The Finished sword... but....

Ok, so this sword is a random folded katana from ebay. Now I know what youre all thinking, that basically means it could be any old shit right? Well I mean you're right, it could be, or it could be gold dust and the only way to know what you have in these circumstances really is to pick it up, swing it and cut with it. I wish I had before 

Originally it had an 11" tsuka in hineri maki and it was the standard, quickly done, no hishigami, cheap cotton ito I usually delight in stripping off and throwing in my bits box which of course I proceeded to do. 

I actually was going to modify an existing core which fit it perfectly. It was approximated the right size, etc etc. it would work and I was working on my vision.
 but I ended up taking too much wood of or something and before I convinced myself everything would be ok, I employed my usual safety procedure and smashed it to pieces, forcing me to start again. ;) it's a legitimate safety technique. If in doubt, smash it up so you wont be tempted to carry on with something unsafe.

This, Ladies and Gentle, is called Progress! :)

So I decided to give some other ito, a try but looking at it I quickly worked out that I wasnt going to be able to cleanly get away with hineri maki because of the thickness and squareness of the ito's cross section. 

This stuff btw, as much as I had to work on it to work with it, is an unsung hero. It's cheap, tough, but its difficult to work with if you want to do hineri maki. I wouldn't even consider it for anything more complex. I will have to give this another go. maybe with enough time and patience and hammering, it could be persuaded.

This also ruled out tsumami maki and so I went for the much less popular hira maki. This was a good thing btw, I love variety and I hate having too much of the same. off onto the beaten track again it is :) 

Now I want to mention as well, that none of this would of been possible without a good friend of mine who had gifted me this sword and the ito and some fittings. He knows who he is and I have to thank him again and hope he forgives me for the hodge podge of rather late documentation. I'm just happy to have the time to eventually get to it. Thanks dude. You tha man! ;)

I normally put more effort into the documentation of the process but in this instance I was winging it. I hadn't done hira maki before and I knew the ito wasn't going to cooperate with me. The tsuka core isn't my own work as you'll see. But, it had been ordered in two pieces which was going to allow me the opportunity to make sure it was properly and safely fitted exactly to the nakago of the sword in question. 

It was also going to require a good deal of alteration both inside as well as out. In short, It was going to be a challenge. 

This new core comes to just under 9 inches and so is perfect for that katate spiral in the midsection as well as the kata te uchi feel I wanted. I wanted quick and nimble. I always try to impart a definite feel to the balance and handling of the sword. sometimes I actually get it right ;)

As arrived. No alteration. A definite and slight Haichi shape to it. solid enough.

Then of course was the challenge of the nakago ana. The shaping, cutting, chiseling, panicking began. To this day, I still need a small set of actually decent chisels. I'd actually gotten it cleaner than this by the time I'd finished, but this is good enough to illustrate what I was doing.

And then the shaping began. I wanted to slim up that core quite a lot and so firstly I needed to round it and remove the channels for the rayskin panels. Theyre a right pain because really, you want them, but you want them like 3mm further bloody backwards.. or more. *shrugs* ya know.

But you have to do this otherwise your core looks like an axe handle. Its a good thing really with these cores as theyre sold as a one fixes everything sort of bundle, but it gives the you the flexibility to be able to alter things slightly.

You also gain the knowledge of how much wood you can remove as you know exactly where your nakago will be and also, how much wood you have around it./ i.e. is it safe, will I fuck it up any more by removing too much wood.

So I've gotten the core sorted, now to start making the changes I need. I have messed these things up before now, so I whip out my sharpies and mark it up.
1) fuchi line
2) Ha and Mune sides
3) Carved holes for the Tome
4) Anything. ANYTHING else you think will help.
Checking that it's still the right dimensions and that the straight is actually straight and the curves are where I need them to be. :) and yay! All is well.

This shows everything at a bit of an odd angle but its ok, you'll see it when its all wrapped. Again, I wish I had photos of the process of applying the same etc etc. But I'm a clutz. its only panels anyway. cut or carvent hem out. I cheated and used my higo to make the first lines and basically cut in little channels on each side, then i cut out the middle bit and used sand paper to take out the chaff. Then glue the fuckers in :)

Silhouette shot shows profile a little better.

And kitchen shot shows it again.

So There we go. That's the first part done. I'm happy. The more you do this, the better it'll get and the easier it'll be. But if you get all lazy on the prep work then the subsequent stuff will get harder and be suckier. :/ trust me.

The Maki

Now usually, I document this sort of thing so much better. I spose part of the reason was also that this was going to be my sword and not someone elses. I try to always document other peoples work so they can see the process, but this was my baby. I now had my vision creeping closer and I just cracked on with it. 

Hira maki sounds like it would be easy for a few reasons, but truth be told, in some ways its really not. You may think that because there are no creased folds or pinches,. that you can forego hishigami but you cant. the wraps on the swords are supposed to add definition to the shape of the core but this is a far flatter wrap so you have these things to work around. Basically, hishigami are your saviour here and the shape and depth of them is what will make this wrap feel good. I suggest hishi that are far flatter at the outside ends, and as you approach the point, get a lot fatter. then, just hammer the buggers down good :)

Heres where I had gotten to the katate maki style centre. I like this especially with menuki in this style. What I never enjoy is that bit where you cut the ito. I always make sure I've checked like, three times before I cut it :p
This is the point where I take a break normally. I've been pinching, pulling at and gripping that ito so much I cant feel my fingertips and my arms are killing me. I love vices for those 5 minute breaks but ya know.. this is a cup of tea moment ;) 

And before the end knots, couple of in the hand shots.

Still not finished, but just look at how the lacquer has turned the colour of the ito an almost mixed green colour. and you can see here, the effect of the hishigami on the shape of what would of been unconscionably flat crossovers. 
This is the block of horn I took from to make the small kashira. dead cheap., easy to cut, sand. But if your using a belt sander, use a respirator and/or an air outtake. it smells awful and I'm pretty sure the fumes arent good for you. Be warned. :)

The awful truth is that I was so wrapped up in this, that I took only a handful of shots. :/ So I must apologise. All I have left are a few pics of the finished sword. I hope that it's enough to ease your curiousity. If youre intruiged about the handling of the sword, check out the video at the bottom after the last picture to see, me and Leon, putting it through it's paces :)




The sword in action. Me and Leon having our first cutting session together. :)

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