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If I buy custom fittings, will they fit on a new sword?

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If I buy custom fittings (fuchi, kashira, menuki, tsuba) from say Roman Urban or Marcus Chambers, would they fit on a newly commissioned shinsakuto? I also plan on having a manji patterned habaki made by Brian Tschernega but I'm guessing it'd be best for him to have the blade and saya to make one that fits well.

 

My plan is this:

1. commission custom koshirae

2. commission a shinsakuto

3. send custom koshirae to tsuka maker to be integrated with new sword

4. after receiving sword, send to Brian Tschernega for custom habaki

 

I'm aware this will be expensive. Is this a reasonable plan or is it completely out of whack?

 

Thanks,

James J

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Hello James,

 

Commision the sword, then the fittings to fit the sword. (best they have the sword in hand)

 

Bare in mind that posting swords around can sometimes be a worry, with shipping and customs etc..

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The proper way to do it (if you want to skip the shirasaya):

 

•    Commission sword
•    Have foundation polish done
•    Commission fuchi, kashira, and tsuba (and menuki) according to the dimensions of the sword
•    Send sword and fittings to shirogane-shi (for habaki and seppa)
•    Send everything to koshirae-shi
•    If the koshirae-shi doesn’t do lacquer or handle wrapping, then
•    Send to nuri-shi
•    Send to tsukamaki-shi
•    Send to togi-shi for final polishing
•    Enjoy the end result despite the fact that you’ll never recover the investment if you ever sell the sword
 

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To elaborate even further:  Not knowing who the swordsmith will be, I can't speculate on how much the sword will cost but all the rest of the work, if done right, will probably be at least $10,000 and could be significantly more, depending on the artists chosen.  If done less than right, well... what's the point?.  When the time comes to sell, and it will, either for you or your heirs, you'll be lucky to recoup $3,000 plus whatever value the blade carries.  Not saying you shouldn't do this; if money is no object have at it.  But you need to understand up front what you're up against.

Grey

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Depending on who are chosen to make the koshirae and its parts and how good they are, $10K may not be unreasonable.  There is, of course, a much less expensive route to the same or an even better end: buy an antique Samurai sword in fine koshorae.  And when the time comes to sell, if you have chosen wisely no money will be lost.

Grey

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As a professional metal artist working almost exclusively in this field I must say up front I have a vested interest.

 

While it may be that in many, maybe most, cases a contemporary commissioned koshirae would be a financial loss in terms of resale this is not necessarily always the case.

 

A tsuba I made 7 years ago was subsequently valued by Christine's in London for £35 000, a 7 fold increase in value. A number of other pieces and sets of mine have been resold and yielded a modest profits for the sellers.

 

And by contrast its pretty easy to lose money on antique pieces depending on where the market happens to be when you need to sell.

 

I should add here that I'm not looking for work either as I've closed my order books because I have too much work to do as it is.

 

Personally speaking it's reassuring that there are some people who are prepared and enthusiastic about commissioning new work because without their support the craft would not survive in any form.

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As a professional metal artist working almost exclusively in this field I must say up front I have a vested interest.

 

While it may be that in many, maybe most, cases a contemporary commissioned koshirae would be a financial loss in terms of resale this is not necessarily always the case.

 

A tsuba I made 7 years ago was subsequently valued by Christine's in London for £35 000, a 7 fold increase in value. A number of other pieces and sets of mine have been resold and yielded a modest profits for the sellers.

 

And by contrast its pretty easy to lose money on antique pieces depending on where the market happens to be when you need to sell.

 

I should add here that I'm not looking for work either as I've closed my order books because I have too much work to do as it is.

 

Personally speaking it's reassuring that there are some people who are prepared and enthusiastic about commissioning new work because without their support the craft would not survive in any form.

 

I don't plan on selling my sword as I'm going to design it to be personally significant to me. I'm bummed out that you're not taking orders, but perhaps I can get something commissioned from your former student Marcus Chamber :) I know there's no "one size fits all" for fittings so would it be preferable for you as the tosogu to receive the sword to make fittings that fit? Or would it be better to send the fittings to the tsuka maker in Japan to be integrated with the rest of the sword?

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Hi James

 

The ideal procedure is perfectly outlined by my good freind, some say evil twin but they're just jealous, Guido.

 

Start with the blade. The maker of the fittings will need to know the size and shape of the area around the transition from tang to blade to get everything just right and functional for your hands. That's if they know what they're doing.

 

I would always prefer to have the blade in hand so to speak but with precise measurements I've made a number of sets of fittings that in the final assembly all fitted together flawlessly. So it's possible but in the final assessment it really comes down to who does the work.

 

And I'll say this, just because they live in Japan doesn't always mean the work will be any good. Having said that, my frie

nd, Otsuka Kenshin is pretty reliable and delivers a consistently authentic result.

 

If you need an introduction via email I'll happily link you up. He's also well placed to arrange various other aspects of mounting that may be required.

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And I'll say this, just because they live in Japan doesn't always mean the work will be any good.

 

This can’t be overemphasized, especially when it comes to tsukamae and tsukamaki. I often see people going oooh & aaah over tsukamaki that’s sub-standard, just because it was done in Japan; one has to study the fine details in-depth in order to being able to judge the quality (this, of course, is true for all traditional Japanese crafts).

 

Case in point: I recently needed to have the tsukamaki redone for an antique tsuka because the ito was disintegrating. I got talked into having it done by a “good but reasonably priced” tsukamaki-shi – I should have known better, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The tsuka had very nicely “patinated”, high quality samegawa, and hosomaki-ito. I asked to have it done the same way, just in a different color, kodai-murasaki instead of black. When it came back, the ito was regular murasaki, and regular width. To cover up that it would have shown darker and lighter parts of the antique samegawa due to the difference in ito width, the craftsman had “cleaned” the samegawa, and had put a coat of amber lacquer over it. Furthermore, it was done in kata-tsumami-maki instead of moro-tsumami-maki, and the menuki weren’t placed correctly (even one or two mm up or down the tsuka can make a huge difference).

 

To make a long story short, the sword dealer who had brokered the tsukamaki was so embarrassed that he covered the cost himself, and sent me a nice gift box from one of the more expensive department stores as a consolation; however, nothing will bring back the beautiful luster of the antique samegawa. In my experience, good quality (regular) tsukamaki sets one back about 45,000 Yen, up to 80,000 Yen for top quality; multiply this by at least 1.5 for jabara-maki.

 

OTOH, while all kinds of amateurs try their hands on this in Japan – including some none-Japanese – it’s very difficult to find someone outside Japan who does at least decent work. And an economic truism in Japan is that anything done for a small charge isn't worth a jot. This field of collecting isn’t for the faint of heart …

 

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The ideal procedure is perfectly outlined by my good freind, some say evil twin but they're just jealous, Guido.

 

Did you mean "friend" or "Feind" ? :laughing:

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Hello James, out of curiosity who are you thinking about getting the blade forged by?

A custom made blade done to your own specs would be a very special project. It would be amazing to go to Japan and meet a good smith and plan a sword.

 

Greg

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Hi Greg,

 

I don't have a specific swordsmith in mind so I'm going to go through an intermediary such as Paul Martin and have him recommend me a smith based on my budget and what I want. Before I do that, I want to go on a trip to Japan and check out museums and sword shops. I found a tour package where I can meet mukansa smith Yoshindo Yoshihara at his workshop. There's a sword museum in Bizen that showcases a smith and various other sword related craftsmen, though you can only see them once a month. You can see Masahira Fujiyasu forge a blade a few times a year in Fukushima City. That's open to the public for free. I want to see all of those while I'm there. I've seen some documentaries on how to make Japanese swords but it'd be so cool to see it happen in real time in person. I plan on designing this sword that's representative of me. I don't care about recouping my investment as I don't plan on selling it since it'll be personally significant.

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You will need a thick wallet to buy a blade by Yoshindo Yoshihara. His kogata, when you find them, are $3500 USD each. They do come in a shirasaya with a sayagaki and a bag. Many have horimono by him. When he does the horimono he signs hori do saku as well as his name... The price may have gone up as I have not seen him at a show in a few years.

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The website offering the tour said a sword by him starts at $50k. I can't afford a sword by him but getting to meet him at his workshop is cool enough for me.

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Thats a good plan James and an experience I would to have myself one day.

Paul Martin is the man to talk to.

I hope to hear about the experience along the way.

 

Greg

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