What To Expect
When you send in your tsuka to be refurbished, what should you expect as far as services, work involved, turnaround time, quality of work done, costs and other aspects? Good question.
I almost always have a number of projects I’m currently working on, sometimes one at a time, such as for tsukamaki and sometimes multiple at once, such as during prep, gluing, painting, etc. If you are waiting to send your item in when I don’t have something on my bench, you may be waiting a while. I would recommend just jumping in asap and hopefully you won’t have to wait too long.
Prior to sending in your tsuka, I encourage you to remove it and check under the fuchi for any cracks or splits. It may be difficult to tell so when in doubt, I’ll be happy to check. I give a lot of consideration to the condition of your tsuka core before I begin wrapping it. I will fully assess the condition of your tsuka (will need to be unwrapped) before beginning any work and will inform you of the situation, possible solutions and or possible extra fees for labor or materials.
I always do my best to make sure you will have a functional and reliable finished product and sometimes, I will need to make repairs before your tsuka will be safe enough and durable enough to use. One of the most common issues found with reproduction tsuka is a core with cracks. Most of the time this happens at the factory where many tsuka cores are made to fit a general nakago profile instead of the individual sword it will be mounted on and are then often too loose or too tight. When they are too tight, forcing them on the nakago can split or crack the wood. Other reasons for cracks are poor wood type or condition and swelling or shrinkage due to climate change.
If the crack or split is clean and there isn’t persisting pressure from the nakago fit, I may be able to safely glue it. If the crack isn’t able to be glued or if the structural integrity of the core is compromised beyond a safe point, you may need to have a new core carved.
Other types of small repairs may also include shimming the fuchi or kashira end for a better fit, shimming the profile to make up for gaps or filing he interior for a better fit on the nakago.
What is included in my basic tsukamaki service?
I only use premium quality materials for my projects, such as genuine silk, cotton or leather ito, imported from Japan (I never use cheap, synthetic or low quality products on my custom projects) and they are included in the price quote. In addition, I always use the best quality wood, metals, lacquers and adhesives I can to make repairs, adjustments or accessories for your project. If there is a special material you would like me to use, just let me know and I’ll be happy to look into it. I also use fiber paper hishigami for all tsukamaki styles that require it, so you don’t have to request this or pay extra for it.
I use a self-taught, hybrid method that is effective and efficient and produces professional results.
I will reshape the whole core or parts of the core to ensure a smooth flow from fittings to ito. In my opinion, it doesn’t pay to have the tsuka re-wrapped if it won’t come out properly due to poor shaping. There is a limit to reshaping however and if I go too far, I run the risk of compromising the structural integrity and can cause even more damage instead of fixing things. If there is a particular tsuka shape you would like to have, let me know and I’ll tell you if it would be possible to achieve with your core. I also make sure there is a balance to the reshaping process, I won’t reshape the profile without adjusting the rest as well. If your tsuka requires more than the average amount of time to reshape, additional fees may apply.
Samegawa (rayskin) plays an important role in the structure and aesthetics of a tsuka. Many production tsuka come with very poor quality samegawa panels that can be stained, cracked, pieced together, too narrow or generally unattractive and in these cases, they should be replaced. I offer premium quality samegawa panels with or without emperor’s nodes and will install them, making the necessary adjustments to the core to ensure a great fit. I also offer full wrap samegawa in different quality levels, when appropriate.
Another service I offer, which can be used to help strengthen the wrap is lacquering the ito. I apply just enough so the surface stays soft while the fibers underneath become reinforced. This process will cause the color of the ito to become darker, so please take that into account. All wraps done in nubuck leather will require a lacquer application, which is included in the price, to make sure everything remains tight and functional.
Carving new cores
When I do carve new tsuka cores I use American Poplar wood, which I find to be light and strong and similar to Honoki wood in many ways. I will also be willing to use other wood types upon request, provided they are suitable for the type of project you have. In my opinion, Japanese honoki wood is not necessary to make a good tsuka core for a non Japanese made sword.
Mekugi hole/holes becoming covered partially or fully by the new ito
The mekugi holes in your tsuka were drilled with the original tsukamaki in place and depending on the difference in the ito they used, the wrapper’s technique and how tight or loose the maki was, things may not wind up in the same place. This really can’t be helped and is just a part of this process. If it does happen, I will be happy to explain how to work around it to get it reassembled.
Tsuka length modified
The width of the ito, the style of maki and other factors determine which sides the final end knots will wind up on. There is a correct and incorrect side for each knot but this is just aesthetics and has no effect on the functionality of the tsuka. To make sure the knots are where they’re supposed to be, I may have to shorten the length by about 1/4″. I will let you know first however and you can decide if you want me to shorten it or if you’d prefer the knots on the opposite sides instead.
I cover a lot of extra work and materials for free with my basic service but sometimes there is a lot more required before I can produce a satisfactory job for you and if this is the case, I do charge an hourly labor rate plus additional materials costs, if needed.
There is a lot I need to do before the wrapping even begins, such as prepping the ito and the tsuka core, filing, sanding, gluing, repairs, etc, and this can take one to several days depending on the situation. I also don’t rush my work and most of the time I don’t have 14 uninterrupted hours in a row to work on just your tsuka so a proper tsukamaki job, depending on supply delivery time, prep time, difficulty of the style and how many other jobs I may have at the time, can take up to a week or even more to complete. Please allow at least two weeks minimum but don’t be surprised if it takes longer than that. If you are in a big rush and need your tsuka back in a few days, don’t send it in now, wait until you have more time to spare. For jobs including carving a new core or other more involved tasks, expect it to take longer to finish.
I hope this answered all of your questions but if not, feel free to contact me.