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About Apercus

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    Chu Jo Saku
  • Birthday 10/26/1952

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    I’m interested in the metallurgy and archeotechnology of Nihonto from all eras and in the arttistic/aesthetic aspects.

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    Shannon H.

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  1. I had access to the university lab in the materials science department and a scanning electron microscope.
  2. I don’t have access to x-ray florescence equipment anymore. Some of the larger companies that deal with metal salvage use a handheld piece of equipment that provides a partial analysis of the different elements in alloys that is accurate. They use it to sort metals for salvage. All that is required is to hold the equipment against the bare metal for a few seconds. It’s non destructive testing if you’re careful to not scratch the surface you hold it against. That would at least give you a snapshot of the alloy composition. It might not be difficult to talk your way into access to the equipment at some company. Most people are interested in things like that and it requires almost no effort on their part to help.
  3. I have heard many speculations that the kamakura period steel had lots of impurities. I found myself with an early period Ichimonji tachi and access to x-ray florescence equipment so I decided to test that idea non destructively years ago. I found the tachi has varying carbon content . At the edge it is around .8% which is pretty much ideal for hardening. The only other elements detected were .05% titanium by weight and a small amount of silicon. That percentage of titanium exactly matches an ideal saturation for thermomechanical processing in modern steels. It helps keep the grain structure very fine which increases both hardness and toughness. That is the only mechanism that increases hardness and toughness at the same time that I know of. Silicon is added to modern steels to increase toughness. I believe the silicon was introduced as flux in the folding process. Rice husks produce pure silicon when all of the carbon is burned out. There were no other elements or impurities in the steel when analyzed to 5 decimal places. I don’t know of any modern steels that achieve that level of purity except for some electroliticaly refined modern steels. The idea that early Japanese steels were impure or inferior in any way to European steels is incorrect. I have only done x-ray florescence on the Ichimonji tachi so I can’t say that “impurities” are not a factor in the differences between different schools. Some of what we call color variation may be due partially to the reflectivity characteristics of different crystalline micro structures. One of the early metallurgist, Cyril Stanley Smith, came to the conclusion that Japanese metallurgy was the supreme pinnacle of the craft of steel making in human history. I agree with that completely. The Japanese sword is essentially a metal to metal composite of exquisite structure and complexity. I knew nothing of swords when I stumbled across my first one but I was floored by the beauty and craft I saw in the metallurgy. Anyway, that’s just my two cents on the subject.
  4. I haven’t submitted many blades for shinsa so my experience is limited. I think the decision about submitting for shinsa before or after polish might need to consider how close of a call the evaluation might be. I think the shinsa judges are more likely to make an attribution to the lesser of two possibilities when the blade is not in polish. I have heard of instances when a blade was submitted out of polish and was given a call of”gimi.” The signature was removed and the blade polished before resubmitting it. The next evaluation gave an attribution that matched the original signature. I don’t think there is much inclination for a shinsa team to stick their neck out on a blade out of polish. I also don’t believe all gimi calls are correct. The fact that different organizations can come to different conclusion sort of reinforces the fact that it’s just an opinion, although it’s certainly better than most of us will ever be capable of. If you are new to this you should study what you have and get feedback from more knowledgeable people to decide which approach to take. I spent six years studying my first blade before I sent it for polish and then shinsa.
  5. Krill, Your analysis and suggestions are very sound and reasonable. I’m not in any hurry and I’ve been known to think about something for years before deciding on action. I would like to try NTHK-NPO shinsa sometime but I’m not sure this one is in good enough polish. I doubt the blade would be worth more after polish than the polish would cost but I’m not basing a decision on economics. I’m not a dealer in swords. I study Japanese swords and collect a few. I will try to preserve the ones I can afford for the next generations and just enjoy the ones that pass my way while I’m here. I still need to find a way to get my Ichimonji tachi to you for photographs. I will eventually work that out. I need to visit my daughter in Oakland.
  6. Thanks to everyone for the comments. Perhaps it won’t take forever to get it polished for shinsa. Shannon H.
  7. I added a photo of a Munemitsu wakizashi to one of Adam's inquires on his Munemitsu and ended up misdirecting his inquiry. My apologies to Adam. I'll try to be more careful. I wasn't really looking for information on my wakizashi but since receiving a few questions to see more photos I though I would start a new topic and send more information. I have just about come to the conclusion that I won't be able to find enough signature examples and blade photos for the different Munemitsu smiths to make an educated guess about which one made this blade. I think I will have to wait on shinsa and I think it would have to be in polish for any real conclusions to be made. If I was an expert, which I am far from, I would not want to draw conclusions on a blade that was not in a good enough state of polish to see the details that lead to solid conclusions. I've always thought it mostly a waste of effort to try to get accurate papers before that. I haven't decided whether I will be able to get this one polished, but if so it won't be soon. I have one in Japan now and another in line before this one. I don't accumulate extra cash that quickly anymore. I'm lucky to still be working at my age and with my injuries. I might have to leave this one for one of my kids that are into Japanese swords to explore. Anyway, here are the photos I said I would send. I bought a new digital camera but I'm still trying to figure it out. These are from my phone and I'll have to send them in batches because I haven't figured out how to reduce the file size yet.
  8. My first sword went juyo with the NBTHK after polish with an attribution to the Ichimonji school of the early to mid kamakura period. Kajihara did a shinsa on it before that with an attribution to Moriie who founded the Hatakeda school. It certainly has all of the characteristics of Moriie. The nakago is ubu but unsigned. Perhaps it was made for someone important. I still have it. I guess that’s why my collection is so small. I was spoiled starting out. I bought it for ten dollars.
  9. I’ll send photos tomorrow evening. It’s a wakizashi with Itami hada, a narrow to medium choji Hamon, and steel with a few minor flaws that is more representative of the muromachI period. If I decide to have it polished at some point in the future it won’t likely be worth more that the cost of polish. I just like it.
  10. Thanks for the input. This one is on the back burner for a while. I used up all of my polish & shinsa savings on a blade currently in Japan. I’m not sure I’ll submit it anytime soon or ever. I also have another blade in front of it waiting on me to build up savings. I can salvage a few blades in my lifetime but don’t have the income to do much more. My spare money is mostly spent on books in a lot of different fields Shannon H.
  11. I also have a blade signed Munemitsu but have decided I may never know which generation made the piece. The closest I will probably get to that goal will have to involve shinsa. Shannon H.
  12. Sorry for the delay and for the picture quality. I’m using a cell phone. I’ll send better photos later and dig out the worksheet. Shannon H
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