How to Make a Tsuba for a Wooden Bokken

Introduction: How to Make a Tsuba for a Wooden Bokken

This is a how-to guide that I made when constructing my own wooden bokken. I read a great how-to on this site, but it didnt show me how to make the Tsuba(or guard) So I had to make one up myself.
For the Sword how-to, the link is here:
I will also make a sword guide similar to TTF's method in the future

Step 1: Making the Notch

For the tsuba to fit into the handle nicely, you must first construct a notch. This can be done with a dremel tool, or by had with a chisel.

The first step is to mark where the notch will be on the bokken. If the bokken is katana length, use 4 hand over hand measures. Wakizashi, 2 and a half. Tanto, one and a half. Judge the hand method to the length of the sword.

The second step is to take your handle material(any kind of wood is ok. But it must be 1/4" or larger. Anything thinner will break.) and trace the outline on the bokken.

Afterwards, take your chisel or dremel tool, and cut out between the markings. using a wood rasp also works.

Step 2: Cutting the Tsuba

Next, you have to cut the material for the tsuba. I myself used Oak Screen Moulding, which is 1/4" thick, and has one rounded corner. Measure out the length you want the tsuba to be, and make sure its a bit larger, and cut it. place the cut piece onto the rest of the stock, then mark and cut.

Step 3: Measure the Notch Length

Place the cut piece along the notch. Then mark the area from the inside of the notch to the outside of the bokken. Once you mark the first piece, take both pieces together, and place the bokken cross-section in the center and mark a square around it.

Step 4: Cutting the Tsuba

Now that the two Tsuba pieces are marked, you can now cut them. Take the two pieces and clamp them in a vise. make sure that they are even on the longer side. Now take a backsaw, and cut the inside of the marking line. Do not cut on the line, this is percise work and cutting on the line can ruin your Tsuba. After the first 2 cuts, make several cuts in 1/4" increments from one side to the other.

Step 5: Remove the Waste

Take a chisel, and GENTILY, remove the waste in a diagonal motion. Doing so will eliminate any splitting along the back of the tsuba. Once you safely remove the waste bits, take the Rasp, and smooth out the cut lines.

Step 6: Test Fit the Tsuba

Take both halves and fit it into the notch. They probably wont fits the first time, but just keep rasping the sides and edges to make it fit the notch.

Step 7: Sanding the Edges

Take the two pieces, and match up the inner cut. When they are lined up square, mark each side with a pencil to see where they match up in the end. once you have each side marked, then you can begin sanding them down to make them equal. then you can sand the edges to round them off if you want.

Step 8: Gluing and Finishing

When you finish sanding, apply wood glue to the inner surface of the Tsuba. Then fit it to the bokken. Do not use clamps, as they mess with the final placement. before the glue sets, make sure the angle and placement is straight. Once the glue dries, take the Tsuba to the sander once more, to get the rounded edges to match each side. Before applying finish, make sure to remove all the glue from the Bokken and the Tsuba.

Step 9: Dedication

I want to dedicate these swords to two people.

The Maple Wakizashi is dedicated to my math teacher/Sensei, Mr. Stephen Moses. He helped me achieve the highest mark in math I ever got, and he helped me on my way to becoming a swordsmith, by teaching me the ways of the blade.

The Oak/Fir composite Katana I have dedicated to my buddy Joel, who has taught me to be proud of my carrer choice as a cabinet maker. And he's always helped me to stay happy.



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    15 Discussions

    those are some pretty close up pics; i thought the tsuba halves were about a foot long until I saw your thumb in one of them!!!!!!  =|8)  (man with a top hat on)

    I can tell you don't practice with a ken (Japanese term for sword) because you put "wooden bokken", bo means wood in Japanese and ken of course means sword so that is a redundant statement but other then that nice job

    2 replies

    I do in fact practice with boken. Kata most of the time, but I merely wrote wooden bokken, for some folks don't know what "bokken" means, and it slipped my mind. By the way, I have made some very high quality bokken which I will post later

    i don't know wether you train a martial art where bokken is used. i'm not trying to disapprove your work, but your bokken and shoto (or wakizashi) look too straight, and you would be needing the curve, for kendo and iaido at least, since several katas rely heavily on upper curve slide thrust. do you have a regular bokken at home? use it next time as a stencil.... all being said and done, it looks nicely crafted, just as long as you use it properly (i.e. hang it on the wall)

    3 replies

    I might also add that my Iwama style bokuto for Aikido is almost entirely straight and has no point on the end. It gets a lot of strange looks. My "standard: bokuto has a lot of curve to it, and my Bugei katana has somewhere in between, if not on the curvy side. There's a lot of different styles of bokuto, so it's interesting to see what other people are using.

    They are actually curved to the specific curve of a Yagyu bokken, the picture is just a trick of the eye. Ill get a more accurate picture up soon. This method for Tsuba's is more of an ornamental thing. They can take a beating, but only for so long. And I have trianed in kendo and Iaido under Stephen Moses

    please do post them, from this angle they look pretty much straight. one other thins, i've seen some time ago the bokken instructable (two color one) which i saw you used to make yours. how strong has it shown up to be??? i thought of making it as well, but i didn't know if it was worth the trouble, since im not that versed in woodwork

    when i see this, i have a feeling it might feel awkward moving from this bokken to a metal sword, just because of weight alone. Also take into consideration tsuka thickness. Or maybe its just me. Anyways, the resemblance to a real katana is remarkable. good job. does anyone know how to wrap a tsuka?

    2 replies

    Criticizm accepted. Normally thats what I would have done(if you look closly at the oak-fir compositem you can see the little notch you described)but I couldnt get the mortise right. THAT, and I didnt have any prope Tsuba material at the time.

    Please see pictures is steps 6 and 8 in the bokken instructable you linked to. The original, store bought bokken, on the left has a small notch where the handle ends and the blade starts. A proper tsuba is not glued to the bokken. Instead it is slid over the blade towards the handle until the notch stops it. The white band in step 11 is there to keep the tsuba from flying off when the bokken is used. The band is a round piece of slightly elastic material with a hole that is slightly smaller than the outer diameter of the blade. It can be made of rubber or leather, for example.