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Knife set - stringing along ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:36 AM, February 5, 2012 [Permalink]

Quiet weekend here ... nobody around; most of the time I'm working on the printing of the final issue in the Mystique series, and that should be finished later this evening.

But I'm also pushing ahead a little bit with the knife project, while waiting for the first shipment of blades to arrive. As I mentioned in a post last week, Sato-san and I decided to jump back in time a bit, and use the traditional method of fixing the blades in the handles - by tying them in place, rather than using brass sleeves.

I also mentioned that the traditional material to use for that job was shamisen strings. These are very strong, and have a serrated surface that makes them very resistant to coming undone. Here's one of my own chisels tied that way (you can see the 'step' in the handle where the old brass sleeve used to be, before I threw it away in frustration).

Here's a closeup (enlargeable):

The problem with using shamisen strings is that they are quite expensive, being made from a blend of nylon and silk. But I remember a 'tip' I learned from the old carver Susumu Ito; he made a deal with a local shamisen teacher to get her discarded strings (and those from her pupils). Once a year or so, she would drop off a bag with all the tangled broken and used strings, and he would use these to tie his chisels.

It doesn't matter that the strings are 'worn out' (from the point of view of a shamisen player). We're not interested in their 'sound' quality. So ... I Googled around a bit for shamisen teachers, hoping that I might find one within a reasonable distance.

Did I ever! Not a two-minute walk from my place!

I went over there this afternoon and introduced myself. Turns out that Kuroda sensei already knows me - my place is on the route on which she walks her dog most evenings! When I made my request, I wasn't sure how she would respond, but I needn't have been worried - she thinks it's a great idea to 'recycle' the strings into something useful.

She doesn't have any on hand just now (of course she has been tossing them out), but said that she would begin to collect them and that I could expect to see a little 'delivery' in my mailbox one evening in the not-too-distant future. I thanked her very much and left her with a small gift print.

So that's one small problem solved! I wish they would all be this easy!




Added by: Dave on February 5, 2012 2:00 PM

Not quite sure if I should show this photo, but why not ...

I found this in a magazine article about one of the other professional carvers I know - a shot of some tools, also tied with shamisen cord.

Not to be critical, because everybody does these things their own way, but ours will be different. The slots will not be that deep - I don't want any bare corners of wood to cause discomfort. The slots will not be that close to the tip of the chisel. And our cord will be tied much more neatly!

Added by: Lana Lambert on February 6, 2012 12:51 AM

I really enjoyed the "shamisen recycling" story. It is very close to the barter system still alive in my own community.


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