Sunday, January 19, 2014

process behind process

This semester I am teaching a new course called Puppets and Tattoos. In this course we are making a form a of traditional japanese puppetry called karakuri. For this there are specific carving tools required. Often times when special tools are needed the craftsman themselves make them. This semester I will be making a pair of tools for each seat in the class so that is a total of 36. I thought I would let you guys in behind the scenes a bit on this process. It starts with raw tool steel stock seen below.
Tool steel
Tool steel is a lot harder than normal steel and takes some special care in its workings. It is harder so it holds a sharper edge when it is in use. Standard steel will dull very fast. So the first step is to cut the steel into its basic shape. This has to be done by hand. If the steel gets to hot it will weaken in its molecular composition and become brittle. In the professional industry they use a water jet or CNC machine to do the job so that it stays cool while being cut.

Hand cut to basic shape
After the basic shapes are cut out they will then be ground down to have their primary or major bevel placed on them. In the sharpening and honing process there is a 30 degree micro bevel added to the edge. Oddly enough this steel also creates a rather odd smell when it is cut. (For a specific description please see Dr Decker and some of the seniors who were out in the hall while I was cutting it.)

Main bevel added.
Here is a shot of the small blade with the primary bevel added, the sides have also been chamfered for comfort while in use. It doesnt look like much but creating one of these blades from start to finish takes about two hours. A big chunk of that time is in the sharpening and honing process which I will share in a future post. Once all the blades are done it will be time to make 36 handles. Hope you all enjoyed a little peak behind the curtain. For more shots of tool restoration and creation you can check out some recent posts HERE.


Earl Grey said...

Yep, that smell of cut steel seemed oddly familiar, despite its putridness. It reminded me of the years when Chris W. (class of '06) used the shop to cut all sorts of things he'd bring into the sculpture yard. . . :)

GC::VA said...

Oh man I can never forget walking in the building and it smelling so bad and going in to learn what bones smelled like being cut and sanded. Such a fun time!