months ago, I purchased an antique dha that is abundantly shown here. It made me think of the virtues of this blade as well as the way the sheath was constructed.
Then I came up with
a contemporary version of a blade based on the traditional one, though making some changes on the blade.
What I did was to adapt the design to a more contemporary language mixing styles and materials. My aim was and is for full effectiveness blended with simple beauty.

The new blade is a Hira-Zukuri, medium niku, made of 1065 steel, heath treated the Japanese way, with an extremely hair shaving sharp edge and 800 grit polish with a visible hamon and a round boshi.
9.5 inches tang with two holes.
The handle is in African black wood, of round section. It is to be epoxyed to the tang.
The "fuchi" flares out for finger protection, at 2 cm length while the "kashira", at 1 cm length, should be epoxyed to the end. Both should be made of stainless steel for good maintenance.

Here's a more detailed rendition of the blade.

Visible hamon etched, with a round boshi

The scabbard should be in a nice wood  with black diluted dye and lacquered with a matte finish. Black leather 2mm none braided cords should further reinforce the epoxyed halves. The kojiri should be in African black wood. Aim is to use it to hit the opponent. There is no habaki, as the koiguchi area should hold the blade well.
The leather cord wrap is due to the fact that the scabbard will be used as a sheathed weapon to block and hit, so it does need reinforcement.


This drawing-diagram is made to scale. The niku issue is indeed a very important issue considering that a hira-zukuri 35 mm wide could not be a plain triangle. Therefore I have divided the blade section into A which is perfectly straight, for about 10 mm. Section B is where the niku resides more, showing that for the next 15 mm the blade is gently curving in an elongated ogive. Finally C shows the remaining 10 mm finishing the curve and being straight for a fine cutting edge, reinforced enough.

This is a curly maple black wash dyed saya. Kojiri on the right.


This is the antique dha which I studied in terms of functionality. The 11 inches tsuka I have indicated will have very important role not only as a handle but as well as a striking source. Construction should therefore be very strong as well.

The 19th century dha. Note the handle's length proportion.
The rattan wrapped handle
The traditional woven rattan cord wrap on the scabbard.
This koiguchi relies on its section for strength View of blade and the primitive fuchi


I have been observing Nathan's work and have been exchanging some emails with him about some of his earlier work with a tanto that very much attracted my eye.
As correspondence developed and mutual exchange of correspondence became more frequent, so much as to find out that Nathan has family ties to Macau, I presented Nathan with the enquiry of accepting to make the Dha for me.

He indeed accepted and chose his favorite 1065 steel, and a lot of exchanges started concerning woods, leather cord for wrapping the saya, fittings, urethane varnish finish and other details.

Every time a session ended, Nathan would send me pictures of it.
So apart from betting in new smiths who I believe have great potential, it is great to share the enthusiasm and dedication that I have experience with Nathan.



This tanto picture that I believe Nathan posted about an year ago, or has sent to me, I do not recall, has drawn my attention.

At the time I was not aware of Nathan's credentials as a part-time smith, but this tanto grabbed my attention immediately because of the overall shape and the aikuchi koshirae with ito-maki.

This should be, if I am not mistaken, Nathan's first tanto fully mounted and even the sugata looked very nice to me, specially the kissaki shape.

Then, as we started conversing about the dha project, Nathan sent this knife picture to me and again the whole blade and wood handle impressed me very much.

There is a feeling in his works that do not show any beginner's deficiency or flaws that could occur in the stock removal process.

Instead, it shows a steady hand which denotes a well planned project, carefully finished.

At this point I was very much convinced of Nathan's abilities and was glad that he accepted to make the dha.

This beautiful knife attests on Nathan's quality as a smith.

He did this knife in 48 hours and it looks extremely nice and this confirmed my feeling on Nathan's ability with not only steel but with fittings as well as with picture taking.

It has all the components of a very viewable detailed picture.

These are pictures of Nathan's imaginative and workshop and forge.

Pictures of stock bar with the sword kissaki shown in the bottom bar.

Ground bar at an early stage.

The pictures top and below show a progressive stock removal of the blade.

As work progressed it is possible to view the post normalization of the sword in its clay coating.

The pictures show the post quench blade which turned a koshi-zori, something that I am fully comfortable with.

At a later stage Nathan sent a couple of pictures of the hamon. I asked him not to go further as though it is not a Japanese style blade, I have resisted the temptation to further the polish for the time being for it is mainly a working blade. Full polish can take place at a later stage, when the blade is retired. Nonetheless the hamon is very nice.

The blade looks very good and the hamon is very nice. The round boshi looks beautiful. A discreet hamon with a final polishing compound finish will make the blade have a matte finish.

Here is where I have asked Nathan to stop, at 800 grit. The blade is fully functional and now the mountings work can begin. Both pictures are of the boshi, taken at different times.


I have requested Nathan for a very sharp blade that could shave hair. Run your mouse over the image below.

I am fully aware that this is not an absolute necessity, but the 1075 steel used together with the blade heat treatment and the carefully planned geometry should keep the edge fairly well.


I chose stainless steel for the fittings which were a bit hard to make, but to my taste, Nathan fully succeeded. And I very much loved his N mark on brass inserted into the steel.

The steel ready to be worked. The fuchi should be flaring as can be seen in the next pictures.

Here we can see the blade inserted in the solid fuchi with the nice brass touch of the signature.

Here is a picture of a fully  side view of the blade with the fuchi flaring out from the African Black wood to be constructed next.
Being a custom piece, I find it very educative for me to make a review with the different views of the making of the blade and of the fittings.

At this time I am aware that this is becoming a very unique project for Nathan has informed me that he has been admitted to medical school. This will not, nonetheless, stop him from finishing this project.

African Blackwood handle with the shape drawn

The mei as it is fitted in the handle

Handle block epoxyed. The metal parts at each end are very visible.

Nathan carving handle.

Drilling the mekugi-ana. Nathan's approach on his workshop is incredibly pragmatic and ingenious.

I chose color 8 for the tiger maple scabbard.

Here is an example of the leather chord wrap that will reinforce the scabbard apart from it being epoxyed and lined with thin flannel soaked in mineral oil. This 5 cord wrap could be used for the koiguchi at 1.5 cm from the opening, tightly wrapped.

The tiger maple boards that Nathan ordered. They are thick because the first third of the koiguchi end will be round as a cilinder then changing to a flattened surface.

The blade's shape is been drawn on the board with the oil deposit.

Nathan carving one half of the scabbard.

Then lining was applied with glue. Once dried it will be soaked with mineral oil. The advantage of lining a scabbard is that it avoids scratching, it oils the blade and avoids rattling.

Here we can see the blade fit in the scabbard half. The handle is yet to be finished. Nathan is managing his time very wisely. First doing the rough work.
The interaction with Nathan has been top notch.

Below is a series of photographs that Nathan sent me on August 1, 2004. It shows the progressive refinement of the wood work on the handle and scabbard.

The following sequence was sent next and it illustrates the color tuning and matching.

Then the finished set very harmoniously done as can be seen below.

The end result as can be seen in all these pictures is a blade that is nicely blended with the wood scabbard that renders somehow a kind of subtle yet primitive and simultaneously refined look, something I cannot describe so well as I can feel.
As can be seen, there is a very subtle balance in the coloring of the handle and of the scabbard, much better than I have expected, in fact. Superb natural light photography.
Meantime I have invited Nathan to share his experience with this custom blade.

I donít recall the first moment that I realized my passion for swords and blades. Iíve had it as long as I can remember. Working with my hands has been a similar passion in my life, and making blades seemed to be a great union of my passions. I havenít had the time I would like to devote to the craft but, little by little, have made a few good projects.
When Antonio commissioned this project, I was very flattered by his offer and had to consider whether I was ready for something this advanced. We discussed some designs; and when he showed me the current design, I felt it was both very attractive and within the range of my current skill. I greatly admire his creativity and sense of design; so his commission, being my first, was a great honor.
From the beginning of our endeavor, I have made myself very easily accessible. I highly value Antonioís input toward the commission and have been highly communicative about materials, difficulties, and the stages of completion. We have shared the experience of the construction and become friends in the process. I hope we will have other successes in the future.
Another of my passions is improving the lives of other people. This passion has led to my career choice to become a physician. Unfortunately, this choice puts my blade smithing passion on hold; however, I am finishing my ďsetĒ on a pleasing note before my pause in blade smithing.

Nathan with the dha he made for me  

It is also very enriching to work long distance in a highly communicative way as Nathan and I have worked. Like all smiths I know, Nathan is modest and humble on his skills, considering that he made the sword, the fittings and carved the scabbard, finished it all in four consecutive week ends.
I am glad that my instinct was hundred percent correct. Though Nathan considers himself a begginer I do think a begginer will stutter and lacks technical skills which Nathan never showed.
I have very much enjoyed this joint project and rejoice for the fact that Nathan is entering medical school while I
'm saddened by the fact that he will, therefore interrupt his blade smithing.
Each blade smith is unique and incomparable, and I am very proud to own the first commission work by Nathan Creel, a superb and mature interpretation of my project.



The sword was received by me on August 19, 2004. It was very carefully packed in a thick tube.
The pictures already taken by Nathan portrayed the sword perfectly.
Handling the blade provides a feeling of extreme overall solidity, with and without the scabbard.
It is not as light as the original dha, it is in fact very robust with a substantial amount of niku to ensure that the edge does not chip or break. The polish is hybrid as requested and looks very good at its 800 grit.

The original dha and the new interpretation. I have handled it and everything is very solid. The custom-made scabbard could break some bones with a hit, so as the very solid  African Blackwood handle. The blade is thicker in the mune as compared to the antique dha and just by viewing it one can see it is much more powerful.

The scabbard is shown in a position where the swelling allows for a superb grip, and its overall strength in construction can be felt. Nathan understood my request. The sheathed sword becomes in itself a powerful weapon capable of causing severe traumatic damage. Once sheathed it is not easy for the sword to leave the scabbard. A correct pull must be performed.

The blade, due to its 35 mm width and 4.5 mm thick is like a cleaver and exudes far much more power than a machete. It seems like the hybridation of a machete and an axe. I am not at all concerned with the hybrid polish look. It does match the raw beauty of its fittings and the connection with the powers of nature.

This view shows the solidity of the ensemble and how it can become a variation of a short suburito . Although a look on the symmetry achieved by the flaring fuchi to the entire ensemble, and though some techniques have already been developed for this sword, its overall built and configuration almost leads to understanding how the techniques can be performed.
There is an intrinsic connection with the design, its aim at technique development is another field of ergonomics and body design-behavior as everything is interconnected. It is as perfect and devastating as it can possibly be. But it is mostly very beautiful to me.

© by A. Cejunior 2004.
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