A piece that was in process for almost a year and a half from the time the blade was forged until the final mounting, this has become an interesting fusion piece and much more technical than originally envisioned as the project developed.
Mounted with the same technique as a traditional Japanese sword, the parts of this dagger are held together by the strength of a single well-placed bamboo peg. The handle and mounting of this blade incorporate some very interesting materials from hornet paper to hand tanned buckskin I made years ago in the traditional way.
The inspiration for this piece came from a partially mineralized cow bone found in my grandpa’s field many years ago, I had long wanted to use it as a handle because the shape and size was very similar to a wakizashi tsuka (short sword grip).
The difficulty was the inside, how to get the irregular and largely hollow interior to solidly engage with the tang of a blade, without using epoxy to fill the gap. I solved the problem by making the handle into a three part locking puzzle, using wood, bone, and bamboo to lock onto the tip, edges, and centre of the tang in sequence. All stress points rely on mechanical interlocking joints and are supplemented with rawhide and leather wrapping and kept from shifting with traditional glues made from rice, Pine resin glue (kusune made from matsuyani), and other natural materials.
There is a keyhole opening in the bone perpendicular to the tang that the wood slides into. The bone has interior channels carved down the sides to hold the tang as well as small wooden plugs to lock the tip of the tang in place. The plugs fit tightly into the bone and are kept from sliding with kusune (pine resin glue). Once the tang is in place, the wood can no longer slide out of the bone, and once the bamboo peg is in place, the tang can no longer slide out of the handle. The joint is visually hidden by a layer of hornet paper and to strengthen the whole construction in order to support the weight of such a large blade, one and a half wraps rawhide covers the keyways, glued on with sokui (rice paste glue). Normally the rawhide would be ray skin, but for this fusion piece it is deer skin. The final wrapping is four strands of hand tanned unsmoked buckskin and uses a Celtic weave as well as a form of kumiage-maki to create a soft and strong handle grip.
The clay tempered blade was hand forged from a piece of scrap tool steel, shaped by hand using hammer and files, and finished with draw filing. The shape is similar to a ken style dagger without the characteristic recurve but was actually designed by flipping and doubling a large sunnobi tanto blade shape and is more like a western short sword in profile. The construction is muku (solid, one-piece steel) and the cross section is a rounded hira-zukuri (continuous bevel). After yaki-ire only the edges were polished further so the fire and clay texture and colour remain on most of the surface along with the tool marks from draw filing.
The handle was carved from Nootka Cypress and bone and the copper and wrought iron fittings are forged, filed, and finished by hand in the traditional way and given an accelerated natural patina. The habaki (blade collar) was made from a copper fuse connector, the tsuba (hand guard) from a piece of Vancouver Island wrought iron dock chain, and the fuchi (ferrule) from a scrap of copper water pipe. The blade is 13.5″ long and the overall length is about 21.5″. The Bone Dagger Project Portfolio, a full colour, 24 page hardcover book documenting its creation accompanies this piece.
Material: Reclaimed tool steel, wrought iron dock chain, copper fuse bar, mineralized cow bone, hand tanned buckskin, deer rawhide, hornet paper, Nootka Cypress, bamboo
This piece is currently not available as it is part of a larger collaborative work, please inquire for more information.
Process & Stages