Making YOur Own Weapons

Practice weapons for Tai Ch'i Chuan

Building your Own Weapons

This document will help the player make their own practice weapons. No this is not going to help the disgruntled make dangerous weapons. You’re on the wrong site!  We will discuss the making or the major weapons used in TCC. All will be made from either wood or plastic and used for practice either alone or with another player.

This a work in progress so you will see each weapon added as I get time to work on each section.

Dao – Chinese Saber

Jian – Chinese double-edged sword







If you are making the Dao the first option is to make it out of wood. The choice of wood can be anything at hand but better quality comes with the use of hardwood. The first attempt at making a Dao with pine is a good choice since it is easy to work with and if things go wrong, it is not much money spent. The weapon will never be a waste of time since there is always a need for a spare. Popular is another wood – it is a hardwood but light and easily works. After you make a few, you may want to go with a good section of oak since it is strong and has some weight to it. I still use my first oak Dao and my pair of matching Daos.

The first thing to do is to make measurements. Hold your hand at your side and measure from your mis ear to the base of your thumb. That will be the blade length. Now hold a piece of round – it can be anything even a paper tube, and measure the space your hand takes up. Now decide how big you want to make the blade guard and the pommel. Usually, an inch for each. Now add all your numbers together and you have your new Dao’s length. Add a couple more inches for waste at the top and bottom and you have the length of your first piece of wood.

Now consider how much work you want to do with the blade. A one-inch piece of wood is a good start. It will not be an inch thick just slightly thinner. Now time for the wood.


The wood needs to be clear of knots or defects. Take your time and chose a piece that is clear and has no discernable bents or twists. The width needs to fit the design of your build.  A four-inch board can be wide enough. Working with wood requires a limited number of tools. A coping saw, a wood file and sandpaper are the basics. Your can use any power tools that are available to help. Look the board over and choose what end to make the handle. Hold it and use your feel.


The Dao is a single edge knife. The most important thing to do now is to make a center line on the board. This will guide you in all your next steps. Use a square if you have one if not measure and make some makes and join them with a straight edge – another straight board can be used. Use pencil and make a light but usable mark. It will be sanded off later.

This is the measurement that you need to make from the front adding in the inch of waste material. Then decide on how sharp or acute the crown angle will be. On a traditional TCC Dao, the crown is only slightly apparent and makes a good hand hold. A Shaolin style has a sharp pointed crown that can be used as part of the weapon. You will notice one like that in the pictures below.

A piece of poster or cardboard makes a good template. You can draw on it until it is something you like and them cut the template. It is also a good time to make out the hand guard and the pommel so one template can be laid on the board and traced. Use a center line and make some holes in the template at the center line so it can be laid out matching the center line drawn on the wood. A good soft pencil can trace the template onto the wood.


Do not cut it. Look it over and exam all the pieces. Are they in the right place? Now it the time to make any changes. A temple can be added to with an over lay of material to make a change or cut away where necessary.

When you are sure, make some relief cuts to the lines of the template. A relief cut is straight in from the edge to the edge of the template. It will make the cutting process easier. Always, always leave the line!

Cut the straight edge of the front of the guard first. Make sure it is square to the center line. Then if using a hand saw V cuts can be made to the relief cuts taking away a large portion of the wood. If a vise is available use it. If not purchase an inexpensive clamp and clamp the board to a flat surface. Work on the blade first and leave the handle. It is easily adjusted once the blade is shaped.

Once the major shape of the blade is cut use the coping saw for any pieces large enough to cut with it. Then use the wood file to file to the marking line. Again, leave the line – it is a rule in wood working that will always help. Standing the board on its edge in a vise or clamping it to another piece of wood that is solidly attached to structure will allow easier work with the file.

Once the blade is roughed in then it is time to work on the handle. The handle can be shaped from the wood at the inch thickness but is usually too thin to be comfortable. Now you have the chance to make the sword your own design. Adding material to the handle are can increase the thickness but you also have to be aware that the blade guard also has to be increased. If it is going to be a single Dao material needs to be added to both sides. A double Dao – a pair matched and joined for double sword sets can be one sided. Just be sure that the sides are matched opposite sides.

Adding wood whether it is the same or another variety for decoration can make a hand grip to a comfortable size. Experiment how much it needs to grow and add extra to allow for shaping.

Another alternative is to shape the handle round and add a wrapping material until it it thick enough for your hand. You may taper very slightly the hand grip section to be comfortable to your hand. Leather or twine can be used. Lacquer the twine wrapping to preserve the handle.

The guard needs to be higher than the handle to protect the hand. So, material will need to be thicker than the handle to create the covering action.

The pommel also needs to be slightly larger than the grip to prevent the Dao from slipping out of the hand. It can be carved or decorated but the end needs a loop to attach the scarf. That can be a screw eye or a hole through the pommel.

Now that the Dao is roughed in it is time to shape it to its final dimensions. Measure the thickness of the wood. Divide by half. There needs to be a line added to all the sides so when tuning the sword everything stays centered.  The best option is to use a center scribe but a combo square can be set and run around with a pencil. The last option is from Tommy – This Old House. Take a pencil and hold it tight at the halfway point with your fingers. Run them along the edge of the wood making with the pencil as you go. Tommy does it right every time but it takes practice.

Now from the center line to the side center line will need a taper to make the edge. It does not need to be sharp – it will chip and break if it is. A quarter inch radius should be enough. Take your time and enjoy this work. It does not need to be done but will make a Dao you will be proud of. After finishing the blade taper the back of the Dao needs a very minor taper and a rounder edge. Use the center lines for a guide.

The guard is next. It can be just the plain wood and round all the edges. Make sure there is enough material to protect the hand on the grip. It can be decorated with inlayed beads or stone or carved.

Now finish up the grip with any additional wood. If adding wood, it needs to be glued to the Dao. As added support holes can be drilled and brass rod can be inserted. Glue the studs since wood can swell and they can loosen.


Sand paper start with 150 grit, wipe down, and move to 220 grit. Again, wipe down with a clean cloth or paper towel. A fine sanding with 400 grit will provide an excellent finish. Always sand with the wood grain.  A finish will keep the dirt and dust out. An oil wipe and dry will work. Boiled Linseed oil works great. Shellac or clear varnish can be wiped on. I do not like poly. It seals too well and the wood can not breath.  After use wipe the Dao down with a lightly oiled rag or use a wood polish. I have a number of wooden Daos that are 50 plus years old and though they have some kicks and scratches, they are still fitting my hand since they were born there.