Maintenance: One of the most important reasons
for a finish is to slow down the exchange of atmospheric
moisture but also to keep the wood clean and smooth. Wooden weapons are subject to many stresses and are handled often. While it is important to prevent drying of the wood, it is also important to use a finish that provides the correct degree of grip/slide for manueverability.
Oil Finish: The existing finish can be improved by regular
handling of the weapon and routine reapplication of Kingfisher Finish Oil which will give a feeling of control but
also allow the wood to slide somewhat through the hand. This is especially important for Jo and staff techniques.
In the Kingfisher shop, we use Teak oil initially. This acts as a conditioner and soaks deeply into the wood as it has a very low viscosity.
Weapons then receive differential treaments based on grade and color but all are ultimately finished with Kingfisher Finish Oil .
Hiking Sticks: Hiking sticks will need maintenance more often for protection from water and drying damage.
Finishing directions for weapons used in contact:
First of all, inspect your weapon for any damage. You will need to sand out any damaged areas and make a reasonable judgement to replace the weapon if there are cracks or any sign of splintering that could harm you or your partners. If you have a hand cut weapon which shows signs of impact damage, you might still need to use sandpaper. While a hand cut weapon was created without sandpaper and you will lose some of its character, hand cutting is not an option outside of the Kingfisher shop and careful sanding may be required. Use coarse sandpaper until all damaged wood is removed and proceed to medium and fine grit sandpaper.
If your weapon is just in need of light touch up, or if you have restored your weapon as described above, the final finish should be made with Kingfisher finish oil available as an accessory. Your weapon should be smooth and clean. Go over the weapon with the included fine sanding sponge if necessary (see note below). Tip bottle upside down a few times to mix contents. Apply finish with a paper towel in a very thin coat, let set overnight and then sand out lightly with the provided extra fine sanding sponge. Repeat the process once or twice. Don't overdo it!
note: There are two reasons to use the sanding sponge. Firstly, it should be used on a finished surface because it allows for a better bond with the subsequent finish. Secondly, it may be used to smooth out the final coat if the surface feels slightly rough. The sanding sponge is not intended to sand the wood. It adjusts the finished surface.
Reminder: ALL oil finishes absorb atmospheric oxygen to set, they don't really "dry" in the strict sense of the word. This process is exothermic meaning that the process gives off heat. You won't ever notice this unless you carelessly put a bunch of oily rags in the waste. You've heard of spontaneous combustion and this is its cause. Dispose of your oily paper towels and rags appropriately!
Contact In Paired Practice:
Due to its unique cellular structure, Appalachian hickory
is the toughest and most resilient material available
for wooden martial art practice equipment. While most
martial artists using wooden swords and staffs do not
engage in abusively heavy impact training (and hikers
using the Kingfisher Hiking Stick would rarely engage
in continual impact exercises), there are some important
considerations for those of you engaged in paired practice.
There are two considerations - shock strength and dent
resistance. In most materials, extreme hardness is associated
with brittleness. Hickory, while amongst the hardest domestic
American woods, is not as hard as some tropical woods.
It has, however, a much higher shock strength than practically
any wood and so it is not surprising that some harder
species, with higher density and hardness, would superficially
appear to be stronger but actually have a much lower overall
shock strength. The advantage of a very hard (but brittle)
weapon would be its resistance to denting but the drawback
is its lower shock strength.
The key consideration when comparing Appalachian Hickory
with tropical and exotic woods, including Japanese
White Oak, (which gets brittle over time) is
that there is nothing that can improve the shock strength
of a hard but brittle weapon but there is a procedure
to increase the surface hardness of an incredibly tough
wood like Appalachian Hickory by using a tempering or
work hardening method during the early life of the weapon
- a kind of "break in" period. This is known as "Running in ".
Method of "Running in a New Weapon": Preparing a bokken or jo for heavy impact takes some time, patience and control. Consider the outer layer of wood when the weapon is
used paired practice: If the weapon is used uncontrolled
and too aggressively at first - especially against very
hard materials - there is potential for more noticeable
denting. On the other hand, if it is subjected to slowly
increasing impact energies, the surface becomes progressively
compressed and thereby hardened with continuous striking.
If the weapon is used with precision and restraint until
the impact areas have been uniformly "hammered,"
as in the forging of steel, it will become a tempered
weapon. Over time, instead of having concentrated dents
in isolated areas of heavy contact, it will have a much
more subtle patina, only noticeable upon close inspection,
of an even compaction and the surface will be
hard and tough. This is the condition to be sought. Often
the weapon of an experienced practitioner will achieve
this state naturally. This is because at a high level of skill, the weapon is used in such a controlled method, using the
entire length, that the whole surface is evenly worked. Interestingly, a method of tempering wood is used routinely for willow wood cricket bats. Practitioners use a special mallet to carefully hammer in the surface to an even compressed surface. If a mallet or hammer is used on a bokken or jo, Kingfisher suggests using the side of a cylinder shaped object of about 2 1/2 diameter and a weight of about1 1/2 -2 lb. (like a carver's mallet). The round side will create even impact areas and the surface can be carefully worked. The entire surface should be hammered out with light impacts, then, it should be gone over with slightly greater impacts and so on!
An informative article and very good read on the practical
considerations of wood striking wood can be seen at this
link: Kim Taylor's "Bokken
Bashing". The main lesson from this humorous
but accurate essay is that all wood can be damaged if
hit hard enough. This is especially true of weapons that
have not been broken in properly. Your Kingfisher sword
or staff, made of Appalachian Hickory is unlikely to fail in
any case, but the user is cautioned to exercise good judgment
and replace the weapon if obvious damage is evident.
Moisture and Warpage: Try
to minimize this product's exposure to large changes in
humidity; for example, don't leave it in the hot sun,
don't rest it near a hot woodstove, don't lay it down
in wet grass etc. All wood is subject to constant cyclical
exchange of atmospheric moisture which tends to expand
and contract the fibers. This exchange is responsible
for movement and can result in warpage, especially when
long slender items like this are shipped to areas with
different climactic conditions. Warpage is usually permanent
in hardwoods. Kingfisher Appalachian Hickory, however,
has a unique cellular structure that allows for relatively
easy straightening. Sight down the weapon, rest one end
on the floor as shown and over bend in the opposite direction
of the warpage. Note: if you find
that moderate pressure is not enough to straighten the
weapon, use more leverage and check for straightness again-
repeat if necessary. Do not worry, you will not break
the hickory! Sometimes it takes a large force to over-bend
the weapon and relieve internal stresses in the wood that
cause the warp. If you use other methods to bend the wood
(like wedging it in a tree crotch or standing on it, just
make sure that the ends are constrained in a relatively
soft support, like pine wood blocks so that you don't
unnecessarily dent the wood at pressure points.
When we adjust wood here in the shop, we often use a rather stout vise (with soft pine wood jaws) to hold the end of the bokken and then simply over bend the bokken in the opposite direction as the warp. Since you will probably not have access to a heavy woodworking vise, it might take a little bit of imagination to find a rigid fixture that will hold the sword. One thing to remember is to find soft wood pads or something similar to firmly hold one end while applying the bending force. Any firmly anchored hold will work. We have an area in the shop with a hole in the foundation that we've lined with soft wood pads and we can easily slide the end of the bokken down into the hole to the desired depth and apply straightening force. Another idea is a crotch in a tree. Another idea is to set the bokken sideways on 2 large wooden blocks supporting each end and then kneel on the bokken with a springing action to over bend. - I'm sure you get the idea! Remember that you will need to over bend to a greater degree than the warp - take a look by sighting down the weapon and checking and repeat if necessary or re- adjust if you've bent it too far. Contact Kingfisher if you have difficulty.
We'll be happy to adjust it here and we will replace the
weapon if it cannot be straightened.