Sounds of the Workshop: Aikuchi Tanto Urushi Lacquer

…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 Workshop: Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

…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.

Tsukimi Tanto – Final Assembly

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/

Sounds of the Workshop: Creating a Tanto Blade

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.

Opening Shirasaya

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