Nata (屶, directly translated “mountain sword”, or 鉈) come in various sizes and shapes, but the type most familiar in the west does the duty of a light brush hatchet or heavy camp knife. Common characteristics include thick spines and heavy blades,… Continue reading
…a.k.a.: the *even* quieter edition. The final stages of finishing the aikuchi tanto. This is a collection of clips documenting the steps and sounds involved at most every stage of the process of hand lacquering a traditional aikuchi tanto mount made from reclaimed driftwood. Several of the layers have been omitted from the video when they were exact repeats of the previous ones. The process spanned a month and a half including curing and drying time in between each step. Each layer is allowed to cure in a warm, humid box for two to three days and then polished with charcoal and water before the next is applied.
Urushi is traditional Japanese lacquer made from the sap of a specific tree. The natural colour is a milky brown that oxidizes to deep chocolate and the black colour is created through a reaction with red iron oxide. The lighting was not optimal for several of the steps here, but at least the general process is demonstrated.
Read more about the process of making this work on the photo essay page and watch the blade edition of sounds of the workshop here.
…Sounds of the woodshop, that is…a.k.a.: the quiet edition. Sit back and chill to the sounds of sharp blades and smooth wood. This is a collection of clips documenting the steps and sounds involved at most every stage of the process of hand making a traditional aikuchi tanto mount from reclaimed driftwood. The project began as a large piece of Nootka Cypress driftwood and is worked entirely by hand through each step, employing tools and techniques as they would have been used centuries ago when this style of knife was developed in Japan.
The blade is made from century-old shear steel from a horse drawn carriage spring and based on design elements of the 13th century Aizu Shintogo tanto. Read more about the process of making this work on the photo essay page and watch the blade edition of sounds of the workshop here. The next step will be to finish the surface with natural urushi lacquer.
Habaki is a non-ferrous collar for the blade that strengthens the base of the tang and holds the blade tightly in the scabbard. Often made of copper, it is composed of a large jacket and a small wedge that are forged and… Continue reading
A quick clip of the final assembly of the Tsukimi Tanto. All parts of traditionally constructed tanto and koshirae fit together tightly and the assembly is locked together with a single bamboo peg. Each part fits only one way, even the bamboo peg has a specific alignment for maximum strength. Tsukimi means “moon watching” (in the autumn).
View the finished work: islandblacksmith.ca/2014/09/tsukimi-tanto/
See the process of making this piece: islandblacksmith.ca/process/making-the-tsukimi-tanto/
Just for fun! This is a collection of clips documenting the sounds involved at each stage of the process of making a traditional tanto blade from reclaimed steel. A little slower the second time in case you missed anything in the intro!
The blade is based on design elements of the 13th century Aizu Shintogo tanto.
Until it survives the hardening process, a tanto is only a piece of steel, not yet a blade…read more about this transformational stage: Yaki-Ire (Clay Tempering)
The geometry of a tanto blade is simpler to describe than the tang, though it has more subtleties and nuances. The three main characteristics I want to focus on are tip shape, spine thickness, and bevel geometry. While kata document the profile… Continue reading
The geometry of the nakago (tang) is very important as the assembly of the knife hinges on the correct form and construction of the tang. Viewed from the spine, the thickest part of the blade is at the machi (notches) and there… Continue reading
Full Length Version
**The heating time has been edited out and some of the tang work is missing due to battery issues.
The blade shape is based on the Aizu Shintogo kata: islandblacksmith.ca/2014/04/aizu-shintogo-kunimitsu-tanto-kata/
Making the most of the fire, hammer, and anvil to prepare the steel to be refined and smoothed…read more about this foundational stage: Tanto Blade (Forging)
In a sentence, thermal cycling, or normalizing, is the metallurgical technique of reducing visible grain size by repeated cycling of steel from near its critical temperature to ambient temperature. Several years ago I wondered how traditional Japanese smiths were able to produce… Continue reading
1. Never pull or jerk the blade out with the power of your arms or you will lose control of the blade and possibly damage the saya (scabbard), yourself, or others. Use only small hand muscle movements to loosen it before drawing.
2. When unsheathing, make sure the edge is up, then pull just enough (a few mm) so that the habaki (blade collar) disengages its tight hold on the saya, then the blade may be easily and smoothly drawn, resting on the mune (spine) as it slides out.
3. One way to accomplish the initial part of the draw is to place a hand loosely on either side of the joint, topmost thumb knuckles together and then squeeze. The knuckles push against each other for only a short distance but it is enough to start the blade out in a controlled manner (this way is slightly more difficult and may take some practice)
4. Another method is to grasp the tsuka (handle) and saya tightly with a little space between your hands and then use your saya thumb or forefinger to push against the other hand or against the tsuba (handguard), if it has one, until the release.
5. To replace the blade in the saya, make sure the edge is up, rest the tip in the koiguchi (mouth of the scabbard), and slide it in smoothly, keeping the edge up and resting it on the mune (spine) until the habaki engages again.
**Do not force all the way closed if it is very tight due to climate or humidity, close until just tight enough to safely stay closed and monitor carefully as conditions change.
***Loose scabbards may be corrected using a small rectangle of washi paper attached with rice glue inside the scabbard where the spine of the habaki rests.
more knife use and care information