Bob was in the process of figuring these out for some years, and seems to have nailed it
down fairly well. They did crack, every now and then, just to keep him humble. He used a
crack detector spray to avoid any flawed blades reaching a customer.
YAKIBA means flamed edge, or hardened edge when taken literally. On our offerings, this
means that there is a cutting edge with a RC 56 to 58 hardness, about 1/3 of the blade,
supported by the mass of the blade which is in the mid-40's of the same RC hardness range.
This gives a very high shock resistance and allows the blade to bend quite a bit before
getting damaged. (Remember the term "bend". Japanese blades do not have the
spring qualities of European types.) Best of all, it can be polished to a finish which
will reveal the hardened part of the edge in sharp contrast to the body of the knife. Bob
added a hardened area along the spine for several inches, either side of the guard
notches, to help reduce bending at the stress point where the grip joins the blade. A poor
cutting stroke often causes extreme stress in that part of the blade. Historical, or
sometimes, hysterical, writers have greatly exaggerated the cutting abilities of these
blades and some customers have been surprised to discover that they do not have magical
We offered quite a variety of patterns in the YAKIBA blades. All were authentic, copied
from Bob's collection of Japanese texts, which he cannot read. Thank goodness for detailed
photos. He also tackled full sized swords and pole arms right up to 30 inches in length on
the cutting edge. All blades are measured from the guard notch to tip, in a straight line.
Our illustrated offerings are by no means all that you could get and they show only a
single version of each form. Virtually any custom design of yours could be done with the
hardened edge patterns. Delivery on any Yakiba order may be as long as a year.
Properly polished, the unique hardened edge is the most striking feature
of the blade. No two will ever be exactly alike, and Bob admitted that there are often
some surprises when he checked how patterns worked out in hardening. (There were also some
that he threw right back in the stack to do over again.)
Steel - 1045-1050 with an edge hardness of RC 56 to 58. Body hardness is from RC 42 to 46.
Finish - flats of the Vee grind, 220 grit, back 120 grit, guard notches ground square,
cutting edge is belt sharpened (and dangerous).
Production - flat ground from new bar stock.
Hardening - individually clay coated to create the edge pattern, heated in a slot top
gas forge and water quenched.
Weight - A standard 29 inch blade of average width will weigh about two pounds, two
ounces. These are 34 mm high at the Machi and 24 mm at the Yokote.
Edge pattern - Notare is standard. We have a lot more control of the pattern on shorter
blades. With long blades. you pretty much have to take what you get. Tips generally have a
turnback, and there will be some small hard spots along the spine of the blade.
To figure Yakiba prices measure from tip to guard notch in a straight
line and times that by the price per inch. We do not offer fittings or sheaths for these
blades, but can make recommendations for reliable sources if needed.
You may order specially ground blades, soft or hardened, or have the blade you've made
hardened with a YAKIBA edge ( If it's the right kind of steel.) We are a service oriented
shop and will tackle any project that you want, assuming we feel that we are experienced
enough at the job to do it right.
HIRA ZUKURI style with MU ZORI, meaning no curvature on a plain, Vee ground blade. Edge
and spine might be parallel or there might be quite a taper towards the point. Ground
rather narrow and very thick, this would be an example of the traditional armor piercing
style, Yori Toshi. No, the clipped tips similar to swords were not for armor piercing.
About 95 % of all authentic antique Tanto were this style. Average was 11 inches, but
found from 7 to 13 inches.
HIRA ZUKURI with SORI, or some curvature. About the same sizes as #1 but more versatile in
that it could be used better in the slashing stroke. Normally ten or more inches long. At
eleven or twelve inches, they'll lay back along the forearm and cover the elbow for
martial arts practice. Both versions of the Vee ground blades were made in lengths that
qualified them as short swords, and occasionally as a full sword.
SHOBU ZUKURI appears to be double edged but isn't. Most had straight backs, but some
specimens show a slight curve. Not very large, about six to nine inches long. This style
was also made as either long or short swords and may be ordered in those lengths. They
make a terrific Daisho.
KEN is one of the oldest shapes with double edges, a rather broad point and the
distinctive wasp-waisted look. Antiques range from four inch daggers to full sized swords.
Sometimes seen with a strong banana curve. Can also be done with a distinct break at the
tip for the older, temple style blades.
KAMURI OTOSHI has the tip that gives it extra weight for a slashing stroke, and looks
absolutely great from the top where it flares out at the tip. Most were straight and from
ten to twelve inches long. Many variations in curvature, but hardly any taper in width. No
matter what you read in the ads, this is not the tip that Samurai used for piercing armor.
KO GARA SU looks somewhat like a modern bayonet, but dates way back. Some had a much
blunter tip and a few were curved. Occasionally seen as a really heavy blade. There are
many variations. The most attractive has a near straight back with more taper towards the
MORO HA meaning two edges. This one has a ton of variations. The grind
line may be straight or curved, and the back could be as you see, or straight. Size varied
from four to ten inches. Can also be done with the grind line crossing from side to side,
a striking variation. The oddest have a banana curve.
NAGINATA was a pole arm, from fourteen to twenty inches of
blade mounted on a six foot pole that could really clear a path in a crowd. This strongly
curved version with the heavy tip is from the later period of Japanese arms when this
style had become a peasants' or womans' weapon. Tangs were quite long. I make a few of
these up as really wicked Tanto. Irreverently referred to as a "hockey stick". I
also make a very non-traditional model of this blade as a wicked tanto with a short tang.
>BR>NAGINATA or NAGIMAKI, but in the earlier style,
with less curvature and not nearly so heavily weighted at the tip. Sometimes appears very
close to a sword blade. A few had tips resembling the KO GARA SU. These were longer than
the late ones, running from 16 to 30 inches. Originally used for cutting down mounted
cavalry. This pattern may also be ordered as a short or full sword.
YARI or spearpoint with a diamond cross section. This type ranged from four to twelve
inches. The illustration shows a rather broad version, where most are somewhat more
slender. We briefly offered the triangular type but came to our senses after making about
a dozen. They warped like crazy.
NINJA style blade, near perfectly straight with an abrupt chisel tip. From 14 to 24
inches, but can be made as a Tanto too, if needed. We cannot recommend using one of these
for a ladder as they suggest in the ninja manual.
KATANA or WAKAZASHI shape with the name depending on the length. Katana were over 24
inches. Slight curvature, either over the entire length, or more pronounced towards the
tang. Moderately long clipped tip for slashing. From 16 to 30 inches. Shorter blades are
scaled narrower and thinned for the proper balance. Many variations of weight, tip length,
width and taper are available.
CHISA KATANA was an indoor model, with a full sword cross section and weight. ( Normally,
short swords were quite a bit lighter in cross section and narrower.) Curve gave it good
slashing characteristic in cramped quarters, with the weight to make it effective. A
completely nasty item, sometimes referred to as a bodyguards' blade. Only royalty and
samurai could possess a classic, full length sword. Available in the NAGAMAKI grind shown,
the SHINOGI grind, like a regular sword, or the plain Vee grind, HIRA ZUKURI. All have the
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