Part 2 How to Grind and prepare the blade
Shaping and contouring the blade: You have successfully completed a blade blank as per part one of the instructions. The blank can now be shaped with a hacksaw and contoured by hand using files or Japanese style shavers. The most effective tool for this purpose however is a small disk grinder. Bench grinders are affected by a vibration when grinding swords that tears up wheels and bearings. Moving the sword is more awkward than moving the grinder so it is much more efficient to get a disk style grinder.
The first task is to measure out the the final outline of the blade and mark it. Ergonomically speaking the main limitation to the travel of the sword is the ground at the wielders feet, so I usually put the end of the blank on the ground and grab it firmly as I stand. I then subtract 2 inches for clearance and mark the position of the guard. This gives you a sword that is two inches shorter than the distance between your clenched fist and the ground. This proportion seems to move right with the person. A tapered blade works far better than a straight blade, so mark the center of the tip end and mark an inch in either direction. This gives you a 2 inch wide tip. Then using a straight edge mark a line from the edge at the guard to the tip at the mark made at one inch from center. Do this to both edges on both edges and on both sides of the blank. Use a chisel to go over the marks that you finally decide on as your chalk marks will melt before your work is completed. Either cut along this tapered line on both sides with a hacksaw or grind away the unwanted material with a disk grinder. Use the disk grinder in broad sweeps not like a plow. Frequently cool the blade with a wet rag. Harmonic vibrations will hamper the grinding at the ends of the blade when using one vice. If possible a second vice or C clamp can help stabilize a lively blade or simply have patience and wait for the harmonics to subside between grinder strokes. Leave the tip square and move to the tang. Grasp the blank on the grip side of the guard line and with the other hand below that. Move the first hand down giving a three hand grip, add one inch mark and cut. The tang itself is the weakest part of the sword. If the tang is not made very carefully the sword will break at the tang. Follow each step carefully and take NO shortcuts. The point where the tang enters the guard is critical, no heat must be applied to this area ever. Never cut tangs with a cutting torch. The following technique seems tedious but follow it carefully and you will be able to trust your life to the end product. First take a file and remove one sixteenth of an inch of metal from each side of the blank at the point where the guard is to go. No more than one sixteenth of an inch. Next take a disk grinder or file and remove the edge sixteenth of an inch from the rest of the tang to the pommel end. This wide tang must then be tapered ever so slightly. As an example, if your blank is three inches wide then your tang will be two and seven eighths inches wide at the shoulder where the guard sits and two and three quarters wide at the pommel. The remaining material will be removed at a later time. The tang is then put into a vice that is mounted on the end of a bench and the tip of the blade is allowed to touch the bench or a block is placed under the tip. The blank is is flat in relation to the top of the bench not on edge. The actual grinding of the blade is easy if you take long sweeps with the disk grinder and don’t try to remove material by force, let the weight of the tool do the work and take your time. Frequent cooling of the blade with a wet rag and and turning the blade over. Don’t try to a hollow ground blade as they are worthless on a sword. The best edge for a war sword is a parabolic curve. The samurai sword was stroked on a stone for one hundred strokes, one degree form flat then ninety nine stokes at two degrees and so on until a single deft stroke at forty five degrees. Leave lots of material to be removed later by hand at a later stage and move to the point. Put the blank point up in the vise and grind away. Be careful not to overdue the point. Do not allow the blade to get sharp at this stage as there is a lot of handling left. You now have a blade!
Part 3: Hard fitting the guard:
The blade that you made following the instructions in parts one and two has a wide tang with a shallow shoulder to receive the guard. The guard described here is a basic cross hilt that was the most common guard through most of history in one form or another. We start with a piece of steel (never use brass or soft metal) and six tools; a drill a hacksaw, a large half round file (from welding supply shop), a small cold chisel and a small machinists file. The best size for guard stock is three quarters by one half and following the ergonomic formula used so far the length of the guard should be two hands and one thumb, so grip the stock tightly with both hands, add one inch and cut. The first step is to drill a row of holes in the center of the guard. The easiest way to blow it is with the drill. What you want to achieve here is a slot that the file will fit into. This slot must be narrower in both dimensions than the tang and and slowly fit with a file. So use a drill bit that is smaller than the width of the tang. To keep the holes straight mark a line with a cold chisel and then a punch. Make absolutely certain that the widths of the slot at this stage is at least a half an inch smaller than the width of the tang as material will be removed later to center the groove. Once the holes are drilled use a small chisel to cut the metal from between the holes. Again have patience and only remove enough material to get the file into the hole. If necessary file the chisel’s edge to one side to do the last cuts. In a pinch the chisel can do the work and the drill can be omitted. It is fairly easy to file the little balls on the ends of the guard leaving a substantial block around the slot in the center. If desired bend the arms in a slight curve. Use an angle or T square to measure the distance between the end of the guard and the end of the slot. File until even. Next comes the process called hard fitting. The slot is filled evenly on both sides till the guard can be slid with moderate force to within a half an inch of the shoulder. At that time the shoulders are filed absolutely even and heavy hammer blows used to force the guard onto the shoulder. A stout piece of steel can be used as a drift by placing it on each side of the tang and hitting it rather than the guard. Once the guard is firmly in place in should have no play whatsoever. The next stage is very delicate. With a file another shoulder is cut below the guard. Leave the tang full width for one sixteenth of an inch then file into the tang for one sixteenth of an inch to produce a square shoulder on each side of the tang. In a simple operation put the sword in a vice, tang up. Take a chisel and put it in the corner on top of the shoulder against the tang. Strike down separating the shoulder from the tang leaving a small standing block. Split the block from side to side with one more stroke of the chisel turned parallel to the side of the blade. The resulting two small chunks of metal are then pounded down onto the guard by laying the side of the chisel onto them and hitting it. The effect should be a lot like the claws holding a jewel onto a ring setting. Repeat on both sides. This simple but tedious method will produce a guard that will stay put. When struck with hammers it should ring with a pure note entirely without buzzing. The hammer tight fit and claw keepers help keep the guard in place when subject to extreme force. After all extreme force is what a sword is all about. Combined with extreme skill a more martial are has never been conceived but I digress. The tang remains too wide for yet another step but it is not hard to call this thing a sword.