I want to make a bunch of bokken for some local univserity martial arts
(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:
various hand tools
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:
You can get them cheaper than that for sure.
Some people would use a draw knife:
or a spoke shave:
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? ;)
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
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
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
and finish with a spokeshave
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
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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