Real Steel has been around for over two years and 24 installments. Although I’ve done my best to act on suggestions, I haven’t been able to get to them all. In part, this is because I have received so many suggestions, and also because I have the practical matter of Real Steel projects needing to fit in with what I have going on in the shop.
So this time I’ll make sure I create what the kobolds ask for. Here are some projects I’d like to try. Simply vote for the one you’d most like to see. And if you like, add some suggestions about where you’d like to see the project go. Whichever weapon receives the most votes gets made, and I’ll video document the whole thing from start to finish; forging, grinding, heat treating, hafting, and testing—you will see it all.
The tetsu-ken, or tekkan, is a little-known swordlike weapon from feudal Japan. The originals were mostly wakizashi-sized and appeared to be a wakizashi, but were made of iron rather than steel and had no edge.
In the past, we covered forge welding as it relates to Damascus steel here. But forge welding can be used to stick hot steel together in lots of different ways. San Mai is a Japanese technique now in widespread use in Japanese style and non-Japanese style knives. It translates to “three layers.”
Gimme the Steel Sammich, Extra Flux, Hold the Fries
San Mai steel is three layers forge welded together. The two outer layers are of the same type and often referred to as the jacket (bread) and the middle layer is referred to as the core (meat). Like Damascus steel, I make San Mai by MIG welding the layers together at the corners (this layered bar is called a billet) and welding a steel bar to the billet for ease of handling without tongs during the forging and forge welding process. Unlike Damascus, San Mai is not folded.
The manrikigusari, or 10,000 powers chain, also called the ryofundogusari, or double weighted chain, is yet another obscure Japanese weapon. The story about its origins that I like best is that the samurai who guarded Edo castle were forbidden from spilling blood, and so they set aside their usual weapons in favor of this unusual but effective weapon. The same story tells us that this is a modification of the kusarigama, or sickle and chain, with the sickle removed to create a weapon with no blade. I’m not certain I buy that because the kusarigama is Okinawan, and the samurai were not fans of the Okinawans.
Concealable and Versatile
This is perhaps the most effective flexible weapon I’m aware of, being not so long as to make it impossible to control, but long enough to create considerable reach. There are no rules, but a typical gusari is between 18 and 36 inches, with 20–24 inches being fairly typical. It’s quite versatile and can be used for strikes, chokes, traps, and throws. It’s also very small and concealable. One favored technique is to hold the coiled chain in one hand and throw one weight while holding on to the other.
Although not impossible to control, this weapon is very difficult to learn and use effectively.