Tuesday 10 April 2018 at 09:30 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

As long as you dont count the ko-kat I did, which was actually suriage (shortening) of a longer katana length sword that had broken, this will only be my second wakizashi or wakizashi length sword that I have ever re-wrapped.

Note: I also wanted to get some cutting video in here, but cos of weather problems, have been unable. It's a pity, but thems the breaks, right?

This particular sword I believe is a Hanwei. It has the characteristic cloudy hamon that is part of the companies polishing procedure. It's what marks them apart from other swords. some like it, some hate it *shrugs* a lot like much of the sword enthusiast population.

You can see on the pictures, the shinogi carries on down the nakao as it should and it has a mei of some kind as well as the file marks that are used by some forges or smiths to further mark their work. I am afraid I am unfamiliar with both, mainly because most of the swords I work on simply do not possess them.

There were a few starting hiccups on this one, but there are always hiccups, trust me including things like the the ito was thinner than usual for me, which really shouldn't make a difference, but plainly did. The hishigami I made did not work as I had expected, due to these new measurements and the ones I produced to begin with I failed to make function satisfactorily as well. It was a mess and I actually gave up for the day, but ever failure is a new thing learnt. But it was clear to me experimentation was needed and a little bit of 'just relax and trust the calculations/measurements' as well. eventually however, it all came together.

This particular sword as per usual, I started out making sure that I had taken into consideration as much as was possible before I started work. That meant measuring tsuka dimensions, measuring ito width, making sure I knew where the knots were going to be, checking the fittings, alignement, any damage to the shitaji the etc etc. Only once I was sure I knew what was going on, did I progress.

Me and the client had already had a big ole' discussion about this and his suggestion that we simply use two different widths of seppa to address the eventual build of the sword actually worked well.

They were two completely different thicknesses, one off of a gunto of some kind, and the other from the original wakizashi's build.
Both needed a little cleaning up and the thinner of the two eventually needed a little modification to fit the tsuba without damaging it but nothing brutal. Below you can see the tsuba on it's own, same but with gunto seppa and again with factory seppa. The differences in thickness are quite profound here but once its mounted, it's all groovy.

I had already stripped the tsuka of its clothes and had a look and this is what I found.

There was a straight through crack at the mune (back) side of the tsuka. It was large enough to be a concern but not so much that it needed a replacement tsuka. Once I had mounted the blade to the tsuka and seen no real change in the width of the crack, I ended up making a paste out of sawdust and a decent two part epoxy and filling that f*cker.

 Those cracks can destroy the integrity of the whole tsuka and so I wasn't progressing until I knew it was gonna be safe. The top of the tsuka had this strange brown resin like abrasive crap on it. I had no idea what it was doing as it was clearly not adhering anything. I addressed this later on anyway.

First thing was first. I needed to strip that tsuka down, and take some thickness and width of of it in order to better fit the hand of the owner.
The pic to the right shows the stripped and lightly sanded tsuka. That glue though. removing it is a PITA.

This was easy enough and as well as that, I further accentuated the more slender approach by exaggerating the rikko (hourglass) shape as well. (below)

Looking far smoother than it was before, everything fits nicely. I never worry too much about the finish at this point, its the shape I want. You can see the curves in it here shown quite clearly and that's what I was going for. Its not as simple as just cutting them in either, patience is required.

Its easy to take wood off, but screw it up and putting the wood back on isn't so much an option. oh, and it's careless, so I take my time on the shaping... and I get covered in sawdust. Theres a lot of that.

There was however one more thing that needed to be sorted, and I'm happy to say it was not my fault....


This is what I mean. What angle exactly, is that kashira supposed to be fitted at?

It looks like a peaked cap for the end of the tsuka.
It was literally sat not at 0 degrees to the orientation of the tsuka, but it was lop sided and around 15 degrees out.

They obviously glued it at the time they tied the final knots and chucked it in a pile.
ah well. at least it was secure. It sure was secure.

Let me show you the amount of glue they used and the reason it wouldn't shift at all from its position...

...This is why. The glue held it so tightly in place I bent a screwdriver trying to shift it out without damaging it. I have no worries about that ever coming off through normal usage so I suppose um.. that's a victory for Hanwei, haha. :) but I did get it off eventually. Like I said, I had to be careful not to damage the tsuka or kashira so it was slow and steady all the way. After all that I took a break and went back to the tsuba/seppa.

The Tsuba here is a really nice piece. Actually wakizashi sized, not too busy (which I personally hate) but still enough interest in it to be aesthetically pleasing. A simple style, but with one side with more detailed than the other. Traditionally, the more detailed side was to be worn facing other people. The ostentatious nature of the times showing itself here once more. The more more subdued side, faced the person wielding the sword as it rest at his side.

Once I'd filed out the front of the nakago ana a little on the seppa in question, the one on the top of the tsuba; it fit the habaki like a glove.

thing was, it didnt match up to the pattern on the tsuba so much. It goes without saying that modification to the tsuba was completely out of the question, however, a little modification, which you can see to the right, to a cheap seppa is fine :)

A little piece removed but not changing the shape when viewed from above that allows part of the design to flow underneath whilst protecting its surface.

As you can see, it takes a keen eye to be able to spot immediately, any alteration to the seppa. The discolouration on the top, being merely magic marker that I used to make sure I knew how much material to remove. after all, I still want it as flush as I can make it.

From the top down view, there is no visible change at all. perfect.

Something to note that I had forgotten up until now, the tsuba wasn't a perfect fit to the nakago and I was loathe to alter permanently, any of it given the fact it isn't merely factory, cnc'd or water jet cut random mystery metal or alu.
For this reason I used unaffixed shims, trapped between the other fittings. This enabled me to get a controlled and tight fit of fittings to sword, but still allows easy disassembly without damage to anything.

I am nothing if I am not careful :)

Right. Back to the tsuba. As it happens, I didn't like the effect of the samegawa and now stage one, of applying rayskin, used or new, will include painting the tsuka shitaji white on the panel areas. This means that I wont have to lacquer the rayskin afterwards. I think that some of the glue seeps into the rayskin on the first application and is not removable when you attempt to reuse it.

This results in a blotchy finish. I'm including these photos because I document f*ck ups as well as successes. This is a lesson worth learning. paint the tsuka before applying rayskin.

Although, the rayskin fits fine even, although it is indeed reused, it is still blotchy.
This could of been avoided of course, but considering the number of things that did not go wrong during this wrap I'm actually quite chuffed.

You can also clearly see here where I have measured and created divots for the end knots to sit in.

The unsightly huge bulges that occur sometimes can be attributed to a number of things, one of which is the absence of these little cut outs. Sometimes you dont need them, sometimes you do. If you do however, be aware that OMG does the size and shape of your hishigami change ;) you have been warned. looks nice tho as you'll see in the pics further on.

 As you can see, putting those divots in really creates space for the end knots. I have seen this done in a few ways, from what I've done here, to the 'scooped out' method where its not a slot so much as a pit in the tsuka and the sides remain the same as normal.

I'm assuming hishigami construction changes accordingly, but the idea is to sink the knot to the same level as the rest of the wrap with the same bumpy consistency.

Oh, you'll notice I've fixed that flipping wonky kashira problem too ;)

So, what to do about the rayskin? amiright? easy enough. get creative. I mixed a blend of acrylic paints. I used a white base, a very white white/sand colour and finally some highlighting. its all very subtle because if you paint rayskin like you're painting models for instance, you will get a very different effect. This one worked out ok.

As a general rule as well, if youre not sure what colour to colour something that shouldn't be seen, black is the way. dont try to colour match for example, hishigami, to the color of ito youre using and thinking you're being clever. I've tried it. fortunately it worked, on the umpteenth shade I had mixed. its easier and to be honest, better I think to just go straight for the black, and dont be scared. the ha and mune on this tsuka? black. hishigami? as you'll see.. black. you'll get the idea.

...and talking of hishigami... *shudders*

The only bit I actually feel disinclined to do. It is hands down, one of the most important things to get right, but omg, is it tedious. and it's ok to feel the tedium... feel it! own that tedium.. because you and it are about to become one. well, you, a shed load of coffee and some casual watching tv. unfortunately, folding hishigami required a level of paying attention that doesnt play well with other activities, so make sure the tv doesn't nauseate you, sure.. but dont get too into it or all your frogs will be crap.. oh yeah, thats what I call them. frogs. you'll see.

In order to save the boredom, I am only going to post the finished pictures with a far less verbose monologue. you can just imagine me doing the folding :)

 I make measurements, fold the paper into long strips appropriately. I then cut them into square(ish) shapes, again according to measurements, yada yada yada, and finally fold their little corners over so they become tiny frogs.
Which is what 'hishigami' translates into. 'tiny frogs'. true.

apart from the lies.

 On the left, a tiny frog, gifted with toes and tiny little eyes with which he can see you.

 On the right, lots of inked up frogs, ready to become one with the finished wrap. If you didnt know, which admittedly is unlikely, the tiny frogs sit under the folds of the ito, or cord that forms the wrap. they may be made out of paper, but the fact you are compacting and forming them by tightening the cord, means that there is nowhere for them to go. These tiny paper folds make sure the folds you make with the ito, dont go all squirrely and remain in shape. without them, all this is for naught.

Now I can relax. All this is the build up to the wrap itself so I make sure the menuki, the little ornaments that go under the wrap itself sit well.

I decide where to place them based on what the client wants but also, how I feel they are going to sit depending on tsuka length, placement of the mekugi ana (this one was tough actually but doable) and other factors circling the area of practicality.

I adhere them temporarily with white-tac. this allows me to look at the shitaji as a whole before I wrap it. making sure everything is as prepared as it can be.

Traditionally, menuki sometimes had little pegs on their underside which would sit in holes in the samegawa or simply an indent. This wrap however will be simply using the rough nature of the samegawa and the wrap itself to hold all in place.

The wrap itself.

I actually mean to at some point do some more in progress pics but I tend to get carried away and far too into it meaning I have to rely on the goodwill of others in order to take pictures of the process.

Imagine for one second that your fingers on one hand are naughty octupusses high on ketamine and the tsuka is a heavy log desperately trying to escape.... and you're trying to get shots of you tying stuff together. bwahaha.. good luck mate. and so with few shots, we're basically gonna have to skip to the end.

I absolutely love the finish on this saya. no fingerprints when in use and its quite durable. if you lightly scuff it, its not immediately visible... oh. the wrap...

Far slimmed tsuka. The original tsuka was slim, but this is even more so. Accentuated rikko and feels good in the hand. 

Omote or End knot on the correct side and kept as tight as possible.
There are more pics later on of that

Omote knote. just different angle.

The ura knot. all knots I do are hishigami'd up. I never used to bother so much with the ins and outs when I started but now Im progressing I find myself forcing myself to do these things. good hishi = good wrap. :)

Warts and all close ups of the omote.... and...

...ura knots. I really tried to keep everything tight and neat with these....

Especially being as I'd put so much effort into keeping the tsuka core as it should be for them. you can see the swells on either side of the menuki underneath the wrap but theres no huge T-shape at the kashira. This makes me happy.

One wakizashi, all done and ready to return to the owner. :) Hopefully its a little more comfy and to his liking.

With all that done and the swords new clothes, I figured I'd use what little sunshine we have and add a 'glamour shot'.

Although it's just from my phone atm as I still need to reinstall the NEF codecs for my actual camera, it's still a nice enough phone to take an nice enough pic.

Mr. Wakizashi's new clothes

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