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LionsFan

Katana Signature Assistance Please

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Hello All! 
 

I recently purchased a Japanese sword at auction. After having a jeweler drill out the pin that had been hammered in, I was able to remove the handle (which I think matches Shin-Gunto fittings but I am not sure) and revel that it is signed on both sides of the tang. Unfortunately I don’t have much experience reading the characters so I was wondering if anyone recognized them? I have attached lots of photos but if anyone needs more please let me know. I would love to find out more about the blade and if anyone can tell me if it would be worthwhile to clean/restore the blade it would be much appreciated. 
 

also, to be clear I do not intend to use any information provided for selling the below item, I only want to understand more about what I have and the best way to handle it. 

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Thanks Ray! Does that tell you anything about the potential age of the blade? Also, are those separate names, or should they be read as a single name? Apologies if these are obvious questions haha

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The obvious question is is why is it in NCO mounts. Maybe the second one ive seen in 30 years of Nihonto.

A real puzzle. Were the fittings on tight or loose?

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I agree with Stephen.  I have never seen an NCO with a hand made blade, let alone an ancestral blade.  

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The mountings were fairly tight, though there was only one pin (the middle hole) securing them. You can see from the photos that there are three holes, which led me to believe it had been mounted a few different times.

 

I read on another site that there was a program during WWII for families to donate blades if they didn’t have sons, so maybe it is one of those? 

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Yes, but they'd put them in more traditional gunto mounts.. not metal handles like this one. This is a real oddity. Perhaps a post-war put together or a custom order piece.

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Very interesting. So is it fairly safe to assume that the blade is genuine? I really have no idea of the age or if it was potentially a reproduction. 
 

Also, I remember reading that the cast aluminum handles (like this one) were produced towards the end of the war, and sometimes were not particularly well done due to a time/resource crunch. Could that be the reason? 

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NCOs had been known to carry ancestral blades since WWI.  We also are aware of a 1945 official order permitting them to do so.  But the few pictures of them doing so are showing civil tsuka/tsuba mounted in leather covered saya (like this one), rather than the Type 95 tsuba/tsuka.  This is the first I've ever seen, but as we all know with WWII gunto - never say never or always!

 

I'm curious about the machi being offset on this blade.  WWII-made officer blades always have aligned machi, and NCO blades are always offset, but I thought (forgive my ignorance) that nihonto always had aligned machi.  Also, maybe it's the angle of the photo, but this nakago looks crooked, like it was welded onto a blade that had a broken nakago.  Anybody else see that?

Offset machi.jpg

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I am not an expert on this type of sword mounting, but there are enough concerns visually that I would be reluctant to bid on an item similar to this one; I would suspect that it would not be authentic or had been tampered with. I hope you got it cheaply.

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6 hours ago, PNSSHOGUN said:

My vote is a recent put together.

Why i asked how tight the fittings were.

Only other one i seen they were loosey-goosey. You say you drilled or had drilling done....any before pix?

 

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Hi All, 

 

additional pics, including some from the auction before drilling, attached. 
 

I should also mention that the reason I had to have it drilled was because the metal pin had been hammered and deformed to the point that it could not be removed. There was almost no motion whatsoever in the pin or handle (at least that I noticed). 
 

luckily I didn’t pay a crazy amount, but I was still hopeful that the sword was genuine so it would be a real bummer if it was a reproduction. 

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15 hours ago, LionsFan said:

I only want to understand more about what I have and the best way to handle it. 

Luke,

Can you get a look in the "new" hole that was drilled to fit the tsuka (handle)?  Is there some good rust, like 80 yr old rust, in it, or is it new looking?  Thirdly, did you clean that area where the nakago joins the blade, or was that already like that when you got it?

 

On another topic, I find the pitting on the blade interesting.  It reminds me of that other blade we were discussing recently where the guy said it reminded him of a famous treasure map.  I wonder what causes that type of pitting?

Map Pitting.jpg

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To me, it appears that the nakago has been welded on. The odd grinding above the mukugi-ana and the shape of the nakago getting narrow in the area of grinding looks suspect to me.

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I think Dan is on to something.

Its been ground onto for Sure.

Bright steel is not 80+ years old middle hole looks new i think.

Most telling go back to first full shot next to saya. The ji does not line up with nakago. There its in the middle off center above. 

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2 minutes ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Luke,

Like Stephen said, it would be interesting to see a picture of what was there before you had it drilled out.  Also, can you get a look in the "new" hole that was drilled to fit the tsuka (handle)?  Is there some good rust, like 80 yr old rust, in it, or is it new looking?  Thirdly, did you clean that area where the nakago joins the blade, or was that already like that when you got it?

 

On another topic, I find the pitting on the blade interesting.  It reminds me of that other blade we were discussing recently where the guy said it reminded him of a famous treasure map.  I wonder what causes that type of pitting?

Map Pitting.jpg

Hi Bruce

 

here are some photos of the different holes. I haven’t cleaned or modified anything except for having it drilled by the Jeweler and removing the handle. The middle one has some marks where the jeweler made contact while drilling out the pit, but the other two seem to have a fairly large amount of rust/buildup at least from my viewpoint 
 

I was also curious about the pitting! I don’t know if it may be from the wood or leather in the scabbard? 

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6 minutes ago, Stephen said:

I think Dan is on to something.

Its been ground onto for Sure.

Bright steel is not 80+ years old middle hole looks new i think.

Most telling go back to first full shot next to saya. The ji does not line up with nakago. There its in the middle off center above. 

Hmmm ok that is not great right? Does the above indicate that it is probably a reproduction or is it possible the welding was due to use or a break and repair situation? I have heard about fake signatures but I didn’t realize people would replace an entire tang! 

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I don't think any of the parts of this gunto are reproductions, all legit Japanese sword stuff.  The only question is WHEN were the things done to this that were done.  I wish we had more clear pics of that tsuka bolt.  From the fuzzy seller picture, it seems to me to be the original Type 95 bolt, with the nut-end bludgeoned flat, and the patina looks quite old.  Yet, the sanding or grinding of the area where the nakago was modified seems quite new.

 

So, all real Japanese sword parts, but a mystery as to whether someone modified this blade for an NCO during the war, or someone post-war did this work.

 

I don't know, metallurgically, why a blade doesn't rust, yet the nakago does - NEIL???? - could the affects of welding on a nakago create the conditions in the steel to keep the area free of rust?

 

 

Another issue remaining is the off-set machi.  I am aware of examples of officer gunto with what appears to be a blade made by a Type 95 producer, sometimes with bo-hi, sometimes not, and no serial numbers.  It was obviously made for the officer, due to sword shortages, by a 95 maker.  The blade on this could be explained that way.  It still leaves the question as to "when" the old nakago was attached, and why.  In the threads about the sword repair teams, it was told that the majority of sword damage brought to the team was tsuka damage.  To me, this leaves open the possibility that this gunto was damaged and a repair team slapped on another nakago & tsuka.

 

But like Occam's Razor, the simplest answer may be the correct one - post-war piece-together!

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Got it, so it you think it was likely put together after WWII out of parts from other blades? I assume that this makes it an interested piece but not one that would be worth a full restoration and polishing which i believe would run about 3K or more? 

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If the blade was made by a type 95 process, there would not be much to bring out with a polish. The zoheito (factory blades) were hardened but had no hamon (fancy temper line).

 

if it were mine, I would hang onto it and not discard it. We have come across strange things over the past few years that we thought were postwar Bubba jobs, and learned later that they were legitimate or time work. I have learned that the hard way with one of my Swords!

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Dark pictures, but correct me if I’m wrong, but no screwdriver slot in the head? And no threads at the end of the bolt?

 

I will edit this later if I find out differently, but I’m pretty sure those bolts and nuts were brass. Not Steel. So this still points toward post war work.

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Although I stated welding as a possible reason for the grinding of the nakago, Bruce and Stephen have mentioned the fitting of the tsuka. Normally when a tang is welded to another sword, it is an attempt to fool someone into believing a well known smith has made that particular blade. I don't see this as the case here and would have to lean more towards a hasty attempt to piece together some fittings to make a complete assembly. Maybe the grinding was to get the tsuka to fit. As mentioned, the aluminum tsuka is not a normal thing to find on this type of blade so they found a way to make it fit.

I agree with others that this blade is NOT worth getting a professional polish costing 1000's of dollars. If ya love it, keep it and enjoy it for what it is.

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2 hours ago, Bruce Pennington said:

Dark pictures, but correct me if I’m wrong, but no screwdriver slot in the head? And no threads at the end of the bolt?

 

I will edit this later if I find out differently, but I’m pretty sure those bolts and nuts were brass. Not Steel. So this still points toward post war work.

No threads and no slot in the head! The pin was aluminum and matched the handle casting perfectly, save for the fact that the end had been hammered repeatedly until it couldn’t be removed. The handle also has a couple of wooden pieces on the inside where it would make contact with the tang. 
 

Also, if the blade is factory made but the tang is newer, can anyone give me an idea if the tang was original when it (the tang) was likely made? I am not sure what would lead someone to weld an old tang to a new blade besides passing it off as an older blade. 
 

lastly, and I am very unsure about this part, but under the right light it looks like the top of the tang (where there are a lot of bright file marks) there is a small amount of very reflective metal that looks like gold. Part of the fittings have evidence of gilding according to the Jeweler I took it to, and one piece still has a relatively thick gold plating or gilding on it as well. 

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Do you have closer pictures of where the tang meets the blade?

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26 minutes ago, 16k said:

Do you have closer pictures of where the tang meets the blade?

Please see attached! I will also be sending a couple more in a minute 

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Off the topic of transaltions and dicussion of the blade, but since there is a generated discussion about the blade and fittings....

 

We discussed officer blades being jammed into 95 mounts not that long ago and there were plenty of examples shown in the thread (now attached below).

 

My opinion was and remains that these are all put-together swords of various crudeness. I don't put any credence in the idea that some private officer purchases of 95s had blade 'upgraded'. There would be little to no difficulty getting a proper koshirae made for a better blade. Blades were in shortage, not koshirae (other than brass as a material, though this can still be found in abundance on the very latest war representative examples of 98s).

 

The vast differences, quality of fitting, crude workmanship and ugly mix of fittings of these swords screams a post war put-together in all cases I have seen. Some don't have habaki fitted, some show obvious signs of grinding and crude fitment.

 

I cannot believe for a minute any self respecting officer would have chosen to retain any part of the private purchase 95 by choice. Nick has already stated that Rinji swords required a lot of propaganda to 'sell' to proud officers (and these we're proper officer swords), so the private purchase 95s were likely a stop-gap measure, one of necessity, not desire. This likely explains why no photographs (that I am aware of) have ever been found where a commissioned officer is posing with a Type 95.

 

Can I categorically say for sure it never happened? Of course not, but I think the onus rest on those trying to prove the 'theory' rather than the skeptics. Something fitting well means only that someone spent more than an hour making it fit.

 

For those interested, here are a few examples of nice blades in NCO fittings:

 

Here is an example of the reverse, NCO blade fitted in 98 Koshirae:

 

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