A modern bladesmith rooted in the old traditions

Hirazukuri Katana

This is a type of blade that I am particular fond of making.

W2 steel can be forged to an almost flat grind (hirazukuri) and properly heat treated becomes an exceptional performer at tameshigiri.

I start off with round bar 1.25 inches in diameter and 8.5 inches long. This is drawn out to about 35 inches long with a distal taper both in width and thickness.

I forge the kissaki first. Then I set the taper along the length of the blade. Finally forging the nakago.

When I have the sunobe formed, I move to beveling the blade. Starting at the kissaki and moving along the length of the blade until I reach the nakago. I correct the curvature of the blade as I go. This blade is going to be quenched in oil so I am going to pre-curve the blade to compensate for the downward curve induced by the oil.

After forging the blade, I clean up the profile and flats on the grinder. The original 35 inches in length have now become 42 inches. A few inches longer than this blade needs to be to comply with the specs from the client. The nakago will be shorten to achieve the final shape.

The blade will then be ground up to 220 grit which is the equivalent to a foundation polish and allows me to proceed to make the habaki.

At this point I also like to work on making the saya. I prefer to complete the furniture before polishing the blade to avoid scratches on the finish. The saya is made in two halves slightly offset where the edge of the blade will be. The koiguchi is carved out and a piece of horn is glued to it. The kurikata is also made of horn.

The tsuka wooden core is shaped to allow room for the same (stingray skin) and tsuka-ito (cotton wrap) to comfortably fit the hand. The fittings were provided by the client. All the furniture parts are tested for fit and then the saya is lacquered and the kurikata attached.

A notch is carved out of the tsuka wooden core. The ito will eventually pass through this notch to tie up the wrap and secure the kashira. The stingray is wrapped and secured with the mekugi (pins) allowing for changes in shape of the skin as it dries. Then everything is prep to wrap the tsuka. Including making a bunch of paper triangles to secure the diamond-shaped folds.

When all the furniture is completed I move on to polishing the blade. The foundation polish has the 220 grit marks from the grinder and those will be removed by using 220 grit sandpaper. I polish with sandpaper backed against a piece of corian. I progress from 220 to 320 to 400 to 600 to 800 to 800 to 1000 to 1500 to 2000 and 2500. My polishing setup couldn’t be any simpler. Even at 220 grit the hamon becomes visible as the scratches from the grinder are removed. The blade becomes sharper as the polishing progresses.

The final stage of polishing consist of a mild ferric chloride etch followed by paste abrassives. When I am satisfied with the looks of the hamon I carve my signature which reads “MADE BY JESUS” in kanji and katakana.

Then the blade is assembled and sent on its way to the proud new owner.