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Everything posted by IanB

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Copies of this and other famous Kamakura period o-yoroi were made my a Mr. Miura (apparently no relation to the present armour restorer of that name) for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. One of these copies is now in the Royal Armouries collection in Leeds, UK. The copies are all made exactly, and I mean exactly, as the originals and have had special braid, stencilled leathers and kanamono made. Sadly the Royal Armouries one had come via Argentina where it lost one sode, a few kanamono and as a finishing touch someone had done some re-colouring of the lacing which had faded badly on one side. Even more sadly, the 'restorer' had decided the ideal way to restore the colour was to use bright red oil paint to recolour the silk lacing - nice. Ian Bottomley
  4. As I understand it, following the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, some non-samurai took to carrying swords that were strictly legal, but only marginally under 2 shaku. Sometimes they were worn in longer saya to give the impression the wearer was of samurai class. As a result the Shogunate issued an edict limiting non-samurai from carrying swords longer than 18 inches (45.7cm). (memory may be playing tricks but I think this edict was around 1630). In 1680, or thereabouts, this limit was reduced even further to 15 inches (38 cm). This probably explains a Tadoyoshi III blade I once owned that had been shortened by about 2cm - presumably to bring it into line with the new regulation. In view of these edicts, the length of the above blade does seems rather short. - however, I have a daisho in which the daito has a nagasa of only 56cm, presumably made for someone of small stature. I think we can get rather hung up on lengths and forget that swords were personal and often made to suit the wearer's needs. Ian Bottomley
  5. I have this tsuba (picture taken of the rear) which shows considerable wear to the arcs at the ends of the slots, especially the one at 11.00 o'clock- probably because of rubbing against the clothing. Ian Bottomley
  6. IanB

    Kogai crests

    I have an original copy of a monsho - a publication that lists all the daimyo, their kamon, family tree, shapes of spear scabbards, jinbaori and so forth. They were used, among other reasons, during the daimyo gyoretsu to identify processions on the roads and determine who had to make way for the other. Whilst many daimyo are shown with three kamon, some had five. Clearly some kamon were used by the daimyo and his family, others being worn by his retainers and servants. Ian B
  7. All, Several topics have become entangled here, so please bear with me. Firstly - the whole leather situation. Japan was in fact a large user of leather despite the fact that the raw skins and the leather workers were regarded as unclean. Several native sources were used including deer and horses but the supply was totally inadequate and hides needed to be imported. Quantities of buffalo skins came in from China and SE Asia that was converted into rawhide or nerigawa. Sakakibara Kozan states that that produced in Nagato and Suwo were best. In 1604 and 1635 it is recorded that some 250,000 deer skins were imported from Siam and Cambodia (Yoneo Ishii, www.asjapan.org/web.php/lectures/2002/04). Large quantities of rawhide, including that made from buffalo skin, when suitably lacquered, was used in the making of armour. as did deer skins. It seems that when processed into something it was no longer defiling. A softer white leather was a speciality of Himeiji. Deer skins were first washed in the local river and then dried.The stiff rawhide was then treated by trampling with rape seed oil for hours to give the soft white leather. This was then usually treated in three ways: firstly by smoking to give fusube gawa. This involved fastening the skin on a drum above a small furnace in which was burnt either straw or pine needles. The former gave yellow colours, the latter browns. The leather could be patterned by folding, binding with cords or pasting paper cut-outs on the surface. Fusube gawa was mainly used in situations where rubbing could occur such as the linings of armour. The second method was by stencilling to give e-gawa, often in patterns involving shi shi lions amid peony foliage in blue with flowers in red. The third method was to dye the leather.A common pattern, shobu gawa, involved rows of stylized iris leaves and flowers in white on an indigo dyed ground. This was done by carving the patterns in relief in wooden battens and binding them onto the leather wrapped around a drum. When dyed in indigo, the wood patterns prevented the dye reaching the leather under them giving a white pattern on the blue ground. See: 'Leather in Warfare' edited by Quita Mould, Conference proceedings, Royal Armouries ISBN 9780948092763 I forgot the cuir bouilli bit. In reality it was just moulded rawhide. To make a helmet or mask, the hide was stretched over a wooden block carved to the required shape and dried. Where the leather needed to be concave, small nails were hammered in. When fully dry and translucent it then underwent a long lacquering process to prevent it absorbing moisture. For helmets, several shapes were made and nested together, either glued or sewn with rawhide thongs. I have one such helmet which has 4 layers of hide making up the thickness. Provided the lacquer kept the moisture out it made excellent armour, but if cracked, the hide swelled and soften and the piece was ruined. Ian Bottomleyi
  8. Much of this nonsense arose from the knee-jerk reaction of our pathetic government in banning the shipping of knives by post after a spate of murders and stabbings by members of drug gangs. A rather glaring omission in this legislation was any reference to antiques. However, this rather unthinking legislation is only a supplement to existing legislation concerning prohibited weapons which does in fact exempt antiques. As a result, the new legislation does not supersede this situation. It is therefore perfectly legal to ship antique swords and knives. Sadly it is the numpties at Post Offices and shipping companies who have had the wind put up them. As for destruction, they would be risking massive compensation claims if they tried it. Ian Bottomley
  9. IanB

    Eboshi Kabuto

    Uwe, If my memory is correct, the signed momonari kabuto was by Myochin Munechika. Ian B.
  10. IanB

    Eboshi Kabuto

    It looks to be a nice enough example of its type, however it looks as if the fukigayeshi have been broken off and the lacquer of the shikoro is in a bad state and will continue to drop off unless you can stabilise it. Piers, I very much doubt it will be signed. I have only ever seen one helmet that was similar (in fact a momonari kabuto) with a signature. Ian Bottomley
  11. Geraint, I too remember another where the flute was a dark bronze and the dragon in silver but who had it I cannot remember. It was a very long while ago that is for sure. These items are undoubtedly fantastic metalwork, but designed as a novelty to appeal to the Western market. Ian Bottomley
  12. Uwe, I have seen this extra plate idea once before. It was used when the owner of the armour became too fat for it to fit properly. I have also seen a dou where the original hinge had been replaced by a very wide one for the same reason. It happens to most of us as we get older. John, No worries, I have made enough mistake - in fact I knew that a sugake laced ni mai dou had a particular name but I couldn't for the life of me think what it was. In the end I looked it up in H. Russell-Robinson's book on Oriental Armour - nuinobe dou - of course it is. I'm getting senile. Ian Bottomley
  13. Adam, Well done in being seduced to the Dark Side by acquiring some armour. What you have bought is a nuinobe dou, that is a form of two section dou laced in the sugake style - that is the plates are theoretically held together with paired lacings [a mogami dou is also laced in sugake but is in five sections with four small individual hinges on each horizontal row of plates]. I say theoretically because in reality the plates are really held together with leather thongs hidden under the lacing. The parts under the arms that are flopping loose would be held by similar ties. You have some lacquer problems, and it would not be a bad plan to consolidate any loose flakes of lacquer that are still in position with an adhesive. As an ex museum curator I am supposed to say the adhesive should be reversible, but since you wont want to reverse it, superglue will be fine - just work a drop under the edge of each loose flake and press it back into place until it hardens - any excess that gets in the wrong place can be removed with acetone. Ian Bottomley
  14. Bruce, I saw that kamon on a helmet in Turino, Italy, that had been given to the Duke of Savoy by the Japanese mission. It isn't listed in Iemon no Jiten by Seishi, so the family mayhave died out. Ian Bottomley
  15. Well done a great dou of the type used by Zesai - it goes with your helmet and mask. Ian Bottomley
  16. 'Snowflake' , The arrogance displayed in you letter beggars belief. Firstly you appear not to have the courage to identify yourself, hiding behind a pseudonym, and then proceed to dictate what somebody should buy and collect and finally denigrate a group of people who happen to meet to exchange their views and knowledge. By all means give someone the benefit of what I assume is your encyclopedic knowledge of swords if they ask for your advice, otherwise it is non of your business what someone chooses to spend their money on. You might note that this forum, and the ToKen Society of GB is dedicated to the study and preservation of Japanese swords, a term that embraces everything from the finest blades to the simplest tsuba. You say you can see great swords in museums and that is true if you have the time, money and opportunity to visit those museums. And even when you do, will the museum allow you to handle and examine the swords in sufficient detail or must you be content to limit what information you can glean by peering through the glass at those aspects of a sword that are visible? I am fortunate enough to have handled Kamakura armour and some of the treasures owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu, including his personal collection of blades, all of which sadly were damaged in a fire, but I have probably learned far more by sitting quietly in my study gazing at blades I have acquired without the unwanted advice of someone else. Ian Bottomley
  17. Robert, What you have is a russet lacquered suji kabuto of goshozan shape (higher at the back). I'm not sure how many plates it is made from since the apparent number is modelled with lacquer. On the wide front plate are two gilded shinodare, with one on each side (and probably on the back plate as well, but I cannot see). It is fitted for wakidate or side crests and on the front is a haraidate. Spaced around the bowl are the waisted four standing rivets, shiten no byo over gilded eyelets. It is fitted with an hineno style shikoro , lacquered to look like large scales, iyozane, and had very high quality gilded fukurin around the peak and fukigayeshi. As for age, the gilded fukurin are Edo period, so it has been re-furbished so it is difficult to say when the original bowl was made. Ian Bottomley
  18. Piers, The only armour makers (as far as I know) who didn't use the top - down arrangement were the Bamen who signed horizontally just above the koshimaki. I tend to agree that the mei once adorned a helmet that was broken up and the bits used to make the tsuba. The fact that each plate retains a suji suggests this as does the hole above the cho kanji that woulf have been for the agemaki no kan on the backplate. Ian Bottomley.
  19. David, Remember that iron, even scraps, were valuable and if you could make a tsuba out of bits lying around, it uses them up. Piers, I agree with what you see but I also see shu 州 above. That would make sense if indeed the iron has been recycled from an old helmet. If the character above kuni 国 is indeed 拍 Hyo, Haku utsu it doesn't seem to make sense. However, it appears to be a pseudonym for 打 cho, da. Ian Bottomley
  20. Wakizashi and tanto were sometimes fitted with a hilt of decorative wood with an ornate central collar like this (often far less elaborate) called a dogane. The central motif of this one is of two stylised cloves. The tsuba of plantain leaves is signed Bushu ju Masafusa 武州住正房. Ian Bottomley
  21. Mr. Nesbitt, You have done exactly the right thing. You went out and bought swords and most importantly learned from them. So many advocate buying books and studying them before actually buying a sword / blade. Anything more likely to put people off discovering the wonderful world of Nihonto I find hard to imagine. Consider these two scenarios: 1. A beginner buys their first blade. Immediately it becomes a 'treasure' they cherish and if it is signed, they find out who is supposed to have made it. They look up other examples of that smith's work and start looking at details and comparing them with illustrations. Through this they learn some of the characteristics of that maker or his school and what they really look like and what they are called. It may be the smith is very minor, but so what. If you like the sword that is all that matters. 2. The beginner buys a book on swords and sees an illustration of one he likes the look of. He then reads the description of that smith's work and comes across a whole dictionary of terminology. Sometimes the author tries to describe some feature or other, but more often assumes the reader knows what they are talking about. It is a heck of a lot easier to know what a feature looks like and then finding out what it is called than the reverse process. Ian Bottomley
  22. James, As Jeremy has said, adding weight to the kashira end of the tsuka alters the whole balance of the sword and gives the impression of handling a lighter blade. There is a relatively short sword, you might say a long wakizashi, in the Royal Armouries mounted with a really eclectic assemblage of copper fittings, but in the hand you feel as if you could perform difficult abdominal surgery with it, it handles so beautifully. I suspect we get too uptight about the lengths of blades, accepting that katana had to be this length and wakizashi that, whereas in practice the owner of a sword chose the length and its mounts to suit his physique. This is evident from the response I have had from Japan on my recently acquired daisho, the daito having a blade with a nagasa of only 56cm. I was envisaging it having been made for a special purpose, and yes it was, for someone of small stature, Ian Bottomley
  23. James, I once had a tsuka I bought for the menuki and found a lead weight in a cavity carved at the kashira end. Maybe your is similar. Ian Bottomley
  24. Dale, Whilst I agree to some extent, the Japanese were in fact a bit cautious about their weapons leaving the country. There was a demand for staff weapons in South East Asia and the Japanese met it when trading for incense woods, deer skins etc. The Royal Armouries has two of the 'naginata' that came from that area and I have seen one other on the antiques market.The blades are exactly as you would expect of a normal Edo period naginata in shape and size until you examine the tang, which is riveted into the shaft rather than being pegged. These tangs are horrible thin un-tapered things about 12" long and like the blades are of soft iron rather than steel and hence are untempered. The shafts are round in section, black lacquered with an assortment of gilded and blackened fittings at the top together with a tsuba that is a sukashi chrysanthemum shape in a soft metal that is blackened but not shakudo in my opinion. In the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are two more as well as two 'yari' owned by a Cornelis Tromp and displayed on a board with guns from Vietnam with two 'katana' and a wakizashi. The former are in red saya with gilded koi guchi and kojiri and have gilded tsuba and fuchi / gashira. Again they are not real and have no mekugi ana. The Museum authorities are of the opinion they are Vietnamese but I think they are Japanese export items. The wakizashi is rather nondescript but appears real. In Russia (I think in the Kremlin) are a couple of katana blades in regular saya but with black lacquered hilts as would be found on a Burmese dha. I have never seen these in the flesh but I bet again these are soft iron. Ian Bottomley
  25. When I was gainfully employed at the Royal Armouries, a lady wrote to say she had dug up what she thought was a very corroded sword blade in her garden. Since she lived in Edgehill, the site of a large battle in the Civil War (the real one not the American one) I wasn't unduly surprised except that a photo she enclosed showed it had an habaki and was about the size of a wakizashi. Now I am fully aware that it could have been lost in the garden at any time since the 1860's, especially since I have no idea how corrosive the soil in that garden is, but the degree of corrosion was impressive. It is just possible that it was a relic of the battle of Edgehill in 1642 which as improbable as that sounds, a portrait of Alexander Popham, a general in the Civil War at the Royal Armouries shows him wearing a Sri Lankan kastana. We know that Capt. Saris and probably others, brought back a wakizashi but it disappears from the records after he recorded being given it by the Shogun. I even checked Saris' will and despite him being presented with various weapons before leaving Japan, not a single Japanese item is listed. Ian Bottomley.
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