bookmark_borderTachi Kake

The tachi is a type of Japanese sword that is similar to a katana, but it is worn differently, has different fittings, and is usually used as a more of a formal/ceremonial sword compared to a warrior’s katana. I bought a small tachi as part of my mission to recreate a full bunkan sokutai.

When not in being worn or in storage, the tachi would have been displayed nearby the bearer in a vertical stand called a tachi kake. These are readily available to buy, both as new items and antiques, but of course I wanted to make one myself. I was able to settle on a design, and I still have an excess of surplus wood in the garage.

Tachi Kake Before Finishing

Here’s what it looks like after cutting and shaping, but before finishing. It’s a little easier to see the shapes of the pieces. This is all pine lumber. The upright and the bracket at the top are just 3/4″ thick cut from 1by. The brace at the bottom of the upright is 1/2″ thick pine I had around; most of the examples I see online are only 1/4″ thick. The base is cut from some surplus 2by, to keep it bottom-heavy when unoccupied. The brace is fitted in a slot that I cut all the way through the upright. Tenons at either end of the upright fit into through-mortises for ease of assembly and disassembly.

All told, this item is about 26 inches tall when fully assembled. The tapering curve on the upright piece is one of my favorite shapes ever. I did almost all of the cutting on the band saw, though, because it made things like this curve so much faster to make. I also used a router to bevel and round over all the edges on all the pieces to give it a softer look.

Tachi Kake After Finishing

Here it is after about a half-dozen coats of black-tinted polyurethane. This stuff makes a good affordable lacquer substitute, and it dries in hours instead of weeks. I sanded the finish between every couple coats, but it still needs some final polishing. I also want to add some embellishment like I did for the kyousoku arm rest, but that might not happen until autumn.

For a better sense of scale, here’s another picture of the tachi kake before finishing, with my ko-tachi in the stand like it is supposed to be:

Unfinished Tachi Kake with sheathed Tachi

bookmark_borderArts&Crafts End Table Project

Quite often, things sit on my project “to do” list for a season or a year until I’m absolutely sure I still want to make that thing. This project entered my list just two months ago, but it was such a motivating idea that I jumped right in on it after completing the smallest karabitsu. I bought all the lumber and other materials at Home Depot, and used almost all the power tools in my shop, so this is nothing that took great talent, uncommon materials, or specialty tools. Probably the only “talent” that made this project possible is the ability to plan, and the ability to follow plans.

Anyway, here it is. It’s an end table (or side table, whatever) in the “Arts & Crafts” (or maybe “Craftsman”) style. Made from red oak, stained a slightly darker brown, and finished with amber shellac.

Arts and Crafts End Table

The exact style is important because I wanted this table to go right at the end of my desk, and match the look of the desk as closely as possible. I have a file cabinet at the other end of the desk, and it came from the same furniture collection, and I though that having two match each other and a third not match would be visually jarring. They don’t even sell this desk any more, so buying an end table from this collection was not going to happen. What the heck, I’m a woodworker, right? Let’s just make one.

Table before finishing, next to desk

The only problem with that is that I have never made real furniture like this before. Years ago, I made the stereo cabinet, but I kind of winged it. I had to make a bunch of decisions about how such a thing even should be made, because the desk itself is mostly fakery. For instance, the ends of the “through tenons” that you can see on the desk are glued on. They are not even end grain! The “tenon ends” just under the surface of the desk are taller than the horizontal members of which they are supposed to be the ends. My tenon ends are really the ends of the horizontal members. My mortises are really full through-mortises. The ends of the vertical “ribs” really are tenons that fit into blind mortises in the horizontal members. The “inset molding” beneath the surface is not just routed onto the underside of a thick piece of wood, it’s a four-piece frame of 3/8″ wood that attaches the frame to the underside of the surface.

When you do this much planning on a project, though. You start to think about the project as a bunch of parts. It becomes very important that the pieces match the specification, and that each match the quality requirements of the project. However, it’s still just a bunch of pieces.

The pieces of an end table

Then, as the project progresses, things start getting more coherent. The first swipe of the staining pad and a stick of lumber starts to look more like a table leg. The pieces start getting assembled, and suddenly there is a piece of actual furniture. It’s almost magical. Suddenly it’s furniture!

The unfinished table after dry-fit assembly.

Then you add two coats of shellac (three on the top surface) and write a blog post, and suddenly the project is complete!

bookmark_borderAnother Shogi

Last Pennsic, a friend asked me if I could make a shogi for her like the ones I have made for us. I said yes, because I had some things I wanted to try. I tried out a new method for the leg joinery, and a new method for sewing the seat fabric, earlier this year. I bought some new hinge hardware back before the virus shutdown, so it was time to get cracking. I started in earnest a few days ago, and I finished it up today.

Shogi #6, for Caellin

Now, if we ever have another SCA event, this stool is ready. If you zoom in on the picture, you can see that I used the same wedged through-tenons with curved shoulders that I used on the previous shogi. The only real difference is that I bought some connector bolts to use as the pivot hinges where the legs cross. There is also a bronze bushing in there to make sure the hinge works smoothly. All this special hardware was a little pricey, but I think it will be worth it in the long run, and even thought the hexagonal recesses in the bolt heads look a little modern, I think the hardware gives the completed stool a much more finished look.

bookmark_borderShogi folding stool

I just completed this shogi folding stool that uses a new design. Instead of the ends of the legs fitting into slots in the feet (like in the old design), the legs are joined to the feet using wedged through-tenons with shoulders that curve up around the feet. I also used a new method of sewing the fabric of the seat so that stress on the stitches is lateral instead of longitudinal.

Shogi 2020

The frame is made almost entirely from red oak planks and dowels. You can just about see the walnut wedges that secure the tenons in the mortises. There’s also a respectable amount of glue and filler, but that can be our secret. The hinge axles are brass-plated hinge pins that I custom cut to length and cross drilled to accept brass cotter pins.

I like this design for the shogi because it is more properly medieval, even though I used even more modern machine tools to make it than before. I used a table saw to cut the legs and dowels, and to cut the joinery I used a drill press, band saw, and mortising machine.