'm convinced now that it's in the steel and not the polish. Also, these are super hard to photograph! I may try waiting for a cloudy day and taking better pictures then also possibly trying a better camera than my phone. These were taken inside by a glass door, the light was ok, but outside with cloud cover or at sunrise/set might be better.

 

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Also put the first few coats of lacquer on the tsuka and saya and worked on a few test coupons. I think I've made some decisions about how I'm going to do this, but I'll show that when I get to it on the real thing. Looking at he pictures, maybe the etch needs to be a little deeper. I'm also waiting on some loose abrasive to lighten the hamon/bring out some detail. 

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Hi Aiken, this is a very nice tanto, as I am no wizard with the Japanese nomenclature for blade types, I can only say, “I like this shape” a lot. What steel did you use? Also, I am watching how the lemon juice works as I tried it before, even warmed it. Maybe I wasn’t patient enough but couldn’t get the hamon I was working on, to detail well enough. I was using W2.

@Emiliano Carrillomay I ask how high a silicon carbide powder you prefer? How strong is your etchant? (Undiluted?)

If your going to 2000 grit, it’s pretty near mirror polish. I see powder available to buy from 220 grit to 3000. Will 1000 or even 1500 work? And straight motion or circular. I am asking all these questions as I like “shiny” and haven’t been really pleased with the grey tones from etching.

 

Kind regards and thanks in advance, Gary

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Looking great Aiden! Excellent proportions and shape for the blade! 

 

And Gary! I use 4500 grit SC powder, basically 3 micron powder, the finer the better in my experience! I use a pretty strong mix of maybe 1 part ferric to 4 parts water. Maybe 5 second etches, and cleaning in between with the powder. I use it straight back and forth as in tip to tang, I haven't tried round motions, I have a feeling it would mess up the polish though! I think that this powder is an excellent way to clean the oxides and burnish the grains in the hamon. other metal polishes can work well but I prefer the powder! 

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Thanks a million Emiliano. Honestly haven’t seen 4500 grit powder but I will find some and I agree with you that circular motions would defeat the purpose.

I am working on some W2 in process, not quite ready yet.

My ferric is 4 to 1 water and I had a great hamon on another knife but the whole blade had tones of tones of “dull grey”. I took the polish forward grit by grit to 2000. I just could not get the contrast I wanted. So in this case I buff/polished it and gave up. (Photos below)

First I tried heated lemon juice repeatedly over and over polishing with successful grit up to 2000 and Flitz. What I was trying to do, is have a shiny clean blade edge but darker area where clayed.......probably not possible, Duh!

Aiden may lend some insight with what he finds out with the lemon juice/acetic acid.

Anyway, thanks for letting me ask all these questions,

I apologize to both of you for hijacking this thread so I’ll end my babbling here.!

Kind regards, 

 

Gary LT

 

 

 

 

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I ended up switching from Brass-o to a different polishing compound and did three more etches with particular attention near the tip. I think there are some very shallow hardened spots up there, and it was generally a challenge to get good definition. I ordered some loose Si carbide

which I may apply to the hamon to try and crisp things up just a little more. I just got it to where you can see the turn-around of the main hamon in the right light:

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Part of me wants to try and grind through those spots, but there’s no telling how deep they are and I should probably leave well enough alone. Having some clouds isn’t too far of theme anyways. Otherwise, I’ve just been putting more black lacquer on the saya and tsuka, I’ll probably wet sand it tomorrow and put in one last coat then move on to the other color and clear coats. 

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I think it's great.  Leave it be before you regret it :)

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I agree with Brian :)

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I agree also Aiden.

I really like this blade.

I don’t know what the steel was but I’ve boogered more than one trying to “improve it”! and if the steel is shallow hardening in the first place then may be that’s all you’ll get.

Gary LT

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Yeah, the geometry doesn't really have the wiggle room to go digging for a cleaner hamon and I've definitely improved a few knives to death so I'll leave it other than maybe the gentle application of some SiC. I need to figure out the right lighting to capture it in a picture, but the hamon does have the snowy look I wanted.

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A fella recently told me to only use side lighting in my photo tent to capture hamons. I didn't get the chance to try it yet though...

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Side lighting and something black reflecting in the blade.

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I let the lacquer dry for a week before the final polishing, I think it will be a month or more before it's entirely finished drying. I made the mekugi from a small scrap of ebony, and now it is officially done.

 

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The knife is inspired by a midwinter night when the snow catches the light from a head lamp, streetlight, or the moon through a thin veil of clouds, gently sifting down and blown by the occasional icy flurry. Taking out the blade reveals the thin layer of fallen snow in the suguha hamon with a few storm clouds lingering near the tip. My goal was to capture the harsh but serene beauty of snowy nights like the many I've spent wondering in the woods and enjoying the crisp air, glittering tree branches, and soft silence. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Aiden CC said:

I let the lacquer dry for a week before the final polishing, I think it will be a month or more before it's entirely finished drying. I made the mekugi from a small scrap of ebony, and now it is officially done.

 

IMG_8627.JPGIMG_8628.JPG

 

IMG_8622.JPG

 

IMG_8625.JPGIMG_8626.JPG

 

The knife is inspired by a midwinter night when the snow catches the light from a head lamp, streetlight, or the moon through a thin veil of clouds, gently sifting down and blown by the occasional icy flurry. Taking out the blade reveals the thin layer of fallen snow in the suguha hamon with a few storm clouds lingering near the tip. My goal was to capture the harsh but serene beauty of snowy nights like the many I've spent wondering in the woods and enjoying the crisp air, glittering tree branches, and soft silence. 

That piece is awesome, Aiden!! Absolutely freeeakin awesome!! Bowing to the master.jpg

Edited by C Craft

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You are really moving the KITH bar up a few notches.  I wonder what sort of bribe the lovely Dr. King would be interested in  :ph34r:

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