Well, if you’ve known me since back when I used to train in martial arts, and japanese sword in particular, you had to know this day was coming
Forging a Japanese sword!
First project is a Hira-Zakuri Wakizashi. Why not a katana? Because if I screw it up (high probability of this!) I’ll waste less steel. A wakizashi is essentially the same, just with a shorter blade.
Hira-zukuri is simpler to forge because it doesnt have the extra ridge on the sides like shinogi-zukuri blade. So I’ll start with the simplest. Once I succeed with that I’ll up the difficulty level again and make a shinogi-zukuri wakizashi.
3rd will be a shinogi-zukuri katana. Thats a ways off down the road.
With the hira-zukuri wakizashi its not actually the forging that has the high probability of screwup. Its the heat treatment. My kiln wont fit swords so I’ll have to judge temperatures by eye and I’m very inexperienced.
1095 steel is a simple, high carbon steel thats about as close as you can get with a modern steel to what was used in traditional swords. Problem is 1095 is pretty picky about precise temperatures during heat treatment. Well, experience comes from fucking up, so experience here I come
Heres my billet of 1095.
At 10″ in length its clearly not long enough, and its also too large in both width and thickness. thats the beauty of forging. As long as theres enough actual steel in the billet thats all that matters. and not nearly long enoughbig so I have to forge it down in thickness and width to form the sunobe, which is a “preform”
Into the fire!
With the application of a lot of heat and a lot of hammering, its been reduced in width and thickness, and as a result its grown significantly longer
Next step is to hammer in the bevels and refine the nakago. The cutting edge is intentionally left very thick at this stage because there are several steps remaining where material will be removed from the blade. Grinding off the forge scale and refining the shape of the blade, more scale removal after heat treatment, and polishing. Also, the thicker the edge is during heat treatment the less likely it is to crack.
After I grind the remaining scale off and refine the shape, cut the machi notches and refine the nakago
file the mune ridge
Blade is ready for heat treatment 🙂
A break from the making is needed at this point since we are ready to heat treat, and I dont have any basin large enough to heat treat.
The overall length (including nakago) is 26″, so I need not just one, but two containers large enough to quench this blade, first in water, and then oil.
The first, and most important part of the quench, is in water and I need to be able to get the whole blade in all at once, so for this one an open trough is the way to go.
So I went ahead and built this baby. Inside dimensions are 8 x 9.5 x 48, so we can accomodate full-sized swords here.
For the second part of the quench I’ll use Parks 50 quench oil. Since the critical part of the quench is already done at this stage and I dont need to immerse the entire blade instantly,
I can save a bit of space and use a 4 x 6 x 48 vertical steel tube.
Welded this up the other day.