Finally got around to posting this project I completed last year. I am not much into Japanese style swords lately, but suddenly decided to finally do something with the Cheness Cutlery Yamakami Ko Katana ( ) I had sitting around for several years.
I love the idea of "chisagatana" or "Ko Katana" (intermediate sword between katana and wakizashi, mounted with katana length handle). And I like relatively short and heavy, "choppy" swords in general.
You can see at the link above that Yamakami is not quite a traditionally proportioned Japanese blade - it is much wider, a little thinner, and made of "Through Hardened 9260 Silicon Alloy Carbon Spring Steel". Which is fine with me, in this case I was willing to break traditions to satisfy my requirements.
First of all, Cheness cutlery gave the tsuka absolutely huge girth to make it look proportional the blade width. I just couldn't use it comfortably. On top of that, the tsuka was really horribly constructed. I barely managed to knock it off the blade, and found that the core of it was split. Not to mention poor wrap and indifferent fittings.
Second, I prefer almost straight tsuka, set at smaller angle to the blade than typical for Japanese style swords.
And finally, I just aesthetically prefer smaller than normal tsuba. You really can't use tsuba as hand defense, and to stop your hand sliding up even a minimal size is sufficient.

So I ended up redoing the tsuka completely with all fittings made from scratch in copper. To fit a normal width tsuka, I had to grind down the nakago (tang) to a more narrow profile.
The core is made of poplar, wrapped with real black laquered same. It is almost like a full wrap but not quite - I had several smaller pieces of same available, but each of them wraps completely around the tsuka so the wrap prevents core from splitting just as well as a single piece wrap would. It looks like a single piece wrap too, because the cord wrap covers the middle pieces. You can see how it was done in one of the pictures.
Over same, I did a Katatemaki style wrap with brown leather ito. It not only looks good but is actually quite comfortable in hands. Since I am not doing extensive training with the sword, the "leather is slippery with sweaty hands" thing is not a problem.
The tsuba, would you believe it, I made back in 2002 and posted on these very forums back then:!&highlight=
It was mounted for a short time, then replaced with another, and stayed in my drawer for all these years. Finally I found a good use for it. You can see detailed description in the old thread above. But in short - 2 3/8" by 2", 3/16" thick, copper with inlayed Japanese brushes (in several metals: brass, nickel silver, shakudo, and shibuichi), fake kozuka opening filled with lead, textured surface.
I made fuchi and kashira to match, plain copper textured and patinated.
Menuki are copper sakura flowers with brass centers. I made them not quite traditionally - the center is actually a head of brass tack inserted into the tsuka and glued. I figured a flat menuki mounted like this work best with katatemaki wrap.

Tsuka is overall 10 3/4" long, blade is 21" long and 1 1/2" wide. It's a rather heavy little piggy for its size but moves fast due to its short length, especially with two hands. I haven't tested it yet, but it should cut like nobody's business.
I sharpened the blade pretty fine while giving it a sort of "working polish" up to 1200 grit sandpaper. This removed fake hamon (remember, this is through hardened steel) but revealed actual temper line near habaki: Apparently the blade was quenched up to this point only, to leave the tang relatively soft. I believe a modern through hardened steel should work as well or likely better that a cheap mass produced attempt at differential Japanese style heat treatment. It is just not as easy to screw up in mass production.

Saya (scabbard) was also constructed with some laquer defects (especially around kurikata). So I refinished it with black spray laquer, with "gold" dust suspended in it and covered by clear coat.

Pictures are in an album here:

Take a look and let me know what you think of this strange beast!