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Thread: Laser-cutting a zinc/aluminum blade

  1. #1
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    Default Laser-cutting a zinc/aluminum blade

    Greetings!

    I've found myself employed as a CnC-operator at a local company. This company specialises in laser-cutting and/or branding using a variety of machines. I have the machine and facilities to brand my iaito-blade with, for instance, a Kanji which is what I'm planning right now. (just the Kanji for "iai").

    What I dont know is how a laser-cut will affect the zinc/aluminum. My co-workers havent got much experience working with this particular alloy (neither do I) and they didnt want to risk ruining the blade without some more information. Another thing that is a bit of a joker in the deck is the fact that the blade seems to have a layer of chrome on it which might stain the blade if cut.

    Is there anyone here with experience in laser-cutting on a zinc/aluminum blade that could share some information? Any at all would be helpful. (like what to avoid and so on).

    Thanks in advance.

    *edit*

    For those who are curious, here is an example of what a CnC-laser can do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ4uhuo42Lc
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    Iaito are indeed chrome plated to make it look like an art polished katana.

    I wouldn't do it, for 2 reasons.

    One, Iaito are already quite thin, and you'd be removing material.

    Two, swords with engravings are usually looked down upon as traditionally the engraving was to hide a flaw.

    Also I think the Iai character on a blade is a bit like kanji tattoos on a westerner, but thats juts a preference of taste.

    If I had that kit though I _would_ be thinking what I could do with the tsuba ;-)
    Jim Boone

    Flick Lives!

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    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    Iaito are indeed chrome plated to make it look like an art polished katana.

    I wouldn't do it, for 2 reasons.

    One, Iaito are already quite thin, and you'd be removing material.
    No need to worry. Our laser is very good at peeling off extremly thin layers and it wont require many layers to make a good inscription.

    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    Two, swords with engravings are usually looked down upon as traditionally the engraving was to hide a flaw.
    That is good advice. Fortunetely I dont move in the major international Iaido-crowd, (we are just a local iai-community), and my Sensei has already given me his approval. Besides its just a 200 sword not a Tokugawa Family Heirloom anyways hehe .


    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    Also I think the Iai character on a blade is a bit like kanji tattoos on a westerner, but thats juts a preference of taste.
    I agree: its a matter of taste. Perhaps its a bit cheesy...but what the hey! I like cheese


    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    If I had that kit though I _would_ be thinking what I could do with the tsuba ;-)
    I'm waaaaaay ahead of you partner! Ever since I realised that I've been drooling over the prospect . Once I get the Tsuba-project going I'll post some photos here of the result.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    Well man,

    If you want to do it, just do it.
    Is your choice, but, personally I wouldn't do that kind of aggression over a blade.
    Cristian Zumelzu

    Saya No Uchi No Kami

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    I would first be damn sure that you have a Zinc/Aluminum blade, rather than a Zinc/Beryllium blade!! Otherwise, using a laser to ablate the metal might just be the last thing you do -- beryllium is extremely toxic!!!!

    By the way, neither Zn/Al nor Zn/Be can be chrome-plated, as I stated in another e-Budo forum. You're likely just seeing a well-polished surface. If it's one of those alloys & is chromed, I would definitely like to know the manufacturer. I've worked in metallurgy as an engineer for the past 40 years, & can't think of any way to do that.

    Okay, engraving aside, are you interested in doing a tsuba project for one of my dojo brothers, Fred? His wife comes from a Samurai family, & he wants to surprise her for their next anniversary. I've just about finished the mon in AutoCAD (which your CNC should handle easily), & can easily design the entire tsuba. Please e-mail me at iaido@catii.com if you are willing to take on that project, Fred. I'd likely design my own tsuba if you can handle the work! And there are several hundred other iaidoka in Hawaii who might like the same opportunity.
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    you will need to redo the chrome if that's where you are taking away the metal.... I have noted that when the chrome is removed/faded away the alloy 'rusts' very quickly, and leaves a black stain on your hand during noto. There is an old club blade we use that suffers from precisely this problem... I was going to rechrome, but to be honest I will just get a new blade as its easier and I know it will last longer.
    Tim Hamilton

    Why are you reading this instead of being out training? No excuses accepted...

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    ...
    Two, swords with engravings are usually looked down upon as traditionally the engraving was to hide a flaw.
    Not quite accurate. *Sometimes" a horimono (decorative carving) was added to a sword to hide a flaw. When it was done for that reason it could have been done when the sword was made but often they were done later in the sword's life (called "ato hi" fwiw). But there were many many more that were done by the makers of the sword themselves or by artisans who specialized in the work. Some smiths are extremely famous not only for their swords but also for their intricate and beautiful horimono work and as such the work is highly prized.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii
    ...are you interested in doing a tsuba project for one of my dojo brothers, Fred? His wife comes from a Samurai family, & he wants to surprise her for their next anniversary. I've just about finished the mon in AutoCAD (which your CNC should handle easily), & can easily design the entire tsuba. Please e-mail me at iaido@catii.com if you are willing to take on that project, Fred. I'd likely design my own tsuba if you can handle the work! And there are several hundred other iaidoka in Hawaii who might like the same opportunity.
    If that doesn't work out for you contact Bugei Trading. Last time I was down there doing a QC run they asked what I thought about offering a service of tsuba made to customer designs. Basically the same idea where they've hired someone to do computer controlled cutting of mild steel tsuba to customer designs. They would want a detailed drawing or, better yet, an autocad drawing. I don't know if they decided on whether to offer the service or not, or what it would cost (I think complexity of design figures into the time it takes, etc.). Regardless, you might try them.

  9. #9
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    Sorry for not replying sooner.

    I would first be damn sure that you have a Zinc/Aluminum blade, rather than a Zinc/Beryllium blade!! Otherwise, using a laser to ablate the metal might just be the last thing you do -- beryllium is extremely toxic!!!!

    By the way, neither Zn/Al nor Zn/Be can be chrome-plated, as I stated in another e-Budo forum. You're likely just seeing a well-polished surface. If it's one of those alloys & is chromed, I would definitely like to know the manufacturer. I've worked in metallurgy as an engineer for the past 40 years, & can't think of any way to do that.
    Very good advice, thank you! The truth is I'm not 100% sure if it's chrome or not. I discussed it with a few people earlier and chrome was suggested but we havent confirmed it. As for if the blade is made of parts Beryllium thats another good question. The supplier of the sword is EuroBogu who gets their goods from a Japanese company named "Koei Budogu Company". They also have a North America based supplier (www.bogubag.com).
    (both eurobogu and bogubags websites have closed down for maintenance it seems)

    But, to take Chidokans information into account, if it is chrome and if it has to be redone after the cutting then it doesn't look like its worth the effort as I dont have that sort of knowledge or facilities to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii
    Okay, engraving aside, are you interested in doing a tsuba project for one of my dojo brothers, Fred? His wife comes from a Samurai family, & he wants to surprise her for their next anniversary. I've just about finished the mon in AutoCAD (which your CNC should handle easily), & can easily design the entire tsuba. Please e-mail me at iaido@catii.com if you are willing to take on that project, Fred. I'd likely design my own tsuba if you can handle the work! And there are several hundred other iaidoka in Hawaii who might like the same opportunity.
    It's a very tempting offer, but my employment as a CnC operator is the first time in many MANY years I've been able to work in this business since my graduation 7 years ago. I have alot to re-learn before I can consider myself "competent" again in CnC, not to mention in autocad. In short: I'm still not comfortable enough to be able to accept any projects at this time. Right now I'm simply relearning my trade and doing some experimenting, such as in Tsuba and other things.I strongly recommend that you find another guy with experience to do this such as the one kdlarman recommended. However, once I'm up and running again I'll make myself available.

    Oh, speaking of Tsuba. Take a look at this dutch supplier and this particular tsuba that made me drool all over the keyboard: http://www.japanszwaard.nl/zs-t9.html
    With the exception of the gold decorations I will be able to create just as complex tsubas..given time to learn and write the program that is .
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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