View Full Version : New - Yanagi-ba WIP by Stacy Apelt

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01-30-2012, 01:16 PM
I messed up on the other thread and the photos did not show up. Hopefully I will get it right this time.

Yanagi-ba - WIP - A kitchen knife being made for me by Stacy Apelt

Stacy Apelt is a Bladesmith I have known for several years on one of the other knife forums.
A while back I had posted a photo of a piece of fiddleback koa I thought was too pretty to use.
He suggested using it as handle material on a Yanagi-ba.

This is the knife as it is being made with comments and photos by Stacy.
Bear in mind that a lot of his comments are aimed at other knife makers with limited knowledge of Japanese knives.

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Stacy Apelt - WIP - Yanagi-ba

This project is a smaller Yanagi style blade for general kitchen slicing chores.
Yanagi means “willow” in Japanese, so a yanagi-ba is a “willow blade knife”. This describes its long, slender shape with a pointed tip.

The project will entail making the blade form a san-mai billet with a center core of 52100, and outer segments of 1095 and pure nickel damascus.
The blade will end up about 1.25” wide and have an edge length of 7”. The handle will be 5” long.

The blade will be single bevel “Chisel Grind“, or Kata-kiri-ha .
The back will be ground in a shallow hollow grind, and the front a single bevel rising half way up the side. I will do almost all the shaping by stock reduction.

The handle will be an assembled two-tone octagon shape. More on that later.

Lets get started:
The billet was a bit too narrow for this project, so I pulled down the edge a bit to widen it. While the forge was on, I drew out the tang and roughed in the bevels and distal taper. This could have been cut from a wider billet without forging.

Photos of the forging


The basic profile was roughed in on the grinder, using a 60 grit Blue Zirconia belt. These belts will really hog steel, but also leave a surprisingly smooth surface.
The tip is placed about the center line. The bevel is only roughly ground to set the angles.

The back will need to be hollow ground. I would normally do this on a 48” radius platen, but later on I will show a trick on making a larger radius with a smaller wheel.

I shaped the tang to a taper, then refined all grinds with the same 60 grit belt. This is where we will stop grinding. The rest will be by hand.

I etched the blade to show the pattern. The surface is 60 grit right now.


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01-30-2012, 01:20 PM
OK, got some work done:
The blade is just out of the tempering oven (that is why it is dark and blue).
I will do the hollow back grind on a 6" wheel with a 120 grit blue zircon belt. By tipping the blade about 20° from a normal 6" hollow grind, you increase the grind to about the equivalent of a 48" wheel.
I will; start with a centered normal hollow grind. Then I will re-do the grind at an angle, to widen the grind.

Flat grind parallel to wheel
Hollow grind at 90° to 6" wheel
wider grind at an angle
Start hollow grind with a stop to set beginning
48" hollow grind done at about 70° ( 20° from perpendicular)


Second photo is the grind being checked with my 48" curved platen

In the first shot, I put a 14" hollow grind on the edge. This will aid in the later shaping of the edge. It will be polished away as the edge is worked down on the waterstones.


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01-30-2012, 01:26 PM
Starting the togi. - The shaping and sharpening are one continuous process in togi. The waterstones are used over a "pond" and they are constantly kept wet. At every stone change, the pond and everything is washed to prevent grit contamination.

Foundation polishing - this is where the flat surfaces are established on stones from 220 grit to 1200 grit.

Edge hollow grind almost polished flat at 1000 grit ( notice that there are only two small "pools" of hollow left)


Back is done
Edge getting almost sharp ( see the few tiny flat spots sparkle in the light)
Nearly done at 1200 grit
3000 grit stone - at this point, you have to be careful. One slip and the very sharp blade in your fingers can remove one of them.


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01-30-2012, 01:28 PM
OK, the togi is done.
Shots of the blade as it is now, and of the stones after cleaning things up. Stones are from 220 grit to 4000 grit.

I will do a little hand polishing of the flats, but the blade is pretty near done.

It is screaming sharp.

Next, we will start the handle........more to come soon.


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01-30-2012, 01:47 PM
Please let me know if the photos are showing up in this thread.
I asked Dave to delete the other one.
Thanks, Mark

01-30-2012, 02:01 PM
Yep i can see the photos! Fun project! :)

Any photo of the wood for the handle?

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01-30-2012, 02:09 PM
Yep i can see the photos! Fun project! :)

Any photo of the wood for the handle?

If all goes well it will be this piece.

01-30-2012, 02:34 PM
Seems like a curious first take on a yanagiba-like knife. It would be interesting to see the final construction of this knife up close and how it would sharpen over time. At least the cladding is hardenable. What are the final hardnesses of the core and the cladding going to be?

01-30-2012, 02:51 PM
Did he wipe out most of the hollow on the back side when sharpening it? It looks like the sharpening scratches cover a lot of the ura (concave side), while what Jon told me is that you should only really see a thin line on the spine and edge of the knife that's been sharpened. Maybe he could grind the ura back in or I might not be seeing the right thing.

01-30-2012, 02:54 PM
That's true but none of it matters if he didn't solve the sanmai problem.

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01-30-2012, 03:56 PM
I do not know the answers to the questions you guys are asking.
I will post more as it moves along and we will see how it turns out.

01-30-2012, 04:02 PM
What made you finally decide to use the block you decided was too nice to use Mark?

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01-30-2012, 04:09 PM
What made you finally decide to use the block you decided was too nice to use Mark?

My wife made a comment about how many pieces were on a shelf at home.
Sure, she was the one that wanted to keep most of them. But I'm the one that gets called a wood hoarder.
She meant it good naturedly but I haven't stashed any pieces for myself since then.

Plus.......things keep changing.
As soon as I say a piece is the best I have ever seen, something else comes along.

Eamon Burke
01-30-2012, 04:12 PM
I say leave it in the ground or make something out of it. Glad to see it's being used!

01-30-2012, 04:35 PM
Not sure where the 52100 is, in post 4 it's not showing up in the pics and the layers of Nickel seem to extend all the way to the edge.
Agree with Heirkb, after putting the ura in with the grinder it seems to have been nearly taken out again on the stones

That wood is stunning though.........

01-30-2012, 07:15 PM
[QUOTE=TB_London;76788]Not sure where the 52100 is, in post 4 it's not showing up in the pics and the layers of Nickel seem to extend all the way to the edge./QUOTE]

This is what TK was talking about in his post. Even though this is supposed to be a san mai knife, the outer layers extend all the way to the edge. The point of san mai (from what I understand) is so that you can have a hard core steel that is supported by softer outer steel so that it is not brittle. If the core steel is not exposed at the edge, then there is no point in doing san mai. Maybe others can add more.

As for what I was saying...the back side of Japanese single bevled knives has a slight hollow to it so that when you sharpen it, the stone only leaves scratches in a thin line along the spine, edge, and tip of the knife. The middle of the hollowed back remains untouched by stones. In this case, it looks like the stones have flattened out nearly half of the hollow grind (see pictures 3 or 6 on the second post).

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02-14-2012, 02:52 PM
It looks like the knife is complete and on it's way.
Looks really good to me. I will take more photos when it arrives.


02-14-2012, 03:05 PM
EEEKKK! Glass cutting board!

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02-14-2012, 03:37 PM
EEEKKK! Glass cutting board!
I knew that was coming.

Eamon Burke
02-14-2012, 03:48 PM
Looks like the handle is going to look sweet with that cladding. Can't wait for better pics!

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02-14-2012, 03:53 PM
As soon as it arrives I will take more photos.
The knife veers away from the traditional a bit but I think I will really like it.

Just some advanced warning, my knife photography skills are a bit challenged.