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Everything posted by GRC

  1. Another Nanban version in soft metal.
  2. Dale, it's this version from page 1:
  3. Looks like the exact same guard Dale posted, relisted three years later by an online dealer. Cleaned up beautifully, but a much higher price this time (10x ) I wonder how many times it changed hands from 2019 to 2022.
  4. GRC


    Piers, Dale is correct , yours is more likely Inshu Suruga, or possibly Bushu Ito. The distinct "kuchi-beni"-style sekigane is a dead giveaway, but other schools also adopted that sekigane style afterwards, like Bushu and Akao. Ineterestingly, here's two Suruga tsuba that put their spin on the boat rudder motif that we also see in Teimei works: The sukashi is too curvy and flower-like for Teimei. Teimei tends to do long smooth arcs or straight line geometrics, not undulating curves. Here are some Teimei examples with curves (and note, none of them have kuchi-beni sekigane): Here's one which I have in my Suruga files, but I can't be 100% certain on this one... Often though, the Suruga smiths like putting in really fine-line sukashi elements, like the super thin lines in the rudder tsuba above. So, another option is the Bushu Ito school which did these bold flower-like, large symmetrical sukashi: Kunihiro from Bushu Ito did a lot of work like your tsuba, and he used kuchi-beni sekigane: Here's another Bushu by Masamichi (at least that's what the description said): Sorry for taking this thread off track Jean. At least the boat rudder examples tie in a bit.. sort of Unfortunately, I can't help you out with the chronology of the different Teimei signatures. .
  5. Brian, that one is an outstanding example, and you got it for a "garage sale price" The carving details in the dragon heads are really well done, and unusual. There are many variations and styles of the Nanban-style double dragons that were made by tsubako throughout Japan (and earlier, from China... it's originally a Chinese motif). Looks like Yagami school work to me. They are the Japanese tsubako who made this particular style of Nanban dragon tsuba, that I like to call "the zig-zag tail" because of the more-angular undulations in the dragon tails in the bottom third of the tsuba. Yours is even signed (although I can't read what it says), which is a rare bonus Maybe post a close up and see if someone else can tread it. Here's some other, similar examples from the Yagami school: some with the rounded-square shape: and some round ones:
  6. another one that has that more unusual version of a shiachi:
  7. and another one of the same style, with slight variations, likely done by the same smith (same tagane-ato):
  8. Here's another one (not cast), that has some similar stylings to the one Dale posted earlier. Same school, different smiths maybe?
  9. That’s a fun theme to collect Stephen. They look great interesting that the sukashi pattern is at the top of the nakago-ana on the 4th one.
  10. Thanks Brian, glad someone is enjoying them This one is a follow up to the NMB thread that was started about the meaning of a "beams" sukashi motif on a tsuba. As the thread grew, it seemed like a natural fit to expand it into just about any pattern that had "linear" motifs, so this article ended up including motifs with "Beams, Bars, Sticks and Rays". It's amazing how many ideas can be conveyed with just a few straight lines.
  11. Here's a larger sized one (almost 8.3cm diameter) on YahooJ if you're looking to build up a set
  12. Looks like a proper Heianjo school tsuba. I can't say that I've seen many that size, so I think that's unusual. Congrats on the purchase I haven't seen anything cast that has proper inlays like yours. The cast ones have their surfaces gilded or painted to "look" like they have inlays. Yours looks legit to me. The opening in the center (nakago-ana) looks a bit wide, and the sides are more curved than the usual triangular "wedge" shape, so I'm not too sure what this tsuba was mounted on. There's usually little punch marks (tagane-ato) along that opening that help "pinch" it onto the blade it's being fitted to, and can often end up looking pretty "beat up" from a visual perspective. But, those are missing from yours. I wonder if at some point, a previous owner decided to file all that "roughness" out from the center, thinking it would be "more presentable" that way. Just a hunch though...
  13. and then this one shows up on ebay for 10x the price! The eyebrows had a lot of work done... I guess it was sent to a pretty exclusive salon to get that done
  14. GRC

    Tsuba mei

    Hi Gabe. Go to the downloads section and look for the "tsuba diving" article. It was written as a primer to introduce people to tsuba and tsuba collecting. I think the NMB member "GRC" wrote that one After that, the best place to gather some information on various tsuba schools is shibuiswords.com, which is written by Haynes and Long. Haynes has been studying, writing about, and collecting tsuba for many decades After that, have a look at various museum collections posted online: Metropolitan, Ashmolean, etc. Then once you've looked at a few thousand images and gotten a sense of what's out there , THEN start looking to buy the types of tsuba that interest you the most. If you want to build up a collection, then it really helps to have a tsuba "meikan" so you can identify the signatures of various smiths, which also helps to identify some of the many forgeries that exist. It also helps to familiarize yourself with mass produced cast tsuba and some of the really high quality fakes being produced today... so maybe search for "cast tsuba" here on the NMB, and have a look at the "oh for goodness sake" thread to get an idea of what to watch out for. Most importantly, ENJOY IT!!!! Oh, one last thing: bear in mind that the idea of "schools" is pretty fluid for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: smiths moving to new schools, sharing of technique and style between schools, revival movements in the mid to late Edo periods that sought to bring back some of the styles form the past... not to mention the fact that some of the "schools" weren't actually schools at all and are simply a "construct of convenience" that allow us to classify some of these tsuba, etc etc Hope that helps ...
  15. GRC

    Kaga Yoshirō

    Fantastic Luca! Thanks for sharing that
  16. Hi Jean, I’d like to respond to your recent post addressed to me. But first, I’d like to say thanks for engaging in the discussion. Without that back and forth, and inputs from everyone else, I might never have read all these different articles or gathered that information. I have learned a ton and am very grateful for it. I hope everyone else has enjoyed this thread as well. 20 hours ago, ROKUJURO said: “at the beginning of this thread, I have explained that cast iron was a part of the normal output of a TATARA process. So this material was always available, even in pre-EDO times.” That is true, but this is the brittle type of cast iron, so I think all of us would agree that this would not be suited for making tsuba. It’s the use of the softer, less brittle, decarburized cast-iron that would make more sense for the production of tsuba. And again, that was only produced in Japan, as of 1691. And to be fair Jean, you actually started off by presenting this view: On 1/27/2022 at 9:49 AM, ROKUJURO said: “it was not possible to produce cast iron in Japan. But it may have been possible elsewhere, perhaps in China.” The details about the Tatara producing some cast-iron were added in one of your later posts. With regards to this statement: 20 hours ago, ROKUJURO said: “I also explained how difficult and complex the iron casting process was, and how ineffective it would have been in the production of large item numbers.” This one still comes across as a matter of opinion: Lissenden had the opposite point of view and suggested it would be quite reasonable to make many wax forms from an original, carved wooden master. Lissenden also justified the use of this technique when trying to create tsuba with elaborate piercings or sukashi like many of the Nanban tsuba (which would be very similar to the NTHK papered "birds tsuba" posted earlier). The time saved in not having to chisel or drill repeatedly through a steel plate by hand, would outweigh the labour needed to make one wood mold, many wax forms and their surrounding matrixes (the hard casing that goes around the wax form). I could see your statement making sense for producing a tsuba with a solid plate because the solid plate would probably be faster to make using hand forging techniques. But for repeated production of something more elaborate, like Lissenden explained, casting would seem to make the most sense. With regards to this statement: 20 hours ago, ROKUJURO said: “…papered EDO period cast iron (papered as 'cast') TSUBA” Unfortunately, I suspect you might always be left wanting for that… but I’d love to see one too. Here’s a question to consider: What reason would any group that papers tsuba, need to use the words “cast-iron”, when “iron” would be perfectly sufficient to describe what the tsuba is made of? Between cast and forged iron, we’re really only talking about a few percentage points difference in the Carbon content mixed in with the iron, so both of them are simply varying mixes of roughly 95-99% Iron, with the remainder being mostly Carbon and a few other elements. A question for anyone reading this post: Is there a particular way that the NBTHK or NTHK distinguishes between different types of steel that may have been used in the making of swords (other than Nanban steel)? And do they even call it “steel”, or just simply “iron”? Hopefully some "sword people" might know that. In any case Jean, it seems perfectly reasonable for you to hold out for more examples, and I respect your choice. And lastly, to address the “mass-production” aspect: I suppose I look at it as: anything that is “reproducible” in quantity, whether that is 5 at a time or 100 at a time, doesn’t really matter at all I suppose, as long as you can repeat it. That's where Lissenden's "carved wood form" Jean, I suspect you’re probably right in thinking that one-off pieces (and probably small batch productions) may have been the norm, rather than cranking them out like an assembly line. I think there’s no doubt that the real “mass” production hit its stride in the Meiji period. In any case, the only real pursuit for me was whether or not the Japanese were making cast-iron tsuba during the Edo period. And now that seems to be likely. I’d like to end off by bringing back a quote from the first page of this thread. At the time, I found it to be an amazing quote from Markus Sesko, but I didn’t know enough to be able to put it in proper context. I really wasn’t ready to wrap my head around such an early date for cast-iron tsuba: On 1/26/2022 at 5:08 AM, JohnTo said: “Markus Sesko has a small reference to cast iron tsuba in his book the Japanese toso-kinko Schools (p 129) which states that the kinko artist Daininchi Fucho (active around Horeki, 1751-1764) learned his skills ‘from Ugai Gorozaemon who belonged to an Osaka-based family of kettle casters who produced cast-iron tsuba as a sideline.’ Now that mid-1700 timeframe makes so much more sense…
  17. Roger, you're spot on. Hand working after casting makes it more difficult since you'll see evidence of both. By the way, this was something that was pointed out by Lissenden, in his analysis of casting in Nanban tsuba. He found that there was quite a varying degree of hand working of the cast tsuba he analyzed. Lissenden also made the assertion that if the tsuba has some hallmarks of being cast, then one must assume that it was initially cast. It would be extremely difficult to explain the presence of some of those features if it was exclusively hand forged. However some features, taken on their own could potentially be explained by other factors, which is why it really helps to have either: multiple signs of casting, or at least one casting feature that wouldn't make any sense being there if it was hand forged. An additional issue is relying on digital images alone. These will vary in picture quality, the angles presented, as well as light and colour saturation of the image. Playing around with these can really hide some of the cast-features. So on a side note... watch out for sellers with really dark images. Download/save the images, then change the brightness and contrast of the image so you can get a better look. It's always helpful to have angled views where you can see inside the hitsu and sukashi, as well as get a good look at the outer face of the mimi. Another issue is the degree of pitting and rusting on the tsuba... that can make things so muddy that you can't be certain of anything. In those cases, the only way I've been comfortable calling it cast, is when I have another example of an identically patterned tsuba that is less corroded.
  18. Sorry Jean, but you have misinterpreted where my “zeal” has been directed… The whole way along, I have merely been entertaining the question: “Why not in the Edo period?” …and I have been looking for answers ever since, ready to accept whatever the outcome may be. If you look back, I was ready to “end the search” at the date of construction of the first Western style blast furnace in 1857, assuming that would be the only consistent source of the cast-iron. But, new quotes came up, that pointed to earlier dates of cast-iron tsuba production (1840s-1860s). So, I even raised some questions that I felt would have to be answered in order to help corroborate those dates: a) Where did that cast-iron come from, especially if it was malleable cast iron? This is what I equate to “OPPORTUNITY”… ie. COULD THEY HAVE DONE THAT, and HOW? b) What was the reason for their production, and who was the target market? This is what I equate to “MOTIVE” (Especially given that these dates were earlier than the Meiji period when Japan opened up to foreign buyers) After reading the sources listed in my last post, we now know FOR CERTAIN, that the Japanese had been producing and decarburizing their own cast-iron since 1691. Prior to that post, the belief presented here on the NMB was that it was not possible for Japan to produce cast-iron, let alone malleable cast-iron which requires further processing. This was used to advance the idea that cast-iron tsuba COULD NOT have been produced in Japan during the EDO period. These are clearly FALSE. As stated in one of my previous posts, part of my quest for finding answers, is to advance an idea from POSSIBLE to PLAUSIBLE, and ideally to CERTAIN. I can see now, a more realistic outcome may be: from broadly POSSIBLE (“don’t know, but maybe?”), to PLAUSIBLE (“ya, it could be”), to PROBABLE (“yes, probably”). So Jean, I’d also like to point out, that it was completely irrelevant for my last post to have the word TSUBA in the quotes provided, because I was merely advancing that new information to establish that: During the Edo-period (1691 onward), the Japanese had the OPPORTUNITY to make cast-iron tsuba that wouldn’t be so brittle as to be unusable. This information, just on its own, turns the dial from merely POSSIBLE, to PLAUSIBLE. My other summary statements were made because of the combination of · all the scholarly quotes provided throughout this NMB thread that support the idea (both directly and indirectly) · the papered cast tsuba examples · the accessibility to malleable cast iron from 1691 onward · two motives to justify why they may have been produced earlier than the Meiji period Taken as a whole, that seems to push the idea of cast-iron tsuba in the Edo period towards PROBABLE. Of course though, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want. My goal is not to change your mind, but rather to ask questions, find answers, and follow the weight of the evidence.
  19. RESEARCHING THE “COMMERCIALIZATION” OF THE Japanese STEEL-PRODUCING PROCESS USING TATARA DURING THE EDO PERIOD: sourced from: 1- History of Steel in Japan, by Eiho Nishida. 1973 2- An Iron Workers Community in Japan- A Study in the Sociology of Industrial Groups, by Kunio Odaka. 1950. The Japanese Tatara had gone through several stages of evolution to reach its “final stage” of development by the year 1691, that utilized a much improved, multi-person “see-saw” / “balance-type” bellows, with a hearth designed to retain heat. (1) These were staffed by a great number of both skilled workers, artisans, and less-skilled labour workers, who lived in dedicated communities of 50 to 200 people (including their families). (2) This final stage of development moved it from an outdoor small scale production output, to an indoor “industrial-scale” steel production with a complex of dedicated buildings that included: “The iron-cut, where iron sand was extracted; the charcoal yard; the smelter (see-saw Tatara); and the forge.” (2) “The forge consisted of a shop where the pig iron (cast-iron) was decarbonized and a finishing shop.” (2) “Commonly, work at the furnace continued for three or four nights at a time, during which workmen were not allowed to return to their homes.” (2) Using one of three different processes with this setup, three types of smelted metals could be produced (1): 1- “Kera” for swords 2- “Zuku” for casting (same as the “pig-iron” quoted above) 3- “Wrought iron” by decarburizing the Zuku or lower grade Kera These advanced indoor Tatara could produce steel blocks that weighed 4000-5000 pounds, which could then be broken up by a large hammer called a “DO” that was powered by a water wheel. (2) In 1853, the Japanese ban on building large ships was lifted, and in order to keep up with the increased demand for steel, the first Western style “blast-furnace” was built in 1857. So, in summary, the Japanese were able to make large scale quantities of cast-iron, as well as decarburize it to make it softer, since roughly the year 1700! (…rounded up from 1691) The introduction of the Western blast-furnace was only necessary to scale up production to even greater quantities, NOT in order to start the production. So, now we can add “OPPORTUNITY” on top of the already discussed “MOTIVE” for the production of cast-iron tsuba in the Edo period, as well as several EXAMPLES of cast tsuba that have been papered by NTHK or NBTHK. And just to add another MOTIVE for “mass-production” of tsuba, at least from the 1850s onwards (1):
  20. Sorry, couldn't resist... the resemblance is amazing though. Or maybe this tsubako was a fan of American football? (Not that it existed yet...)
  21. BTW, I looked into some more analysis techniques, specifically the potential for using the CARBON DATING (which is invasive) and found a published journal article on it: Dating Iron by the Carbon-14 Method, by Van der Merwe and Stuiver Quick summary: One major limitation is getting a large enough sample to get enough Carbon to do the analysis. Cast iron is typically around 2% Carbon, and if it was softened afterwards through decarburization, then it would have even less. The ideal sample size for cast iron is about 100g, so that's pretty much the whole tsuba on most cases! The fuel that is burned is the only source of Carbon that gets mixed in with the iron to become cast-iron. So another major limitation is the source of the fuel that was used to produce the cast iron. If it was made with charcoal made from burnt fresh wood, then you can date it properly. But, If it was made from fossil-fuel coal, then it can't be Carbon-dated because it's too old. The upper limit of Carbon dating is around 50,000 years, and fossil fuels are millions of years old... simply a no-go. Fossil-fuel coal use began in the early 18th century in Europe and spread from there. From that time forward, both processes were used, sometimes even being mixed together to get specific products. This makes dating 18th and 19th century cast iron objects much more difficult because you won't know what the fuel source was for a particular object before you grind it all up and put it through the Carbon-14 testing. So if testing is done, it definitely has to be of the non-invasive type. Just thought I'd share that info if anyone was wondering about the possibility of using Carbon-dating techniques on tsuba
  22. Relying on images alone, can make the identification of cast-iron very difficult. But I can see why you might single this one out. Even though this one is "Heianjo-style", there's a whole group of Heianjo plates that have purposefully rough-textured surfaces that were worked by hand (and possibly some sort of chemical treatment as well to create all the pitting and "flaked"-look... just a hypothesis). So this one should not be counted as "cast-iron". They are recognized as being proper forged plates. btw, the added ring on a mimi is a "fukurin" not a "hukurin"... could just be one of those pronunciation/translation issues of going from Japanese to English..
  23. I hope the list of translated terms I put up aren't all euphemisms for some raunchy acts I think I figured out what the "diagram" and the outline around the nakago-ana on the first one are Definitely still qualifies as art Bazza. But certainly appealing to a very specific group of art admirers
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