Making a bokken (how do I make stuff with oval crossections)?


I want to make a bunch of bokken for some local univserity martial arts clubs. (A bokken is a wooden sword based on a japanese katana, for those who don't know the term).
If you look at a picture of one, you see that the sword itself has basically an oval cross-section with a few flattened sides.
Anyway, I think I can deal with most of the aspects of this, but I can't think of an easy way to make something with an oval crossection short of sanding it to death on a belt sander and jointer.
Even doing it on a sander, I would like a way that I can precisely get something perfectly symmetrical.
If anyone can think of an easy way to do it or give me pointers on where to look, here are the tools I have: table saw jointer belt sander bandsaw drill press various hand tools
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quixote wrote:

You could definitely do it with a router table and a ogee or roundover bit, plus a straight bit for the blade mortise (two halves glued together I assume), but it's safer and not all that much slower to do the rounding over by hand after it's glued up. Unless you're making hordes of them, I'd opt for the various hand tools and clean up with hand sanding. You would have to start by cutting the mortise(s) first in a larger piece of wood for safety, then rip it off, glue it together and start rounding it over. Some people might counsel that you do the rounding over on the router, but if the scabbard is like the ones I'm thinking of, each half is less than 1/2" thick. You could double-stick tape that to another piece of something, and run it through the router, but hand tools are just safer when working with thin flexible pieces.
For rounding over a hollow round plane could be a good start: http://cgi.ebay.com/Auburn-Tool-Co-16-Hollow-Wood-Molding-Plane_W0QQitemZ6261072774QQcategoryZ13874QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem You can get them cheaper than that for sure.
Some people would use a draw knife: http://cgi.ebay.com/Lot-2-Old-Vintage-Primitive-Drawknife-Wood-HandleTools_W0QQitemZ6261121701QQcategoryZ13874QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem or a spoke shave: http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-Stanley-Bronze-Draw-Knife-Spoke-Shave-Plane-NR_W0QQitemZ6261215561QQcategoryZ13874QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
I'd probably use a spoke shave for the final cleanup prior to sanding, but the hollow round will give you more uniform results more easily.
If Steve Knight is reading this, he might want to make a dedicated Bokken Knight Bubinga plane. It's got a ring to it, doesn't it? ;) http://cgi.ebay.com/Knight-Toolworks-purpleheart-finish-smoothing-plane_W0QQitemZ6261435657QQcategoryZ13874QQtcZphotoQQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
R
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On 10 Mar 2006 14:26:32 -0800, "quixote"

Does it need to be curved? If not you could remove a lot of the material with a couple cuts at different blade angles on the table saw. I'd keep it attached to a wider piece while doing this, finally cutting it free after all your angle cuts. If it has to be curved you could do something similar on the band saw. A draw knife would make short work of getting it nearly smooth, finish up with a little sanding.
-Leuf
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A long time ago, seems like an entire life ago, I made several bokkens of white oak when I studied Aikido.
I made a detailed tracing of a friend's, transferred it to an oak 2x4, cut out the profiles with a bandsaw, then went at them with block plane, similar to this:
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&pA228&cat=1,41182
Took about a half hour for each to shape them, smoothed the curves by hand and by feel. The curves are gentle and it wasn't hard to follow them with a short plane. The cross section is a lot more complicated than an oval with three flats, and it changes as you move along the blade section. A block plane was all I had to do such shaping, so I didn't even think it wasn't possible... so I just did it. No sanding. I still have my first and always will, and I drag it out now and then to impress the kids.
If I was to do it now, I'd start the same way, trace and cut out on a bandsaw and then use a drawknife instead of the plane
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&pD502&cat=1,130,43332
and finish with a spokeshave
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&pD834&cat=1,50230&ap=1
I know you asked about power tools, but using hand tools for this project is a whole lot more appropriate.
Michael Latcha - at home in Redford, MI

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However you decide to shape them, you must - MUST - make sure that the grain is oriented along the bokken, and best to make sure that it follows the curve also. One thing that you do not want is to split one during a parry/block and turn it into a spear.
Michael Latcha - at home in Redford, MI

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On 10 Mar 2006 14:26:32 -0800, "quixote"

Buy them. I've got "free" non-cabinet grade oak coming out of my ears, I get through a fair number ot bokken, and I still can't make one for anything like the cost of buying.
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hello,
I made a bokken for my wife last year, and yep, hand plane and sand paper... it went relatively fast....
http://hpmad.homeip.net:81/img/full/woodworking/katana.jpg
http://hpmad.homeip.net:81/eng/woodworking.html
cyrille

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This project says draw knife and spoke shave to me. Same as fitting an axe handle, but longer.. Maybe some templates to get the right sizes at various points.
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