As I am preparing to punch several thousand holes all by myself, I came to wonder how true scales were mass produced back in the day.
Ian wrote in "Arms and Armor of the Samurai" that scale production was a lengthy process and I am sure this is true for both rawhide and steel. But at least the armourers had access to cheap workers to get those repetitive tasks done, which on the other hand brings up the question - and this is what I am mainly interested in - how could one make sure that, on all the scales required for one armour, there would be a minimum of variation in the placement of the holes? Obviously, even an unskilled worker will gain some kind of routine in the process of making hundreds of scales, but on a part as small as zane, even a millimeter of displacement is noticeable. Does anyone know more about this matter?
David, You raise a good point here. My guess is that some form of template could be used to mark out the hole positions but I doubt it was needed. Jobs such as scale making was probably outsourced and it is amazing how consistent such workers get judging things by eye. I one took a delicate little flintlock to an old gunsmith in Birmingham (UK not US) to have a new mainspring made. I had tried twice and failed to produce one neat enough. He took one look at the lock then dived into a box of springs and rummaged around before pulling one out and saying 'try that'. Not only did it fit, it also worked beautifully. Ian
Ian, your story about that old gunsmith is an astonishing example for the competence of such specialized (and experienced!) workers. I makes me indeed assume that it was possible for zane to be produced without a template. Another point that adds to this assumption is that scales differed in shape and size not only throughout time or between sets of armour for people of different body types. As I have learned from you just some weeks ago, the placement of the shita garami-holes can even differ according to where a scale is located in the nakagawa dou, due to the need of shaping ita to create a "belly" in the front of the dou. Given all this, it would have been necessary to have not just one, but several templates in store to create all those different zane. And that does really seem unlikely to me now...
Edit: well, that last thing that I wrote about shaping ita is only true for tosei dou, isn't it? My guess is that in the traditional, rather boxy types of dou, all the regular zane (not counting the first and last scale in a row) were the same.