Building a Togi-Dai for Polishing

Togi (研ぎ) is the process of using several stages of abrasive stones to refine, smooth, and sharpen a blade. The word togi does not differentiate between the action of polishing and the action of sharpening, in the Japanese concept the operations are one and the same –an integral process.

A togi-dai (研ぎ台) polishing platform is a traditional workspace used to orient the stones at a proper angle to the polisher and to collect and manage the water and swarf that comes from the process. The polishing components include a sloped wooden platform to drain and collect water, a water bucket and stone rest, a foot clamp to hold the stone down, and a slanted stool for the polisher. While most of the components are relatively simple to make or obtain, the platform itself is more challenging to construct.


scroll down or jump to the sections below:

Togidai
Todai
Fumaegi
Togi


Making the Togidai

Materials for the platform are Nootka Cypress, for its water resistance, along with some Western Red Cedar (also a cypress), and some reclaimed galvanized chimney sheet metal for drainage. Building the draining platform permanently into the floor with integral drainage is preferred, but most locations require it be raised with a separate water collection system underneath.

In this workspace the height needed to be as low as possible but still allow room for the water tray to fit underneath. 100cm x 160cm is a fairly standard size but for reasons of available space and materials this one is 87cm x 140cm on the outside.

Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Cypress driftwood split with a froe and rough hewed with an axe and hatchet.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Some of the components will be made from this log, other thin boards from scrap lumber hand planed smooth.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The frame has scrap Red Cedar strips inside to support the decks at a slight angle for drainage (usually about 3%).
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Galvanized chimney steel collects water and directs it down the slope as well as toward the center. Most of the water will fall near the center of the platform but given some more height, the steel could have been attached to the bottom of the frame, catching even the water that might occasionally run down along the edges of the decks.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
A stainless tray located under the togi dai collects water and swarf and can be emptied periodically. Another possible approach would be a custom “eaves-trough” shaped tray mounted to the frame right under the drainage gap.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
A second piece of steel collects any water that might leak from the other half of the deck and adds more flow time to center the water from the edges.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The curve is smaller to ensure unhindered drainage of swarf out the gap at the bottom.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The second piece stops just short of the drainage gap in the decks.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Both halves of the deck in place, water flows down to the center and drains out into the stainless steel tray.

Making the Shogi, Todai, and Todai-makura

Shogi (床几) is the slightly tilted stool that the polisher rests one leg on. It is about 39cm × 23cm × 15cm/16cm high and made of Red Cedar scraps left over from the yakisugi siding of the island kajiba. Todai (砥台) is the angled wooden block that the polishing stone rests on and is about 30cm x 9cm x 9cm, and Todai-makura (砥台枕) the “pillow” for the todai to rest on, about 9cm x 9cm x 26cm with a notch height of 7.5cm. Left over cut-offs of the beams used for building the island kajiba project were used for these items.

Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Shogi stool is 15cm high at the front and slopes up to 16cm at the back, in addition to the slope of the togidai deck. It is wide enough so that the thigh/knee can rest across it.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
This todai can be placed at a 10cm height or a 15cm height by rotating, the notch on either side of the todai-makura ends at 7.5cm above the togidai deck.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The vertical 15cm setting, for normal sized stones.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The horizontal 10cm setting, for tall or wide stones. Supporting the stone is a small wooden to-makura stone support used to adjust the stone angle or to stabilize an uneven stone.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
…and a small stool for use in the ofuro.

Making the Fumaegi and Tsumagi

Fumaegi (ふまえ木) is a wooden foot clamp that secures the polishing stone against the todai block. About 50-60cm long, it curves up from the floor to the top of the stone and is held with the pressure of the right foot. Tsumagi (爪木) is a small block (~9cm × 9cm × 2cm) to rest the toes of the right foot on for proper pressure and foot position (and dry toes).

Material for fumaegi should be chosen primarily for the grain direction and strength of the wood. Occasionally a piece can be found with curved grain but usually some design adjustments must be made to thicken and strengthen weak grain areas appropriately.

Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
A curved piece of some sort of Cypress root fits the template. Various polishers have different designs and proportions, adjustments should be made for proper function.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
One way to deal with grain weakness is to laminate two pieces together at different angles, as shown in the template.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Very roughly sawn out, leaving excess material, particularly where the grain runs out of the shape and where the head will meet the stone.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The tail is rough carved, then a saw cut made around the neck where the drainage groove will be carved.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Lower section mostly carved, adjustments can be made after testing as the final shape is approached.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The head carved with drainage notch to keep water from flowing back onto the right foot.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The fumaegi presses down on the back of the stone to keep it from moving.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The tsumagi sits in front of the tail of the fumaegi as a foot rest.

Finished Togi-dai

The togioke (研ぎ桶) bucket is being made locally, at 42.5cm x 30.5cm x 18.5cm high this one is designed slightly smaller than the standard 46cm x 33cm x 18.5cm for sword polishing.

Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
The approximate positions of all the parts in relation to one another.
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
Togi Dai - Polishing Bench
North light coming across the togidai at an angle in its location in the shiageba (finishing shed).

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