The following series of photos shows some of the steps involved in building a Japanese style knife and sword. Many of the early stage photos show the construction of a shira-saya for a Jason Arnold (Black Sheep Forge) aikuchi (a short-bladed guardless tanto), as these are similar to the steps required to make the larger swords.
Building a Japanese-style Knife & Sword.
Carving out the Saya. When carving out the saya (scabbard), the goal is to have wood-to-metal contact the full length of the blade. Poplar is similar to traditional Japanese magnolia, has a straight grain, soft texture, and no acids to attack the blade.
Habaki Rough Silver Castings. Habaki (a wedge-shaped mounting that holds the blade tight in the scabbard) rough silver castings, filed and fitted to the blade. Prior to finishing the saya, you must prepare the habaki, as it holds the blade tight in the sheath. I experimented with two unique styles of habaki, but the simpler one seemed more complimentary.
Fitting & Finishing the Saya & Tsuka (the hilt).
Creating the Tsuba (hand guard). For this set, I cut and pierced a 1/4'' copper plate. I then applied wax-cast silver ladybugs.
Making the Fuchi (a cuplike mounting on the front end of grip)& Kashira (a mounting on the back end of hilt, which, together with fuchi, holds the hilt together.)For carried weapons, grips were fitted with rayskin and silk braid-wrapping, plain or decorated guards, spacers to provide a tight fit, grip collars and butt caps to hold the grip halves together. Scabbards were lacquered and often decorated as well.
The metal furniture often was the product of master craftsmen who specialized in creating the miniature masterpieces — carving, engraving, inlaying, and plating whole battle scenes on a metal canvas 3'' in diameter.
In the photos, I filed copper pieces rough then fired and quenched them to create a multi-colored finish.
Applying Samé (belly-skin of a shark or a ray under the wrapping on the hilt) to the Tsuka.
Architecture and award-winning museum-quality custom handmade knives, edged weapons, powder horns, tomahawks, war clubs, jewelry, metal sculpture, cribbage boards, flint and obsidian knives, Japanese swords, menorahs, and more from Tucson, Arizona artist and architect Larry Gotkin.