Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Iaito Refurbishment

Some years ago I bought a fairly cheap, fairly crappy iaito, which I decided to make a bit less crappy.

I started by grinding out the fake etched hamon on the blade and polishing it back to a plain, un-fake finish. Then I put it aside and more or less forgot about it.

I revived the project a few days ago and got to work on making an oak tsuka (grip) to replace the extremely shitty plastic one it came with. I've given it a dark rosewood-ish stain.

I'll replace the original nasty nylon webbing binding with leather, just as soon as I get some to make some 10mm lacing with. That'll be a bit of a job; I'll have to rig up some sort of strap-cutter to make sure it's cut evenly. I'll need about four metres, I think. A strip of grip-tape along the top and bottom will serve to keep it all securely anchored.

Wooden tanto - leather binding
This is some that I did on a wooden tanto about twenty-five years ago, for aikido training. This lacing is only 5mm wide, which is fine for such a small hilt, but a sword requires something a bit meatier.

The fittings — tsuba, kochira, fuchi etc. are all pretty ordinary. They're cast in some sort of zinc-based muck-metal, and have been plated in copper. They all had fairly prominent mould seams left, which I ground out, but of course that exposed the zinc base metal. I originally planned to re-plate them, but in the end I just used some patinating solution (intended for stained glass leads) to blacken the zinc wherever it's exposed, and that will serve well enough I think.

I made a new seppa (the washer between the tsuba and blade) out of a bit of copper. I left it bright, and I'll just let it age to whatever colour it eventually chooses to adopt.

Once the binding is on, it will be functional again as an iaito, and it should look a lot less cheap and nasty in spite of still being pretty much as cheap and nasty as it ever was.


Well, it's done. In the end I used the same leather lacing I'd used on the tanto, first because I already had it, and second because leather lacing — especially wide leather lacing — is ridiculously expensive and I didn't want to spend any more money on it.

It's certainly not a good sword, but it's a better sword than it was.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


I'm trying my hand at kintsugi, though I'm using epoxy resin rather than lacquer.

We have a few bits and pieces of ceramics that have suffered due to the earthquakes over the last few years, and that I'd like to bring back to life. I think this might be a good way to do it.

The small crack to the left has been finished — the resin ground down, polished, and over-painted with gold. The long transverse crack's resin has gold mixed in with it, but hasn't yet been finished off.

And by "gold" I mean "gold-ish", since actual gold dust is a bit beyond my means.

For this small test piece, I'm just using Araldite two-part epoxy. It's strong and durable, and will probably be quite adequate, but I'm keeping my eye out for an epoxy that cures to a harder surface — Araldite remains kind of "plasticky". That may actually not be much of an issue, but we shall see. I'm also trying out both quick-cure and slow-cure epoxy to see if there's any benefit to using the slower, stronger formulation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scrap Box — Complete

I finished off the little box I was making for Annette, and I'm reasonably pleased with it.

Dimensions are 175 x 110 x 55 mm.

I inlaid a bit of copper I'd etched with my logotype a couple of years ago into the lid; it's quite corroded (that's the black bits), and I'm not sure quite how it will age, but we'll see.

One thing I'd like to do is find some more attractive latches and hinges. These ones are OK, and they work well, but they're pretty uninspiring.

The inside is lined with cedar from some old venetian blinds. It's very soft, and not very strong, but for this purpose it works very well. The bottom is a piece of 1/8" sapele plywood set into a rebate in the walls, so there's a couple of millimetres clearance underneath.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scrap Box

Being something of a hoarder, scrap wood tends to build up. So, from time to time, I make something out of it.

This time, it's a small box. The body is some laminated fake-mahogany (sapele) that used to be a counter-top, and the top is some spalted beech that I've had sitting around for a few years. I have no particular purpose in mind for it, but I quite like making boxes, and Annette likes collecting them, so it works out quite well.

The carcase is just mitred together, which is a very weak joint — it's held together only by glue; it has no mechanical holding power of its own. So, to reinforce that join, I'm adding splines at the corners. These are just tabs of 3mm (1/8") plywood glued into slots that run through the mitre to give it a bit more strength.

I'd normally cut the slots for the splines on the table saw, using a jig to hold the box at 45°. Once the jig is made, this is a pretty quick and accurate way to go about it. But for this one, I wanted to stick to hand tools exclusively, so I cut the slots with a dovetail saw and remove the waste with a little 3mm chisel.

I didn't actually own a 3mm (1/8") chisel, and getting hold of one proved to be harder than I'd expected. My favourite 2nd-hand tool shop has closed down, and none of the local tools shops stock anything much even the slightest bit unusual. So, I took a chisel from a cheap set of carving chisels and ground it down to 3mm, a process that took quite a bit longer than I anticipated due to the puniness of my bench grinder. Still, it got done eventually, and now that it's been shaped, polished and sharpened, it works pretty well.

I also had to do some surgery on a throwaway 500mm Bahco panel saw to turn it into a rip-saw for resawing thick boards down to thinner ones. I ran out of lighter fluid for my little pencil torch with about a fifth of the teeth still left to anneal, and the set of the teeth isn't that great, so up to this point that hasn't been a completely successful conversion. I'll finish off annealing and reshaping the remaining teeth, but I don't have a saw-set, and haven't been able to find one. Googling has shown me a multitude of sets of saws, but nothing for setting saw teeth.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bissel vacuum — buyer's regret

A few months ago I bought a Bissel Cleanview Compact upright bagless vacuum cleaner.

Its suction is certainly good, but it's less convenient in almost every single way than a regular vacuum with a hose and what-not.

It doesn't get into corners or edges or under furniture as well and it's much less convenient to store, not to mention being so noisy that I have to wear earmuffs when I'm using it.

Also, the build quality is not stellar — if I pick it up by its carry-handle, it falls apart, and there's no straightforward way of fixing that.

D-, would not buy again. If I could find the receipt, I'd be taking it back for a refund.