How to Make a Metal Tessen

The attractive appearance of metal tessens hides their function as weapons.
The attractive appearance of metal tessens hides their function as weapons. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Unique and beautiful tessens were actual folding fans with iron ribs incorporated into them. Metal tessens served two purposes in the ancient Japanese cultures. One of the functions was to keep people cool. The other function of these fans was to serve as weapon for samurai. Japanese tessens can be fashioned from a variety of materials including wood, silk, iron or even decorative paper. In modern times, tessens are used as decorative pieces of oriental art.

Things You'll Need

  • 16 iron ribs that are 12-by-1 inches
  • 14 paper ribs that are 12-by-1 inches
  • Drill and 1/16-inch drill bit
  • Black paint
  • Narrow paintbrush
  • Fabric
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • 1/6-inch screw
  • 1/16-inch nut

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Use a 1/16-inch drill bit to make a single hole in each of the ribs. Locate the holes 1 inch from the end. These holes will be located on the bottom portion of the fan, which will serve as a handle.

Paint all of the ribs black on both sides. This way, it will not be easy for the casual observer to determine that at least some of the ribs are made of metal. Black color also fits in with the Japanese style of paper fans. Set the ribs aside to dry.

Use scissors to cut a piece of fabric that is 6-by-16 inches. Glue, paint or draw designs, poems, animals or kanji characters on the fabric. Allow the designs to dry and adhere to the fabric before handling it.

Spread the fabric onto a flat work surface so that the short side is oriented vertically. Use a ruler to measure one inch away from the vertical edge. Using a very light pencil line or a stick pen to indicate the starting point for a vertical line that is one inch away from the edge.

Fold the edge of the fabric along the line. Turn the fabric upside down and fold the fabric in the alternate direction, so that the new fold is the same width as the other fold. Flip the fabric over again and repeat the continue repeating the process until the entire length of the paper has been folded in an accordion shape.

Iron or crease the folded edges well to make sure that the folds stay in place.

Open the folded fabric and apply glue to the upper edge of one side of one of the iron ribs. Place the iron rib on the furthest pleat at one end of the fabric so that the top of the rib is aligned with the top of the fabric. Apply glue to one side of another iron rib. Attach this rib to the furthest pleat at the other end of the fabric.

Apply glue to one side of one of the remaining ribs. Place the rib on the second pleat at one end of the fabric. Continue attaching the ribs to the fabric using glue until each pleat has a rib attached.

Insert a screw into the holes on the ribs so that the ribs lie on top of each other when the fan is closed. Place a small nut on the end of the screw to secure it to the wood.


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