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EckartF

Request for Identification Assistance

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Hello all,

 

I'm a new member here also new to collecting.  Perhaps like some others here, I dove straight in with a purchase and used that to drive more serious study of available literature.  With that said, I'm at a point with too many variables to push my own understanding further without external input.  I've added the photos that to my mind show useful detail-- quality isn't great.  I can add a few more I took myself which are poor in different ways.

 

I bought this blade a few months ago as it it simply spoke to me-- I find the koshirae simple but elegant.  From what I understand, the koshirae is later than the blade itself.  The nagasa is 66.3cm.  There are no origami.

 

Now that I understand the attribution characters, I don't find the attribution credible.  But I am trying to understand more about it and how to proceed, i.e. do I submit it for judgement?  Is it simply likely to be rejected because of the attribution?  Latter isn't a huge concern other than as a hindrance to learning more about it.

 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts, and I'm very much looking forward to learning more from you all.

 

Eckart

 

post-5461-0-19203200-1594005236_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-88890400-1594005249_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-38837400-1594005261_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-56501600-1594005272_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-61622900-1594005281_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-17305300-1594005290_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-24356400-1594005302_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-56857400-1594005316_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-65592900-1594005326_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-65407700-1594005345_thumb.jpgpost-5461-0-86302600-1594005360_thumb.jpg  

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Eckart, please add one more image of the full-length,totally-bare blade, as sugata is the first feature to look at.

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Ken, thanks. Adding one further photo per request. Lighting is poor but the shape is reasonably clear.post-5461-0-05956600-1594009662_thumb.jpeg

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The only reason it might not paper is because the shinsa team is laughing so hard at the kinpun-mei that nobody is able to use their writing implements.

 

Seriously, though, the lacquered mei looks pretty fresh and like acrylic paint, and should come off with careful use of solvents. I usually don’t promote messing with swords, but can’t see how it would do any harm to the patina (been there, done that, got it straight from the horse’s mouth). At least that‘s I would do, because it’s kind of embarrassing to have a “to kinpun mei ga aru” on my papers “attributing” it to one of the most famous sword in Japanese history, and a national treasure, no less!

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Well, hardly the guy I’m afraid...

 

I think everything was made to deceive here. The nakago is suriage for no reason it seems.

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Well, hardly the guy I’m afraid...

 

I think everything was made to deceive here. The nakago is suriage for no reason it seems.

Thanks, could you explain more?  The kinpunmei issue I can follow pretty well.  The nakago bit I'm out of my depth as a beginner.  How do you identify the shortening?  Is the issue that the sword geometry itself implies it never had the length to require shortening?  Thanks for any more detail.

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The only reason it might not paper is because the shinsa team is laughing so hard at the kinpun-mei that nobody is able to use their writing implements.

 

Seriously, though, the lacquered mei looks pretty fresh and like acrylic paint, and should come off with careful use of solvents. I usually don’t promote messing with swords, but can’t see how it would do any harm to the patina (been there, done that, got it straight from the horse’s mouth). At least that‘s I would do, because it’s kind of embarrassing to have a “to kinpun mei ga aru” on my papers “attributing” it to one of the most famous sword in Japanese history, and a national treasure, no less!

Thanks Guido, understood.  I was delighted to find that the real blade is in a museum (so that question was put to rest fairly decisively).  A very tiny lacquer chip came off one of the corners.  The lacquer chip doesn't act like acrylic in that it won't soften to methylated spirits.  I rubbed the chip against porcelain and got back a yellowed streak.  Nor is it magnetic.  But my 8th grade chemistry ends there.   Is there anything more to be learnt from the blade itself?  Or are the photos simply too poor? 

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Thanks, could you explain more?  The kinpunmei issue I can follow pretty well.  The nakago bit I'm out of my depth as a beginner.  How do you identify the shortening?  Is the issue that the sword geometry itself implies it never had the length to require shortening?  Thanks for any more detail.

Although not universal, when a nakago jiri (tip) is cut straight like this (mind you, some swordsmiths did it on purpose), it usually means the blade has been shortened. However, when this happen, even for a few centimeters, the mekugi ana (the hole) doesn’t correspond to the new tsuka and a new mekugi ana is drilled. If it is greatly shortened, the signature will disappear and sometimes replaced by a kinpun mei or left  unsigned. The shortening and the absence of a new hole points to a fake Ō-suriage (greater shortening) to add a prestigious name to a mumei (unsigned) blade. It’s a common practice by con artists. 

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I was going to roll with modern sword based on the koshirae which looked 20th century to me.now I've seen the Nakago blade may be shinshinto still think the mounts are not that old.can we see more detail of the fuchi, kashira and tsuba please?

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What about the polish? The JI is so glossy that no HADA is visible. Not good!

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Thanks for the further questions. I think these are down to my poor photos more than the blade or fittings though. My own photos under terrible lighting follow:post-5461-0-80212000-1594132238_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-65543500-1594132294_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-82316300-1594132388_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-03228200-1594132459_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-93300200-1594132491_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-89180100-1594132544_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-57774000-1594132581_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-73432000-1594132667_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-74564500-1594132854_thumb.jpegpost-5461-0-01503500-1594178616_thumb.jpg

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At least there is Hada, so traditional sword. When I first saw the pictures, I thought the ji was so glossy it looked like a WW2 Showato..

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The HADORI is another problem which we can't solve without holding the blade in hand. In general, making photos of the YAKIBA is difficult and don't help much.

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Looking at the start of the hamon, this sword doesn't seem to be suriage... but seems pretty tired...

Thanks, Jacques.  "Pretty tired" in that the machi look ground down?  Or are there other features that point you to that opinion?  I've read some of the older threads on "tiredness" and see a lot of mention of shingane.  To my eye, there aren't dull patches as such, but perhaps that's the point others above have made about hadori hiding those?  

 

Regarding the suriage, you conclude that from the hamon trailing down just beyond the machi as opposed to "continuing" deep into the nakago?  Is that correct?  Thanks for any further pointers-- particularly if any literature you think worthwhile on the wear/tiring effects of polishing.

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Hi Eckart, 

 

I'd look at the hamon termination as a bit suspect, too.  If the blade has been shortened significantly, so that 'new' tang is formed over part of the blade that had previoulsy been polished, the hamon should run deeper into the tang, not stop short of the hamachi, as it seems to do here.  Unless the sword as a whole had been retempered, creating a new hamon (without getting into too much detail, often this creates a stylistic contrast with the original/alleged smith's work).  This would also help explain the very white, bright metal of the hamon boundary, although this isn't uncommon in perfectly authentic shin-shinto period work, either (I have an example myself); and possibly also contributes to the 'tiredness' of the surface metal.  

 

The concept of tiredness is a bit harder to define.  You get a feel for it after you get a chance to examine a number of antique and/or well-used blades, but you might imagine that repeated or heavy repolishing, ie, grinding down the hard surface steel, especially at the ji and ha, produces a more coarse, almost uneven appearance to the grain, the hada, whatever it's pattern might be (itame, mokume, etc).  At the extreme, the hamon becomes quite shallow, as some of it's metal at the edge is lost, and the blade might show 'ware,' or openings in the grain, potentially deep enough to expose the softer iron core of the sword.  It can be hard to discern between a high quality, but worn, blade, and one that was wasn't forged to the same standards, or perhaps flawed in the hardening & tempering process. 

 

Now, none of all this means that a sword is completely worthless, or an outright fake.  The question is, if you want it, how much should you pay?  And also, do you want it for what it is, or for what the seller wants you to think that it is?  The gaudy painting over of the signature is, of course, the main thing.  Once that's settled, as pointed out by previous posters, you know beyond reasonable doubt that the intent is to deceive.  And not to deceive an expert or connoisseur, but a rube.  Nobody would do that to even a modestly valuable sword.  In fact, nobody would do anything to the tang at all, except maybe to add fresh file marks ('yasurime') to the previously-polished surface, or drill a new mekugi hole if remounting the blade.  If the signature says 'Masamune' or 'Yasutsuna' or some other museum-quality mei of legend, then it's just that much more stupid.  

 

So, is the blade of any value at all?  I think, probably a little.  It's dangerous to judge from a few pictures, but this seems to be an authentically forged Japanese sword, with a real hada and hamon, probably the work of second rate smith(s), maybe shin-shinto or newer, which still makes it an antique, mind.  It might be 2-300 years old.  It looks a bit worn down, and/or not forged all that tightly from the beginning, and we still have to entertain the possibility of it's being cut down and/or retempered.  Which is all okay:  Most of the time, one isn't obscuring the work of a famous smith's masterpiece by keeping an old sword in service that way; there's plenty of good company out there..and this is a good thing, because we average-income consumers can have a genuine Japanese sword and see & admire the details of all the metalwork that goes into it.  Plus the mountings, if they're authentic and of value. 

 

But there's no need to overpay.  That's why it's important to identify deception when you see it.  If the seller of this sword was claiming to your face that it's a valuable, papered antique, and asking, say US$5000-10,000 or more, then that's silly.  There're plenty of shin-shinto, even shinto and late koto blades to be had with decent old polish and no major ware or failures, for much less.  Note also that I say 'blade.'  Quality swords are generally kept and sold in shirasaya only.  If the furniture is available and/or valuable in itself, one would expect it to be mounted on a wood or bamboo spacer.

 

There're lots of exceptions and qualifications to all I've said, and plenty more besides, but I hoped to give you a little scope into the likely maximum value of your sword as pictured, at least as determined by your ability to sell it to someone else knowledgable.  

 

Cheers, 

 

~Woz

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