Jump to content


Photo

Uchiko Considered Harmful


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
46 replies to this topic

#1 Darcy

Darcy

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,488 posts
  • LocationEverywhere

Posted 05 June 2015 - 05:37 PM

I have ranted often about uchiko. I am dealing with this again as I am processing some old high quality swords, and uchiko has negatively affected their appearance. I just quickly went through my photo archive and pulled some images to demonstrate why you don't want to use uchiko and why you should share this knowledge with others, ESPECIALLY beginners who are virtually guaranteed to apply it incorrectly. 

 

I've written this to kind of document in one place my various rants against uchiko and hope this will be google bait, and as such will improve the state of preservation of swords going forward. I think most members here are already of the mindset that a microfiber cloth is a better alternative to uchiko, so this is more written to present to the beginner who may be distracted by old advice that uchiko application will improve their sword. So this is my counter-argument to that advise for posterity and to try to do a bit to stop the insanity that I regularly see when swords pass through my hands. 

 

You Can Skip To The Pictures

 

If you don't want the preamble, just go look at the evidence of uchiko damage.

 

The Bad Old Theory Is Without Fundamental Merit

 

Some old postings on the internet by guys who meant well but were a bit misguided implied that you can improve a polish through the use of uchiko, and that constant uchiko use over the life of a sword would cause it's look to settle down and be something that could be more appreciated. 

 

This is false.

 

There is a degree of subjectivity to this: some people like things done in a certain way. For instance, you may want to pour a bottle of ketchup over your $100 steak at a high end steakhouse in New York. You may think stripper shoes are appropriate evening wear to a black tie event. You may think sandals and white athletic socks is a rocking look (it is comfortable though). These are subjective opinions so are in some sense completely acceptable, but they are prone to mockery because they (in my opinion) illustrate fundamental misunderstandings. 

 

Some of these misunderstandings can be perpetuated by things like old advice postings saying "this is the way to do it" or the momentum of "this is how we have always done it" when there are in fact advancements and enhancements that come along and should be adopted. 

 

What Polishing Is

 

Polishing or finishing, whether that be a sword, or a diamond, or furniture, shares some fundamental principles over all these domains. It is a process of leveling a surface. This process begins by using a coarse abrasive substance to grind a surface, and then by a process of iteration, by increasing levels of fineness in the abrasive, create a more uniformly leveled surface. This is in a sense scratching the surface which will knock off the high points, and create gouges in their place, while leaving gouges already present in the surface untouched. By creating ever finer gouges, the highest points eventually become approximately equal to the lowest points. This process can proceed until the gouges are so small they cannot be picked up with 10x magnification and the surface to us would appear to be perfectly uniform (diamond). With metals like gold or steel, burnishing can be a final step, in which case a hard material with a smooth surface is rubbed over the prepared surface. This creates some flow or melting in the metal which will make the very finest scratches flow together into a perfectly even surface. In the case of furniture, wood is polished down in the same way through iterations of ever finer abrasive until it appears to be smooth (in which case the texture of the fibers is much greater than the scratches being placed into it by the abrasive). 

 

The final stage of wood polishing and sword polishing involves some additional dress of the surface. In swords nugui and hadori processes are applied to dress it up. In furniture, a finish (shellac, or polyurethane, or varnish, or lacquer, or oil) is applied which will solidify and can then be polished similarly to the wood. Since a finish can fill grain it can be further leveled and completed into a high gloss finish. High gloss is achieved again by creating ever finer and finer scratches. As well a matte surface or a semi-gloss surface can be achieved by rubbing the finish with a slightly coarse abrasive.

 

What all of these things do to surfaces is to alter the way light reflects from them. 

 

Gloss and Frequency

 

A high gloss surface has extremely fine scratches in it. The finer the scratches, the more even the surface... it begins to approximate being perfectly flat. This means that photons when they hit the surface, reflect in an expected manner. That is, angle of incidence and angle of reflection are approximately the same for a high gloss surface as they would for a theoretically perfectly flat reflector (a perfect mirror). Gloss is something that appears in the micro-texture of the surface. A spoon is not flat on the macro texture: it is curved. But the micro-texture of a steel spoon is generally glossy (until it is used a lot), so we see clear reflections in it, but they are distorted by the macro-texture (or the shape) of the steel.

 

A sword, when being polished, the polisher is adjusting the macro texture first. These macro and micro textures are basically frequencies of distortion in the surface and they are layered on top of each other. 

 

A sword may be bent for instance, which represents a very low frequency roughening of the surface. The defect in the surface is much larger than the surface itself. It may in fact have one peak, just a simple bend. The wavelength of this frequency would be twice the length of the sword, so in the case of a 70cm sword the wavelength would be 140cm for a simple bend in the middle. The bend is adjusted by reversing the bend until the sword is straight. Thus the lowest frequency defect has been addressed. 

 

General shaping of the surface now takes place. There was an example recently of an Akihiro that was poorly polished and the coarse stones used dug deep into the unhardened areas of the ji in its hitatsura, and tended to glide over the harder areas. This creates a middle frequency defect in the surface, where if you counted the peaks and valleys in the surface, maybe there would be one peak every two cm as you hit some tobiyaki. Between the tobiyaki where the stones dug in you get a valley. So one peak and one valley is one wave, the wavelength of this defect would then be about 4cm. Both this and the bend are macro-textures. They do not affect the scattering of light but they affect the geometry of an image being reflected out of them. You can consider a mirror with waves in it will clearly reflect your face but the geometry of your face will be distorted (for instance, a spoon will do this). 

 

The polisher's goal is to continue to tackle these defects into ever finer stages until they are very small, and very uniform, and then the application of burnishing and hadori makes for a mirror surface where the polisher wants it, and a rougher surface where the polisher wants it. In polishing anything the aim is to make successive iterations of:

 

- controlled uniform size scratches

- scratches that follow the same general direction (though this is not absolutely necessary if the scratches are fine enough... for instance a random orbital sander on wood, provided the scratches are uniform in size)

 

This gets us back to gloss. The higher the gloss, that is the flatness of the micro-texture the more predictably uniform the reflection of light. The rougher the micro-texture the less predictably light will reflect from it: basically, the light will scatter. 

 

The more light scatters, the clarity of a reflected image will be affected, the color will desaturate and will white out. To think of a metaphor here, look out your window on a sunny day at noon and you will see a clear image with highly saturated colors. Now, start some snow falling. The snow captures sunlight and reflects it at random angles, scattering it. The more snow in the air, the scene starts to white out. Similar effects can be had with smoke or clouds or fog. If the random reflection of light overtakes the predictable reflection of light by a large margin (i.e. a blizzard) you will lose the image entirely. It gets whited out. 

 

Hadori

 

Hadori reflects light randomly because of its scratch pattern being more coarse than the ji and having no orientation. The orientation of scratches may allow a surface to appear to be smooth under some lighting conditions, but may be revealed at a certain angle when light catches those scratches. Often times poor polishing skill in the boshi of a sword is revealed in this way, because fine scratches will appear at a certain angle of the light and this is a very difficult surface for a polisher to adjust. This is not ideal for something like hadori because hadori should be visible at all orientations of the light, hence the scratch pattern having no orientation of its own. 

 

If hadori is "too thick" people complain about not being able to "see through it". Uchiko can reduce the hadori because uchiko is an abrasive, and successive applications of uchiko will take the random scratch pattern in the hadori that reflects light in all directions and will eventually smooth it out by continually abrading it. If the uchiko is very fine and high quality this will make the applier feel that they are "improving" the polish. 

 

In fact they may be improving the polish, if the polish was a bad polish to begin with. Or if there is no polish at all. 

 

The real solution though is not to use uchiko but to get a good polish in the first place.

 

An Imprecise and Unpredictable Tool

 

A sword polisher is buying stones that have a high degree of uniformity to their textures. This will create a uniform scratch pattern and improve the quality of his polishing. One may consider that the most high level polishers will also be attempting to use the best quality tools, it is essential because their skill may be so high that it exceeds what their tools are capable of. For instance, if I am to polish a sword, it would not matter if you gave me the worst stones or the best stones: the result would be a disaster of epic proportions either way. If I were to train for long enough, my skill would begin to approach the quality of my tools and the disaster would lessen until it was passable. If I trained long enough and had enough talent, I would exceed the capabilities of the poor quality tools and would require higher quality tools in order to express all of my abilities. 

 

Uchiko is not a tool with a high degree of control.

 

Through its application it is concentrated in certain areas of the sword by the application process (tapping an uchiko ball against the sword). It is not perfectly randomly distributed over the surface to begin with. It is then wiped linearly over the sword with a cloth. This cloth collects the uchiko and again, at the very beginning the cloth has no uchiko on it, and by the end of the stroke the cloth is fully loaded with uchiko. This means that no surface of the sword is being addressed by the same amount of uchiko as the cloth is constantly loading as it goes. Depending on the grip, and the fact that fingers are not uniform surfaces, this uchiko is pressed against the surface of the sword with different pressure at each contact point, meaning some areas will gouge deeper than others. Finally as the cloth passes over intentional defects in the surface (like horimono) and unintentional ones (like ware), the uchiko will be pulled off of the cloth, creating voids in the abrasive being dragged over the surface of the sword. Imagine a snowplow pushing snow, now imagine that you remove the center section of the snow in the plow and create a void. As the plow continues to push, snow from the sides of the plow will pile back into the void and fill it up again. 

 

So what happens as uchiko passes over a defect in the surface is that this void in the abrasive will create a drag zone after the defect where there is no abrasive. Wherever there is abrasive in the cloth, the surface will continually haze over with each successive application of uchiko. This will make the steel more gray, more light, and show less contrast. Where the drag zone is, the original polish will still show through for some distance past the defect. 

 

The result is now a non-uniform surface where some areas have been hazed (brought to a lower gloss) by the uchiko and in the drag zones the original gloss level shows through. 

 

Oil and Uchiko = Problems

 

Swords are generally oiled. Application of uchiko onto an oiled sword does two things:

 

1. it gets oil on the applicator

2. it mixes uchiko with oil on the surface of the sword

 

Whenever uchiko mixes with oil you get a slurry. This is a thick, viscous, evil, abrasive compound. Since you are wiping it over a surface that has texture in it (swords have fine texture and are not perfectly smooth as previously mentioned: horimono, defects, and also just grain pattern), the low points of the texture will capture the slurry and the pressure from your wiping will force the slurry into these defects. Once in the defect, it will stay. It will also attract ever more since oil is sticky.

 

Once those defects trap enough uchiko slurry, when you push a sword into a shirasaya, the greater and more even pressure of the shirasaya against the sword, and the fact that the inside of the shirasaya also has texture with fibers that are elastic, the wood surface can penetrate into the defects and scoop out uchiko slurry.

 

Now you have a high pressure surface (shirasaya) pushing abrasive uchiko slurry that has concentrated in a repeated fashion in the same places in the sword, over the surface of the sword after scooping it out to some level. 

 

That will scratch the surface of the sword in regular places. If it is a thick chunk of slurry that becomes trapped into a defect on the inside of the shirasaya, you effectively get a polishing stone stuck in the shirasaya and this will burnish high points on the sword leaving long, thick burnishing marks. 

 

If it is distributed over the surface of the shirasaya, then it will just scratch the sword like you are rubbing sandpaper over it.

 

Furniture polishing has the same type of problem, when sandpaper collects wood dust and the dust sticks to the paper, it forms a slurry of dust and abrasive which gets knocked off the paper. These corns that form under the paper then create linear scratches in the wood or the finish. It's why you have to be careful when using sandpaper and discard it once these corns start to form or else you're just working against yourself.

 

The last note here is even if the uchiko slurry embeds in the texture of the sword without being displaced and causing scratches, it will ruin the appearance of the sword because you start looking at uchiko which will form white spots and lines and rings in the surface of the sword. It makes the sword look tired when it may not be tired at all.

 

If the surface of the sword is extremely fine grained and even like Awataguchi or Hizen, if you do not remove absolutely every last tiny particle of uchiko before the sword goes back into the shirasaya, that uchiko will end up in the shirasaya and cause scratches. I do not know very many men at middle age with eyes having lost their youth who can be confident of removing every grain of uchiko dust out of the million or so that may be sprinkled over the sword when the uchiko is applied.

 

And that perfect action has to be performed every single time or else you have a guarantee that uchiko goes into the shirasaya and becomes sandpaper on the finish of your sword. 

 

Even if the application of uchiko is done correctly, it is still a linear abrasion of the surface. This will cover the surface with fine linear scratches where the ji before this treatment will appear clear of scratches if the polish is good.

 

Fixing What Ain't Broke

 

If I took my car into a body shop and asked for the most talented painter in the shop to repaint my car with a high quality custom paint, then I took the car home and rubbed it with sandpaper to "improve" the paint job, I would be considered somewhere between crazy and stupid. Or at least misguided. 

 

If I brought an antique piano into a restoration shop and had a man with 30 years of experience perform a painstaking french polish in shellac on it, then after getting it home I rubbed it with sandpaper to "improve" the finish, I would be considered somewhere between crazy and stupid. Or at least misguided. 

 

If I send a sword to Fujishiro for polish and it comes back, and I decide to "improve" the polish through application of uchiko, I am doing the same thing as above. 

 

Fuhishiro when he hands the sword over to me, has assessed with all of his skill and experience and training, that the sword is now in as good condition as it can possibly be. If I disagree with him and think I can improve his work with sandpaper, well... this is again subjective, but I think misguided. if I do not trust him to complete a polish to perfection then I should not be sending it to him to be polished. 

 

My only goal as a custodian of the sword is to not screw it up. Don't break it, don't drop it, don't mess up the polish, don't let it get rusty, don't don't don't don't don't don't don't. There are no "dos" on this list. Just don'ts. I am to conserve it and preserve it. 

 

That cannot be done with uchiko because uchiko is constantly abrading the surface. It is ruining Fujishiro's polish and turning it into some nightmare hybrid of master craftsmanship and home workbench jackassery. It is constantly embedding uchiko in the surface and ruining the look of the sword. It is constantly threatening to ruin a shirasaya and turn it into sandpaper. It is constantly threatening to destroy the sword through use of this ruined shirasaya. 

 

All of that means the use of uchiko is opposite to the need to conserve the sword. 

 

And when the sword leaves my custodianship, and someone looks at all of these scratches and crap and surface changes that have happened to the sword during my jackassery, their first feeling is going to be, this is a really nice sword but it is going to look a lot better once it gets a polish.

 

Swords have finite lives. Every polish strips one life away from them. Like with the ocean, nobody quite knows what lurks under the surface. Maybe a mermaid, maybe a shark, maybe a nuclear tipped missile that is going to destroy life as we know it for the sword. We do not want to look under the surface unless it is absolutely necessary. 

 

Not many people look further down the road from their own stewardship. Or they assume that they will be the ones to restore it and once restored it will stay like this forever. 

 

But even if you do your best and just conserve it, that will last only until the next guy gets that sword and starts to "improve" it with uchiko. Then the cycle of destruction begins again. 

 

There is no need to fix a Fujishiro polish and make it better. You do not need to alter Mishina's polish or any other mukansa polisher. If you do not like their style, do not send it to that polisher. If you cannot live with a good perfect polish as it is because you do not like the style, then don't buy the sword, there are others. But do not ruin a perfectly fine polish with uchiko because you are going to kill one of the lives of the sword eventually, when that sword changes hands and the next guy decides to reverse your well intentioned "improvements" that ruined a polish.

 

And remember too that your uchiko jackassery will, 9 times out of 10, last beyond the grave. You may die and that sword may be polished but the well intentioned collector who had it polished did not make a new shirasaya. Or split the old shirasaya. And as a result, that sword after polish will go right back into the sandpaper hell that you created through years of inserting uchiko into the shirasaya. And so you strike beyond the grave to destroy the successor polish over time... and even that guy, not doing any jackassery of his own, eventually destroys the polish having inherited your masterwork and didn't think to, or wanted to save money on, or for preserving a sayagaki legacy, avoided creating a new shirasaya after polish.

 

 

 

So I Can't Use Uchiko, What Do I Do?

 

You use a microfiber cloth. You keep it clean, you keep it put away and hidden from dust. You get a new one every now and then. This with one gentle wipe will soak up and remove any oil from the sword without abrading the surface. It won't leave any crap behind to ruin the sword or the shirasaya. It will move you away from ca. 1100 AD technology and into the 21st century. It will preserve and conserve the sword.  It is simple, easy and cheap, and very difficult to jackass up.

 

Damage

 

Below are typical damages made through proper and improper application of shirasaya. I will document each cause and how it affected the sword. Damage may not always be immediately visible because it is always some form of scratching, and as a result may be more highly visible at certain angles. Therefore without a complete and uniform inspection of the sword, it is possible to miss the damage. Over time the damage accumulates and finally becomes obvious at all angles.

 

The first sword is a Juyo Ichimonji and the owner had an old uchiko ball that has been used forever, probably it is the first one that this owner ever bought. The owner used it consistently on oiled swords by hitting it into the ji of the sword. The ball over time collected oil from the sword. This oil has impregnated the fibers of the ball. On impact with the sword, when uchiko powder has discharged from the ball, it has stuck to the oily fibers of the ball and stayed in place. Thus the ball now has a surface composed of uchiko slurry embedded in the fibers instead of being a clean silk surface. As a result, the fibers themselves are abrasive. Every time the ball strikes the ji with force, it leaves a textured fingerprint of the ball. It is possible to identify swords as having passed through this person's hands by the fingerprint of the uchiko ball. 

 

uchiko1.jpg

 

This is another view of the same sword. The owner drags the uchiko ball a little bit sometimes when he strikes the sword with it. Since the fibers themselves are abrasive this leaves telltale drag marks in the ji.

 

uchiko8.jpg

 

This next sword is Naotsuna. It is a bit polished down so it is even more important to consider the finite lives remaining to it. Unfortunately the owner didn't really think about that too much as one side shows consistent and hard strikes of an uchiko ball. 

 

In this case the damage is formed by the first strike discharging so much uchiko that the surface of the ball lifts some of the uchiko up with it and this is repeated on each successive strike. So the surface of the ball is abrasive in a random pattern depending on what the ball picked up. Each strike then abrades the surface in a round pattern with random sub patterns in it. Depending on the angle of the light they may not be visible. 

 

uchiko0.jpg

 

The overuse of uchiko has also created a linear scratch pattern in the sword. This is visible in the glare around angled light. This is just simply an old polish which has been uchikoed for a long time. Since this sword is a bit polished down already, trying to fix this is probably out of the question now.

 

uchiko9.jpg

 

This next sword is a Tokubetsu Juyo Soshu sword and it was polished by Fujishiro and owned only by high level, experienced collectors and dealers since the time of its polish. Even so the ji of the sword showed about six or seven heavy uchiko strikes. In this case they were strikes with drags and created gouges in the ji. Fujishiro's polish lasted less than 5 years before being ruined. Is the solution to repolish this sword every 5 years to clear out damage from owners using this tool improperly? We can never guarantee that they will use it properly, they never will, and as shown here even proper consistent work will eventually destroy the polish. It's better to just not touch uchiko.

 

uchiko2.jpg

 

The next sword is the Nagashige from my site. The polish is in good state and from almost all angles there is no visible issue. There is a burnishing mark in it where the saya has collected some uchiko most likely, and there are very fine linear scratches in it from "proper" application of uchiko. At the current stage these probably will not be noticed at all, but continuing use of uchiko will degrade it into the situation with the Naotsuna above. So it's important to conserve it as is when it is still in a good state of polish.

 

uchiko3.jpg

 

The next sword has gomabashi on it and illustrates the drag zones that form at the end of horimono. The drag zones appear darker because they are more reflective (i.e. less hazed) than the areas of the sword that had uchiko application. Though there are no scratches visible on this sword, indicating that the uchiko was very carefully and thoughtfully applied, the drag zones will always form because the horimono is scooping away the uchiko. In this case, the drag zones can be made less evident by using both directions for application of the uchiko, one wipe each way. That will not completely prevent them, but you know what? It's better to avoid them entirely and use a microfiber cloth. The drag zones are not so evident unless the angle of the light is right, but even so, they are there and show that the polish has been altered through application of uchiko. And any sword with horimono in an older (and good!) polish will show drag zones as long as uchiko has been used. I see these on Tokuju swords in their photos, in books with high level pieces in them, everywhere. 

 

uchiko5.jpg

 

This next sword is a Soshu sword that shows improper removal of uchiko and likely too much oil in the first place. Slurry has formed and has embedded itself into every tiny variation of the surface. Small kitae ware are jammed full of uchiko. Small corns of uchiko have invaded everywhere on the surface. The net result is distracting as it makes the sword look a bit tired when it is perfectly healthy, because we equate the whiteness with coarseness, and in this case it's just uchiko. I started flagging them all and then got tired about halfway through. This is maybe just one inch of the blade or something. It needs a bath and careful removal of all of this, and the shirasaya will need to be split and cleaned most likely.

 

uchiko6.jpg

 

The next shows very clear and very fine grained yamashiro steel, but improper removal of uchiko has left it on the surface of the sword, where it got into the shirasaya and has formed abrasive corns inside. They have gouged the surface. We can tell the difference between this and over use of uchiko because the gouges are different sizes instead of regular fine scratches. This is because the shirasaya has collected random size patches of uchiko on the inside and where it's collected larger ones, you get bigger scratches. 

 

uchiko7.jpg

 

Conclusion

 

Don't use uchiko unless it is a sword that needs polish already, and you are not going to be causing any damage to it. It's for rusty swords, swords that polish is not worth paying for, or for professionals only.

 

Since there is no way to guarantee that everyone touching a sword with uchiko will apply it perfectly 100% of the time and remove 100% of the abrasive that is applied to the sword, that alone means that any use of uchiko will end up with problems. 

 

That uchiko is an abrasive and an ongoing modification to a polish is also an issue, because it is implying that the polisher cannot finish his job correctly. In this case, it is more likely that the collector needs to adjust his expectations for what a sword should look like, or simply buy old swords in the state that they appreciate already. 

 

But in my situation, I see uchiko damage on the majority of blades that pass through my hands, which indicates to me that it is an out of control tool, an outdated tool, a tool that the masses cannot properly use, and when we have good alternatives to it that are guaranteed to cause no damage, there is no good reason anymore for people to use this as a regular part of sword care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  • b.hennick, uwe, Ken-Hawaii and 9 others like this

https://www.yuhindo.com (only way to reach me, do not PM me on this board, you will not get a response)


#2 Brian

Brian

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 14,937 posts
  • LocationSouth Africa

Posted 05 June 2015 - 07:03 PM

:clap:

Have saved the post and will be uploading it as an article for future reference.

 

Brian


  • Randy McCall likes this

- Admin -

Want to contribute? Donate at http://www.paypal.me/japaneseswords
Thank you.


#3 seattle1

seattle1

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 871 posts

Posted 05 June 2015 - 08:26 PM

Hello:

 The issue of "use" or "don't use" uchiko is an important one, and Darcy's comments are an important and helpful contribution to this long standing issue which, among other things, seems to have been spiked since the introduction of microfiber cloths a few years ago. I do not claim to know "the answer", but I do not consider the issue closed from the arguments that have been made. Dirty shirasaya, oiled blades, poor quality or degraded uchiko, the incorrect use of uchiko, to say nothing of the cloth or tissue that might be used to remove it and exactly how it is removed, including finger pressure, only cloud the issue.

 The question of the best medium of care for a fine blade polished by a top togi-shi is after all something that could be tested through a controlled experimental design, though I realize that is unlikely to happen and we will continue to have anecdote as evidence. I would like see fully qualified togi-shi address this issue.

 I recently had a correspondence with a very well known and experienced togi-shi, known both in Japan and abroad,  and happened to ask about utsuri and the use of uchiko of high quality, as laboriously produced by a polisher, not the unknown substance usually sold in so called sword care kits. His answer addressed uchiko and also the complex interaction between immediately emphasizing utsuri, versus the characteristics of the jihada. The nuanced answer, in part, was: "It is not so difficult to emphasize utsuri in the finishing work but the details of the jihada and jigane are sacrificed. Anyway, utsuri will be getting clearer year after year by proper uchiko cleaning. Though, needless uchiko hitting should be avoided." That statement implies to me that a polish evolves with time, and the "cost" might be some relative reduction of jihada effects. I suppose if one wanted to retain lessened utsuri effects, in blades that have utsuri, uchiko use should be minimized as it obviously has an effect. That effect is not necessarily bad; it merely reflects, if used the right way, a sort of trade off. Most people admire utsuri on nioi-deki based blades.

 I realize that introducing utsuri may be wandering beyond the Darcy's post, but it does suggest that the uchiko issue is not one dimensional and in the eyes of some qualified people it can beneficial. I have no polar position for or against uchiko; I just don't believe all legitimate points of view have been considered. 

 Arnold F.



#4 SAS

SAS

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,242 posts
  • LocationAmerican Samoa

Posted 05 June 2015 - 08:43 PM

Very good article, you sound as obsessed with perfection as I am, perhaps an unobtainable goal but one must try, eh?


Steve Shimanek

www.oloteleforge.com


#5 Jamie

Jamie

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 778 posts

Posted 05 June 2015 - 09:41 PM

Darcy,
Have you considered putting this on Wikipedia also?. It may come up more prevalently when googled if you did that.
Jamie

#6 Fuuten

Fuuten

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 918 posts
  • LocationThe Netherlands

Posted 05 June 2015 - 10:07 PM

Although all is pretty much good to spread around just because it gives people context and a 'guide' to work by but  my understanding has been that uchiko was/is used to just remove the part bit of oil, not so much do some kind of polish? :-?


Axel

 

Semper ubi sub ubi


#7 Jamie

Jamie

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 778 posts

Posted 06 June 2015 - 01:33 AM


Yes it's to remove oil. But it is made from polishing stones.
Microfiber soaks up oil and there is no need for it.
It definitely can easily scratch a blade. Very good illustrations here.
Jamie

#8 Stephen

Stephen

    Oyabun

  • Members
  • 14,488 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 06 June 2015 - 01:37 AM

one point microfiber will not remove old oil that has turned yellow and hardened from age.


"This to shall pass,
Or I will"
USMC DEC 63 APR 73

#9 Jamie

Jamie

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 778 posts

Posted 06 June 2015 - 01:47 AM

But denatured alcohol will.
Stephen, please know I'm not trying to be argumentative.
I just agree with not using uchiko on a nicely polished sword.
I scratched a blade using it when I started out. I no longer use it at all on anything in polish.
  • Stephen likes this
Jamie

#10 Stephen

Stephen

    Oyabun

  • Members
  • 14,488 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 06 June 2015 - 02:34 AM

understood but not all do as you do


"This to shall pass,
Or I will"
USMC DEC 63 APR 73

#11 Rich S

Rich S

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,251 posts
  • LocationUS, east of the Blue Ridge

Posted 06 June 2015 - 01:36 PM

While I agree about not using uchiko to "polish" swords, I have found that using it on swords not in good polish does tend to somewhat enhance the hamon. Won't use it for swords in new/excellent polish. I keep my swords dry (low humidity and constant temp in house); this makes oiling unnecessary. I've kept my swords dry (but check them occasionally) for years with no oil and see no evidence of rust or tarnish. On the other hand, back in the old (I really mean old) days when I did lightly use choji oil and put swords away that some developed what I call choji staining. That's what stopped me from using choji or oil. Just my perspective on the topic; not advising anyone to follow my example.

Rich


Rich S.

----------------------------------------

There is intelligent life in the universe,

I just don't know where it is.


#12 Marius

Marius

    Juyo

  • Members
  • 3,182 posts
  • Locationhere and there

Posted 06 June 2015 - 04:15 PM

Jamie, 

 

I am with you, mate. Boss is  not always right, sorry, boss :)

 

Seriously, uchiko makes no sense with swords that get handled every fortnight or so, even if they are covered with oil because of the wet climate (mine are not, but I live in a dry place). IPA is perfect even for dried oil, too. IPA and microfibre rule.


Best regards

Marius

"take tarts as tarts is passing"


#13 Stephen

Stephen

    Oyabun

  • Members
  • 14,488 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 06 June 2015 - 07:16 PM

JHC!!! THIS TOPIC  :bang:  :flog: I WASNT saying to use it, just because you do what is the right accepted way, doesn't mean every sword owner is going to fallow your way, What are we going to have? Uchiko police going around to nihonto owners?? pass a law to register your swords.

once more and last time from me "Da Boss" old cloudy out of polished blades uchiko the hell out of then! new or fine polish. dont touch em ...do i need to resurrect MC Hammer???!!!  YOU CANT TOUCH THIS!!

'


  • Daniel and Travis Clarke like this
"This to shall pass,
Or I will"
USMC DEC 63 APR 73

#14 Brian

Brian

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 14,937 posts
  • LocationSouth Africa

Posted 06 June 2015 - 09:54 PM

I think everyone was actually in agreement here, just putting the same thing in their own words.
And yes...microfiber cloth won't remove old dried oil on its own. Alcohol for that, along with the cloth.

I uchiko my out of polish blades. But watch out for any ware or pit marks, or you will get "hike" streaks that don't remove easily.

 

Brian


- Admin -

Want to contribute? Donate at http://www.paypal.me/japaneseswords
Thank you.


#15 Kronos

Kronos

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 785 posts
  • LocationBristol, United Kingdom

Posted 06 June 2015 - 10:27 PM

Let me clarify what i believe everyone is in agreement over:

 

1) For blades in good polish don't use uchiko, rather a good microfibre cloth and IPA is all that is required. Only use 99% IPA and maybe only half a bottle before tossing it as when open it collects water which dilutes it.

 

2) For blades in bad/old polish Uchiko will help bring out the hamon so this can be used with the above IPA and MF cloth (not the same cloth for obvious reasons of cross contamination). I hear Bob Benson makes his own Uchiko that is very good quality.

 

3) There's no need to oil a blade if it's stored in a dry, temperature controlled environment,  however if you live in the tropics or near the sea a thin coat of some light mineral oil or good choji oil is needed. From the other thread I recall Fujishiro oil was highly recommended.

 

Does that cover pretty much everything?


  • Stephen likes this
James C.

#16 Stephen

Stephen

    Oyabun

  • Members
  • 14,488 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 06 June 2015 - 11:52 PM

James, YES!

 

maybe we can put it to bed now.


"This to shall pass,
Or I will"
USMC DEC 63 APR 73

#17 CurtisR

CurtisR

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 604 posts
  • LocationLakewood, Colorado USA

Posted 07 June 2015 - 12:48 AM

One more short question on this topic please? I can completely see the argument for newly, well-polished blades being kept from an obvious abrasive substance (even a light one), and that the use of uchiko on out-of-polish blades can bring out the hamon and hada over time, but it must be done carefully.

MY dilemma is this: I have a blade which I believe will do well (I hope) at Shinsa - it has a decent enough polish to submit, although still retains a few small, shallow "pock marks" (not flaws) which would polish out if the cost of a professional polish would be beneficial to the sword's value after shinsa.

Having taken the long way around (sorry), I ask "Do I use it lightly before shinsa to help the properties stand out better?"

 

Thanks in advance, and my apologies for the :flog:

 

Curtis R.



#18 b.hennick

b.hennick

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,380 posts
  • LocationCanada

Posted 07 June 2015 - 04:31 AM

HI Curtis:

It takes a lot of uchiko use to make a significant change. Jim Kurrasch made the use of uchiko famous many years ago. We now think that Darcy's approach is the way to go. The question is can the shinsa team see the hada and the hamon? The shape will not change, the nakago will not change so if the hamon and hada is clear then do not use uchiko. The problem is can you tell if you have enough there to see or not. Beginners at this, see far less than more experienced nihontophiles. For year I was impressed that my seniors see things in my sword that I did not see until they pointed them out. I now do the same for newer collectors. It is amazing what a well-trained eye can actually see. So it seems that I have taken a round about road to tell you not to uchiko the blade unless you are sure that it needs it.


  • Stephen and Dave R like this
Regards,
Barry Hennick

#19 CurtisR

CurtisR

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 604 posts
  • LocationLakewood, Colorado USA

Posted 07 June 2015 - 04:58 AM

:) Thank you Barry! That makes perfect sense and no, it wasn't the 'long road'...it gives me hope that one day I'll be able to point out those little subtleties as well...I learn more each day, and it seems that I'm learning more of the things NOT to do; invaluable since those lessons are usually learned the hard way! Just another reason why I love this forum!

 

Cheers to all, and have a great weekend~~

 

Curtis R.  (chucking the uchiko ball over my shoulder :glee: )



#20 Guido Schiller

Guido Schiller

    Metsuke

  • Members
  • 3,239 posts
  • LocationTōkyō

Posted 07 June 2015 - 05:27 AM

This topic has been discussed - and lots of good advice given - since the dawn of NMB. I guess my future grandchildren will still discuss it.


  • Stephen and Dave R like this

書を検べるに、燭を短く焼き、剣を看るに、杯を長く引く。


#21 seattle1

seattle1

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 871 posts

Posted 07 June 2015 - 05:24 PM

Hello:
I marvel at the near religious fervor with which uchiko use is attacked. We are not all in agreement that uchiko is a bad thing as such, but I am sure we are all in agreement that improper use of uchiko is a bad thing. Examples of careless use and misuse of uchiko are not sufficient to condemn uchiko out of hand. Ideally a controlled experiment might yield real evidence; in lieu of that I am willing to accept the personal opinions of several highly regarded polishers with whom I have discussed uchiko use.
For those committed to view all uchiko use as bad, please take the trouble to Google "NBTHK sword care recommendations" and then inform the NBTHK in Tokyo and the NBTHK American Branch of their misguided ways.
Arnold F.
  • Stephen likes this

#22 CurtisR

CurtisR

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 604 posts
  • LocationLakewood, Colorado USA

Posted 07 June 2015 - 07:01 PM

Arnold, for MY part I plan to discontinue the use of it...I own an Akihiro blade ( or am it's custodian for now, is a better term :) ) - and no not the one mentioned by the OP - not in 'great' polish but I'd hate to damage it over time. Also for my second blade that's headed for shinsa, well, I'm just not going to risk it any longer. The microfiber, alcohol and choji work fine. :thumbsup:

 

Hope all are well and this has been a great topic for me to sneak in some 'learnin'.

 

Curtis


  • Dave R likes this

#23 nagamaki - Franco

nagamaki - Franco

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,239 posts
  • LocationUSA

Posted 07 June 2015 - 09:17 PM

Uchiko, thoughts, comment, experience;

 

Currently, will use 'polisher's uchiko' /oil only as necessary/essential, mostly swords are kept dry, wipe and inspect regularly with MicroDear cloths. 

 

Kajiwara sensei, Yoshikawa sensei, Jimmy Hayashi san all used uchiko on my polished swords without hesitation when asked to evaluate. Each time I examined the swords afterwards under quartz halogen lighting and there were no scratches from their applying uchiko.

 

Have used 5 different polishers, 4 of which are Japanese, each and everyone recommended using uchiko.

 

Uchiko is unforgiving if used incorrectly, and/or if poor quality, it will scratch.

 

Uchiko will bring out detail in a kesho polish as witnessed when a newly polished sword was presented for kantei to a study group of ~15 people, and then the same sword was presented again for kantei only 6 months later to the same group of ~15 people where it was not recognized by anyone. The most frequent comment when revealed following discussion was 'where did all that ko gonome with ko ashi come from?'.

 

Have seen many freshly polished and older polished swords on all levels owned by collectors of all levels with uchiko scratches. Have seen many freshly polished and older polished swords on all levels owned by collectors of all levels without uchiko scratches. 

 

Uchiko, when in doubt, don't.


  • b.hennick, drbvac and Dave R like this
_________
Regards,

Franco

#24 SAS

SAS

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,242 posts
  • LocationAmerican Samoa

Posted 08 June 2015 - 01:00 AM

All uchiko is not equal in my humble opinion. I have only used Bob Benson's uchiko as it is made from the finest powder of the finest stones after polishing, drying, etc. Cheap uchiko is a car crash of enormous proportions.


  • Stephen and b.hennick like this

Steve Shimanek

www.oloteleforge.com


#25 seattle1

seattle1

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 871 posts

Posted 08 June 2015 - 03:02 AM

Hello:

 You've got that right SAS. How to tell a good uchiko without dangerous experimentation is something else again. You have the right stuff and I know Bob's time has a very low rate of compensation for the time it takes to make those. All uchiko users should stay away from the "sword care kit" unknowns, and in general remember that one that seems heavy in weight and expense is the way to go, and don't try to hit a home run with one.

 Arnold F.



#26 Darcy

Darcy

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,488 posts
  • LocationEverywhere

Posted 08 June 2015 - 04:52 PM

A few other thoughts based on some of the above:

 

The "hardened/yellowed oil" thing... proper oil is not going to harden and "dry out." What is happening here is not that the oil became dry, but that it oxidized and turned into a plastic. Any oil that is being used that is doing that has to be held in some suspicion and the right point of attack for that issue is to use a proper grade of oil. 

 

Should this happen anyway, the right approach is not to grind the sword with an abrasive. The right approach is to use a solvent and remove the substance. Grinding the sword is removing steel and removing steel in order to get at some "dried" oil is kind of crazy. If you clean your fridge every time it gets dirty with a fine grain of sandpaper then you're going to end up somewhere down the line with a screwed up fridge.

 

"Proper uchiko cleaning will bring out the utsuri." Let's analyze what is happening. Utsuri being present on a sword is going to have a varying level of hardness on the ji. Using uchiko abrades the surface, and makes it less reflective. The harder the steel the less effect you will get from each application of uchiko. This will then continue to enhance the contrast between the utsuri and the rest of the ji. This will be a continual evolution, the right word has been used above. But, isn't there a correct stopping point? A polisher could make a sword as garish as you could want it. But they don't. 

 

Now, depending on the grade and the components in the uchiko you may get different effects from its use. How do we measure these in advance? A polisher is so carefully selecting his stones and applying them so perfectly and after so much practice and experience, but we're able to just take a random ball that contains god knows what and slap that around and rub the sword for a while and magically improve what he's done with all his training and superior tools? I think this is more of "what sensei said" ... 

 

If the polish can be improved by uchiko then it would stand to reason that polishers who want to submit work to the competitions would hold the blade back for year or two and uchiko it every day until it evolves into the correct state. Or else, they could uchiko it continually for a few days and accelerate the evolution and get it all done fast. 

 

Then, the sword would finally be in its perfect state and ready. My belief is that they are handing it out to us already in a perfect state by how they judge their work. "Proper uchiko cleaning" is going to change that. Is utsuri being more prominent a good thing? What about the other areas that are sacrificed to get this? Is it a zero sum game? I think it's entropy: downward spiral.

 

Uchiko definitely does generate some business for polishers, because they can sell off their scraps and also by handing out abrasives to us know-nothings we're going to screw up swords which then get sent back for polish. 

 

The "enhancing" of the hamon is a similar thing that's going on here. Where you have hadori you have a random scratch pattern and you are replacing that with a linear scratch pattern. This is effectively removing the hadori and toning it down. The harder areas of steel will resist the alteration of the scratches more than the softer areas. Whatever you are doing, the "enhancing" is subjective. From an objective point of view it is an alteration of the trained sword polisher's work. One has to ask the question then, is that an improvement objectively or subjectively? Someone else's uchiko work may not even find a fan in another user of uchiko. This is going to show very subjective results. 

 

Anyway at the end of the cycle, after you have altered your sword through the use of uchiko, and even though every individual believes that they are the magic individual who uses it only correctly and all of their uchiko work only improves the sword, *somehow* all of these swords are ending up damaged and looking bad in general and in need of a new polish to "improve" them again. 

 

Nobody will come out and say yes, I am the evil gnome who goes around at night and scratches people's swords up. Everyone will say that they are an above average conservator of swords and their use of these tools only benefits the sword. 

 

But there they are, the irrefutable results of "proper" and "improper" use of uchiko. 

 

If we are to just throw out all of the other damage issues and concentrate entirely on the thought that uchiko "improves" a polish, this in itself creates a look that is subjective. The owner of that blade believes his customization of the polisher's work through the use of uchiko has improved it. There are just as many who do not like your after-polish work and will prefer the look after a polisher has polished it.

 

Because, your look, honestly, if it was such an improvement it could be submitted to the polishing competition and why wouldn't it win? Send Fujishiro back a sword I have been putting uchiko on for 10 years and say there you are, I fixed it up for you, now you can submit this masterpiece as it is better than anything you are capable of generating from your shop. Send it to the judges. 

 

I don't think that will be happening any time soon... and I don't think any good polisher is going to truly believe for a second that someone with an uchiko ball is going to fix their work so that when it comes back into their shop, they will look at it with admiration and say, "Wow, Eddie in Louisiana sure knows how to fix my mistakes using his $10 uchiko ball, I sure wish we could make them like this in our shop because we'd do a lot more business."

 

So... these subjective "improvements" to me are the same as the subjective "improvements" when someone decides to spruce up some horimono or take some rust off the tang and get it nice and shiny. Those in my boat will look at this kind of work as a ruined polished done by a well intentioned amateur, outside of the accompanying damage that will be on the blade and the hundreds of minute scratches. And we are going to be faced with the decision of, do we send this to a properly trained polisher to get them to fix it? And we probably will. 

 

When the sword changes hands into that of an uchiko guy... the cycle will begin again.

 

And swords are changing hands very frequently. That is accelerating the damage caused by uchiko and the need to restore it afterwards. Again, even if we allow that maybe there is a magical guy who "improves" the work of Fujishiro (you should bill out then) and polishers of this standing with his $10 uchiko ball, without any side damage, because of the subjectivity involved, someone is going to revert your changes. That's where the scary stuff comes in because it's the deep polish that comes after that kills a life of the sword.

 

If everyone would just STOP doing anything that altered the sword, and only preserved it, then the cycle of well-intentioned damage would also stop. 

 

And that's what I am advocating for.

 

If a sword has been properly and professionally polished: oil it, wipe it, don't do anything involving abrasives.

 

In other situations I remain agnostic. But the presence of this stuff and well intentioned do it yourselfers and people writing articles saying how much uchiko improves the look of swords is what has new guys go out and start slapping uchiko onto a sword and furthers the cycle. 

 

If this is polishing work, let people buy it as part of a polishing kit. And it is polishing work as it alters the appearance of a sword. 

 

It is not "care" and it is not "preservation" so it should not be part of a sword care kit or a preservation kit. It needs to be replaced with microfiber in these kits. And new collectors need to be told, don't use uchiko. 

 

If you're buying banged up rustbuckets on ebay and you need to use uchiko to clear them up, that is a use for this tool, surely. Past there it pretty much ends. 


  • b.hennick, Dave R and Alex A like this

https://www.yuhindo.com (only way to reach me, do not PM me on this board, you will not get a response)


#27 Brian

Brian

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 14,937 posts
  • LocationSouth Africa

Posted 08 June 2015 - 07:59 PM

Darcy, no one was saying use uchiko to remove old dried up oil. They were saying that microfiber alone won't remove that, you need to use a solvent like alcohol. I Agree with that. Microfiber can only do so much. Isopropyl alcohol is useful for cleaning.

Brian

- Admin -

Want to contribute? Donate at http://www.paypal.me/japaneseswords
Thank you.


#28 nagamaki - Franco

nagamaki - Franco

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,239 posts
  • LocationUSA

Posted 08 June 2015 - 08:29 PM

Darcy, your points, arguments, were fine until you started taking this discussion down to a personal subjective level throwing in positions not to enhance conversation but rather to stifle it and ridicule. Not good.


  • Stephen likes this
_________
Regards,

Franco

#29 Brian

Brian

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 14,937 posts
  • LocationSouth Africa

Posted 09 June 2015 - 03:42 PM

My my...a lot can happen when I have an evening of power failures and no online access (forecast again here in my area tonight possibly, and probably tomorrrow again) :doubt:

I have gone against my own better judgement and opened this thread that a moderator wisely locked. But suggest we wind this up and have our last says.
I am disappointed that we couldn't have a civil discussion about this, considering we all want the same outcome. I guess those like me with swords that are never fully in polish will feel different than those with $50,000 swords in mukansa polish.
I suspect I will regret opening this again, but here's hoping against hope that we can remain adults here and respect other people's opinions.

To sum up what I have gathered:

  1. Uchiko use is not recommended for swords in polish
  2. If you still choose to use it for whatever reason, only use the best and top quality uchiko
  3. Uchiko can help a totally out of polish blade to show hamon
  4. Microfiber cloth is preferable to uchiko
  5. Old dried oil and stains can be removed with a combination of microfiber and isopropyl alcohol

Brian


- Admin -

Want to contribute? Donate at http://www.paypal.me/japaneseswords
Thank you.


#30 smicha6551

smicha6551

    Chu Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 77 posts
  • LocationNOVA

Posted 09 June 2015 - 07:10 PM

Is there anything to watch out for when using a microfiber cloth and IPA on a sword in polish?  I don't intend on using uchiko myself (on swords anyway) but I'm assuming there could be specks of it on a sword I purchase.


Steven M.

Every time I learn something I mostly learn there's 10 more things I don't know...




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

IPB Skin By Virteq