A few views of the preparation of the woodworking space for carving saya (scabbards) and tsuka (handles). The loft area of the shiageba provides a small floor working space and storage area for tools and wood while downstairs is for polishing. The window faces north to provide stable lighting conditions throughout the day.
Woodworking operations for swords do not require large spaces or complex tooling. The floor space in the loft is about two tatami in size and the area provides room for planing and carving, storing and seasoning magnolia wood, and storage for tools and other related materials. Reclaimed oak is used for flooring and scrap wood boxes and shelves are used for storage. The carving and planing table is often made from magnolia in order to match hardness with the wood being worked.
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Making a Carving & Planing Bench
A simple stand or stump is used by most sayashi for the operations of planing and then carving the saya. This project is a version of the common woodworking bench, atedai (当て台), and incorporates a Magnolia slab top with scrap Red Cedar (Cypress) blocks for legs and Ebony scrap for the planing/carving stops. The height is set for comfortable access from a sitting position on the floor or a cushion.
Saya-nomi (鞘鑿) are a type of Japanese chisel with several unique features designed for carving the inside of a wooden scabbard or handle. Hand forged from a reclaimed harrow tooth, the elongated neck is slightly curved for clearance, the bottom and side corners are slightly rounded, and the tip is slightly bull-nosed to facilitate cutting inside a concave surface without leaving corner marks.
Tool & Wood Storage
The main tools used for making scabbards are kanna, a couple of sizes of sayanomi, various knives/kiridashi/scrapers, rasps, saws, tokusa grass/blocks, and strip and wedge clamps for gluing. Related tools are also kept for restoration or repair along with projects in progress as well as some antique examples of saya and tsuka for study. Magnolia wood that has been seasoning for several years is kept in the work area both in rough slabs and sawn and split blocks ready for use.