Monday 4 June 2018 at 06:09 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

I received this new wakizashi from the client and now good friend, well wrapped in a 'will not get me nicked' box, all hidden away in bubble wrap and boxing material. the picture above is the cheat picture to show you what came of it all.... but for the work log.. carry on reading ;)

Totoro and IceBat always check over the arrival of any new weaponry. It's like they're job and stuff. 

In return they get to share my Haribo and they get a place by the pillows. It works out for everyone.
The owner of this sword has taken to supplying new tsuka for each project. This is not always the case, but it certainly does help. The core needs a lot of modification, but the groundwork is done and thats important.

This is what I had to play with.  The Model btw is a raptor in hira zukuri. It's a really nice, wide waki blade and I would not like to be on the receiving end. This would be great for mats

I forget where the tsuba came from originally, but this is not some random ebay seller type obviously. The fuchi and kashira are from the original fittings. Theyre an alloy that Hanwei uses for its raptor range. 

The scraps of rayskin I'm going to put to one side and see if some other stuff can be used as this has seen it's fair share of life and looks more than a little ragged.

This is an awesome blade. The polish on it is perfectly good for what it is. Mirror polishes are great and everything, but for blades that are meant to be used, a satin polish is good enough and wont show each and every scratch it picks up.

That can be very annoying and it's the main reason I dont put an amazing polish on any of my frequent use swords.

The original raptor menuki are the ones we're going to be using.

They will suit everything just fine. Theyre going to be mounted on the tsuka with a hineri-maki crossover over the top at each end and a hira-maki in the centre. If this made no sense to you, you'll see what I mean further down the page.
 The length of the Sageo on this sword is a lot shorter than you would get with a katana, or even the wakizashi I have seen before. This isn't a problem, but it did cause me to have to derive a new knot from the usual chu-musabi I use. I have a quick video on my youtube channel if you want to check it out.

Once I'd carved out the channel for the nakago, matching it up properly so that it fit the flow of the sword I was left with this. A raw and uncarved tsukashitaji. This was enough for me at this point. I had reached a checkpoint. You see I hate stopping in the middle of things. One of my flaws I'm afraid as I get quite antsy with unfinished projects and having an unfinished _segment_ of a project is too much for me to handle. If this happens... there be dragons ahead.

Next of course is carving the shape. This tsuka is laughingly Rikko shaped apparently. I mean.. I can see it, but its not what I want. That however is what I love about these cores. They are actually very well carved. Theyre consistent. The angles are even and defined. Great work especially considering the price. Well worth the cost and being as my speciality is in tsuka-maki and not tsuka-shitaji.

However, my point is that it's not what I want.

I have drawn on there to exaggerate the shape that the core is carved into. The top side parts are flat at the end ends and then theres subtle hourglass like 'waisting' in the more central part.

..and this is what I want. an hourglass shape that starts right at the point where the fuchi ends all the way to the beginning of the kashira.

The subtle shape was far too subtle for my liking. don't get me wrong, I'm not going for the wasp waist like look, but I would like people to notice.
And here is the finished Tsuka. As you can see, it's quite well slimmed and there is a noticable waisting defining the overall shape.

What i have found is that if youre trying to create a certain look, you have to exaggerate it at this point as any other materials, for example, samegawa layers, the ito itself, the protrusion of the menuki etc, all add up and they take away from the definition you're trying to establish by averaging all your modifications..

so go easy.. take your time, but dont be afraid to make the shape more vivid that you might think. better to be well crafted and eye catching than well crafted and uninspired.

You can clearly see the rikko shaping here. not too much, not too little.

And on the right, you can see how I've slimmed this tsuka down. The person it's going too prefers slimmer tsuka in all dimensions as it imparts a better grip to his hands because of an injury. 

I've a little nerve damage myself and I know the difference a comfy tsuka can make.

With this all done and the project steaming ahead, I decided to take some photos to show size and dimension. I wont bother to elaborate much  on these. Just take them as they are :)

This at the moment feels like a super comfy sword. You can tell by the way I'm holding it easily with one hand on that tiny little tsuba, exactly how well balanced it is. 

The blade itself isn't huge, but it is wide and I think thats mainly to support its geometry choice.

As I've said, the samegawa that I was looking at before would not of complimented this sword and so we decided to use some other scraps we had. fortunately, these scraps are actually pretty good for what they are and would fit well. may have noticed... these skins don't match. nope. theyre from different swords obviously. I keep each and every scrap of rayskin I would have thrown away were I a sane person who does that sort of thing. but no, I hoard. I know how useful they are and I make sure I have a stock of these things. 90% of them are useless, but its the same old adage.. throw it away and you'll need it. :)

The problem with scraps from most production swords is that theyre of poor quality, inconsistent shape, and they usually have double peg holes. This means that you have to not only position the first hole up with where you're drilling the tsuka to match up with the hole on the blades tang, but you're hoping and praying that this means you can line up that second hole in the skin somewhere it wont be seen. *sighs*

Fortunately, sometimes I'm a fucking magician and can simply make these things happen.

*coughs* or ya know. try for hours to get everything right and forget to take pictures.. so skip a few hours or so and I've gotten the skins mounted up and I've also veneer shimmed the Ha and Mune sides of the tsuka. 

You don't have to do this at all, you can get away with paper shims or no shims at all, but I find this helps the tightness of the wrap as the hishigami (which are also mercifully free from this write up) have something to butt up against. otherwise they tend to wriggle around a lot and look wretched.

Talking of looking wretched, sometimes it is necessary to fill the holes left by the skin transplanting. this takes ages but really you're just sticking rayskin into a gap where other rayskin once was. it's a pain but get it right and the time spent is worth it :)

Right so as I'm showing what I'm doing here I'd like to point out that the colour of this ito is indeed brown. Your eyes do not decieve you. The picture at the top is red and this is brown. Good. now Ive gotten that out of the way I can explain to you why this came to pass.

This ito, marketed as ito, I believe it's called synthetic suede, is _not_ ito. its a synthetic material that doesnt bind well, doesnt stretch well, stretches unevenly, refuses to curl or fold properly, argues against your hishigami and is in no way similar to the more expensive synthetic ito's you can get such as Fred Lohman's Tsunami ito which is man made and apparently very good. It was a nightmare.

However, I know I am prone to getting disenthused over these sorts of things and so I put it out of my head and I soldiered on. This wasn't a mistake.
It was a learning experience.

Nothing married up as it should and it was hours of hair pulling, almost giving up, deciding to take a break, coming back to it.. yeah.. all the fun of the fair. It wasn't til I had put my feelers out and asked questions along with photos that I was told that this stuff was to be feared, burnt or otherwise avoided.

Me and the owner had a chat and we decided to switch ito to the more alluring red you saw in the first photo.

Ever. :D

However. For your viewing pleasure. You can look at the pictures I had taken to show the owner what I meant.

It's horrible isn't it?
I mean. wtf? and yes. This was the best I could manage. I was mortified. If I didn't know that this wasn't my fault, I'm not sure I would of carried on with other projects.

The horror!!!

OK, so there has to be some good news out of this right?
Sure. Two things;
 1) We're not using the brown ito. hooray!
 2) I get to tell -you- not to and you can learn from my mistake.

Shown below are more pictures of the ito in question so you can avoid it. this stuff is usually found on ebay. Doesnt mean all ito on ebay is rubbish, thats not what Im implying.. just this stuff is definitely, without a doubt, fish poop!

You can see how it bulks up and wont fold properly. It doesnt matter how hard you pull it. Also, you can have those squared off edges butting up against each other perfectly, but lets not fool ourselves, every tsuakamaki is a spiral wrap to a degree and this stuff does not like spirals.

Those square edges will twist and your perfect alignment will be thrown every time you tighten your wrap. oh.. and did I mention it loosens up over time. the material itself seems tough enough but its super fibrous and over time it slowly microtears it's way into looseness.

OK. That's enough about how much I loathe this ito. Let's get into something else we love. I didnt get to you any hishigami the first time round and I was going to leave it that way, but just because I'm now taking this whole thing apart and making another load of my wonderful satanic frogs, you get to see pictures of them.
I hope you're happy.

It's ok. I'll shut up about the frogs. :) These ones actually turned out very well though. I guess I was relaxed again.

So. Time to clean up the mess, remove the double sided adhesive I use for each and every tsuka to stop the ito from fidgeting up or down the Ha and Mune as you grip and add some POW! to that samegawa. I used a brown ink to give the rayskin some depth.

Which is another thing I shall impart. if you are reusing samegawa, be aware that the glue that was adhering it in the first place should be removed. it should be scrubbed off the back. be careful of any coating on the outward facing too. oh, and paint underneath the skin white otherwise you can end up with irregularities in colour. These are things that I've picked up from other people saying them as if they've known for years. I _should_ have been doing all sorts of things from the get go but I didnt so as I remember, I'll just pop them in my work logs for you guys n gals.

double sided adhesive tape btw, is always in the pound shop if you're UK based.

As you've no doubt spotted, this wrap went a lot more smoothly than the last one and most importantly, it feels good. I hadn't even done the end knots on this one yet and it felt comfy.

I have to watch that I don't make it too puffy though as I'm trying to keep it slim enough for its owner.

The amount of work that goes into these things is insane. :) so another tip.. if you don't enjoy doing this.. if this looks like something that would piss you off, do yourself a favour and get someone like me to do it for you. It's better that way.
True story.

Photo on the left is the victory picture. After all the 'agh!', I had eventually finished and it felt awesome. I knew the mekugi ana lined up, the fittings were tight, everything was as it should be. just time to take the pics, tap it on and enjoy this gorgeous and surprisingly nimble weapon.

I was just hoping it was still slim enough for the owner. as I said earlier, adding ito, rayskin, SHIMS!!! I forgot about shims.. at least they get sanded down before wrapping.. all these things add up and before you know it, you've got a job at Hanwei.

Those menuki turned out to be the perfect choice for this style of mounting. flat and the profile of them was rounded enough to work well.

Thickness of the grip was perfect for me... should be ok for the owner. At least he's the sort of person who wont um and arrr about things. If theres a problem with something he tells me. I appreciate that. I can't fix something if I don't know it's broken.

Take note. ;)
Now seeing this once I'd finished up was definitely very satisfying.

The picture was my template and although the position of the menuki had to change to accomodate the mekugi-ana, the number of turns and the end knots all worked out well.

Keeping your plan together is another reason why hishigami are so bloody essential. If you're doing tsukamaki and you're not using hishigami, then you're not doing tsukamaki. I'm sorry. I'm not being all snobby or elitist about it, it's just that without those folds to keep the shape and definition, all your measurements are gonna be for naught when your wrap fidgets, twists and unravels AS you're wrapping the damn thing. do the prep work, it is so very worth it. trust me, you'll be smiling from ear to ear for your time. just fold the hishi whilst watching tv or something. its not that bad ;)

OK. Well, that about.. no, that sounds too much like a pun. Well.. I'm spent. This has been a lot of work but it turned out well. it's comfy, solid, neat, bright and it works well with that tsuba and saya. 

I'll leave you with some pics of the finished product.

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