Saya making

Making a saya was something I intended to do for a long time. To actually shape the saya fully customized for a sword is a beautiful thing. Not only can you create a perfect fit for the sword but also increase your relationship with the sword and the saya.

Now, since I had my little adventure during the Ishidocup and kind of destroyed the koiguchi from the first saya I have a good motivation to actual start making the new saya.

As probably many of you know the original wood used for making a saya is magnolia.
A rather paradoxical choice when you think about the fact that magnolia wood is very soft, very easy to work with which in other words mean that it is almost like butter for a razor sharp sword. But magnolia wood has a low PH value and has hardly any resins that might harm the sword.
Now perhaps you might think why go through all that trouble to make a new saya and questioning the choice of wood. Indeed I have been asking those questions as well and so far the only reasonable answers are the points written above.
I payed a visit to some wood experts and when I told them what I wanted to do and about the traditional use of magnolia wood they where surprised. They never expected that magnolia was used for making a scabbard.
But they gave me advice on what kind of wood would be a good alternative to replace magnolia: American maple.
It has a nice light color and good straight lining, not many knots and important enough, a low PH value and low on resins. It is a good workable wood which should not “work” after it has been properly dried.

Anyway, I took the risk and bought a nice piece of American maple.
Also I bought a actual piece of buffalo horn to make a koiguchi and perhaps I will make the kurikata from horn as well.

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the piece of American maple and the buffalo horn.

foto

26 februari 2014.
Today I made a little try out to get a bit familiar with horn and how
to work with it. Wasn’t bad at all. quite easy to work with and to
make it nice and smooth.
It does have a nasty smell, though….

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for some previous works I did on customizing a saya, here are
two examples.

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The first one (with cherry pattern) was the latest.
This was the saya that got broken.
The original wood was so thin that I could see through it and
I replaced about 15 cm on the top part of the saya.

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This second one (with ginkgo leafs) was customized for the iaito.
Still in good shape 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

04-03-2014 Today I made the measures.

04-03-2014
Today I made the measures.

Here I outlined the rough shape for the saya

Here I outlined the rough shape for the saya

 

 

 

 

 

 

foto 4

The sides need to be altered with the machine saw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I was able to continue with this project.
I was stuck because I wasn’t able to saw the wood in manageable pieces…it is rather big. But I found a second hand band saw that helped me a lot. The saya has now its basic shape. The next step will be cutting the shape in two equal pieces and then I can start with chiseling out the sword shape.

The band saw is a wonderful tool. Although the one I bought second hand is just for hobby use, it did the job well......

The band saw is a wonderful tool. Although the one I bought second hand is just for hobby use, it did the job well……

As you can see, the ultimate shape is defined.

As you can see, the ultimate shape is defined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soooo…it has been several month since I was able to continue with the saya. but, I managed to get something done.

Not ready yet…but some good progress.
I managed to basically finish the end shape of the saya. With a table saw I was able to cut the basic shape in two parts and after making the outline of where the sword is going to lay I used the chisels to make the inside.

the two parts ready and the basic shape where the sword inlay.

the two parts ready and the basic shape where the sword inlay.

the sword fits nicely...

the sword fits nice

 

 

 

 

 

 

To chisel out the shape of the sword I used just random chisels. I know there are special, and beautiful Japanese made, chisels specially for this kind of work but i also know I have a budget and that those chisels are quite expensive….

But, with some good craft and paying attention you can do it just as well with the regular chisels.

As you can see it is a nice fit.

As you can see it is a nice fit.

Then it was time for gluing the two parts together. making sure that none of the glue would enter the inside of the saya. This might affect the blade.

Then it was time for gluing the two parts together. making sure that none of the glue would enter the inside of the saya. This might affect the blade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Koiguchi I was able to get a nice piece of buffalo horn. With the band saw I prepared the rough outline of the koiguchi.

I decided to make higher koiguchi than usual. Normally the koiguchi is less then one centimeter. this one is about one and a half centimeter. Also the kojiri I will finish of with a nice piece of buffalo horn.

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After some work with a dremel tool it starts to look like something we can use..

After some work with a dremel tool it starts to look like something we can use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The actual koiguchi is prepared to fit the ring.

The actual koiguchi is prepared to fit the ring.

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It turned out that making the koiguchi wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be….thanks to this wonderful dremel multi tool.

it became a nice fit.

First I needed to make a perfect fit.

First I needed to make a perfect fit.

Then it was time to make the actual hole for the where the habaki will fit in.

Then it was time to make the actual hole for the where the habaki will fit in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the tricky part was to make the horn ring fit perfect on the saya. it took me quite some time measuring, sanding and re-measuring to come to a perfect result.

The last step is polishing the horn. for this I used different types of sandpaper (200 till 600). the last step is using sandpaper with water, then polishing with a polish gel and last but not least polishing with the dremel wool tool.

after some delicate work it became a perfect snugly fit.

after some delicate work it became a perfect snugly fit.

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after polishing and gluing it started to look like a beautiful koiguchi.

after polishing and gluing it started to look like a beautiful koiguchi.

When the horn ring was finished I first needed to alter the wood part again. I noticed that I was a bit to enthusiastic in scraping the horn from the inside. to compensate this I used some wood paste to make the fitting just a bit thicker. after that it became a tight fit.
I used a natural bone or skin glue for adding the horn ring to the saya to ensure that in case it needs to be changed it will be easy to dismantle it.

 

Now it became time to make the other horn part. The kojiri. Just used the same steps as with the the koiguchi.

All shaped and sand papered. just needs the final polishing.

All shaped and sand papered. just needs the final polishing.

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a good fit! the wood will be sand papered to get the smooth fit with the horn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the kojiri is in its basic shape. after some work with the dremel tool the final shape became quite beautiful.

the basic shape of the kurigata.

the basic shape of the kurigata.

 

Making sure the kurigata fits well on the saya.

Making sure the kurigata fits well on the saya.

 

 

 

 

 

I bought a basic cotton buff to polish the horn and I was really amazed by the results. Never thought that the horn would be shining so beautiful.

With a cotton buff you can get amazing results in polishing the bufallo horn.

With a cotton buff you can get amazing results in polishing the bufallo horn

Also the kurigata is nicely polished.

Also the kurigata is nicely polished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after a night gluing with some proper bone or skin glue all the parts are fitting nicely.

And after a night gluing with some proper bone or skin glue all the parts are fitting nicely.

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The very first layer of vernish.

The very first layer of vernish.

The third layer.

The third layer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the parts where in their place it was finally time for the many layers of lacquer. I use three kind of lacquer; one dark brown, one reddish brown and one transparent. Most of the layers are done by the transparent lacquer. But in between are layers of brown and reddish which I apply  with a sponge to get this nice drawing design.

 

 

 

 

the result after several layers. still some layers to go...

the result after several layers. still some layers to go…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again several weeks later and many…many layers later I finally came to the point that I could say I was finished!

That is to say..I thought I was. The layers where done..re-done…and then re-done again because of some very annoying dust that kept re-appearing…but, the best disappointment was when I come to the point of actually use the new saya.

But first let me describe what I did in the layers. It took me awhile to decide what color I wanted but instinctively I returned back to a dark brown-red. But something was missing. I didn’t wanted to make the saya to flashy but yet it needed a nice touch. Then I thought of experimenting with some gold-leafs. Also after talking to my friend and sword expert Jeffrey from the samurai-workshop (www.thesamuraiworkshop.com) I discovered that using a yacht lacquer you can create a beautiful shine.
And that made the final touch for me. Little sparkles of gold leafs in a high shine of lacquer.

one side of the saya in its final state.

one side of the saya in its final state.

 

the other side of the saya.

the other side of the saya.

detail nr. 01

detail nr. 01

detail nr. 02

detail nr. 02

 

 

 

As for the disappointments: When I used the saya for the first time I noticed immediately that the choice of wood was wrong. I should have known…hahaha..In use it is to hard and also quite heavy comparing to the lightness of the Magnolia wood.  Also I noticed that I forgot to keep the thin layer of wood within the koiguchi. The part that keeps the habaki from touching the actual koiguchi. But this I can alter later. Last but not least and I hope I can alter that as well is the fact that the lacquer was quite tough. Tough in the sense that the saya didn’t move smooth within the obi. i hope to change that with some good polishing and soap. We’ll see….

conclusion…I will make another one in good time with these lessons taken with me..

thank you for your interest and kind words during this process.

Alexander

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