Sunday 10 June 2018 at 04:55 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

The hanwei practical plus XL is a beast of a blade. I mean, its long sure, but it's not amazingly long. the tsuka, is of course Hanwei. It's just Hanwei. Theres no getting away from that, however, because of the blade it actually works very well. The main aesthetic with this blade is the width of the motohaba. That is to say, its flipping wide. 

On the right you can see the untouched blade, the new tsuba, the untouched tsuka cores and the new red ito. All these are going to go together to give this sword a new lease of life. 

I took the time to get my Hanwei practical out for a comparison shot. (below right) Mine is either the first or second generation of the official Hanwei Practical Katana. That means that all the fittings are fine, theres no plastic habaki or koiguchi or whatever, but it's an old generation of an old sword albeit one theyre still selling as it's reliable and tough.

On the right of the photo is the plus XL. You can immediately see the difference. the kasane isn't overly thick though and so, although it looks like an absolute monster, I'm not sure I would use it for bamboo for instance. I'm not saying it cant be used like that, simply that I would have to consider myself very proficient with bamboo to risk it. I know how brittle some Hanwei's differentially hardened blades can be.
I decided to take a shot of the sword in all it's glory _before_ I had gotten to it. The ito is actually surprisingly tight for a Hanwei. End knots were acceptable too. Basically I didnt see a problem with the sword coming part on anyone choosing to use it.

The wrap didnt have much volume to it though and the ito was a little scratchy so long heavy usage would probably result in blisters. I mean, we're all used to that anyway right? I get them on my thumb knuckles all the time, but this would probably hurt over the course of a long session. hopefully our new wrap will be padded enough to avoid that.

The menuki that we're going to use are these flowery things on the left. small, slim, largely flat.

They're essentially perfect for the style of wrap we're going to do on this sword as there wont be large gaps between the ito and the underlying rayskin as we're going to be doing a katate maki style wrap and these ornaments are going to be on the middle section.

The hamon on the blade is etched in the manner typical of hanwei steels of this type. Im not sure off hand exactly what steel it is thats used and thats fine as I wont be touching the blade but I know theyre particularly fond of 1065 as well as some powder steels for their DH katana.

I've seen a lot of people commenting on swords saying 'that hamon isnt real, it's etched' and I think theres some confusion here. Etching an existing hamon thats produced by the differential heat treatment and etching a pattern thats not on the original steel onto the blade by using a pattern and a corrosive are NOT the same thing.

For all and any failings they may have, Hanwei have always been up front about what their blades are. If it says real hamon or chemically enhanced or whatever, then it will be real. Even the japanese etched their blades in a way by using polishing stones of different pH, grits and consistency to bring out the natural beauty in their hamon. If you get a cracking hamon on a forged piece and you simply mirror polish it then imho, you're missing the point. google hadori and keisho polishes to see what I mean. oh and yes, using peek, or mothers mag on a blade like this with a true hamon, absolutely will remove the frosty look. but the hamon underneath, although now far more subtle, is still there.

Oh go. planning. how this bit stings. :) In order to make sure that I'm wrapping this tsuka correctly, I first need to plan. That means I measure up the tsuka, plan in rough, (left, yellow marks are two widths of ito, white space is katate style spiral) and have an absolutely accurate picture in my head of how its going to go. If you mess up and get the ito measurements on a long tsuka out by half a millimetre then by the time you've hit the bottom youre say, 6mm out. And that means that your knots are on the wrong side. so this bit takes time. The picture on the right shows another diagram with more accurate detail and on the flip side, all my scribbled measurements.

I have completely skipped over the carving of the channels for the swords nakago and I apologise for that. It's boring and painstaking anyway but here is a picture of the tsuka, carved and shimmed.

If you look carefully, there is a dimple at the top for the end knot, paper shims on the side and markings to remind me where the measurements for the katate spiral begins. it's very easy to forget sometimes and just carry on down. :)

On the right, there is a lone frog.
As shown below, Mr frog and his army will be necessary for the completion of this project.

Using the template I can keep an eye on how the wrap is going. this picture is pretty illustrative of a few things:

The hishigami used to constrain the wrap to its required size and to stop the crossovers from unravelling or loosening. hishi are the cement that holds the entire structure together. 

Then theres the template, casually providing me with key reminders as to where I need to be at any point during the wrap. 

Double sided sticky tape, which stops the ito from fidgeting up or down the shimmed Ha and Mune. traditionally tree resin was used on the ito here, but ya know.. modern times and all that.

Almost done here. These style of clamps are precious for when you've finished your wrap and just need to let your fingers heal a little before doing the end knots. The small dimples at the end of the tsuka allow the knots to drop into them a little and stop them from looking horrible and sticking out to the sides. The other clamps have a habit of slipping off I have found.

For this final knot I usually have a handful of tools with me, burt the ones to the right I cant do without. I also use a piece of 1mm copper wire to form a loop and pull stuff through. You can also use waxed thread, the sort you sew leather with and you will no doubt find other ways to improvise as needed ;)

Earlier I was saying about the end knots sometimes ending up on the wrong sides right? Well, in my defense I have seen it on so many production swords it really doesnt worry me personally, but if its someone elses sword I feel the need to apologise, inform them before I finish which gives them the opportunity to vent or tell me to start again and so on. Fortunately, the owner of this sword was ok with it. I think I was more upset than he was. But it's a good illustration of my point from earlier. Even half a millimetre out on average and you've screwed the pooch. one wrap of a single ito strand puts you on the wrong side.

Having said all this, the sword came out very well I think. I've actually taken this into the garden and cut a jug for the owner. I was surprised as to how sharp this blade is. Another reason I think that it would make an excellent mat cutter but i wouldn't risk it on bamboo.

For all its size and impressive stature, it's effortless to wield. My shobu zukuri raptor is more awkward so hats off to them for making something that looks hefty, so nimble. I mean dont get me wrong, I wouldnt be using this for trick cutting. Pedro another member of the FSC does but he's got the muscle to do so. I'm a skinny little bean and prefer my slim sugata and further back point of balance.

More detail on the tsuka from both sides. You can see how the menuki are placed also here. it reflects the way they are placed on a normal hineri maki wrap but on katate maki it is obvious that they do not have any real use as such and it is mainly aesthetic. at least this is how I see it personally. freel free to correct me ;)

This is how tall the sword stands, with new shorter tsuka from the kojiri to the kashira.

I am, for frame of reference and to make this shot useful to you, just over 6 foot tall. Shot without saya on the right.

Below, are a few other shots. Had I thought about this, I would of made a video.

The new tsuba was significantly thinner than  the original. Had we not been using a new tsuka core this would of meant hugely misaligned mekugi ana. Fortunately this was not the case and the ana could be redrilled carefully to fit perfectly.

On the right, you can clearly see the hamon.

The owner has a hand injury and so it was required that the tsuka be on the slimmer side.

The shots here show that has been achieved on the hineri maki but even more dramatically obviously on the katate section.

I have added photos here without comment (apart from this one) for you to have a look at as well as a quick cutting video below. There was only one jug but I promised I would. A promise is a promise.

The Completed Hanwei Practical Plus XL

i have only just started cutting again so forgive my technique and the lack of confidence at the end. I wont risk the polsih on other peoples swords anyway and although its an easy cut, I was nervous about hitting the plainly improvised post. :)

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