Sunday 16 August 2015 at 13:16 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Huawei were one of the first ebay companies I ran into doing semi custom work at a fairly affordable price. I mean there were and still are plenty of alternatives, but of all the sellers out there, Huawei seem to produce the best blades for the money you pay. A client and now a friend (henceforth referred to as Stefano) wanted a the tsuka for a sword from this company rewrapped and I agreed to do it. The thing is, I was up against some pretty good work to be fair, althouth it wasn't the best wrap I had seen by a long stretch, it used Hishigami in the maki and was tight enough to not worry about it slipping around like you do with a lot of ebay sellers. Having hishigami in a production sword is becoming an increasingly rare affair and so it's nice to see one of them going that extra yard to make sure that the product they put out is genuinely safe to use.

The sword itself is made of T-10 and differentially hardened in the Hitatsura style.I do not believe clay is used for this particular style which is why it's so wild and uncontrolled looking. Done properly, It's one of the prettiest hamon styles out there but despite it's seemingly simple application technique, it's probably one of the hardest to pull off.

The preparation

The first thing I did was to remove the old ito from the tsuka. I ended up untying the end knots and removing it carefully because i wanted something to hold the same panels in place later on when I'd finished reapplying them. Stefano wanted the tsuka thinned out and reshaped and so everything had to be stripped down, fittings removed etc until I had just the wooden core.

Inspecting the tsuka showed something I suspect happens on many production swords. A crack along the spine of the tsuka Whether its an actual crack or the glue coming unglued, this needs to be fixed and so a little cleaning up of the inside of the tsuka and some strong glue and we're ready to rock again.

Nothing a little work and some 2-part epoxy can't fix.

The Same panels of course had to be removed. It was then I realised that theyd not used normal Same but instead Shagreen. It's a common method to make application that much easier and being as it's only panels, who cares? It made my life a lot easier later on when I reapplied it :)

After I'd cleaned it all up, removing any excess glue and lightly sanding the surface so I could clearly see what was going on, I pinned the nakago of the sword to the outside of the tsuka and drew around it. This shape that I then shaded in black marker would make sure that I knew at all times, where the actual edges of the tsuka could come up to without sanding through which would of been an immediate disaster.

I carefully sanded the top and the bottom of the tsuka to match the size of the fittings as exactly as I could. This would give me a visual indication again of how much material I needed to remove.

It pleased me to see the angles on the mekugi are correctly done.
This ensures a much more secure fit of the nakago to the tsuka

The shape of the tsuka was going to be carved into a 'rikko' or hourglass shape. This shape was typical of the Tensho era and often came with very minimalistic koshirae. The fittings I had were certainly that and although Tensho era swords often used horn for the kashira, the plain understated copper did just as good a job as well as going with the colour scheme.

Once I'd made sure that the fuchi and kashira were fitted correctly, I started work on thinning the tsuka's omote and ura sides. I needed to get those as flat as possible in order to then carve in the hourglass shape and round the ha and mune sides of the tsuka to a much more smooth and oval shape. After that it was on to carving new panel insets for the 'same', or ray skin to slot into. Getting this to fit properly took what seemed like an age. Any mistakes here with the level of the ray skin and it will show through the tightly stretched leather ito. Allowing that sort of rubbish to occur on a tsuka with relatively expensive fittings like this would be a crime.

After this, the insets for the Same panels had to be recarved. This took me forever to do and is one of the more nerve wracking tasks because a small slip and thats it, game over, start again with a new tsuka shitaji. _not_ what I wanted to be doing :) and so it took hours to get it to the point where you couldnt feel the bump where the edge of the same started and you could only tell because of the bumps on the actual material. Worth every minute though because every extra minute you spend in preparation increases the chances of you not needing to spend hours correcting sub par work.

Ok, so the tsuka is now all ray-skinned up :) and to finish I simply paint it black... woah hold on.. no I don't. Turns out I'm a wee bit of a perfectionist with work like this, and there were knots in this piece of wood that they had chosen for the tsuka. Because of this I used a super tough filler to sort out those bumps and dents and then sanded it down smooth so it all lined up with everything else. _Then_ I painted it black... and the bumps had vanished. Finish it off with a couple of coats of lacquer and we're away!

Popping the tsuka back onto the sword keeps it safe and gives you a quick feel for how the finished work will flow.

The lacquer will protect the paint and the the tsuka from the elements.

I couldn't resist fitting it to the sword to gauge how the end result might look. Not only that, it's a good stopping point for the day and I know the works safe when its attached to the blade. :)

You can start to see the flow of the whole sword when you mount it. This reshaped tsuka is far more elegant than it was originally. Having said that though, huawei have the best tsuka shape I've seen come from an ebay vendor. credit where its due.

The actual wrap

Ok, so we're onto the actual tsukamaki now and it's time for my favourite thing! Folding hishi-flipping-gami. :/ No seriously, it's not that bad and I'm just being overly dramatic. It can be tedious, folding paper over and over, cutting it into pieces and folding over the edges. You see, you cant just watch tv and get on with it, the measurements have to be as tight and correct as you have calculated that they need to be otherwise they just dont work properly, so after I measured the tsuka and decided on the dimensions of my little paper friends, I spent god only knows how long painstakingly folding each one as carefully as my patience would allow. ha!

I 'love' folding hishi!
A small army of frogs
 Stefano decided on Katate-maki, the so called battle wrap to adorn his sword but left the actual number of turns and number of twists in hineri maki up to me to decide. Now I'm a fan of either a great number of simple wraps around the tsuka, or almost none at all. I decided that because of the waisting on the tsuka and because the sword was not my own, to go a slightly less extreme route, giving around 6 hineri maki turns, 9 katate-maki and then finish up whatever was left in hineri maki again. This would I felt, accentuate the waisting on the rikko style tsuka which was one of the main design factors that was pressed by Stefano. The sword had to go from a bog standard Haichi style tsuka to a much slimmer and more elegant rikko in a tensho style.

I always take a break when I've done the first section of hineri and secured it with the katate. Your fingers will ache like a b*tch especially if you're not used to it. It doesnt mean that you have weak hands, it's just they spend the majority of the time attempting to make sure the ito never loses tension. if you ease up and it gets lose, it's time to unravel a few turns and start over again. The faux pas with tsukamaki is allowing a wrap to be loose. It should be tight and it shouldn't move and loosen up with the swords use.

Break time! The start and ends of the katate-maki are of course glued in place. Rice glue used to be used for this, but living in a modern era means access to modern glues so a 2-part was used for this despite the tightness of the wrap probably being enough to hold it all together. Safety above all else.

Eventually I had 'finished' the wrap. There are of course many corrections that I feel will have to be made, but thats just me. The base wrap is definitely good enough to please me and it will only get better as I shift small things around and correct the bits that bother me. Being attentive to these details now will allow for a better wrap at the finish line.

The 'bare bones' first step is sorted. next is the menuki.

The menuki supplied for the tsuka were tiny. This meant that although they _could_ sit under the ito at the top and bottom or even sit under a strand of ito on the middle section, it would cover a lot of them and that seemed a shame. For this reason I ended up attaching a tiny pin and folded metal piece to each menuki so that they could be attached over the top of the ito. A small amount of glue was also used to help keep the little beggars in place permanently.

One of the 'features' of nubuck leather, as I was advised by a tsukamaki-shi far better than I, is that it will stretch over time. This means that through no fault of the person doing the wrap, over a period of use, it will become rubbish. :/ *shrugs* I see no other way to put it. There are however always ways to get around these sorts of things, and in this particular case it was clear lacquer, diluted with a tiny bit of water. This soaks into the ito and dries, making it more rigid than it was before, allowing it to hold its shape and therefore, not fidget around. Adding this lacquer means that the work is preserved as well as having the side effect of a wonderful semi-shiny finish. Really brings out the green.

The mekugi pins were of acceptable quality, but being a production sword, they were a little rough on one end and so I lightly sanded them and rounded the corners at the front end. This makes them easier to insert before hammering them into place.

Finished, all menuki'ed up and lacquered.

After all this work, it was simply a matter of going around the tsuka and making sure that everything was tidy and tight. There were a couple of issues to work around, like the menuki, and of course with the different thickness of ito, the mekugi pins are slightly more difficult to get into position but nothing really awkward. If anything it probably makes them even safer.

Overall I'm very happy with the fit and finish of the finished product and more importantly, so is Stefano.

0 Responses so far.

Post a Comment