The making of a katana hand guard

tiger

Even though the handmade portion of Hackaday is still in its infancy, we expected to put up a post on traditional japanese sword making by now. What [Kelvin] sent in to the tip line far surpases the artistry of forging a katana by hand. It’s a tsuba, the hand guard for a katana, and over the course of two videos (one and two), you can see this masterpiece of traditional metalworking techniques take shape.

Tsubas usually come in a matched set, one for the katana, or long sword, and another for the wakizashi, a slightly shorter sword. [Ford Hallam] was asked to construct the tsuba for a katana that had been lost to the sands of time. Fortunately, a black and white photograph of the original as well as the matching wakizashi tsuba were available for reference, making the design of this tsuba an exercise in replication.

The piece of metal this tsuba was constructed from is made out of a slightly modified traditional alloy of 75% copper and 25% silver. After the blank was cast, many, many hours of scraping, filing and hammering began before the design was laid out.

The craftsmanship in this tsuba is, quite simply, insane. There are about 100 different pieces of metal inlaid into the tsuba to emulate the tiger’s stripes, and hundreds of hours of work in hand carving every leaf and every bit of fur.

Even more, no power tools were used in the creation of this hand guard; everything was crafted using the same methods, tools, and materials as the original tsuba. A masterful piece of craftsmanship, indeed.

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Crown earns you the title King of the Junkyard

crown-king-of-the-junkyard

[Greg Shikhman] wanted to use the school tools one more time before graduation. After hitting up some local motorcycle shops around town for parts he fashioned this crown for himself.

He didn’t pay ‘the iron price‘ as the motorcycle roller chain is waste material anyway. Chains do wear out and these were left over after being replaced with new ones. He first cleaned them up with a bit of WD-40 solvent, xylene, and soapy water to cut through the grime. There was also a layer of black oxide which normally keeps them from rusting which he peeled off with a dunk in some hydrochloric acid.

Chains are flexible and this would have made for a disheveled looking crown. The fix involved using an aluminum form the size of his head to keep the crown in round while he did his TIG welding. A double row of polished steel ball bearings take the place of jewels. As if the ten-pounder wasn’t painful enough he added four rings of bicycle chain as accents which he admits makes the thing unwearable because they dig into his noggin. We still don’t think that’s a good enough excuse to post about the project and not include an image of him wearing the thing during the junkyard coronation.

It would be fun to see a follow-up king-ring with similar LED features as that engagement ring but using this heavy-metal design style.

Update: lost PLA metal casting — The Movie

lost-pla-metal-casting-movie

Turning 3D printed plastic parts into metal objects is not a new concept. But we don’t see a lot of it and enjoyed watching the documentary version of [3DTOPO’s] lost PLA metal casting process so much we figured you’d want to see it too.

The thirty-five minute video walks through every part of the process which we originally learned about in September of last year. The process was developed as a way to fabricate parts that will be used in high-stress applications. For instance, the part seen above is a mounting bracket for the ball screws that moves the Z axis on a huge CNC build he’s been working on. A plastic part will break under the strain so he needed to make it out of aluminum alloy.

To start, the piece is modeled and printed in plastic to check the fit. Once it’s just right he scales it to 103% and prints it again to account for the shrinking of the metal as it cools. The next step is pictured above, adding paths using rigid foam insulation that allow for the metal pour and for air to escape. This is packed into a plaster and sand mold which dries before being cooked in a furnace to vaporize the foam and PLA. This leaves a perfect mold for the metal pour.

After the break you can see a 5-minute overview version of the project.

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Drilling perfectly centered holes

If you’ve ever been caught in the situation of needing to drill a clean straight hole down the center of a bolt or rod, you’ve probably tried and ended up with a broken bit or tilted hole, and a ton of cursing to boot.

[Vik] let us know about this nifty trick for drilling ‘down the middle’ using a simple hobby drill press and vice. He claims it’s ‘physics guiding the bit’ but in reality its just crafty use of a chuck. Either way the quick trick works, and will hopefully save a lot of hackers some headaches in the future.

Let us know in the comments if you have any simple quick tips that you use when you’re out in the shop.

Lumenlab’s new kit: Open source CNC


Imagine our surprise when we stumbled on the latest Lumenlab project: gantry style CNC. Until now the only time we ever invoked their name was for DIY projectors. The kit looks pretty interesting, and they’re taking pre-orders right now. It’s designed for a full sized router and you should be able to cut a 4′ by 8′ sheet with a feed roll. Even without, the cutting area is a large 26″ by 50″ and features 8″ of Z movement. Between their kit and an order from Online Metals, they’re projecting that you can build your own for around $1000. We’re definitely in when the final kit is released in June.