Making a handle for a Japanese hammer
About a year ago this stunning Masayuki hammer head arrived - just before I left for Westonbirt. While I was in England, I picked up a small boxwood branch with the intent to use it to handle this hammer. I squared it up and set it on my bench to let it dry out. You can likely see it in the background of many of the photos over the last year.
I grew tired of waiting and decided to begin. I followed So’s advise (from his excellent website) for the traditional method of handling a hammer. You can follow it here - click on “hammers” on the left hand side and then scroll down to the third last entry titled Quince and Gumi handle.
I prepared the blank in a similar manner, took a deep breath and started. What makes this process so amazing is the mechanics of it. The mortise through the hammer head does not have parallel edges - they curve inward slightly in the middle and then outward again towards the top. The prepared end of the handle is made to the same size as the opening of the mortise and then each day, the head is pounded in aprox. 1mm. The curved edges of the mortise compress the wood fibers - hence the week long process. Once the handle is past the narrowest point, oil is added to the exposed wood at the top to re-expand the wood as the mortise opens up. This locks it in place and eliminating the need for wedges.
Here is a shot of the 1mm marks on the handle.
The hammer is now done and I have to say - it is an amazing tool to use. The weight is wonderful. The handle is quite thin when compared to Western style handles - but this one feels quite amazing... I am sure the boxwood is playing a role in this.