Chapter 25 – Nail Clippers and Scissors
Despite Eiji leading the development plan, he still had his usual things to do.
After all, there was no way for him to forget about his own craft, which was smithing.
Recently, it had become colder.
Because the winter was approaching, Eiji would soon reach the limit when striking the iron.
The precious time, which he could spend and enjoy on manufacturing in the workshop, had increased as well.
On top of the grindstone soaked with water, Eiji made the small lump of iron glide.
Once he squinted his eyes, he checked the edge of the blade.
Still not sharp enough? – thought Eiji.
After confirming its edge one more time, he put it on the grindstone.
The hissing sound of continuous rubbing was heard.
Pietro, who was watching Eiji’s work, made a mysterious face while staring at it.
– Master, what’s that?
– That’s a nail clipper.
– Nail clipper? Judging from its name, is it a tool for clipping nails?
– It will be probably faster to explain it in practice. Pietro, would you reach out your hand?
Snap, snap – together with the sound, Pietro’s nails were cut.
He opened widely his eyes while having the expression of being amazed on his face.
– Did master come up with this….?
– No, that wasn’t me. It’s an item from the world I originally came.
– The person that came up with this must be a genius.
As expected, this would be the natural reaction.
Due to the nature of Eiji’s job, he had the tendency of checking the structure of an iron-made item whenever there was one nearby.
The nail clipper was a simple tool consisting of the top and bottom blade, applying the fundamental rule of a lever and a spring.
He remembered himself admiring it, the first time he learned of its principle.
As far as Eiji knew, there was no such thing as a nail clipper in this village.
When he asked the people how they cut their nails, they would answer him by saying that they used their teeth to bite it, and then adjusted it by using a file. Otherwise, they would use a knife or and scissors to cut the nail tip.
Whichever way was used, there was a danger of damaging one’s finger tips due to irregular section caused by using knives and scissors.
It was a story from quite a long time ago, when Eiji noticed his nails extending. However, because there were lots of other things to do, he had to postpone the idea of making a nail clipper.
– I guess you would think of the person who created this tool as a genius, wouldn’t you.
– Being able to create it just from looking, Master is amazing too.
– It’s probably ’cause I like to make things, you see.
– Is it fine for me to borrow this?
– I had quite a trouble making this one, so it’s fine, as long as you handle them carefully.
– I’m going to show this to mum and dad.
While making a small object, it’s important to be delicate in one’s work.
Especially, when it comes to a nail clipper’s blade part, which has to be curved, and can’t be adjusted by using forging methods, such as striking.
It’s necessary to splice it out using a sharp-edged tool with great hardness.
It would be possible to do without using that; however, a fine tool was still required.
Eiji thought that it was painful for him to be unable to make a forging tool to such extent.
He wanted to increase the number of different forging tools quickly.
If making large objects requires physical strength, then making small ones needs delicacy.
Nonetheless, it requires lots of troubles.
The people of Siena had a biased tendency of evaluating items, regardless of whether they were large numbers of ornaments, big useless items, or small objects.
Taking that into account, the nail clipper would be received as valuable and indispensable item for every household, just like iron pots and needles.
This too, should be told about and considered as the main product of the village.
Recently, there was one more iron-made item highly regarded by Eiji.
That was a pair of scissors, which could be also used for hair cutting.
Human hair is hard and numerous.
For that reason, the bronze-made scissors would chip and lose their sharpness quickly. Not to mention, it would cause problems, like pulling out hair whenever it had a faulty sharpness, making it painful for the person receiving the haircut.
The first prototype made by Eiji was tested by Jane and received high praises from her.
– Master, are you not going to make scissors while separating between ingot and steel?
– Yeah. Separating the tender ingot and hard steel is also one of the methods, but perhaps it will wear out quickly?
– Well, I think that there’s someone in village who wants to have a haircut every day, so there should be no problem.
– We are going to cut lots of people’s hair, you see. Therefore, there’s a risk it will cause injury. That’s why we will make it wholly from steel, so that whenever we sharpen it, we can use it for many dozens of years. Saying that, we will use several types of iron without discretion. Pietro, I know it will be troublesome, but, do your best in assisting me.
– Please leave it to me.
A pair of scissors made from the highest quality metal and used for hair cutting is usually expensive.
As far as Eiji knew, its price would exceed 100 thousand yen.
It was a high grade product, which couldn’t be afforded even by a novice with the right qualification.
What Eiji tried to make was pair of scissors with the sharpness that could match the ones above.
His workshop facility was inferior in comparison with the ones in the present times; nevertheless, Eiji believed that he would probably have enough confidence in making them now.
He became quite capable of grasping things, which he couldn’t understand so far until now, such as maintaining the temperature of the furnace, or the way to tell apart the steel material that he made.
Eiji should be able to make it.
The finely crushed charcoal piled up inside the furnace.
Once he began to operate the pair of bellows, the charcoal turned red, making rumbling sounds.
Because Eiji’s intention was to eye the fire, the interior of the workshop was dim, leaving only the light of the burning charcoal illuminating his face.
Even though the winter was fast approaching, the inside of the room remained hot, which made him sweat.
Contrary to Eiji, who was used to his daily routine for many years, Pietro was wiping his sweat from his face while getting drenched.
Eiji wiped his face from time to time using his arm only for the new portion of sweats to break out and go along his face.
He didn’t entrust Pietro with a grinding task, instead Eiji planned to have him help with his work. In exchange, he would let Pietro observe and study next to him how the furnace works.
His apprentice’s eyes were radiating at this rare opportunity. Even if it was just a little, Pietro would study with a serious expression on his face.
– Will it be finished soon?
– That’s wrong. Pay more attention to the color of the iron. Its shade has to turn just a bit whiter.
– You are going to bear this much in your mind.
Once the temperature of the furnace has reached around 1000ºCelsius, Eiji would put the steel material inside.
Placing the charcoal on top of it, the heat began to transfer quickly.
There was a difference in the temperature between the soft iron and the hard one.
Eiji would see through its temperature by judging from a single factor, which was the color.
He could do that because it was based on his intuitional movements, coming from his mass of experience.
After he made sure the steel achieved the perfect temperature, Eiji took it out from the furnace and adjusted its shape, using the water-powered hammer.
Until this moment, there was no need for Pietro to assist.
So as to prepare the steel for the forge welding, Eiji adjusted its shape, smeared it with straw ashes, and covered it in mud.
It was the right substance for making two pieces of iron attach well during the forge welding.
If it were to be Eiji’s present days, then the iron powder would be used and mixed together with boric acid and borax; nevertheless, applying the traditional making method, it was enough to attach iron with straw ashes.
Since excellent swords were made that way by everyone, history should be enough proof that there was no problem.
Now it was time to overlap the heated up steel material by striking it from above.
Eiji entrusted the hammer to Pietro, whose practice training began from now.
He understood Pietro being nervous as he felt it coming from handing Pietro the hammer.
While Pietro was shaking till the tip of his shoulders, he struck and drew out the lump of the steel, which lay on the anvil, generating sounds that resembled that of a chime.
The heated steel wasn’t that hard.
It would be enough to strike with moderate strength, rather than using one’s full power.
– Pay attention so that it stretches regularly.
– Once the spots appear, the quenching cracks will likely occur. Move it a bit to this part.
In exchange, striking it regularly will become essential.
As the steel is struck at its heated state, the distribution of the particles will become regular.
After that, the process of quenching[3.5] will be performed so as to increase the hardness of steel. At that point however, the particle distribution will create spots and change the rate of expansion, making the steel to split.
Once the phenomenon called quenching crack occurs, the whole work will become futile.
The success and failure depended wholly on the moment of reaction from a blacksmith.
Because of that, one had to forge the steel carefully.
– How many layers are we going to put together this time?
– There are 5 types of iron which differs in the number of carbon. With 1 folding back you will create 10 layers, if so, how many will you create with 5 times of folding?
– Ehm…2 times give 20 something, so….it would be around 160 something of layers?
– Making you calculate each time, you have become quite fast, haven’t you? That’s right. By doing it like this, even if the surface of the blade reduces, its sharpness won’t become dull, as there will be always the next layer. It’s troublesome to fold it back using human strength, but that number of folds should be enough.
Even though he could only raise the mallet to his shoulder level, it was still quite heavy.
Pietro was still at the same age as Eiji at his middle school years.
The fatigue gradually accumulated, making Pietro unable to raise his arms. He was soon at his limit.
His breathing became irregular and his sweat started to gush out continuously.
– Good, now, so as to watch the rest—-
– But, I can still do it!
– It’s fine not to push yourself. Rather than that, it’s important to watch and remember how the work goes.
Eiji made Pietro, who was trying to continue the job, drank water and rested.
His words were filled with confidence; nevertheless, Pietro was probably at his limit.
Once he was made to rest, he wouldn’t try to repeat that action.
Pietro was still young, therefore, he shouldn’t force himself; still, his determination was pleasant.
Eiji still had to do the forge welding, using the water-powered hammer, and the back folding.
As he stretched and folded up the steel, he joined the layers together, making it into a single thin object.
The layers of the steel were created, gaining a texture with a pattern similar to waves.
– Good, we are now proceeding into the shaping.
– Once the steel is properly red, it will become soft enough. So as not to let it cool down, we have to swing fast and precisely using the small mallet while changing it into the desirable shape.
First, you open a small hole on the part of the grip and continue to expand it.
When you strike it lightly, in order to draw a circle, a smooth and curved surface will be created within a blink of time.
This procedure used to fail lots of times in the past.
For that reason, high proficiency was usually required so as to maintain an unconcerned conduct.
It would probably take many years, before one could turn the curved surface into the desirable shape.
However, Eiji could do it easily now.
Creating small finger holes, and amending the figure so that it matches the shape of the hand.
Attaching the holes, in which the blades joined together, and executing the process of annealing and quenching. Then checking the temperature of the water.
It was quite warm.
Using the heat coming from the furnace, Eiji added hot water from the heated kettle.
The temperature turned hot.
Seeing how Pietro checked the temperature of the water in the same manner, Eiji laughed while thinking that he would lose his arm if it was him long time ago.
No matter how a great product you made, as long as the quenching and tempering are incomplete, the product will worsen.
Depending on the blacksmith, these two procedures are the most crucial things, more than forging or the iron itself.
A blacksmith is bound to make a display of skills whenever there’s an opportunity, but at the same time, he should possess a part of a knowledge which he ought to hide.
However crude the iron is, as long as the skills of the maker were complete, that person could make considerably many items.
The quality of the iron is just one of the factors needed to make a good item.
It was a work that required lots of concentration.
Once Eiji grabbed the scorching piece of steel with the tongs, he put it in the water, making it to generate vapor in a blink of an eye.
– We did it!
– Yeah. Even if we used the water-powered hammer, it would still be fine, but did it become a worthy experience for you?
– Yes! I’ve got the feeling, like I was able to understand smithing just a little.
– That’s good. I left the grinding tasks in your care, so when you master them, I shall tell you more.
-I’ll do my best!
In the case of forging products, in order to make the parts, such as a handle, smooth, there are many spots which require the application of grinding.
After that, it was necessary to make a shallow cavity called the rear side gap at the reverse side of the blade called ‘Hizoko’.
It was an important part needed to make the sharpness of the scissors easy to control.
Indeed, there was no way for Eiji to entrust Pietro with this task.
Once Pietro took a small break, he enthusiastically started his sharpening training.
While watching that appearance of his, Eiji relaxed his attention and stretched his body.
His arm muscles felt quite comfortable compared to before.
It seemed that Eiji’s body finally became accustomed to this lifestyle.
– Well then, should I make 1 more pair of scissors before the furnace cools down?
It took him nearly 2 hours to make a single pair of scissors.
Even if he were to start from the morning, the day would finish with him making only 3-4 pairs of them.
– The first pair of scissors was a common one, so let’s make the next one thinning scissors.
Eiji had the memory of once seeing the thinning scissors.
One side of it was a blade whereas another side had a form similar to a comb.
After it was first forged into a regular shape, you would use a chisel to make notches, so as to form the comb part.
Having a pair of thinning scissors should reduce the work involved in haircutting.
Choosing the type of iron which he intends to use in making, Eiji again braced himself.
– Yes. I developed a new pair of scissors for hairdressing purposes, so I was thinking about asking Tanya-san’s opinion.
– Hmm… If it’s only the tips of the hair….
Eiji, who returned back to his house, considered testing the sharpness of the scissors on his wife’s hair.
Her hair was perfectly beautiful and showed signs of being charming, silky, and supple.
Eiji knew that this was due to Tanya diligently combing her hair.
Her cleanly kept hair created lightly a web while extending from the tips of her shoulders till the scapula.
Tanya, who went out to the front of the house, turned her back toward Eiji, making it easier for him to cut her hair.
As always, her hair was lovely.
Her hair was black, but turned slightly red from the evening sunlight. Eiji understood that.
The moment Eiji stuck the hair through the comb, he made it become smooth.
While he kept combing it, he cut the gathered hair’s tips with the scissors.
Snip snip – together with the small sound of cutting, the light response coming from the scissors was quite unexpected.
Tanya’s hair was cut as it fluttered in the air.
Eiji trimmed the hair sequentially from its ends little by little.
Changing freely the hairstyle using one’s own hand, it was an interesting piece of experience for him.
After the trim was finished as planned, he distanced himself.
Tanya’s haircut was the Japanese-styled one.
– How did it go?
– It turned increasingly charming.
– Oh my, Eiji’s hair has also grown quite long, hasn’t it? Shall I do a haircut for you?
– Will it go well?
– I think it should be fine without me having to force myself. I haven’t cut hairs before, but….
Her words make me feel anxious, I guess… – he thought.
Come now – as Eiji was urged to turn his back.
Snip snip – Eiji felt when his hair was cut together with the sound. The hair fluttered in the air while falling.
– W-what’s the matter?
– No… It’s nothing.
– I’ve got everything under my control.
Her eyes were averted, which made Eiji feel a bad premonition rising inside of him.
Tanya continued the haircut again, using the scissors.
For a while, Eiji thought that the haircut went smoothly, then another voice filled with uneasiness was heard.
– Wait a moment, are you really fine there, Tanya?!
– Fine, it’s fine! I’m adjusting it, because I cut a little bit too much on the left side.
– ….If you’re forcing yourself, I’ll entrust this task to someone else, so please tell me sooner.
– It feels painful to be distrusted like this.
– Urgh. Being told that way, I can’t oppose.
As Eiji couldn’t help but to prepare himself, his hair fell vigorously and scattered in the air.
It felt as though the amount of cut hair was greater than normal.
The silence continued for a while.
At that time, his bad premonition became real.
Tanya pointed her voice toward Eiji, with a timid look.
– Are you done?
– No… I’ll call Jane-san, so please, can I have you wait?
Eiji was prepared; He was supposed to be.
There was no occasion where he wished to have a mirror more than now.
Can’t I make glass using any object around me? – is what he thought.
He knew there was a bronze-made mirror at the trial chief’s house, but it’s a wonder whether he could properly understand his appearance with it.
Waiting for Tanya and Jane to arrive, Eiji had to endure the chilly wind hitting his skin.
A short while later, Jane appeared, having her arm grabbed by Tanya.
Not understanding what was happening at all, Jane had a trouble face.
– Calling out people suddenly, what’s the matter?
– Please help, Eiji-san is…
– What?! Did something happen to him?…What on…. What’s that hair?!
Once Jane saw his hair, she became surprised only to laugh the next moment while holding her stomach.
– Ahahaha! It looks like a distorted face.
– Please don’t laugh at him like that. It’s not because I wanted this to happen.
– No, sorry. I’ll turn him into a handsome man, so cheer up.
Tanya still felt guilty.
While having his hair trimmed by Jane, he thought – I will not entrust haircutting to a novice anymore – to himself.
Without any big trouble, they spent their days peacefully and uneventful.
Translator and reference notes:
: When I browsed for the meaning of the Japanese word ‘Jigane’, I received 2 alternatives – unprocessed metal/ore and ingot. Since the first one didn’t match, I decided to go with the second option, but, according to wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingot, it denotes a metal which is shaped for further processing. Perhaps what they meant was not types of metals, but rather choose which way was better for making the tool.
: around $830
: The process of drawing out is called ‘sunobe’. quoted from http://www.ksky.ne.jp/~sumie99/sunobe.html – ‘In primary meaning, the word “SUNOBE” describes the process of drawing out the steel block to the length of the blade. The naming for such blade comes from its easy process of making, because the blade was made up without fold welding work. For modern steel such process is not necessary.’
[3.5]: It appears that both tempering and quenching can be used for hardening a metal, but, both of them are different process. If someone can grasp how they differ, I’d would thankful for an explanation <.<
: Cracks made due to the tension generated from Quenching.
: Here is what Ace suggested – 5 times 2 to the power of 5 gives 160 (5*2^5), where number of layers*2^number of folds.