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cabowen

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Everything posted by cabowen

  1. Seems I have been called out.....My boy is taking his nap and I have some time so here's a bit of what I have learned on the stamp topic...and yes, I do not comment specifically on items at auction, so I will make these "general" comments. You can connect the dots.... First of all, there are many different stamps seen on WWII era military issue blades. They have different meanings, uses, and histories. It would take much more time than I have at the moment to address the full story so what follows is the abridged version....I have assumed that full source citations are not necessary, but they can be provided if there is any doubt in what I will relate.... The showa stamp was used to indicate a non-traditionally made blade. Period. When you see a blade with this stamp, it means it is not a traditionally made blade. The government ordered that this stamp be used because some non-traditionally made blades were becoming difficult to tell apart from those made the traditional way. If anyone has seen a papered showa stamped blade, it speaks more to the shinsa team than the blade. Seki stamps were placed to identify the blade as manufactured in Seki and may have also served as a local acceptance stamp. The bulk of the gunto made in WWII came from Seki. There was a veritable gunto cooperative where this business was conducted. 99% of all gunto made were not traditionally made in Seki. There may be the odd ball seki stamped blade that is traditionally made but it would be extremely rare. Some people in Japan tell me the Seki stamp was the same as the Showa stamp, others say it is not certain. Personally, outside of two Seki smiths, I ignore them all as too few are worth the time to worry about it.... The Star stamp was used by the military as an acceptance stamp on blades made by the Rikugun Jumei Tosho for the military. These smiths had to pass a rigorous test to be accepted into the contract program. They received tamahagane from the military (which, as a strategic resource, was controlled by the military) and charcoal from the prefectural governor. This is documented fact. Therefore, in theory, all star stamped blades were made traditionally with tamahagane. In practice, who is to say that some smith(s) weren't hording it and passing off western steel blades??? Well, there are two good reasons why this was probably very rare: first, the blades, as I said, were inspected. Yoshihara Kuniie, a prominent smith of the time, worked as an inspector. You aren't going to fool him and risk being tossed out of the program. Second, people were patriotic. They were making the best blades they could for their soldiers. It may have happened, but it was most likely rare....Safe bet to say that star stamped blades are traditionally made. I have never seen a showa or Seki stamped blade pass an NBTHK shinsa. I have seen Star stamped blades pass and have owned at least one that I recall submitting just to see what would happen after someone made all kinds of noise about how the NBTHK wouldn't paper one....it indeed passed. Why is there so much confusion about stamps? Because nearly all Japanese collectors have shunned WWII era blades, records were destroyed, many Japanese don't much like to talk about WWII related topics, and the experts have never bothered to really research these blades because...see above. I have spent many pleasurable hours talking with several WWII era Rikugun Jumei Tosho about their experiences, spent many hours at the Diet Library digging up old records and period literature (which is difficult to get into-being a university professor made it easy), and sought out many books and papers that most people would never bother to hunt down even if they had heard of them. I also have handled hundreds, if not thousands, of WWII era blades in the past 35 years. As I result, I feel very comfortable with the above statements. As a result, my recommendation to any budding collector is to consider star stamped blades. I have never seen a bad one. They are, on average, pretty decent. Some are better than others, but you can hardly go wrong with them. Conversely, they are not on the same level as the smith's custom or private work and as such are not the best you will find, but they are honest, traditional swords that a new collector can buy with some confidence. Seki and Showa stamped swords can be left for the martial artists, amateur polishers and WWII memorabilia collectors as they are not nihon-to ...anyone looking to learn about nihon-to will be wasting their time with them....
  2. I am in the sw corner of WI and have given thought to starting such a group once I am finished with my house...well, at least living there! I would be interested in such a group....I know of several people in the state that would be interested. The problem is everyone is so scattered...
  3. First of all, this is not a WWII era military blade or mounting and thus this is probably not the correct forum for this discussion...Nevertheless, here are my observations. Perhaps the moderator can move this thread to the correct location... The blade is handmade and traditional. It has been shortened at least once. The original nakago finish is seen at the bottom-most mekugi-ana. the top two are later, with the drilled, shiny ana the last chronologically. The koshirae is a traditional samurai mounting, probably from the 19th century. The kodogu look to be shinchu, or brass based. Fairly good condition, average work. The habaki has been mauled and the saya koiguchi looks beat, but the rest is decent.... It is difficult to say without seeing the blade in hand, as always, but probably from the Shinto period. Photos aren't clear enough to say much more....There looks to be several kitae ware in the former ji in the nakago. Possible there are more in the blade proper as they tend to run along seams. A nice piece for display.... Hope that is of some help....
  4. The differences in appearance are difficult to describe but in general, a western steel or non-tamahagane blade that is oil quenched will have very little to no nie, no activity, and usually hard, shiny points or spots in the peaks of the hamon if done in gunome, sanbon sugi, etc. Usually they are done is suguba with a painted on or acid etched look to them. The habuchi is indistinct. The other thing to look for is the hada. If there is no hada then it is not a forged blade. If the blade was not forged it means it was mass produced and not tamahagane. Water quenching takes much more skill than an oil quench and consequently oil was used almost exclusively for mass production. It bears mentioning that there were blades made of steels other than tamahagane that were forged and water quenched. Hayama Enshin, Miyamoto Kanenori, Horii Toshihide, Miyaguchi Kunimori, to a few of the more prominent smiths, are known to have done this. When viewing these blades, one is struck by the absence of activity in the hamon. Usually, a simple suguba with next to nothing going on in the hataraki department.... It appears that two ingredients are necessary to create an active ji-ba: tamahagane and a water quench. I have had conversations with modern Western blade smiths who tell me they can get all kinds of activity with western steel and oil quenching but I would attribute this to their deep knowledge of metallurgy and the time to experiment. Both quantities most WWII amateur smiths lacked.... There are other things to look for as well if the hamon and hada are not visable, chiefly the presence of the showa, seki, and other stamps (other than the star stamp), the smith's reputation, the quality of the mei and the nakago finishing. Most professional smiths did not make oil quenched mass produced gunto. Jumei Toshi were making blades for the military under contract and provided with tamahagane. These are usually star stamped later in the war. Known smiths with a known teacher-student lineage did not, in general, make oil quenched blades. If the mei is well cut and the nakago well shaped and finished, it is probably a sign that the blade was not mass produced. Most mumei WWII era blades were not made by professional smiths; though there are the rare exceptions, usually it is a mass produced blade or a blade that failed inspection. Again, there are always exceptions, but there general rules will usually get one by. I can not stress enough how important it is to see high quality gendaito by professional smiths to train your eye. It may come as a surprise but a first rate blade by the likes of Horii Toshihide, Tsukamoto Okimasa, Kajiyama Yasunori, Yoshihara Kuniie, etc., looks very much like older work- beautifully active ji-ba with crisp filework and good proportions. If you learn to recognize what quality is you will know, irregardless of period, if it is a blade worth spending time with....
  5. let me preface my explanation by reiterating what I said above- it is most likely not traditionally made....My reasons for saying this are as follows: 1. This is a "smith" from Seki. Seki was the center of machine made/non-traditionally made gunto production. Very few professionally trained smiths making traditional blades worked in Seki during the war. In fact, I would go so far as to say that 98+% of all blades made in Seki during the war are not traditionally made. 2. The crude yasuri-me and and mei are standard practice for these mass produced blades and a big tip off. Professional smiths finished the nakago to a much higher standard, even when making gunto for the military. While it is possible that this smith used tamahagane and water quenched the blade, tamahagane, especially later in the war, was rationed by the military and only Jumei Tosho had access to it. 3. Iai-to were made in mass quantities for the budo practitioners, whose numbers grew with the nationalistic spirit that was coursing through the country. Typically, iai-to, even today, are a lower grade/cheaper sword. They are meant to be used and are usually both used and abused. Few have the deep pockets to afford an "art" sword for such usage. Masters and the rich are an exception. They however, would not be ordering a blade from an amateur smith. 4. The fact that it has a nice hamon and boshi, whatever that means, does not mean that it was not made with western steel and oil quenched. Generally, oil quenching does not produce the quantity and quality of nie one sees with a water quench, if any at all. It is very difficult to explain what an oil quenched hamon looks like except to say that it is generally devoid of nie and other activities. Let me again say that I am playing the averages here. Your sword may be an exception. Without seeing it, I can't say definitively. You will find there are as many exceptions as rules....
  6. Jason- As others have pointed out, this is a WWII era work signed "Ishihara Yoshisada". He worked in Seki, and as you can see by the hamon, was true to the Mino tradition. What this is, based on the long length and classical tsuba, is an iai-to. Seki was home, then, as now, to many dealers who offered iai-to to the martial arts crowd. They sold them right along side of the gunto... This signature, again, as others have pointed out, is crudely cut and a frequently seen sight in WWII era mass produced/machine made blades. The fact that this blade has no stamp does not mean it it traditionally made. As an iai-to, it would not have been military issue and therefore a stamp would not have been required. Most likely, and I can not say definitively from your photos, it is not a traditionally made blade. Someone here made a comment to the effect that "you cannot tell what steel the blade is made from by the hamon"...Actually, if you know what to look for, you can tell if the blade was water or oil quenched and whether or not it was forged by the hada and hamon. There are activities that will not show in western or other non-tamahagane steels. Addtionally, if you can tell that the blade was oil quenched, and that there is not a genuine hada present, you can pretty much bet the farm that it was not made of tamahagane....
  7. You are most welcome.... Don't think I saw the haunted house sword!
  8. I don't have time to get out this way very often! Likewise, nice to talk with you too.... Shinsa will probably be next year..... House is slow but steady.... Difficult for me to see the boshi clearly but in any case a jizo boshi is also midare-komi ......
  9. "konuka hada" is usually reserved for describing the hada seen in Hizen-to, which is dense, tightly packed and covered in ji-nie and chikei such that it looks like rice bran...It is quite distinct and once you have seen it in a well polished blade you won't forget it.... It is very unusual to see any visible hada in a 23 dai Kanefusa gunto. The fact that it is only discernible when photographed with a macro lens means that it is most likely best described as "ko-itame, muji-fu"... As seen in this photo, Kanefusa was a very capable smith. Unfortunately nearly all we see of his work are the factory made gunto of low quality. In truth, he was a very good smith who rarely, during the war years, made the time to make a traditional blade. I have seen umpteen dozens of the factory made blades but only one or two special order, traditionally made blades. Those few were very well made.....Another problem is the rather poor polish most of these Seki blades received. Some can be surprising with a proper polish.....
  10. Correct....I believe the Nagoya Arsenal was the closest to Seki and likely many or most gunto made in Seki went through Nagoya....
  11. Nagoya is actually in Aichi, not Gifu Prefecture...
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