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Mempo Find


Kazee21
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Hello! I recently found this mempo at a gun show. I know nothing of armor, but trusted the seller as they are reputable. I was told this was made in the early 1800s, but after bringing it home and inspecting closer, seems questionable to me. I took a magnet to it which did nothing except attract the hooks on the cheek area. I know later armor could be lacquered wood or leather. Anyway, thoughts and comments please? Is it a modern repro?

post-2767-0-28600800-1506901164_thumb.jpg

post-2767-0-93335000-1506901184_thumb.jpg

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Hello! I recently found this mempo at a gun show. I know nothing of armor, but trusted the seller as they are reputable. I was told this was made in the early 1800s, but after bringing it home and inspecting closer, seems questionable to me. I took a magnet to it which did nothing except attract the hooks on the cheek area. I know later armor could be lacquered wood or leather. Anyway, thoughts and comments please? Is it a modern repro?

Never wood...rawhide (nerigawa) is a possibility especially since it appears to be made in one piece. The throat guard (yodare-kake) lames do not look like nerigawa, are you sure that a magnet does not stick to them?

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Never wood...rawhide (nerigawa) is a possibility especially since it appears to be made in one piece. The throat guard (yodare-kake) lames do not look like nerigawa, are you sure that a magnet does not stick to them?

Positive, just took a magnet again to it...

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Positive, just took a magnet again to it...

Strange, normally I would expect to see shiki-gane (strengthening rods) that are laced to the back of Japanese nerigawa (leather) armor items. The image below shows yours compared to a known nerigawa example, the black arrows point to the shiki-gane. If not iron then either nerigawa or non-ferrous metal or???

2b160c8cbf2973fd4c55045d96cc3f3d.jpg

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Good morning Chansa.,

 

Could you please take some close up pictures in daylight of the teeth area from both front and back.

 

It's also unclear from the pictures posted whether the "wrinkle" moulding on the upper cheek is there on the inside or if that is smooth.

 

Thank you.

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Hi Chansa,

 

The shiwa (wrinkles) don't seem to be embossed judging by the lack of impression on the interior of the mask. This means that the wrinkles were built up from lacquer.

 

Also, what is the weight of the piece? Is it still fairly heavy? If so, then it's likely nerigawa as you and a number of people have already said. If it's quite light, then another possibility could be kanshitsu (a technique using layers of washi (Japanese paper) combined with urushi (lacquer).

 

At this point, we also cannot rule out the possibility that it's a modern reproduction, perhaps made out of fiberglass as mentioned by Justin.

 

John

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The thing is if it were nerigawa, I would have expected the wrinkles to have been molded (and thus evident on the reverse side of the mask) because masks made from nerigawa were formed with a mold. I have a kanshitsu menpo that is extremely light compared to a regular menpo/even from nerigawa, to the extent that I wonder if it even has any protective qualities.

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At first I was inclined to think it was nerigawa, but the close-up pictures have convinced me it is resin. If you look at the lowest wrinkle in the central image there are two raised lumps towards the nose and similar ones on the teeth. There is another at the nose end of the top wrinkle and the area above the hook is messy. These are the result of tiny air bubbles that left an impressions in the mould. I was also puzzled by the hooks for the helmet cord. I have never seen any of that shape before.  I suspect they are commercial cup-hooks or similar that have been pressed into service. One other point is that when properly laced the upper braid of all the cross-knots should run the same way, not randomly as here. It could have been re-laced but it is not a good sign. Sorry but I think you have been cheated and I should know I ended up being conned by buying an armour that was largely resin.

Ian Bottomley

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Hi Chansa,

 

The shiwa (wrinkles) don't seem to be embossed judging by the lack of impression on the interior of the mask. This means that the wrinkles were built up from lacquer.

 

Also, what is the weight of the piece? Is it still fairly heavy? If so, then it's likely nerigawa as you and a number of people have already said. If it's quite light, then another possibility could be kanshitsu (a technique using layers of washi (Japanese paper) combined with urushi (lacquer).

 

At this point, we also cannot rule out the possibility that it's a modern reproduction, perhaps made out of fiberglass as mentioned by Justin.

 

John

Sorry John but I cant agree with that comment.

 

Wrinkles can be filled in the inside with kokuso to create a smooth surface for the interior. 

 

As to fibreglass, well a hot pin will burn through it as a test.

What I think you have here is a mask that's had a low skilled amateur attempt to repair it with modern materials.

 

 

 

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Because a smooth surface inside a mask is easier to lacquer

 

But wouldn't it be just as much work (if not more) to make and fill in with kokuso and then sand it down than to just paint the nooks and crannies of a wrinkle?

 

Nevertheless, I think we all agree that all was not right with this piece and I'm glad that Chansa was able to get his money back.

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But wouldn't it be just as much work (if not more) to make and fill in with kokuso and then sand it down than to just paint the nooks and crannies of a wrinkle?

 

Nevertheless, I think we all agree that all was not right with this piece and I'm glad that Chansa was able to get his money back.

Well, John, this is the difference between being a collector and a restorer. I re-lacquer armour as a profession. As you don't understand urushi-nuri I'll explain. Kokuso is a form of putty, it fills gaps rather well. The upper sabi layers can then be smoothed out. After the shu-urushi is applied the layers are cut back by hand using charcoal. This takes a lot of time and any mistakes where the urushi layers are cut too deep require the whole application to be repeated. The inside of a menpo is the most difficult part of any armour to lacquer.

 

So a smooth surface is far easier and quicker to finish.

 

I hope that this explanation is informative for those enthusiasts who study Katchu.

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T

 

Well, John, this is the difference between being a collector and a restorer. I re-lacquer armour as a profession. As you don't understand urushi-nuri I'll explain. Kokuso is a form of putty, it fills gaps rather well. The upper sabi layers can then be smoothed out. After the shu-urushi is applied the layers are cut back by hand using charcoal. This takes a lot of time and any mistakes where the urushi layers are cut too deep require the whole application to be repeated. The inside of a menpo is the most difficult part of any armour to lacquer.

So a smooth surface is far easier and quicker to finish.

I hope that this explanation is informative for those enthusiasts who study Katchu.

 

Thanks Dave. I actually am familiar with the process because you've described it in the past. However, my question was really about which method would have been more time-consuming and difficult: to go through the process above and then lacquer or just simply go straight to lacquering without the cutting back and kokuso process?

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T

 

 

Thanks Dave. I actually am familiar with the process because you've described it in the past. However, my question was really about which method would have been more time-consuming and difficult: to go through the process above and then lacquer or just simply go straight to lacquering without the cutting back and kokuso process?

Well if you just apply urushi to the inside it won't be smooth.

Urushi is not a magical compound that is simply painted on to achieve an amazing finish. It takes hard work and skill to produce a desirable finish.

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