Lighting the fire of Creation


So, dear reader, where did we last meet? Ah yes, I installed the caster wheels on my cabinet.  All of the White Ash in this piece made it heavy, so its actually fun to be able to push it around. I finished with a coat of Danish oil and a coat of paste wax, god knows we all like stuff that looks shiny. With the cabinet finished I loafed on the couch for a day, casting about for a new focus. I’m rather Holmesian in the aspect of not dealing with idle time well. If all you do is obsessively work you can actually forget how to relax. Ah, there’s my new years resolution, re-learn to relax and have fun! How about some more time in the shop, that’s fun, right?


So finally I was seized upon by the desire to get the forge lit again, make some yasuri. If you’re a newer reader to my blog you can get up to speed with my first post on file cutting.

In my first attempt at shaping a Japanese file I spent a lot of tedious time with dial calipers trying to make the file blank dimensionally perfect, which honestly was a waste of time. What is important is consistency in the angles between the faces, and the thickness at the acute edges that forms the gullet root when filing saw teeth. To that end I made a profile gauge out of some scrap saw plate, based on the angles from my 100mm yasuri. Any file I make will probably be smaller than 100mm. Specifically I need some very small single sided files to do a proper job sharpening my joinery saws. This gauge then should cover the range of what I will make (with the exception of the single sided file profile).


One of the previous sticking points in file making that I ran into was cutting both sides of a file without damaging the previously cut face against the anvil surface. A sheet of lead between the file and the anvil is the solution, but where the hell do you get lead these days? And specifically soft lead, not the weird alloys in car batteries or wheel weights? The answer for me was a visit to the local scrap metal recyclers. I just walked in and asked to buy some scrap lead, and they even sold it to me for scrap prices, which is an order of magnitude cheaper than paying for fishing weights.


I’m going to assume that anyone that reads my blog is not a moron when it comes to working with lead, learn what due cautions you should take. Part of that is not cutting the lead in a way that generates a bunch of dust or filings in my shop. A cold chisel wastes no lead. I actually used a wood chisel on top of a stump, didn’t hurt the edge at all, and cut out a nice little pad for my anvil top. I then took it outside to torch anneal my little sheet of lead.


The fire of creativity was really with me, I got so focused I pretty much forgot to take pictures of anything until the end of the day. What do you think of my redneck Japanese forge? Real high tech and well put together, I think not. We’ll perhaps the fuigo is well put together, god I love my fuigo. I’m tapering down the ends of some square stock so that handles can be burned on. I found a spot of shade to work in for the afternoon, and had everything shaped and ready for hardening by twilight, after the sun went behind the mountain. My fuel was hardwood charcoal, I annealed in a bucket of wood ashes, and my quenchant was slightly warm water. Sorry, no clay slip as of yet.


For instance, this is a file cutting chisel I made. It required almost zero shaping work because its made from the tang of a large mill file, all I had to do was forge in the primary bevel. I tried the cutting edge after a water quench and had an edge that crumbled at the sharpening stones. So a little torch tempering ensued, and I tried to draw the faintest of straw yellow at the cutting edge. Almost magically it now forms a wire edge when sharpening, and holds up in use. Seriously, this stuff feels like magic.


Back to the handle that was forged a bit, riveted to a cutting edge to make a basic sen! The cutting edge was made from a piece of the same mill file that I made the above file cutting chisel. Even with as little forge skill as I have, simply being able to bring a decent sized piece of tool steel to heat treating temperatures is truly powerful in a small shop. It opens up a whole world. It allowed me to anneal the cutter, shape it, drill the rivet holes, and harden. Eventually I would like to be able to make a fully forged sen with laminated cutting edge, but this is a great first step.

When the cutting edge is sharp and you find the right angles and pressure, it takes the most marvelous smooth shavings. Get it wrong and chatter, gouging, and cussing ensue. As to how you might actually work a saw plate to an even thickness with one of these, that will take much more work and study.