Making a saya for a Takeda gyuto

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Senior Member
Mar 6, 2011
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Been a while since I posted anything but have had a few days off work and have been able to get into the workshop.

Making a saya is quite straight forward, just needs a bit of effort in preparing the stock, and then plenty of trial fits.

Started off with a piece of reclaimed Teak, looks a bit scrappy now but there's some good timber inside


Saw off a piece about 15mm wider than the knife and a bit longer


Next stage is to rip it in two. A bandsaw comes in handy here, but before I had one I made do with a handsaw and a bit of effort. I aim for one piece 12mm thick and one 8mm thick.


Helps to label the two inside faces for when it comes to gluing them back together. Then trace around the profile of the knife on the thicker of the two pieces. Extending the line of the edge all the way to the end of the board


Now to hollowing out a recess for the knife. I find a shallow gouge across the grain works best for this, having cut down along the line for the spine with a knife.
Being Teak it was hard on the edges of the tools so I kept the stones and the strop close by


I find forming a recess in just the one side easier as you only have to do one side... keep chiselling out the waste until the knife sits flush within the recess. If you are aiming for a friction fit, which I am, you need to take off just enough that the knife will fit snugly.
This is just about there


Up till I've got the recess almost formed I keep the boards square as it's easier to clamp and hold the stock. Now though it's time to roughly trim the profile to match the knife
Clamping the 2 pieces back together let's you check the fit


The knife should slide in easily until about the last inch when it gradually tightens


And locks in when fully inserted. If it's too tight now then, out of the clamps and adjust the recess. Think I was in and out of the clamps about 10 times on this one just edging up to the right tightness


Once you're happy with the fit it's time to glue up. Where you only have about 6mm all around the edge in contact it's a quicker job to get the two faces to meet as closely as possible. You want the glue line to almost disappear so worth spending time lapping the edges on some sandpaper glued down on something flat.
This will tighten up the fit slightly, so clamp up again and test the fit, if you were too loose before it may now be right, otherwise may need a bit more chisel work.

Then glue and clamp. You can just see the glue line...


Now comes to the shaping. I like to use a plane at first, less noise and dust than just jumping straight to the sander.
I taper each side in turn trying to keep symmetry, and even out any difference in wall thickness for each side.


Getting there and the wood is looking less scrappy. Planing Teak is tough though as the grain reverses and is prone to tear out even with a sharp iron


After planing I will go over with a power sander and then move to hand sanding

I took this to 1k to really smooth it out

Then apply some homebrew wax
At this point I cut out a decorative curve at the back, being careful not to go too far and expose the blade. Still not sure if easier to do this now or earlier in the process. Keeping the back square does help with clamping whilst planing and sanding though.


and finished


The shaping helps hide the glue line, and if the saw kerf was thin enough the grain will still match helping it look like one piece of wood.

Finished Teak wood looks lovely... :)

At this point I cut out a decorative curve at the back...
and finished

View attachment 36674

The shaping helps hide the glue line, and if the saw kerf was thin enough the grain will still match helping it look like one piece of wood.


Thanks for posting,
Superb cool WIP! I love teak for its oily, warmth feeling, great choice!
Great job, if you want more odd things to try on and you are in London I wouldn't mind getting some more sayas made
Impressive. Nice pants for the Takeda, it matches up really well with the handle and bolster.
Thanks for showing the steps,
Thanks for detailing the process with words and photos. The end result is very nice indeed. Teak looks great though I've heeded the warnings of the difficulties it presents so I won't be using it for my first saya project.