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Shintetsu, shingane....but....can it still be a cool blade? Impossible for both to go together?

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I'm wondering with any of the collectors, preservationists, hobbyist perspectives on how much shintetsu is held against a blade (in a koto blade is it more forgiven or equally negative across all age boards?).  Obviously its a tell towards a tired blade at the end of its polishing life, but does it kill the value both appreciation wise and monetarily to a very large degree? 

 

Im posting an example blade that I think is really a cool sword.  I've watched it for many months and it still hasn't sold so its either priced too high or the shintetsu is just too heinous for the blade to be adored by a wisened collector.  Wondering on your thoughts towards this specific flaw.  Also a more expert eye to help me gauge the level of shintetsu on this blade and if it would be considered lots or not so lots =|:^)

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Adam,

Condition is a key factor in any collecting and what is or isn't acceptable is a very personal choice and will vary from person to person. For some anything less than perfect is unacceptable and if they have a sword with a fault it soon becomes the only thing they see. For others different aspects of a blades structure, history or rarity make them more forgiving. Only this month The Kantei blade in the NBTHK magazine shows an important work that has lost virtually all of the boshi which in most circumstances would make it totally unacceptable but in this case the blade is highly regarded.

As a general view collectors tend to be more forgiving of tiredness or shintetsu appearing on older blades. They have been around longer, had greater exposure to potential damage and likely had more polishes therefore  it is understandable that some core steel may start to appear. The amount and whether it is acceptable is up to the individual buying it. In newer blades there is far less reason that this should happen and if there it suggests poorer workmanship or mistreatment.

Its a bit like us, a few crags and wrinkles as we age becomes a little more acceptable and may be regarded as "character" whereas in one of the many bright young things that adorn our tv screens a wrinkle or grey hair may be seen as a fatal flaw😃

 

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It's a kantei point in some koto blades from the Rai, Enju and Aoe schools and in shinto Hizen blades where it is called sumigane and isn't necessarily considered a flaw. This is in keeping with the idea that some flaws seem to be more forgiveable in schools or individual smiths otherwise known for high quality work: Muramasa blades often have the hamon dipping perilously close to the edge and I can never remember whether it is Hankei or Kotetsu whose blades tended to come with kitae ware pretty much as standard. Why this should be the case I don't know but, as in most things Nihonto, exceptions to rules are the norm rather than the exception.🤪

 

Ultimately, as Paul suggests, you are the one who will spend time looking at it so you need to be happy with the package. Also, you might want to have one eye on a potential resale as, if it has caught your eye, you can rely on it standing out for a potential buyer.

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Paul and John,

 

Thank you very much for your responses.  So it seems that there is a sliding scale for shintetsu and some schools in which its can almost be a feature due to them using a thinner skin layers etc...  It also seems logical to be more forgiving of it on koto blades for example.  Also makes sense that for some a single flaw is too many and on the other end someone can love a dinged up out of polish blade.  So that broadly covers the academic end and the collector spectrum.

 

The resale/market value part and also the scale of shintetsu im still not too sure of.  Like in that example blade, is the amount of shintetsu visible there considered a lot or a little?  Or is that also kind of subjective?   Markets are usually subjective with an underpinning of objective, so I can either see it being a powerful negative or an acceptable flaw.  But in general I would assume it would detract from value in the majority of cases unless historically protected by known maker/school...and to what degree/significance...totaaaally depends.

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Hope this isn’t a bad question but how can you tell shigane from areas  that are merely out of polish? 
 

I still have trouble telling shigane when the hada isn’t well illuminated so I can’t discern the shigane. The main problems I see is that it looks like there is a break in the nioiguchi and the boshi might have run off. Is there a better way to spot flaws?

 

Also if anyone could post photos of shigane (especially in old polish) that might aid in study, it would help a lot.

 

 

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Adam and Juan

I think the important thing to try and establish in your mind is the difference between Shingane (core steel) and Sumetetsu (plain steel). In some older schools you will see patches within the jigane of plain darker steel. This occurs in Aoe, Rai and Enju work. This is described as sumetetsu and is part of the jigane or surface steel . Shingane appears when the jigane is almost totally removed through polishing. It is also darker and lacks grain structure but generally looks coarser and more open than the jigane. One looks part of the surface structure the other looks as though it is showing through the surface.

It isn't always easy to tell them apart, or whether what you are seeing is a fault or a feature. In some Hizen blades core steel showing is regarded as a feature of their work (not necessarily a positive one) because they used thin jigane. More generally core steel showing through tends to be ugly Sumetetsu looks more an intrinsic part of the surface. 

As said it isn't easy. But in later swords if you see dark grainless or coarse steel on the surface it is more likely to be shingane.

Regarding market value if shingane is present it suggest the blade is worn down or not as well made as it should be and it will effect the overall value. It can also reduce the aesthetic appeal considerably thus lower the market value. As always what is acceptable to one may not be to another you have to decide whether you cn live with it (To be honest I cant but that is just me)

hope this helps a little

 

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Hi Paul,

I'm assuming that, as is often the case, there is a more nuanced view of sumegane/ shingane debate than I had appreciated until now. 😄

 

Juan,

There's a thread here on shingane, the photo at the start show it fairly clearly:

And some pictures of sumi hada: https://yuhindo.com/aoe-tsugunao/#shield

 

This article (at the bottom) discusses the nature of sumi hada: https://markussesko.com/2015/05/05/kantei-2-jigane-jihada-1/

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Thank you very much. To be honest I already saw that that thread and it somewhat confused me since some people said it was shingane and other people said it wasn’t and was some kind of benign school trait. The Aoe sword on the link also looks like it has a dense grain pattern in the dark spots which also doesn’t sound like how my books describe shingane. I guess that’s still a core steel? But since it’s high quality it isn’t really considered a serious detriment? Meanwhile exposed core steel with a very coarse or absent pattern would be bad? Or am I on the wrong track.

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Sumegane-like in Muromachi blade: bad, unsightly, detracting flaw.

Sumegane-like in early Kamakura blade: an important kantei feature attesting to both age and particular set of schools. Can be unsightly, but the chances are the blade overall has quite a few condition issues.

 

Its kind of like buying a Nambokucho sugata suriage daito in like new absolutely pristine condition.

Its either an automatic Juyo or a misidentified and devalued by suriage shinshinto.

Having at least some naturally looking wear would not hurt the blade's valuation if its claimed to be really old.

 

Kirill R.

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Some people really need to get out of their armchairs, and look at actual swords …

 

First of all, it’s sumigane: 墨鉄 “ink steel”, also called namazu-hada 鯰肌, lit. catfish skin”. Both terms aptly describe darkish areas of jigane that stand out; the keyword here is “jigane”, not shingane / shintetsu 心鉄, core steel.

 

As already pointed out, sumigane is a major kantei point of Aoe swords, along with dan-utsuri.

 

Jizukare 地疲れ, tired ji“, are dark, rough spots consisting of exposed shingane, usually due to overpolishing. Areas of jizukare don’t show any jihada.

 

Once you’ve seen sumigane and jizukare in person, there’s no confusing the both.

 

The photos – and probably the state of polish – of the sword in question make it very difficult to see if it has jizukare or not; what I see, however, are numerous kitae-ware. Pictures of the nakago would be helpful, but my impression is that we’re looking at a shin-shintō. The nice sugata (insider joke alert!) can’t make up for  the poor workmanship, and (from what I see) cobbled together koshirae. I don’t consider it collectable, but even if someone just wants to own a Japanese sword – any Japanese sword – the price is way too high.

 

FWIW.

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Guido,

Unfortunately for many of us in the current situation getting out of our armchairs and looking at swords is not an option!

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Guido said:

Some people really need to get out of their armchairs, and look at actual swords …

 

 

 

I certainly do and it is what has always held back my appreciation of this subject.

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Dear All,

I must apologise. Guido made a very important point and my subsequent comment diverted or even trivialised the message. Sorry Guido

There is no substitute for looking at swords in hand. I would also add it is important to take the opportunity to look at the very best examples you can as many of the features such as those discussed here become obvious and understandable.

With improvements in technology there is a huge amount of very good data about but it cannot replace practical hand on study.

 

 

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Sorry Paul, I wasn't disagreeing with you but, even without Covid, I struggle to get out and see swords for a number of reasons including my tendency to follow the path of least resistance and simply look at pictures on line.

 

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I wasn't reacting to your post john and there is nothing to apologise for.

Juan I would like to be clear if possible about what you are seeing.

The features you see in Aoe blades which Guido clearly describes "it’s sumigane: 墨鉄 “ink steel”, also called namazu-hada 鯰肌, lit. catfish skin”" form part of the surface steel. They are inclusions within the jigane. I think this is also true of Rai hada and Enju hada although this is more open to debate.

Shingane or core steel is seen when the jigane is polished down so much that the soft inner core starts to show through . It is grainless and often looks coarse. 

When you see the two conditions side by side the differences become very apparent.

What you are seeing in the Aoe blade is not core steel, high quality or otherwise it is dark patches of jigane.

 

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So the spots in the example o-kissaki sword are also a mixture of kitae-ware rather than all jizukare (thanks Guido for teaching me this term)  and exposed shingane due to over polishing.  For some reason I always had the image of kitae-ware being larger and the obvious fact they can come in smaller pockets didn't click when I saw it.

 

  I made some pics of the tang (which do look older to me) but I needed to photoshop them to make a single image.  I couldnt download the pics and the images were too big to screenshot the entire tang so had to do it in pieces.  Those pics are below.  

 

I think alot of it is also Jizukare 地疲れ. with small kitae-wares.  I don't really see any hada but that could be photo quality but the o-kissaki photo is pretty clear and it seems featureless.

 

In the quest to connect with other Nihinto enthusiasts I've reached out to quite a few people and places within a 3 hour radius to no avail.  I could be a little more diligent and creative with the effort but as of now the only actual swords I can see are the ones I buy.   Will be at the next Chicago Sword Show though and anyone in what I call the "Midwest triangle" (Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago) send me a message!

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I don't see any evidence of Jizukare in the photos provided.

There are kitae-ware which have exposed the core steel but that's a different thing entirely and not due to over polishing.

In fact, judging by this kitae-ware on the kissaki and how deep it goes before reaching the core, there should be plenty of skin steel left on this blade.

Kitae ware.jpg

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In fairness Ben I can't see any evidence of very much in the ji regarding the condition of hada, whether showing core steel or not. 

I am not sure I share your optimism about the ware not being deep enough to hit core steel, but again it is something very difficult to judge from the images. 

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Hi Paul,  what I was trying to say was the ware on the kissaki does seem to have exposed the core.

 

 

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Hi Ben

I can see what you mean. My concern (and BTW I am a major pessimist) is that by the time you polished down to remove the pitting core would be exposed. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing without doing it.

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