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    South Africa
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    I have never been a specialist collector, as my interests are very wide. They range from numismatics through military history to edged weapons and firearms.

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    Johan van Zyl

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  1. Of course you are correct in this, Jean, but under my circumstances, would the copying of the mei (full signature and full dating as on the nakago) be most appropriate, or should I try to go for some other wording, like for instance when the shirasaya was made and by whom? I realise the sayagaki only appears on the saya, not the tsuka. Johan
  2. Jon, Peter & Jean, thanks. It was for me an adventure, and the reason I am happy about my effort is that I did everything in as traditional a manner as possible - that is to say: within my power and under my circumstances. 1) I do not in any way have the right tools. The process had been flawed. 2) My katana, although about 340 years old, had been amateurishly polished and the hada has disappeared. It is not a sword that deserves the full regalia of a great sword. (Although I admire it!) 3) I was not able to get honoki wood. So even the material used is incorrect. So, against the background of me not being an recognised saya maker, the sword not being valuable, the shirasaya not having been made correctly is not going to make any difference to anyone. The value to me was the challenge, and the learning effort that had to go into it. I loved every minute of the eye-searing accuracy that had to be given to crafting something looking respectable. I'm very happy and feel honoured that you liked it! I recall some forum members advising me some time ago, when I first showed pics of my sword, that I should put it in shirasaya. That's exactly what I am responding to by deciding to make one. Great fun! I am planning to put some kanji in black ink on the saya part, but I need information on how the tradition dictates it should be done. Under my circumstances I suppose simply putting the mei on the saya will suffice: the signature details on the one side and the dating on the other. I know there is a lot of other stuff on high-end shirasaya, but in my case this might be all right? Regards to all. Johan
  3. Good day friends! Some weeks have passed and I have completed my shirasaya-making project. It has taken me about six weeks. Please see the four pics I am posting. At this stage I have done using 320 grit sandpaper and I am wondering if I should go finer? Also I have not obtained info on what kind of coating I should put on the finished shirasaya - I believe it would be best to leave it as is? The wood is poplar, which I understand is an acceptable alternative to honoki. This is of importance: I am able to attest that the blade does not wobble in the saya, and the fit of the nakago in the tsuka is firm. I had intended the triple inserts (spacers) to be my signature feature on this shirasaya, and then after my work was done I discovered a shirasaya featured on an internet youtube (housing a 1500's nihonto katana) that had the exact same configuration. I was astounded at the coincidence! In colour pictures of old shirasaya I see in books the wood looks yellow/yellow-brown, while mine is white, but I suppose that's the difference between honoki and poplar. Also you will see I have put in a facet both sides, as in pictures I found. Otherwise the cross-section is ovoid. Whatever is non-traditional in my shirasaya I apologise for, but I feel understandably elated to have gone through this process of making my own "storage scabbard" and I gladly report it to you for comment. I will be grateful to hear whatever you might contribute. Regards. Johan
  4. Darrel, Jean C, Didier and John J, thank you for participating. I truly appreciate each and every hint I am given. Jean C, I smiled when I read your text "If you do not have a sample of a SHIRA-SAYA at hand, no competent teacher to show you what could be important, probably not the necessary special tools, and not the right material (HONOKI), I think it will be difficult". That probably is an understatement! But I have battled through worse problems, like the buffalo horn grips for the SAA, being a solid one-piece. I not only have never had eyes on a shirasaya, but the only nihonto katana I have ever seen in my 75 years is the one I own! Truth is, after getting my grubby paws on that katana, I have spent MORE time on acquainting myself with Japanese history and culture plus kanji language than with ANY of my other antique edged weapons! And delving into Indonesian keris blades is already a colossal undertaking! I view my laborious undertaking of the making of the shirasaya as a kind of memorial to what I have learned of samurai and nihonto. I am now at the stage where the grooves for the blade has been hollowed out and the blade is already nice and snug. Next is the shaping of the space where the habaki fits in. For the two spacers (koiguchi and fuchi) I have selected a fine piece of red-brown hardwood. Regards. Johan
  5. I received a note from someone who warned me against the use of glues to combine the saya halves, that have the potential of ruining a blade through gases that they generate. My thanks to him! A very long time ago (before the 1980's I believe) I made a presentation case for a pristine Luger pistol of mine, with its accoutrements. I used various glues on the wood and felt lining material and without thinking left the Luger in the box the first night. When I took the pistol out again, it had a fine layer of rust on it. Fortunately it cleaned up all right, and I was able to say: There's another valuable lesson I had learned, which will serve me in a good way in the years to come! The harmful gases go away in time (mostly) but if the chosen wood type generates gases, it must not be used at all. I went to quite a lot of trouble to get poplar wood for the shirasaya. Cheers. Johan
  6. Darrel & Ed, thank you. That book would be a superb read! I'll need to see what I can do get it. And Ed, that technique is known to me (I've done a lot of reading), thanks anyhow, it will be the method I'm going to follow. In the meantime I looked at two large pictures of different shiyasaya taken lying flat. Taking only the saya part (I'll do the tsuka part later), I caliper-measured the length and width of each and found 191 mm x 11,5 mm, and 300 mm x 18,3 mm. After calculations it means my shirasaya (saya part 660 mm long) should have a width of 40 mm. I can eventually taper it slightly to the end. I can now construct on paper a traditional oval shape and measure the thickness it is supposed to have if the width is 40 mm.. The flats come later. For lack of a real shirasaya to do the measurements, this must do, and I hope I am spot-on to what it should be. BTW Ed, that statement of yours about the second shirasaya is soooo true. I have voiced that same statement everytime I completed a previous project! An example is the Sulawesi (Bugis) keris scabbard for a blade and handle that had come my way missing this important part. Another is the plow-handle grip that I made from black buffalo horn for a Uberti model 1873 Single Action Army, of which the handle was ill-fitting. Off topic here - I'll be shot down in flames! Work goes on! Cheers. Johan.
  7. I'm asking for your help in this project of mine. I have done a lot of reading up on the matter and have come up with a lot of videos and instructions, also some admonishments from my only friend in a 100 km radius who at least owns a Chinese-made katana and has travelled Japan. There's no-one around here who owns Nihonto, except myself. Brian might know people in the Cape Town area, but I unfortunately don't. I decided to make a shirasaya for my Nihonto Edo katana. The reason being that the sword's koshirae seems to be all wrong and non-Japanese. So now I've progressed so far that I've chiselled out the blade grooves in the two scabbard halves (Poplar wood), and I need now to repeatedly try the blade so that I can see how much more wood to take away to ensure the correct fit. I don't have recourse to museums or sword shows and don't know of any folks in my neck of the woods who own a shirasaya. I myself have never laid eyes on one, barring pictures of course. Otherwise I could have just visited such folks and measured it myself. I have learned (right or wrong) that a shirasaya is of the same thickness and breadth throughout the whole of its length. It doesn't taper any. Cut through, the profile is oval. Some shirasaya have slightly flattened sides. I need help on the outside measurements of a shirasaya, please. What is the thickness of the oval, and what is its breadth/width? Do these measurements pertain to a shirasaya with or without the flattened sides? Your kind help will be greatly appreciated! Johan.
  8. Understood, Jean. At the moment it looks to me (and I'm trying to be very positive) as if the kashira and saya band was created by a non-Japanese artist/metalworker, but I had hoped there was some resemblance to traditional Japanese emblems, so that I could say something like: "the artist had a xxxx in mind when he sculpted the kashira and band". I do believe the saya itself is ancient, but somewhere along the line the original fittings were lost. I wish I could know what they looked like. Johan
  9. I apologise if my pictures are not well enough chosen. I had hoped they would generate some comment... Johan
  10. Dan K, thank you. I do agree with your kind notion that the saya band looks like the sacred rope shimenawa. But the shide streamers are not cut as regularly as those on the kashira. They have a distinct staggered appearance. Also to Ed H, thank you, you are correct in what you said, but it so happens that I was fortunate to get part of the story of the katana from the previous owner. See, he had a swordsmith in Pietermaritzburg refurbish the koshirae. This smith specialises in Japanese swords, forged in the traditional way. He re-coated the saya with black lacquer and rewrapped the tsuka with cord. He also cast two menuki from an original he had. The previous owner then had a jeweller make fuchi and koiguchi with 925 silver. These are nicely made but merely engraved with a kind of leafy pattern. No tradition there! And no association with the kashira and saya band. BTW, the swordsmith did not do any work on the kashira and saya band - the previous owner had purchased the sword with them already in place. Thank you also, Brian, you might be 100% correct. Of course, if a fire could talk, it would probably say it never really liked having cold water thrown on it! Any more ideas? Johan.
  11. Friends, I don't want to bother you all with a lot of text, as my question is simple. I received a saya, refurbished sometime in the 1990's, fitted with an ornamental band about two-thirds down the length of the saya, which seemed to me a kind of match with the kashira. It looks silver, but I'll establish that eventually. Please see the pics. I would like to know whether the band and the kashira are a true reflection/reproduction of some traditional Japanese emblem or design. Or is it just some blingy art creation that has no bearing on things nihonto? I can't go back to previous owners to enquire as that avenue is unavailable, but I do recall that it was said that these fittings were already on the saya and tsuka when they were handed for refurbishment. Please let me know what your is on these fittings. It would give me greater enjoyment of the koshirae to know the emblems seem traditional. Thanks. Johan
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