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Photos of my work.

This page details a project started with a fully polished 1086 katana by Howard Clark. I had put it up for sale polished in shirasaya. The customer who bought it asked that it be fully mounted. So we started discussing the blade and project in general. First, a few shots of this unusual blade...

It is a 27.5 inch 1086 with an extremely wild hamon. Decent sori, wonderful tapers, good balance. Really a joy and one I thought seriously about mounting up for myself for my own use. Showing it to a sensei of mine he commented that the blade has serious “presence” about it. I would agree with that. It is just one of those blades that when you hold it the blade gives you a feeling of power and focus. Gotta love those blades when they talk to you like that.

The customer really liked the hamon and wanted the entire blade mounted up traditionally to somehow reflect the "spirit" of the blade. He liked the almost wave-like hamon. The way the hamon swirls and cusps is really quite entrancing. There are also some spots where there are little hardened dots that are kinda cool to study. The customer was new to Japanese swords so he asked for help with the themes. I pointed him a couple places and got a lot of feedback of what he liked.

First of all we discussed the wave-like theme of the hamon. The customer also liked the silver habaki and wanted that reflected in the sword. So we went with parts of a wonderful silver fuchi/kashira/seppa set Ted Tenold had up on his site at http://www.legacyswords.com. Here’s that image from his site.

We discussed the parts and decided the kurikata (where the sageo goes on the saya) and the kojiri (the endcap of the saya) was a bit too much silver. But he really liked the fuchi kashira and keyfret seppa that came with it. The theme of the waves seemed to really reflect the quality of the hamon.

So now the problem was designing the rest around the sword. The customer wanted a tsuba to reflect his choices thus far, but we were unable to find a reproduction tsuba that was at a level of quality that was commensurate with the rest of the fittings chosen. He wanted higher end, more unique, more hand done than just simple cast tsuba with soft detail. So I went in search of tsuba from my own collection, friends, and from various on-line sites.

I found one tsuba by a modern maker in Japan that I felt would really work well. It is a wave tsuba with gold dot highlights made by Shuji Yamamoto (who signs Tomoji). Mr. Yamamoto is a contest winner in Japan with his modern made tsuba. Fantastic work. Cast tsuba pale in comparison to good quality handwork. The tsuba “rings” when you tap it. Beautiful stuff. Since I found it for sale I asked the customer about it via e-mail but then just ordered it anyway before he even replied. I liked the tsuba so much that I decided that even if the customer passed on it, heck, I’d keep it. He decided he liked it. Which was unfortunate for me because the photos didn’t do it justice – it is a absolutely gorgeous tsuba. A very good choice…

The beauty of this tsuba is that it matched the wave theme of the fuchi kashira so well. I was a bit concerned that the gold highlights would be odd with the silver fittings, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that they needed some “toning” down. Too much silver can become very garish very quickly on a sword not to mention that it really wasn’t done all that often traditionally. The Japanese aesthetic has a lot of subtlety and I didn’t want this to get too “in your face” with the mounting.

Once I had the tsuba in hand I felt vastly better about the choice too. It is always nerve wracking for me to put parts together from disparate sources because I worry that they just won’t work. But this worked well.

Next was menuki. Originally the customer wanted pretty standard gold dragon menuki. I placed an order from them from a well-known supplier. Now either my mail was lost, or it was ignored because they simply never arrived… I finally re-ordered the same fittings through Bugei Trading because they also carried them but they too face delays when fittings have to be made. Since I hadn’t followed up on this as I should have, I felt guilty about it and decided to find different menuki and pay for them myself. I went over to Ted Tenold’s shop and spent some time going through his vault of both reproductions and antiques. I found two sets originally that I thought would work. One was a gorgeous fish set. Another was a set of cranes. Well, I batted it back and forth for a while and the customer graciously told me it was up to me to make the decision. But after seeing both sets I went with the cranes. They “felt” better with the overall theme and their spread wings, the notion of them gliding over the waves, and simply the beauty and detail of them as fittings just worked right with everything else.

At this point I had to make some final decisions. I ordered a very high grade same’ from Japan for the tsuka which is my normal choice. I went with a full same’ wrap, overlapped at the belly style. Originally I decided on black gloss on the saya with a sprinkle of gold in the finish to compliment the dots of gold in the tsuba. But the more I worked on it the more I realized that the tsuba shone out so well all by itself. The gold in the saya did nothing but call attention to itself. So I made the executive decision to do just black gloss. The idea being of the still dark water of night with the sword inside carrying the waves. I liked it.

So… Here’s a pic of the saya with the tsuba reflected in the finish. The point is to show the style of the saya, but also the idea of how the finish should look and “reflects” the light. Part of the idea of the koshirae.

I think it worked out well on the saya choice…

Here’s the entire blade now mounted. Black silk ito by the way. The lighting is kinda odd, I’m still trying to figure photography out…

Here’s an angle shot. Kind of a “glamour” shot…

And finally a shot showing some detail of the fittings and tsuba and their intersection.

There ya go. The history of a sword and how it eventually ended up mounted.


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