In September 2018, representatives of the Atam Academy School inquired about creating a bespoke Khanda design for their Nishaan Sahib that would be unveiled at an opening ceremony on 13th October 2018.

The Khanda is a traditional representation of the double-edged broad sword, which has particular significance due its use in the traditional Sikh Baptism Ceremony.

In recent times the khanda used on most Sikh institutions have been cheaply mass-produced and of poor quality.

A standard Nishaan Sahib with Khanda Insignia and a typical mass produced 15 inch Khanda for placing on Nishan Sahibs

As I am an antique weapons enthusiast I suggested a design that better resembles traditional weapons of the 18th century but with a modern elegant design. The school representatives liked the idea. I produced a few different concept designs in 3D.

This was the first iteration of the design I came up with

The second alternate design added some handle guard style flourishes to each side of the khanda and this was the design they ultimately fell in love with.

Once the design was agreed we discussed the potential material and cost implications of producing the khanda. initially, we agreed to have the part CNC milled in metal with an anodised coating, which proved to be not only costly but time-consuming as well. Another issue was that we didn’t have accurate measurements of the pole attachment, so it did not make sense to spend a significant amount of money on a part that we could not guarantee would fit perfectly. compounding the issue was the fact that there were not many companies in the UK that could produce the part on time. The other method that was discussed was to 3D print the insignia in plastic and then coat it with a metallic finish. This seemed to be the most viable way to produce the part in the short time we had, even if it was just a temporary measure for the opening ceremony.

As most common 3D Printers I had access to have small build volumes the part had to be split into 4 parts. we engineered a keying joint that would enable the part to be securely reassembled once printed. As the khanda would be installed externally and subject to adverse weather conditions I decided to print the part in ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic filament as opposed to PLA (Polylactic Acid), which is a more common biodegradable filament, due to ABS being more durable and being able to withstand higher temperatures. The parts took 38 hours to print in total.

khanda split parts with keys

The khanda split into four parts with keys

Epoxy adhesive was used to attach the parts and gaps were filled using common wood filler. The parts were printed using FDM printing, which is the process of melting a 1.75mm of abs plastic wire through a nozzle into layers of 0.2 mm. This meant that the parts had a visible protruding line where the layers have been melted on top of each other. These striations on the surface needed to be sanded out to ensure a smooth realistic finish. the sanding process was the most laborious and time-consuming task, due to it having to be done manually by hand. I used a high grit rough sandpaper and then worked my way down to lower and smoother grit sandpaper.

Once assembled and primed I explored various options for the surface finish. We decided on using metallic paint often used by car enthusiasts. Common sprays only give the impression of metal but these paints have actual metal in the paint giving them a durable finish and even a magnetic property.

I had a few problems with the flourish designs, they were too thin and kept breaking off. I secured them, in the end, using a drill and dowel joints to secure the armatures. I am working on a new prototype that will make the structure of the flourish design stronger. I am also working on making them modular so they could potentially be swapped out for different handle designs or replaced easily if broken.

I felt privileged to be asked to design the Khanda for the Atam Academy School Nishaan Sahib. It was a pleasure to do and lovely to meet all the dedicated sevadars making the school happen.

I really believe that we need to start putting the same love, care and attention into the design of our cultural artefacts as was the case in our early history when things were not cheaply mass-produced. I commend the Atam Academy for taking the effort and time to create something that we can all be proud of.

the final finished piece. 

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