Process: Carving the Tsuka & Saya – Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

In this video the tsuka is carved first, starting with the fuchi end and then the kashira area, carving the profile outlines and then removing the material in between before carving the final shape and sculpting the details. The saya is next, first dimensioning the blank is to approximate size and then profiling the koiguchi and then the kojiri, removing the material and carving as close as possible to the final shape using kanna and kiridashi. Finally any remaining high points in the curves are smoothed with a fine rasp. carving the inside

Process: Carving the Inside – Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

In this video the tsuka is carved first, starting with the omote side and then the ura, carving each half from the mune to the ha. The saya is next, starting with the omote and then the ura, each half beginning with the fitting of the blade (from the mune towards the ha) and then the fitting of the habaki area (koiguchi). Finally the halves are glued together with rice paste glue, wrapped with leather cord, and wedged tightly to dry overnight. The first half is almost real time, the repeat steps edited out during the second half. The wood is hounoki, carve carefully and check often! carving the outside

Making Fire with Bamboo – museum forge first lighting

The first night turned out to be quite an event as there were three forges and six blacksmiths/strikers operating in the museum workshop. Thanks to Tim of Reforged Ironworks, and Josh for their energy and charcoal chopping to get the forge up and running, and their assistance swinging the big sledges to finish drifting and shaping the smaller hand hammers as the first preparatory projects in the charcoal forge. Read more about the museum forge project or watch a more detailed demonstration of lighting fire with bamboo.

Making 篩 for charcoal screening

Traditional Japanese swordsmithing forges are fueled by softwood charcoal which is first chopped, screened, and sorted into several sizes for different stages of the forging process. The “furui” (篩) or sieve is used to separate different sizes of charcoal during the sumi-kiri process. This one is the smallest mesh of the four, made from window screen, and saves the fines for the charcoal bed and allows the powder to fall through. See the whole museum forge project here.

Making a Swordsmith Anvil from Scrap

A Japanese swordsmith style anvil made from junkyard scrap. The two side pieces are cast steel or iron John Deere 8255C rear counterweights from a shovel dozer. They weigh about 200-240lbs each and measure about 2 1/8″ x 14 3/4″ x 25″. There is a ‘T’ shaped face and stem that extends to the ground between the plates made from welded spring or tool steel and weighs about 70lbs.

The face is about 1 3/8″ x 6″ x 15 1/4″ and has a pritchel hole in it and a sharp edge for cutting on one corner. The combined weight of the plates bolted onto the face and stem should be between 475 and 520lbs. The finished anvil should sit 7-7.5 sun from the ground or from the seat height. See the whole forge building process here.

Inside look at a traditional kaiken mounting

A look inside the carving of a small kaiken tanto mounting (futokoro-gatana) with additional examples from an Edo period tsuka and an even older shirasaya.

The omote is the “public side” of a tanto or sword, the side that faces outwards both when being worn and when on display. The edge faces upwards and the handle is on the left when displaying nihonto. The ura is the “private side” and faces away from the viewer when on display and towards the body when worn.

More on carving a tanto style tsuka.
Classical tanto geometry series archive.