Making a hard wood handle for a jian.

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Seth Davis
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Making a hard wood handle for a jian.

Post by Seth Davis » Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:11 am

How would one go about making a hard wood handle for a jian and getting the proper materials to do it? What are the best tools to use, etc?
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Tony Mosen
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Post by Tony Mosen » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:52 am

Hi Seth'
I taught myself how to do it, good idea to have a play using some cheap wood before you go for the keepy. You can get different hardwoods of various weights so best to know loosly what weight you need to maintain good POB, depending on fittings etc.
Measure what you need (length, width) give yourself plenty to work with depending on the grip size your after, don't worry about making your blank too semetrical as you will be shaping the handle on the tang (not fixed into position)
Half the blank down the middle, and trace around the tang on the inside of each blank half, measure thickness of tang and chissel a furrow half the thickness of the tang on the inside of each blank to fit snugg to the shape of the tang, file out the remainder to fit, using clamps to test fit, glue together and assemble fittings for final shaping and fitting.

Tony Mosen
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
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Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2004 9:53 am
Location: Perth, Australia

Post by Tony Mosen » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:03 am

I use all hand tools, fine-cut saw' be sure not to saw too hard but gently instead, take your time and you will have a nice neat cut that will glue together almost un-noticably.
I use a rasp and various grades of bastard files for shaping, and paper up to 2000 grit for the finnish, of course this does'nt matter if your gunna wrap it, all done by eye and feel of course. I use the same methods for building scabbards, it's taken quite a few hrs in the workshop to perfect though, but its just practice trial and the odd error. Good luck

If your after good quality hardwood to use try a knife makers guild or supplier or maybe you know somebody with some lying about, it must be dried naturally over many years to get the best quality result.

Philip Tom
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Post by Philip Tom » Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:05 am

If you're going to use hardwood, American walnut works fine and when stained, filled, and oiled, has an attractive finish.

Jian grips are more difficult to make than those for peidao (sabers). The forward end needs to butt up precisely against the rear of the guard to keep it tight against the shoulders of the blade. This end also should be properly relieved so that the ferrule (sleeve) behind the guard fits flush, its surface being continuous with that of the wooden grip. The tail end is likewise relieved to be flush with the "skirt" of the pommel, and should be tapered so that its terminus ends right where the inside of the pommel will be when the entire hilt is peened tightly on the tang. The finished grip has the profile of a squid or calamari, minus the fins and tentacles.

Narrow bladed chisels are needed to channel the groove for the tang. I find that the borders of this groove, plus the "shoulders" of the relieved areas to accommodate the ferrule and pommel, are efficiently cut with a small Japanese "azebiki" saw, which is capable of very precise work. Japan Woodworker is a good source, the very small size is the most useful. These are delicate tools and should be used with extreme care.

If you've never made one of these before, it's a good idea to do a trial run in a soft wood so you have an idea what's involved, and can get an idea of what the final shape is going to be like. In this way, you can start with the exterior a bit oversized and work it down to where it fits your hand best. When you do the final version, you've got the design and your technique down pat.

If you don't want to use walnut or other hardwoods, poplar or alder are durable, inexpensive, and are easy to shape. These woods are similar in hardness and grain structure to the handles and sheaths on Japanese swords. You can stain either wood a variety of colors, or can cover it with ray skin or a cord wrap as Peter Dekker has explained on another thread.
Phil

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