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Habaki (Beginners Question)


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#1 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 11:10 AM

Hi to all,

 

A beginner’s question: I have noticed 2 different types of habaki, made from one piece of metal and made of two pieces of metal. I was wondering, is the two piece habaki also used in the Koto period (or even earlier) or only from the Edo period?

 

Regards,

 

Ed


Ed

#2 Geraint

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 11:24 AM

Hi Ed.

 

Hard to tell how many Koto habaki survive, when a sword is polished it is usual to have a new habaki to ensure a good fit.  So what we are looking for is an original koto koshirae with a niju habaki.  I can't say I have ever thought about this one before so I will start looking.

 

Good question.

 

All the best


Geraint

#3 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 11:36 AM

Hi Geriant,

 

Thanks for your reply.

 

Is the hakabi replace after polishing because it won’t fit anymore or just for aesthetic reasons?

 

I have also heard that the two piece habaki was mainly used on long blades. It had something to do with supporting the blade in a better way. I don’t know if this is true.

 

Regards,

 

Ed


Ed

#4 Dave R

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 01:49 PM

Both my two piece habaki are on Wakizashi blades.


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#5 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 02:04 PM

Hi Dave,

The fact that the two piece habaki is mounted on a Wakizashi probably will eliminate the long blade theory. This raises another question. Why would someone design and build a more complex two piece habaki? After mounting, it is hard to see the differences.

Regards,

Ed


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#6 Mark

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 03:51 PM

some people might just like the look of a 2 pc habaki and have that made, otherwise it may be made to help with the proper fit. When a blade has been polished a few times the nakago might be thicker than the blade and a one pc habaki may not get over the nakago and still fit tightly so they use the 2 pc


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#7 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 04:04 PM

Hi Mark,

That sounds like a good explanation. Maybe the better fit after re-polishing is also the reason why I can’t find an example of early (Koto period or earlier) two piece habaki.

Regards,

Ed


Ed

#8 Andi B.

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 05:47 PM

...how can a 2 piece habaki improve the fit on a tired blade (if the nakago is wider than the habaki area)?

Only an idea: Could exchanging the outer part be an option to improve the fit in the saya?
Greetings
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#9 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 06:05 PM

Hi Andi,

I think you are right. I didn’t think about the saya.

Maybe there is a better explanation.

Regards,

Ed


Ed

#10 Brian

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 06:58 PM

The Japanese are the last ones to use things purely because they are utilitarian.
I mean c'mon...90% of the Japanese sword doesn't take the easy way out, it is about the highest level of art and taste. Why tsukamaki instead of a simpler wrap? Why such decorated fittings?
It's not hard to see why a complicated and beautiful 2 piece habaki would be chosen over a simpler one. Same reason we often pay extra for one today. I don't think there is any super secret utilitarian reason out there. It was classy and an upgrade. That is all.


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#11 EdWolf

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 07:12 PM

Thanks Brian for your opinion. Do you know in which period the two piece habaki was introduced?
Regards, Ed
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#12 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 05:49 AM

Ed, I think what members are telling you is that there is no way to tell which specific period they began, because no original habaki still exist. But if I were to hazard a guess, I would choose Momoyama. The Sengoku Jidai was over, so tosho were able to spend far more time on aesthetics, rather than mass production, & so "pretty" items related to Nihonto, versus utilitarian/battle items, began to appear. Also, rather than basic suguha hamon, you start to see the much more florid hamon patterns that weren't necessary or appropriate for battle, & which caught the eye of the Samurai. Just my two yen.

 

Ken

 


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#13 Andi B.

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 08:32 AM

Momoyama sounds plausible...
Michael Hagenbusch said, while looking at my katana blade dated 1500-1530 (my guess) with a silver 2 piece habaki, a simple copper one would match better.
I'm not sure if he was driving at the age or quality of the blade but I think/hope it was the age... ;-)
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#14 EdWolf

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 08:35 AM

Hi Ken,

Thanks for your reply. I was not aware that the answer was hidden in the replies. Sorry for this. Maybe you have noticed it but my English writing skills are not very good. ;-)

Momoyama and your comments sounds logical. Thank you very much!

Regards,

Ed


Ed

#15 Dr Fox

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:55 PM

Decorative only imho.

 

Look at the habaki itself, its purpose.

 

To form a positive stop, which will resist the seppa and tsuba sliding up the blades cutting edge.

The wedge shape also acts as a stop, and locator in the mouth of the saya.

The sides of which can be roughened (cat scratches) to grip and hold the sword in the saya.

 

A two piece habaki only half fills this purpose.

As only the swelled lower part of the two piece, will contact the saya mouth.

This could have an effect of blade security, of heavy and long blades. (?)


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#16 Geraint

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 04:06 PM

Well Ed.

 

I told you it was a good question!  It has got me diving through the library anyway.  We know that early habaki were sometimes at least made of iron.  We know that blades that have seen many polishes are unlikely to have the original habaki as the fit becomes worse as the polishing removes metal.  (We also know that it is probably the most neglected of fittings as far as the literature goes, I would be very happy to be proved wrong on that).  Most modern photographs are taken with the habaki removed for very good reasons. 

 

The only reference I can find that specifically mentions the advent of the niju habaki is Stone who in his Glossary states that the niju form is the earlier but I am not sure how he arrives at this conclusion nor does he evidence it.

 

I have heard that the niju habaki is more common on lighter blades though this idea only makes sense when you are looking at a blade in koshirae, once the blade has been polished and put into shirasaya then the choice of habaki is essentially aesthetic.  I am not sure that a niju habaki would be easier to fit to a sword with a thicker nakago due to polishing, the very fine one that I have on an Oiei Bizen wakizashi, clearly made when the sword was put into shirasaya, is interesting.  The internal shape of the habaki has been made to fit the grooves that run the length of the nakago and the internal profile is consistent throughout the length of the habaki.  When fitted the habaki has clear gaps between the faces and the surface of the blade but it fits like a glove elsewhere.  As far as the fit to the blade is concerned then the register at the machi is the most critical I believe; once the nakago is seated in the tsuka and the mekugi inserted the fit in the tsuka and the slight pressure against the machi is what gives solidity to the whole thing.

 

To follow up on the point that Denis makes I wondered if saya shi would cut a shoulder for the larger part of the habaki.  I have been looking carefully at the saya mouth on any of mine that have niju habaki and I cannot see a shoulder but in reality the shoulder is very slim in any case so given the soft nature of Honoki would soon disappear.  

 

I can quite understand Mr Hagenbusch suggesting a single copper habaki suiting a sue koto katana, niju tend to be slimmer and perhaps not quite right on a sword with imposing sugata.

 

Not that this helps the discussion but I do have one sword which has a beautiful niju habaki that has then had a single silver foil jacket fitted covering the whole thing and effectively making it a hitoye habaki.  The sword is in koshirae so probably the owners fancy.

 

Great fun but not sure that we have the answers yet.

 

All the best and thank you for making me look even harder at some of my swords.


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#17 EdWolf

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 09:17 PM

Hi Geraint,

 

That’s a comprehensive reply! Thanks for all the time and effort you have put into it. It’s really appreciated.

 

Regards,

 

Ed


Ed

#18 Guido Schiller

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 05:17 AM

I just came across a small article on nijū-habaki in a Ginza Chōshūya’s monthly sales magazine of 2006. Here’s the quick and dirty translation:

 

The habaki is a metal fitting that has the function of securing the sword in the koiguchi so it doesn’t fall out. In the Edo period, complex double habaki came to be produced, because they strongly appealed to the aesthetics when pulling out a blade. It is commonly seen in storage houses of high-ranking samurai.

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#19 EdWolf

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 01:57 PM

Hi Guido,

Thanks for the information!

Regards,

Ed


Ed

#20 Michaelr

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 02:45 PM

Hello all, I just thought that I would add some information that I have. I have a blade signed Endo Nagamitsu and dated may 1945. It was purchased in Japan in 1967 by a navy officer,from the sister of a military inspector who brought the blade home in a shirasaya in 1945 and returned to work and was killed in a bombing. The blade is in very good polish but I am being told because of the rather sharp ( or I could say very square) edges on the Nakago and around the Mekugi-Ana that the blade was never Finish polished? Anyway this blade is as is from the factory in 1945 in Shirasaya and has a two piece Habaki. Don't know if this helps but thought I would put it out there. Mike

#21 Geraint

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 05:49 PM

Mike.

 

I am sure I am not alone in wanting to see some pictures.  Any chance?

 

All the best.


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#22 Michaelr

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 07:55 PM

I would be glad to share pictures. As I am new to the board I don't know how to do it. I have pictures already on my iPad of the blade and can take some of the Habaki also. I know that some people don't care but the sailor that purchased the sword was given the police registration also and told to keep it with the sword. Since he took it right back to his ship it was never turned in and I have that also.
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#23 EdWolf

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:38 PM

Hi Mike,
In the forum guidelines is a short description about how to upload pictures. It's easy. Beware of the filesize.
Regards, Ed
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#24 nagamaki - Franco

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:58 PM

 When a blade has been polished a few times the nakago might be thicker than the blade and a one pc habaki may not get over the nakago and still fit tightly so they use the 2 pc

 

 

Hi Mark, 

 

First part of your statement is correct, but have to give the 2nd part a hmm in conjunction with the 1st part.


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#25 Dr Fox

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 10:53 PM

some people might just like the look of a 2 pc habaki and have that made, otherwise it may be made to help with the proper fit. When a blade has been polished a few times the nakago might be thicker than the blade and a one pc habaki may not get over the nakago and still fit tightly so they use the 2 pc

 

Mark I can't get your point.

If the nakago is thicker than the seat area of the habaki, whether one piece or two, the habaki will be a slack fit.

This due to it already having had to slip over the unaltered nakago, onto a supposedly thinned blade.

See my difficulty here.


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#26 nagamaki - Franco

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 03:43 AM

Hello Dr. Fox,

 

 

Mark I can't get your point.

If the nakago is thicker than the seat area of the habaki, whether one piece or two, the habaki will be a slack fit.

This due to it already having had to slip over the unaltered nakago, onto a supposedly thinned blade.

See my difficulty here.

 

 

Where the width of the nakago remains wider than the finished sword as a result of repeated polishing over time, a properly made habaki whether one piece or two piece, should in fact slide without contact over the nakago, and still fit snug and firmly onto the finished sword when seated as well. Unfortunately, few habaki makers have the knowledge of how this is accomplished.

 

In fact this nakago imaged below was just such a case, where it was a struggle to put on and remove the one piece copper habaki it came with. However, that was far from being the case after a new 2 piece gold foil habaki was made by Brian Tschernega.

 

nakago - Copy.jpg


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#27 Dr Fox

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 10:30 AM

Hi Franco

 

Thanks for your explanation.

I will have to claim advanced age here, for my inability to fail to grasp this concept.

For a collar to move over a large area, and then reduce in size to snugly fit a reduced area, hmmm.

I can ponder, but won't argue this point, as you have a case in hand which works.

A craft mans magic, which without the skills, I won't understand anyway. :dunno:


Denis

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#28 EdWolf

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 10:54 AM

Maybe the snug fit is caused by the fact that the slope of the outer part presses the inner part down.

I’m not the best artist but I have tried to make a drawing ;-)

Regards, Ed

 

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#29 Dr Fox

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 02:55 PM

Aha Ed

 

So the leading part of the 2 part habaki has the ability to flex!.

Thus passing over the nakago, then the following 2nd part pressures, and compresses the first part to snug.

But would not that assembly, have to be fitted as two separate parts?

I have always thought habaki to be of a rigid construction, whether one or two piece.

 

I have lost the plot here, going now, to lie down in a darkened room.


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#30 Toryu

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 07:46 PM

I had occasion to revisit the book Uchigatana Koshirae
Most of the habaki shown are two piece - some are clearly fancy peirced constructions with extended bodies that must be Edo or later. However many are "short" plain two piece habaki that show age. Not conclusive but I would have to agree that high end swords got two piece habaki in the Momoyama and maybe earlier...
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