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Old 01-16-2011, 05:45 PM   #1
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 78
Finland
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Smile Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Onegashimasu.

I decided to save some money and make some practice weapons myself. I have a lot of experience with woodwork with lot of detail. I make traditional Finnish instruments as a hobby and for use with our band so i'm all set for making bokkens and stuff...

I'm going to buy wood for them tomorrow. Most probably hickory, was it called tool grade hickory, the really tough stuff. At least it's called that in Finnish. I did some research and found our that hickory and japanese white oak seem to be some good choises for wood.

How about the measurements? *The bokken i bought is usual 102cm long and the tsuka is little bit too short for my taste so i thought i'll make the new ones with ~5cm longer blade and ~7cm longer tsuka.

I have already read the instructions at AikidoFAQ, so i know how to get started... Do some of you guys have some experience of building your own weapons? Any hints, tips, advice?
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:02 PM   #2
Michael Varin
Dojo: Aikido of Fresno
Join Date: May 2005
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Hello Lari,

I really don't know much about woodworking.

The bokken I buy are 41 in (104 cm) overall, blade around 30 in (76 cm). I think the longer tsuka is a good call. Most bokken I've seen are between 9 and 11 in (23 - 28 cm), but I think around 14 in (35 cm) would be much better.

This is really a matter of personal taste, but you might want to consider making it with a non-pointed kissaki, in other words, a flat tip. I prefer it for training.

It'd be nice to see how it turns out. Maybe you can post some pictures when you are done. Also, I'd be curious to know how much it cost for materials and about how much time it took.

Good luck with your project.

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:48 AM   #3
Tony Wagstaffe
Location: Winchester
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Only tanto from a broken jo.... Just whittled away to the basic shape then used a wood file and sanded down to definitive shape..... turned out allright....
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Old 01-17-2011, 05:57 AM   #4
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Finland
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Hello again.

It seems that the local shops selling woodstuff have really crappy selection for this use. They mostly have just typical building/furniture woods and not many tougher ones... One place had only red oak, which isn't going to help me much. Other place had some kind of special tree which is close to hickory. The name escapes me. That one would have been great for making training weapons but it costs around 3000€ per cubic meter so its way too much.

I thought i will try to look for some good maple and maybe birch. There's one special kind of birch found in north Finland which is extremely damage resistant and tough. It could be hard to find though.

I read from an Finnish Aikido forum that anything special enough is really hard to find here and/or very expensive.. It seems to be so.

Well, my search for suitable material continues and i'll keep you guys updated about my progres.

I read post from one guy who made bokken from finnish birch, he mentioned he made it just for fun and not real training, but he never mentioned how damage resistant the birch was etc... From what i know, slowly grown finnish birch is very tough, it's used as axe handles and for making various tools and in that use it's good for years. Ofcourse it doesnt take much direct damage when used as an axe handle.

I have one of those at home and that same birch handle has been in use for more than 20 years. It's still in good shape. But how would it work as training weapon, i'm not sure. Birch might be too hard and shatter. But then again it doesnt get any worse by time, it tightens a lot when dried slowly enough.

Damn, this showed to be harder thing to do than i thought. Decent birch at least is easier to find, the person in the other wood shop told that i'll find it few other wood retailers near by, maybe i'll pay those places a visit.
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:12 AM   #5
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 78
Finland
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Couple of things i forgot to mention, they did have oak, red oak and no idea where it came from and no idea about what specific species it is... So much about knowledge of these "professionals." Neither of the places i visited had any type of white oak. They knew about it, but didn't have any. And somehow i got a feeling they didn't take me too seriously. Both places asked what i need the wood for. It might sound funny to them to have somebody looking wood for wooden swords.

Anyway, i think i will try birch. I just talked with our guitarrist, he's quite pro in woodworks.(makes instruments etc.) He said that slowly grown dry birch might be good. At least from my experience the Finnish natural birch is quite hell to work with, at least its hard and strong wood.. And finns have all kind of stuff made from birch in everyday use and it's easy to get. If i'm really lucky i dont have to even buy it.
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:33 AM   #6
lbb
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Perfectly decent weapons are made from red oak. On the other hand, "red oak" is obviously a common name and could refer to different species in different countries. If you've got the skills and a good model to work from, you might as well get some red oak and have at it. Another thing to think about is that a decent bokken will last for a long time -- it's not as if you will be buying a new one every year (I'm still on my first white oak bokken).
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:32 AM   #7
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Perfectly decent weapons are made from red oak. On the other hand, "red oak" is obviously a common name and could refer to different species in different countries. If you've got the skills and a good model to work from, you might as well get some red oak and have at it. Another thing to think about is that a decent bokken will last for a long time -- it's not as if you will be buying a new one every year (I'm still on my first white oak bokken).
Yea, as i've read, some red oak bokkens are at par with japanese white oak... It depends so much. As far as i know, in finland there's at least few species of red oak, from which some are really tough and generally good wood for any item which needs a lot of damage resistance. Some red oak might be too hard and shatter.

Bad thing is that without further information, only way is to try. I wouldn't want to waste long working hours for a bokken which shatters at first strike.

I think i'm skilled enough in craftmanship when it comes to woodwork. Making instruments is careful operation and often times the soundboards are made from hardwoods and need hand crafting. So i think i'm very much able to make decent training weapons too. I can use our guitarrists powertools too if needed so problem now is the material.

I think i'll pay a visit to the larger wood retailer again. I did not ask about what kind of birch they have. At least i know they have red oak, which species and from where, no idea. It shouldn't be too expensive, and birch is even cheaper so it might suit my budget. At least the birch is traditional finnish material and good for any everyday item if it's a good sample. It's one of the best domestic hardwoods here and has value in building, any common tools and for heating. (It has the best heat value when burned from all domestic tree species here.)

somebody had an idea to post about my progress and take some pictures, i will do that. As soon as i find good material. Maybe i'll post pictures of how it goes and then video of testing when finished. I bet some people might be interested, not many here seem to make their own weapons.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:44 PM   #8
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Quote:
Lari Hammarberg wrote: View Post
Yea, as i've read, some red oak bokkens are at par with japanese white oak... It depends so much. As far as i know, in finland there's at least few species of red oak, from which some are really tough and generally good wood for any item which needs a lot of damage resistance. Some red oak might be too hard and shatter.

Bad thing is that without further information, only way is to try. I wouldn't want to waste long working hours for a bokken which shatters at first strike.

I think i'm skilled enough in craftmanship when it comes to woodwork. Making instruments is careful operation and often times the soundboards are made from hardwoods and need hand crafting. So i think i'm very much able to make decent training weapons too. I can use our guitarrists powertools too if needed so problem now is the material.

I think i'll pay a visit to the larger wood retailer again. I did not ask about what kind of birch they have. At least i know they have red oak, which species and from where, no idea. It shouldn't be too expensive, and birch is even cheaper so it might suit my budget. At least the birch is traditional finnish material and good for any everyday item if it's a good sample. It's one of the best domestic hardwoods here and has value in building, any common tools and for heating. (It has the best heat value when burned from all domestic tree species here.)

somebody had an idea to post about my progress and take some pictures, i will do that. As soon as i find good material. Maybe i'll post pictures of how it goes and then video of testing when finished. I bet some people might be interested, not many here seem to make their own weapons.
Dear lari,
Tanto making is easy enough. As far as a bokken is concerned time /money spent on buying raw materials in my opinion is not practical.You could probably get a ready made bokken for little cost.Nothing wrong either with Red Oak bokkens.
Try the finnish equivalent of Ebay?Might get a bargain.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 01-17-2011, 01:17 PM   #9
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

My sensei Garth Jones makes bokken sometimes and made my jo . Maybe he will find your thread and have some input for you. He knows an awful lot about making stuff out of wood.
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Old 01-17-2011, 01:30 PM   #10
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Finland
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Hello Joe, you may be right when it comes to some rare materials, usual oak or birch on the other hand are cheap. I'll have to find out more about the prices.

Hei Cherie. He does? Well, if he's registered here, maybe you can tip him about this thread, i would be very pleased to have somebody really experienced to help me out with this stuff.
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
lbb
Location: Massachusetts
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Quote:
Lari Hammarberg wrote: View Post
Hello Joe, you may be right when it comes to some rare materials, usual oak or birch on the other hand are cheap. I'll have to find out more about the prices.
More than the material costs, it's a question of what your time is worth. For most of us, the time spent crafting a bokken would be worth a lot more than the money saved. If, on the other hand, you're a skilled woodworker, or you just want to do it as a hobby, that's a very different matter. But bokken aren't that expensive, particularly considering how long they typically last, so for most of us, saving money wouldn't be a reason to make our own bokken.
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Old 01-18-2011, 12:07 PM   #12
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Finland
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

I havo no problem with, i'm unemployed at the moment and have plenty of spare time... Besides i like to challenge myself with new endeavours, i've made instruments, and that needs careful work, i bet i can craft a good bokken too.
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Old 01-18-2011, 12:10 PM   #13
Ellis Amdur
Location: Seattle
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Lari - Here's a simple test. Get a friend and take a Japanese bokuto out of kashi (evergreen oak) and in graduated increments clash it against your Finnish birch ax handle.
1. Which one dents?
2. Do the dents stay smooth, or do they "feather" - grain lifting up in splinters
3. Which one hurts your hands. Kashi is notable for the way it absorbs shock. Some other woods "ring" in the hands - this means that the shock is not absorbed by the wood.

Re Oak: Not so simple. I recently tested sessile oak (a very common European oak against a kashi bokuto). The sessile oak (also called English brown oak) felt unpleasant in the hands, and broke at about 40% impact. The kashi had no dents (it's lasted me over twenty years). American red oak and American white oak is lousy for weapons. American Live oak, from reports, would be great. Japanese kashi - there are five different varieties, some white, some red. Unfortunately, a fair amount of bokuto from Japan, are, in fact, a Taiwanese red oak, that is not nearly so strong.

Here's a link to my research on woods for Japanese weapons, to date: I would be very intrigued to find out some good woods in northern Europe as I have a training group in the Netherlands.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 01-18-2011 at 12:13 PM.

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Old 02-05-2011, 08:22 AM   #14
Lari Hammarberg
Dojo: Aikidoseura Asahi Lappeenranta Finland
Location: Imatra South Karelia
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Finland
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Lari - Here's a simple test. Get a friend and take a Japanese bokuto out of kashi (evergreen oak) and in graduated increments clash it against your Finnish birch ax handle.
1. Which one dents?
2. Do the dents stay smooth, or do they "feather" - grain lifting up in splinters
3. Which one hurts your hands. Kashi is notable for the way it absorbs shock. Some other woods "ring" in the hands - this means that the shock is not absorbed by the wood.

Re Oak: Not so simple. I recently tested sessile oak (a very common European oak against a kashi bokuto). The sessile oak (also called English brown oak) felt unpleasant in the hands, and broke at about 40% impact. The kashi had no dents (it's lasted me over twenty years). American red oak and American white oak is lousy for weapons. American Live oak, from reports, would be great. Japanese kashi - there are five different varieties, some white, some red. Unfortunately, a fair amount of bokuto from Japan, are, in fact, a Taiwanese red oak, that is not nearly so strong.

Here's a link to my research on woods for Japanese weapons, to date: I would be very intrigued to find out some good woods in northern Europe as I have a training group in the Netherlands.

Best
Ellis Amdur
Thanks for your input Ellis, very much appreciated... I will do this test. I know something about the hit absorbing abilities of different woods, (easy to notice with different drumsticks, how they feel/splinter etc.) and the birch/oak what ever samples i'm going to use(the ones i can get most easily at first i guess..) really need some testing. I'll ask my Sensei if he can help me out with it. He has some high quality bokkens which for sure can take a beating, i'll ask his help with the testing.

I havent been able to get woodstuff yet, sudden financial trouble in form or a car taz and a dog came so i'm short in money...

But the birch is something i really want to try out. If it can take the beating, it will save lot of money and trouble for me as it is rather easy to get.. Oh and thanks Ellis for the link to your study, i bookmarked it fo later.
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Old 02-05-2011, 09:19 AM   #15
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Re: Making your own bokken/tanto etc.

At my dojo, we have our jo locally made with courbaril. They're expensive, but they last. My best friend is an artist, and I asked her to carve the kanji for Muso Gonosuke on mine (it's also a nice way to tell it easily from the others). The poor thing worked hard.
By the way, how thick exactly is a jo supposed to be? Ours ar about an inch thick, because they are just cut from a already prepared staff. The factory actually makes furnitures. They agree to make our jo, but each student can choose the length of their weapon, but not the thickness.
So how heavy is a jo actually supposed to be?
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