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IanB

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IanB last won the day on May 30 2020

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About IanB

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    Sai Jo Saku

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    Armour, swords

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    Ian

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  1. Ed, Yes I will have session with the camera. You will have to excuse me for a couple of days as I am now inundated with son, nieces and associated bodies staying. Trying to entertain and feed the assembled mob is demanding enough. Chris, I was looking at your tsuba and trying to figure out the symbolism when it occurred to me I had seen something similar on an uchiwa. I think the filled and unfilled dots might represent auspicious and unlucky days of the month. Ian
  2. Ed, Obviously there was a vogue for these decorative enamel fittings. My first impulsive though was that they were probably popular among the merchant class, and they possibly were. What I have not mentioned so far is the quality of the kojiri on this sword, nor that of the blade. I attach an image of the kojiri that is of silver, only partially inlaid into the lacquer so that it is in relief. Applying lacquer into the spaces between the stalks and leaves and then polishing it must have been a nightmare job. Ian Bottomley
  3. With the restrictions imposed on society, it now seems an eternity that I have managed to attend an arms fair, having to make do with on-line auctions as a means of acquiring the odd item. Earlier this year I was attracted by a sword listed by an auction house here in the UK. The description and photographs were not particularly encouraging except for one photo of an oxidised silver kojiri of the leaves and seed head of rice that writhed in relief around the black lacquered scabbard. Hovering above this were sparrows in gold and coloured lacquer. Another rather out of focus image taken of the hilt and tsuba, viewed from the kashira end of the tsuka showed the latter was missing and that the tsuba was textured in some way. To cut a long story short, I bid against another and won the auction, paying rather more than I had anticipated, but in retrospect an acceptable amount. On collecting the sword from the auction house, I realised I had acquired what is probably the finest sword it has been my good fortune to own. I won't go into the details of the blade here, that turned out to be potentially one heck of a bonus, concentrating on the fuchi and tsuba. As the title of this post indicates, it turned out that the 'texture' I had seen in the initial photographs was caused by the wires and partial enamel fill of the cloisonne decoration. I have never pretended to know anything about sword fittings, but I did know that the Hirata specialised in this technique and generally did small badge-like motifs in cloisonne that were then attached to tsuba and other fittings. In this case however, the whole surface of the tsuba and fuchi have been gilded and covered with the raised wires, enamel being confined to only a few places and only becoming obvious when examined closely. I've never seen anything like these and I wonder if it was more common.
  4. Liverpool Museum in the UK have an entire collection of kogatana blades bearing signatures of famous smiths, all polished and in shirasaya. The collection is housed in a purpose made box and was assembled by a daimyo. Although I have no proof, making kogatana would be a way of using scraps of steel and iron that would otherwise be wasted, and no doubt brought in a little cash. Ian Bottomley
  5. Yesterday, 03 / 07 / 2021, an event was held in Birmingham, the real one not the US copy, where Nihonto enthusiasts from all over the UK met for the first time after so many months of virus enforced separation. Special thanks must go to Ian Chapman and Mike Hickson - Smith for all their hard work in initiating the event, sourcing a venue and finally bringing the plan to its successful fruition. Unfortunately covid restrictions imposed limits on the number of attendees that could be accommodated in the space, but nevertheless if gave those sword lovers who could attended a foretaste of happier and less restrictive times that undoubtedly lie ahead. On display were a wide selection of fine swords, blades, fittings and accessories, some of which were old friends, but so many were new to me. Sadly I was unable to remain for the continuing festivities, that revolved around an evening meal, and something I find unbelievable, more liquid nourishment, but my few hours of exposure to the items on display and perhaps more importantly the opportunity to meet up with old friends, reignited a passion that this dreadful era of isolation had blunted. One again my thanks to Mike and Ian and let us look forward to making events like this a permanent feature in the future. Ian Bottomley
  6. Peter, I have always known this type of fitting, that are more common on tanto, as a dogane. Ian Bottomley
  7. Further to the tanto mentioned by Geraint above. I first became acquainted with it when it was exhibited in a ToKen exhibition in Oxford way back. When it reappeared for sale I managed to purchase it for the Royal Armouries collection. A bit of digging has revealed the following: Both the English and Dutch 'factories' in Japan were based on the island of Hirado during the early 17th century. The two groups were to some extent rivals, and there were some altercations between them, but somehow they rubbed along. The British finally closed their base in 1623 when Tokugawa Iemitsu became Shogun, in the main because the textiles they were trying to sell were of little interest to the Japanese and the principle trader, Cox or Cocks, was in reality more interested in trading with China. They did however managed to sell quite a number of decorated guns (none of which, nor any part of one, appears to have survived). The Dutch in contrast did quite well, trading in goods the Japanese did want. Whilst Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Hidetada were tolerant of the foreigners, Iemitsu was less so, at first confining the Catholic Portuguese to the artificial island of Dejima in Nagasaki harbour, and then finally expelling them altogether. He then transferred the Dutch to Dejima so they could be more closely controlled and limited the number of ships they were allowed each year. On leaving Hirado, the Dutch presented the Matsura daimyo with a gift that included at least two pikeman's armours (that Matsura Hoin had made into a Japanese armour that is now in Hirado Museum) and at least one sword from the blade of which the above tanto was made. It appears to have been originally a cavalry sword with a blade made in Solingen in the early 17th century. The blade is dated and inscribed with the maker's name in the fuller, but the inscription is partially removed through polishing. Matsura Hoin had it cut down, shaped into a tanto and given a yakiba. The scabbard is covered in Dutch leather and the mounts decorated with the Matsura kamon appear to be solid gold. Ian Bottomley, Curator Emeritus, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.
  8. IanB

    My armor so far

    Greg, Further to Piers' tip, a black permanent marker pen is ideal for touching out scratches. Ian Bottomley.
  9. IanB

    Kabuto and Menpo

    Gary, An interesting little puzzle. The zaboshi are very much an indication that it is a helmet made in the province of Kaga. Orikasa Sensei spent a considerable length of time researching the archives in Kanezawa library and produced a list of all the armourers who worked for the Maeda family whose fief it was. He found that the Maeda, who were granted the province by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, only employed Haruta armourers until 1800 when the first Myochin was taken on. Sasama, in his Shin Katchushi Meikan lists 4 armourers who signed Iehisa, One of whom was a member of the Saotome group, two who were of the Haruta, the remaining one being a Myochin. The latter is listed as working in Yukinoshita in Sagami province around the Tenbun era, not Kaga, but Sasama adds that there is no extant piece bearing the name and doubts his existance. One final point is that the kanji Ie- is not at all usual among Myochin smiths, by far the majority using Mune- . Having said that, I have a helmet by a Myochin Ietsugu who was a Soshu smith. I haven't the list of Kaga armour makers to hand at the moment, they are on another computer. I will try and remember to look tomorrow. Ian Bottomley
  10. Not that this helmet is anything like the same age, but I have a helmet with a re-used Nambokucho bowl that has two rows of prominent hoshi around the koshimaki. Being that age, the koshimaki is joined at the back. Just above the join in the koshimaki, through the back-plate, are two small holes side by side that no longer seem to have a purpose but must have had originally. Ian Bottomley
  11. IanB

    An unusual tanto

    As an alternative to the usual pairs of socks or sweater, I like to ensure at least one Christmas present is exciting to receive even though I have to buy it myself. Last Christmas my gift from me to me (how selfish can you get?) was this rather unusual tanto. As you can see, the blade is in the form of a leaf-shaped spear head. Although it has a typical yari habaki, in shakudo, I suspect it may have always been intended for a tanto as the signature 'Kanesaki saku' 兼先作 is just below the habaki, rather than further down what would normally be a yari tang. This appears to be the work of Mino Kanesaki, real name Heki Isuke, who worked around the end of the Muromachi period and later moved to Bizen. It is mounted with a hilt covered with rather distressed Dutch leather, and a saya decorated with dull, black lacquer swirls over polished black lacquer sprinkled with fine green abalone specks. There is a ko-kogatana with a brass blade, the hilt measuring only 8.5cm x 0.9cm in shibuichi decorated with a closed fan in silver. This is signed in soshu ?? and a kao.
  12. The double looped thing on the front of the tsuba is a swivel that I think was used for the rope held by the groom who led the horse. The four sausage-shaped items are metal tubes that were tied to the legs of the saddle as attachment points for breast-strap and crupper-strap that stopped the saddle moving forward or backword. I have a complete Edo period harness which has a girth of hemp strings sewn side by side and an iron ring at one end and a long single string at the other. Apparently earlier girths were of folded cloth that were passed under a horizontal strap sewn to the lower saddle flap, then passed between the two saddle-flaps to emerge through a hole at the top of the upper flap when it tied around the front of the saddle tree. It was this arrangement that is being referred two in the tale of the two generals crossing the river to reach the enemy during the Gempei wars. The rear L shaped thing looks like a metal / lacquered wood strip attached to the lower edge of the lowest saddle flap to take the rubbing of the girth. The long wavy strip may be an old style girth, but my set includes two thick hemp ropes, about 5 or 6m long with tassels on each end and they maybe be these. For a long time these ropes were a complete mystery, being far too heavy to be for leading the horse. I asked several yabusame riders about them and drew blank looks. However, I finally found their use - they were used to pass under the horse's belly in the stables and were tied to a beam above the stall to stop the horses lying down. Ian Bottomley
  13. I think we can get very fixated about sword definitions and lengths. As mentioned in Marcus's article, the Tokugawa were obviously uptight about commoners carrying swords that were just below 2 shaku, probably in overlong saya, and decreed the maximum lengths. Having said that, the samurai class were obviously not so rigid in their attitude, wearing swords commensurate to their stature. I have a daisho in which the daito is only 22.4" (57cm) long and the shoto 18.1" (46cm) which I worried about for a while before being told it was for a small person. Ian Bottomley
  14. IanB

    Urushi Maintenance?

    By far the greatest danger to lacquer is light, and in particular sunlight. Whilst I am no expert on the chemistry of urushi, I understand the lacquer particles are surrounded by adsorbed water that is lost by light absorption (if I remember by chemistry from the very distant past the term 'micelles' comes to mind). The resulting damage leaves to the loss of the glossy surface leaving it dull and absorbent. This process is irreversible and the only 'cure' is either to apply a material to the damaged surface that seals it, or to remove the damaged layer. The car re-finishing materials mentioned by Piers either cut away the damaged top coats to reveal fresh lacquer underneath or are wax-like substances that cover the damaged layer and put a polished coating over it. There is a material sold called 'Armour' used to polish violins and similar that seems to be a wax containing a mild abrasive that seems to do both processes at once. Ian Bottomley
  15. [Edited]

    Sorry, already solved.

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