Home | Available for Sale | Photos of my Work | Blade Restoration and Polishing
Good Books | Links

1086 Daito by Howard Clark

Polish and mount by Keith Larman

Antique Iron Tsuba

Antique Menuki

Fuchi Kashira by Patrick Hastings


This sword demonstrates how I prefer to go about my mounting jobs. This whole project started with an unfinished 1086 blade by Howard Clark still in his rough grind. It had not even had the final shaping on the stones by Howard. For various reasons the blade became available and I was given the opportunity to put it togeher the way I saw fit.

So it started when I found a marvelous tsuba with Abumi, or Japanese horse stirrups. The tsuba surface has a sort of swirled grass texture. Then the whole notion of empty stirrups brought to mind the idea of the riderless horse, a powerful notion in western culture which represents the fallen warrior. Which in turn brought to mind a famous haiku by Basho.

Natsu-gusa ya
tsuwamono-domo ga
yume no ato.

"Loosely" translated (as it is very difficult to fully translate something at this level of poetic beauty) it means:

Green-clad fields
is all that remains
of the dreams of stalwart warriors.

I managed to find a very nice antique set of abumi menuki which matched the abumi design on the tsuba. I put all of this together with a set of higo-style fuchi kashira by Patrick Hastings. The idea being that the black, clean fuchi kashira would represent the void and darkness.

Here's what I started with including the bare, unpolished blade in the background.

So the rest of the project was completed following this theme. I used a dark green doeskin ito over a very high grade full same' wrap itself lacquered black. The green to represent the "life" of the fields and the samurai for that matter. Since I'm no longer doing tsukamaki, Jesse Pelayo did the tsukamaki for me and did an excellent job.

The saya is a closely matching dark green. The grass "tufts" were hand lined in using gold paint. Small tufts here and there to represent the sparse "summer grasses" that remained afterwards. Then I faded the deep green saya to a total black by the kojiri. The fading away of life into darkness leaving only the small tufts of grass in the aftermath. For what it is worth the finish on the saya was redone 3 times. The first iteration the grass was too big. The second it was too thick. The third came out just right. Sometimes this happens in this sort of work. You really don't know what it is going to look like until you try. And often if you're not happy, you start over and try again. Sometimes that means again, again, and again yet again. But I'm happy now -- it is a good balance of size, thickness, and placement.

Here is the "whole sword" in a full length shot. Here you can see how the green fades out to black leaving only the summer grasses.

The blade itself is a shinogi zukuri daito by Howard Clark in his 1086 steel. There is a bit of "frostiness" floating around in the ji of this blade, much like a sort of utsuri. This is sometimes seen in Howard's swords and the only way I can describe what it's like to polish the stuff is that the steel is *trying* to push into being hardened. So the steel is almost dancing in a sort of transitional state. And this was something I hoped I'd see in this blade and I felt that fit well with the idea of the sword theme overall. The thousands of warriors transitioning over into the afterlife literally represented in the steel. So it was something I was glad to see even though it is difficult to photograph well.

The habaki is solid silver. Originally I wanted the silver to offset the gold used elsewhere since there was also silver in the tsuba. However, I wasn't happy with the look so I had a heavy layer of gold plating done to match the seppa and the rest of the sword. I'm much happier with that in the final analysis. You can also see some of that mistiness I was talking about riding along the shinogi (ridge line) in the photo below.

The tip took a great deal of work. The original shaping was from Mr. Clark's initial rough grind what you'd expect in a rough grind. People often ask about polishing these blades but they don't realize that polishing isn't just making them pretty. It is primarily about establishing proper geometry from the parameters laid down by the smith. What that often means is a great deal of reshaping and balancing of the geometry. And that means not only a great deal of time, but the experience and knowledge necessary to know what shape it should be. Here is the blade before polish.

I spent more time on the tip on the first stone than the rest of the blade. It was a great deal more work than I had wanted to devote, but it simply had to be done.

So there you go. This is the sort of sword I enjoy doing the most. One where I can "flex" my brain a bit and try to put something together that makes sense on some level or another. It may not be totally traditional, I might be mixing metaphors, but ultimately it was about what I was trying to say. And that worked out well for me.

I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed doing it.





Home | Available for Sale | Photos of my Work | Blade Restoration and Polishing
Good Books | Links

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