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Photos of my work.

L6 Daito by Howard Clark

Antique Iron Tsuba

Fuchi Kashira by Patrick Hastings

This is a Howard Clark L6 shinogi zukuri katana in full polish. The mounting of this katana is a dark saya that fades from a very dark green to a black at the kojiri. The following series of photos show the fade quite well.

The tsuba on this piece is what the rest of the mounting was based upon. Here's the tsuba, a very interesting motif if you're into Japanese symbolism.

What you can see in this lovely old iron tsuba (notice the deep russet brown color) is a dragonfly (tonbo) caught in a spider's web. This is very interesting as the dragonfly is usually used to represent the unbreakable spirit of the samurai. The dragonfly never gives up. So it was unusual to find a tsuba with a dragonfly caught in a small spider's web. The first thought in my mind was the notion of hubris. Even the mighty dragonfly may find himself in peril if he is not careful. This sword was to be done for a client who happens to be a defense attorney. So I contacted him and asked if he'd be interested and he was.

So the tsuba essentially set the theme. A dragonfly with the spider. So we went with the deep green fade on the saya to show the green of nature. The graphics on the saya (see above) are of small dragonflies. I had no way to photograph this, but the dragonflies are a light dusting of gold in the finish. They are places such that they are spiraling up the saya towards the koiguchi of the saya. Only to finally get caught in the web at the tsuba.

The tsuka was done with a very high grade rayskin from Japan in full wrap. The ura (not pictured) has the exposed seam and I inlaid burnished and textured solid silver wire into the seam. I also carefully polished the nodes and slightly antiqued the skin to give the entire tsuka an older look and to make it blend in better with the lighter, faded looking "sage" green doeskin ito. The nodes on the skin are very large. The polishing of the nodes gave them a sort of transluscent look which is very appealing (but was quite time consumming to do).

I built the tsuka, applied and polished the rayskin, but then sent it up to Robin Ramirez for the final tsukamaki. Notice the marvelous symmetry and quality of the wrap including the tie-off knots. Extremely good work. Robin did an excellent job.

The blade is one of Howard Clark's "duplex" L6 blades. It is a monosteel blade with a martensitic edge and extremely ductile bainite body. Howard is the only one making swords like this today combining the traditional hard edge/hamon of traditional blades with the extreme performance and durability of a thoroughly modern bainite body. The blade came to me in Howard's rough finish. The kissaki in particular posed a variety of complex issues as the shaping was simply not quite right. A great deal of work went into reshaping the kissaki to get a more appropriate kissaki profile. But in the end I think it was worth the trouble.

Here's another photo of the hamon just for what it's worth. I didn't take a lot of photos of this blade as I was rushed to get it shipped to the customer.

The seppa are radiused copper (with thick gold plating of different thicknesses made by me to fit both the fuchi and the saya exactly. The fuchi was slightly wider than usual so I needed to make custom seppa for the piece. And I forgot to mention -- there is a small silver carved dragonfly set into the saya near the kurikata. Just a little extra added.

And one thing I regret not photographing -- One the ura of the saya (the backside not pictured) there is a handpainted gold spider web. Just a small one. The idea being that it is opposite the dragonfly on the other side that was spiraling up the saya. So at that point he doesn't realize the danger lurking. Until he is finally "caught" in the tsuba.

It was a fun project.


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Copyright © 2005 by Keith Larman. Duplication or Copying prohibited without permission.