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Thread: whale's beard alternatives?

  1. #1
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    whale's beard alternatives?

    I love the look of whale's beard (baleen) in antique nihonto mounts, and am wondering if anyone knows of a legal alternative for modern mounting purposes? I can't recall ever seeing a modern mount with something for this effect.

    Anyone?

    Thanks and cheers,

    Ken

  2. #2
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    Interesting topic. I read a science publication that compared baleen fibers to wool fibers. The results showed the calcification in baleen allows it to exhibit lower tensile stress than wool. I don't know of a readily available organic substitute for baleen. However, Kevlar thread may be a viable synthetic substitute due to its high tensile strength. In terms of application, I speculate the threads would have to be woven to a suitable thickness and bonded together with a resin that allows the fibers to be bent and shaped without breaking. Of course, that wanders into the realm of chemical engineering.

  3. #3
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    Ty, that's a start, thank you, and interesting info as well. I don't know enough about kevlar and its cousins, but might investigate. For natural fiber, I am wondering if baleen is kinda like the thinner, more flexible hair on a porcupine - not the actual quills. 'Course, they would not be long enough, and would not be of uniform thickness. Just brain-storming. In my mind, it would not have to be natural. For instance, I like Tsunami a lot and have had it used in otherwise traditional mounts. Hmmm, I wonder if carbon fiber comes in strands like that?
    Ken

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    A quick search reveals both kevlar and carbon fiber wire readily available in various thicknesses. Looks like they would have a braided pattern and texture, but might be sufficiently pliable and might otherwise work. I wonder if you could lacquer it after wrapping to achieve the proper look. Has anyone tried anything like this, or anything else to mimic whale's beard?
    Thanks
    Ken

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    The pliability issue is very much so a concern... I have tried it with several substitutes all of which have either been too slipery (plastics) or not flexible enough... The closest I came to finding something that might work is gut string (used for making high end tennis rackets). The problem with gut was that it was a bit slick/greasy and just didn't want to stay in place... nor did it accept being dyed... washing/soaking it caused it to start to fray. I will keep looking for something that might work but it needs to have the right consistency.
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    Thank you for letting me know you have applied yourself to the problem, Mr. Treichel. That's a boon. Gut string does seem logical. I can not recall having ever felt baleen, and if I did it was long ago and not on koshirae. Have you handled a tsuka in whale's beard wrap? The photos I have seen all show dark strands, and baleen seems to be white/off-white/ivory in color. So I imagine that they lacquer it, but don't know for sure. You mention it not accepting dye; have you tried lacquer? Might lacquer also be the key to it staying put? Sounds like you have put a great deal of thought and trial and error into this, so thank you for contributing.

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    Baleen is organically similar to horn. Its fibers are pliable enough for hand-working, and retain a semi-rigid structure with minimal elongation. On a microscopic level, you can see the hollow lattice of keratin bonded with layers of calcium. The structure makes it simultaneously strong and light. This type of organic lattice has been studied in recent years to develop ultra-light and high-strength metallic lattices that in some case are lighter than air.

    http://www.comparativephys.ca/system...2010_ProcB.pdf



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    Last edited by Ty N.; 02-20-2012 at 01:02 PM.

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    Fascinating, Ty. Thank you kindly for the link. This is what I was thinking with the porcupine, but I am fair certain that won't work. But maybe there is something in the animal kingdom that works and is not either illegal or unethical. I appreciate both your and Christopher's interest on this problem.
    Ken

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    yes, the baleen is generally laquered or treated in some way.
    "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."
    Elbert Hubbard

    Nakamura Ryu Batto Do, Order of Seven Hearts

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    Christopher, did the gut string take the lacquer, or did you not get that far with it?

    Rgds

    Ken

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    No, it wouldn't take anything dye, laquer etc... had some kind of waxy greasy coating... I tried cleaning it off with detergents, rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol etc... none of which produced desirable results... I did find some vendors selling it in black already dyed during the production process (which is not pretty). I just happened to get a good deal on this natural colored stuff and thought I would give it a try...
    "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."
    Elbert Hubbard

    Nakamura Ryu Batto Do, Order of Seven Hearts

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    Hmm, sounds like a no-go. Thanks for the input and maybe saving someone else the time!

    Ken

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    Well, you know how whales tend to roll up on the beach for no particular reason. Maybe just hang out at the beach and let the baleen come to you...

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    Yea, Ty you an me can stand on the shores of the Potomac for a few years... let you know when we see any whales.
    "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."
    Elbert Hubbard

    Nakamura Ryu Batto Do, Order of Seven Hearts

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    Bring a few cases of Blue Moon and see what happens

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    Kenneth, I have a friend who has some legal baleen, if you would be interested.
    I dunno. Iron is sort-of the Paris Hilton of metals, and carbon, nickel, chromium silicon, etc. are a bunch of good looking guys she just met at a party. - Al Massey

  17. #17
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    Mr. Salvati,

    That's very interesting and thank you for responding. I heard of one other potential legal source. Same, I wonder? He's a well-known smith.

    To be perfectly honest, at this point my interest is pretty much academic, but thinking of future projects always. My current mounting projects would not include baleen. At some point, it would be a really great mount, though. Do you have any idea the price? Please feel free to PM me with any additional information. Regardless, thank you very much.

    BTW, I have followed you a bit on the Bladesmith's Forum, and I admire your work very much.

    Cheers and rgds,

    Ken

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