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Thread: Tsuka Wood question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Tsuka Wood question

    I know Honoki wood is traditionally used for the core wood for Tsuka, but what other more (American) domestic wood do you folks use when doing a Tsuka buildup for a non Nihointo sword. Also have any of you tried bedding compound for exact nakago opening for non antique or modern swords ?

    Thanks
    Dwight Pilkilton

  2. #2
    Poplar is a popular choice for a lot of repros, and Alder seems to run a close second. I know Juan Ortiz swears by one called Red Bay, but apparently it's not all that easy to come by, unless you happen to know someone felling a tree

  3. #3
    I really like alder. The steel doesn't react to it, it has a nice grain, nice coloration, and it seems a bit tougher than poplar IMO. Some also use basswood but I also find that a bit light in comparison.

    The only drawbacks with alder are limited availability (if you're not on the west coast) and it tends to sometimes "tear" out along the grain when you're carving. So you have to be careful when carving and shaping not to rip out more than you expected...

    Keith

  4. #4
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    Feb 2003
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    Poplar question

    This is strictly for my own trial and error on modern blades. I do have one Koto era Wak that I will try on..It is actually a broken Katana that is very tired and I just want to learn. The Nakago is porly formed from the original break. I want to mount it one dau just to learn. I have worked with Poplar in the past and I like, does it have any problems reacting with steel ??

    I would think Basswood would be too weak ?? I used to use it for the spar in my RC airplanes...but I didnt do Katyas with the planes....or did I ;-)

    Thanks
    Dwight P

  5. #5

    Re: Poplar question

    Originally posted by Dwight Pilkilton
    This is strictly for my own trial and error on modern blades. I do have one Koto era Wak that I will try on..It is actually a broken Katana that is very tired and I just want to learn. The Nakago is porly formed from the original break. I want to mount it one dau just to learn. I have worked with Poplar in the past and I like, does it have any problems reacting with steel ??

    I would think Basswood would be too weak ?? I used to use it for the spar in my RC airplanes...but I didnt do Katyas with the planes....or did I ;-)

    Thanks
    Dwight P
    Hi Dwight,

    Poplar and alder are virtually identical in terms of strength and durability, and the numbers bear this out. Poplar is slightly heavier/denser, its specific gravity averaging .42 where alder averages .41. Alder has the edge in compressive strength, averaging 5820 psi to poplar's 5540 psi. But poplar has the edge in bending strength, averaging 10,100 psi to alder's 9800 psi. Likewise, poplar is stiffer, its stiffness rating measuring 1.58 mpsi on average, whereas alder's stiffness is 1.38 mpsi. Alder comes out on top where hardness is concerned, however, rating 590 on the scale, while poplar comes in at 540. Finally, alder is a bit more stable, the ratio between its tangential and radial movement coming it a 2.9, while poplar's is 3.6.

    As for standard coloration, I'm with Keith. Alder has fantastic natural color, whereas poplar's normal color is a rather boring yellowy-white. However, poplar frequently displays streaks of green, brown, purple, gray, and black, all of which result from a natural effect called mineral staining. The effect can be quite striking for saya and shirasaya, but is pointless for a formal tsuka since the rayskin and ito will cover up the color.

    I haven't used basswood, but its numbers are comparible to aspen, a wood with which I've experimented two or three times, but it was too soft and weak for my tastes.

    I've also used various maples, and while the figured stuff makes for beautiful saya and shirasaya, only the softest varieties compress enough to properly "grab" the nakago and habaki. It is certainly possible to use harder maple, but the lack of fiber compression significantly reduces one's margin of error. I've been toying with the idea of adding poplar liners to compensate, but I haven't yet found the time to experiment. I'm confident that the notion is sound, though.

    In any event, none of the wood types mentioned here contain acids, resins, or other chemicals that would be harmful to blade steel, so you shouldn't have any problems in that regard.

    Hope that helps.

    -Robert

  6. #6
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    Thanks Robert

    I appreciate the information, I have done some Rifle bedding using Brownells Accra Steel bedding compound. I have been thinking about for modern swords that get a lot of use this might be a resource. It would provide an absolute perfect fit and be much stronger than any wood would be. Do you or anyone else know if this has been done before ?? The blade would still be removable for cleaning and maintenance.

    Dwight P

  7. #7
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    Re: Thanks Robert

    Originally posted by Dwight Pilkilton
    I appreciate the information, I have done some Rifle bedding using Brownells Accra Steel bedding compound. I have been thinking about for modern swords that get a lot of use this might be a resource. It would provide an absolute perfect fit and be much stronger than any wood would be. Do you or anyone else know if this has been done before ?? The blade would still be removable for cleaning and maintenance.

    Dwight P
    Yep people do use it and other compounds to bed tangs, However it does not provide a perfect fit to just any blade. If you get a perfect fit with a tradiitionally filed nakago it will not be removable as the bedding compound is locked into the texture of the Nakago. To keep the compound from biting permanently to your blade you will have to provide some sort of barrier which will generate slop. It works best with a smooth non filed Nakago. since the beddign compound does not offer the friction and compression that wood does and youll have no way of pushing it into the bedding farther to tighten it up. SO if its loose enough to be removable and it cant sink it further to wedge itself it will end up abit loose in the end. I have worked out a way to compensate for the slop and break in. The simplest way is to to bed the tang using what ever works as a parting compound to allow the blade to be released (some things create more slop than others.) THen grind an 1/8 or so off the nakago end. This will allow it to slip back further into the Tsuka core and usually tightens everything up as tight as it will go. Also this leaves some room for the blade to settle into the Core and it will if but a little with use.
    you can try to temporarily add extra tang while bedding to accomplish this but its abit more of a pain. I find it much easier to just whack a slice of the end of the blade if you can.
    I hope that is not confusing?
    I can diagram it if it does not make sense
    Patrick Hastings
    "A man without patience lives in hell"
    "He o hitte
    shiri Tsubome"

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Wichita, Kansas, USA
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    Re: Re: Thanks Robert

    Nice tip Patrick! Thanks!
    "If you're in a fair fight...You didn't plan it properly"

    Gary B
    http://www.BradburnKnives.com/

  9. #9

    Re: Re: Thanks Robert

    Originally posted by Patrick Hastings

    Yep people do use it and other compounds to bed tangs, However it does not provide a perfect fit to just any blade. If you get a perfect fit with a tradiitionally filed nakago it will not be removable as the bedding compound is locked into the texture of the Nakago. To keep the compound from biting permanently to your blade you will have to provide some sort of barrier which will generate slop. It works best with a smooth non filed Nakago. since the beddign compound does not offer the friction and compression that wood does and youll have no way of pushing it into the bedding farther to tighten it up. SO if its loose enough to be removable and it cant sink it further to wedge itself it will end up abit loose in the end... <snipped>
    Geez, Patrick, that makes a lot of sense. I had used a friend's blade where he had done the tsuka and used bedding compound. It wasn't loose per se, but it wasn't tight either. And I could *never* get that thing to really seat such that it gave me a really positive feel like I'm used to. And it always felt funny during cuts. Partly because the bedding compound seemed to deliver more vibration, but it also just felt like it was just not *solid* the way I wanted it to be. Or was used to. That does kinda explain what I felt but couldn't put to words... Cool. Learn somethin' new everyday...

    Keith

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