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LukeH

First Gunto, first post.

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Hello,

 

This is my first time posting on this forum. I just picked up my a Japanese military Gunto today and while it's rough, I'm really digging it. I've never owned any swords other than junky Highlander replicas purchased in a mall or a copy of Narsil from the state fair.

 

I have been reading a lot about these swords so I'm becoming more familiar with all the parts and variations available, but I had a couple specific questions and I wanted to share a few photos.

 

First, the condition - The blade is a bit rough, stained, pitted and the edge is rolled over in quite a few spots. The handle, tsuba and all the parts on the sword itself are surprisingly tight and in decent shape, tho most of the paint is missing. The saya has some surface rust and a crack where meets the koiguchi. Otherwise, I was more impressed than I expected to be. 

 

Questions -

1. I intend to disassemble it, give it a good cleaning and document all the parts. Are there any common pitfalls I should try to avoid? Cleaning agents to use or avoid?

 

2. The blade needs quite a bit of help and I will admit up front that I didn't buy this sword to leave it as a rusting relic in a closet, but nor did I buy it to cut milk jugs in the back yard. I feel like there's a middle ground where I can take it to. To me, it seems like a well used guitar that's in disrepair and it needs a bit of TLC. As to my disassembly question, anything I should specifically avoid in regards to the blade?

 

3. Same as above, I'd like to revive the saya. Are there any tutorials or decent threads on this forum I can follow for tips on the best way to do this? I want it to look accurate, I'd just like to remove the surface rust and protect it a bit.

 

4. Any guesses on the date of manufacture? I have read the posts about the stamps and understand that it was made by Gifu / Kokura. My serial number reads 26838 when read with the cutting edge pointing up. My guess is pre-1940, but that's it. 

 

Quick backstory - I don't have any real experience with katanas or guntos for that matter, but I have done a fair bit of classic car tinkering, woodworking and guitar building. I'm fairly handy and feel like repainting a scabbard is within my abilities. I just don't instinctively know what to look out for.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

-Luke

NCO Gunto Sword WW2 OPL06410.jpg

NCO Gunto Sword WW2 OPL06440.jpg

NCO Gunto Sword WW2 OPL06433.jpg

NCO Gunto Sword WW2 OPL06436.jpg

NCO Gunto Sword WW2 OPL06432.jpg

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Welcome Luke.

Type 95 ii Stage.  Do nothing with the sword. Only Oil the iron parts!

Threat the blade like other Japanese blades. Cleaning with 99% alcohol and oil it with choji.

 

Good find!

 

And btw good pictures.

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Factory made blade of "modern" (1930-40s) steel, so no need to get worried about an involved maintenance routine. Deal with active rust, oil it, enjoy it.

 No need to disassemble it there will be no signature on the tang, and by all accounts they are the devil to get back together again. There is lots of information on this forum about this type, and advice for looking after it.

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Luke,

Welcome to the club!  Is that a small remnant of a leather saya cover?  If so, too bad it was destroyed.  Type 95s with leather covers are hard to find!  By the looks of the rust on the saya, this baby probably spent some time in very humid tropics, which decomposed the leather and started eating the saya and blade.

 

On restoration:  I've been down that road a couple of times already.  I had 2 Type 95s painted gold and black.  The late-war 95 had the original paint underneath and I was able to remove the modern paint with acetone, so a success.  The early 95 had been stripped to bare metal and spray-painted gold.  Even the blade was painted a translucent gold!  I stripped it and couldn't bear leaving it bare, so I had a buddy, who paints models, do the tsuka and I painted the saya.  It's a far cry better off now than with the gold paint, but it's too new looking and the colors stand out as wrong when next to original paint.  For me, it was the lesser of 2 evils, and I'm glad I did it, but it's still sad to see.  After all said and done, if I had yours I'd lightly remove active rust, oil to prevent future rust, then leave as is.  Here's the thread where we discussed my process, with some links to recommended paints.  Any tips for Period Re-Paint?

IMG_2793.thumb.JPG.ff53f76e2da7cefcc4b8486a1a67fde0.JPGIMG_2767.thumb.JPG.adf51a66bd739c3823eade50a615e022.JPGimage1(1).thumb.JPG.f16532c612cabd7542206e9ed1845725.JPG

 

 

On disassembly: When you remove the tsuka on a 95 and re-assemble, about half the time, you'll have some wiggle that wasn't there originally.  That bothers some guys, so consider it before you proceed.  I have 9 95s and have broken each down for cleaning and oiling.  There's often some serious gunk around the seppa and other fittings.  You have to carefully bend the sarute (I use 2 pliers with thick clothes in the mouths to avoid scratching the sarute metal) to get it off.  That frees the barrel screw at the end of the tsuka.  Be careful with both the barrel screw and the lower screw.  The metal is moderately soft and easy to bugger up if the screwdriver slips.  The lower nut requires a 2-hole driver bit, or a 2-hole plier to hold the nut.

20180831_084743.jpg.9bfae61c62c9fc2e191eb31adc0565fe.jpg

 

I don't recommend sanding the blade, even the finest grit shows in the finished surface.  Lemon juice + baking soda makes a mix that will help kill and remove some of the rust.  Don't use it on the seppa or fittings as it will also remove original paint and patina.  90%+ alcohol will put a little shine on the blade when your done.  Get a good uchiko cleaning kit, and clean the heck out of the blade with it.  Oil and wipe down all the parts before re-assembly, and done.  Oh, don't use Brasso on the copper fittings, it will Totally strip the original finish!

 

Like the guys said, other than a small arsenal stamp, or an occasional "W" stamp, you won't find anything on the nakago.  With a badly pitted blade, I have found that the wooden liners were corroded inside as well.  Those I sand down with copper-wool and smooth out completely.

ExtensiveStains.thumb.jpg.766bb7b66a148f7d6671ad08324e3d6e.jpg

 

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On the philosophy: I agree with those who view these as history, and we are preserving history.  As such, I don't re-paint anymore, but I do replace missing parts and add missing tassels (period of course).  But these are weapons.  No one would leave an Arisaka or Nambu in "as-is" condition, with all the dirt and grime in the chamber, bolts and firing mechanisms.  Neither will I leave my weapons in such degraded condition just because they are swords.

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Nothing wrong with careful cleaning and preventing further decay, but other than tidying up the blade with oil and hard work, just let the old girl have a rest in retirement. The Best thing you can do is wear cotton gloves when handling so your own skin doesn't further degrade finish, particularly paint.

 

That's a nice variation of the early Gifu contractors. They tried to maintain a realistic ito wrap by slightly adjusting the front face ito to 'dip' a little. The forward retention screw thus passes through the same diamonds on both sides. Somewhere from rare to uncommon to find the early swords. Gifu are a less common contractor too, so a decent one to start with.

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Thanks to everyone for replying. 

 

Bruce - thank you for all the information! This was exactly what I was hoping for. I planned to ingest as much information as I could and make an informed decision. To your point on philosophy - I compare most things to guitar history and as it's been said, these aren't ancestral blades or swords of any singular importance on their own. As a group, they are important relics of a time period, but quite modern and manufactured in fairly great numbers. To me, this feels like a mid-to-low end Fender Stratocaster from the early 2000's. Interesting, and yes, a piece of history, but if it's unplayable and just sitting as a rusty heap in a climate controlled guitar case, it's not really doing anything for anyone, apart from documenting a history of it's own abuse. 

 

To take that to an extreme point, to me, this sword has been mistreated and unloved since it left the hand of the soldier who carried it. Not restoring it, even slightly, feels like we're honoring the history of its captor rather than it's original owner or maker. 

 

On a different note, it does appear that someone at some point has indeed taken sand paper or a file to the blade... and also possibly hacked down an out of control palm tree with it at some point. I don't think leaving it as-is serves anyone. I don't want to make it look new, but as I said in the original post, there are things that could be done to salvage an otherwise poor (in my mind) example of these swords. It can only degrade further, in opinion, left as is. It wasn't expensive, the numbers don't match, and there are missing pieces and actual damage. 

 

For the saya, I'd almost prefer it sanded smooth and coated in oil, rather than repainted. Or, to use another guitar example, there could be an argument for a purposefully "relic'd" look. As in, restore/repair it as much as possible, protect it, paint it, then "age" the paint to look as it is now. Trust me, I heard most of your gasps all the way over here. :) 

 

I removed the koiguchi last night, as it was was loose anyway, and it appeared to be evenly coated in something reddish in color all the way down the inside. Is this possibly a now dirty wax/protectant or just more surface rust? (I can attempt a photo if that helps)

 

The blade and the saya are the most problematic areas. Everything in the handle feels and looks great and appears accurately aged, but quite dirty. I only want to disassemble it to clean it thoroughly and document the pieces for my own edification and education. Also, this seemed like it would be a decent chance to clean/repair/sharpen/do whatever I end up doing to the blade in a more complete fashion. If you look at the photos, you can see rugged attempts at restoration/sharpening near the habaki. Clearly it wasn't removed and they tried to avoid it. 

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Thanks, Bruce! Great to have all the variations documented. 

 

I don't know how long is appropriate to wait before stating that every time your name pops up I see it as "Bruce Partington" from the Sherlock Holmes series. Have you been told this your entire life?

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1 minute ago, LukeH said:

Bruce Partington"

Ha!  Actually never heard that one!  My middle name is Wayne, so I get a lot of Batman questions.  Of course I have to deny that I’m him!

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Naturally. 

 

I co-host a podcast dedicated to the Jeremy Brett portrayal of Sherlock that aired in the US on Masterpiece Theatre. We analyze each episode and we're almost up to "The Bruce Partington Plans" now. It's good episode/story if you've never seen/read it!

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Thanks to your photos, @Bruce Pennington, I just realized there should be wood on the interior of the saya. Mine appears to be missing. Sounds like a project is brewing. 

 

Any idea what sort of wood was in these?

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So here's my current plan, we'll see when I get around to starting:

 

-Disassemble, clean and oil all parts. (Should I avoid Amazon for a uchiko kit? Is there a preferred kit?) 

 

-Sharpen the blade. I hesitate to commit to any amount of work on the blade at this point, but I won't be happy leaving it as is. Whether that means hiring someone to help me or practicing on other blades before I attempt anything with the Gunto will depend on how it looks after cleaning. I do think it will require some actual TLC though. I'd like to see it in working order, but not "new."

 

-Attempt to remake the wood liners for the saya to protect the blade. I know this is a tedious art form, but as it's non-existent now, anything I do will be a non-permanent improvement. 

 

-Protect the saya. The numbers on the saya don't match the sword, so I'm less precious about it than I am the sword itself. But if it could be restored to some of it's former glory, and protected from rust without destroying the current look, that will be my plan. If I absolutely have to repaint, I will do my best. 

 

I will search through the forum for help on all these topics before I start, but if anyone reading this has suggestions or can point me to the best resource for any of these steps in the meantime, I'd appreciate it. 

 

I plan to post any progress on this thread once I begin. Thanks again to all who commented. 

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I have a blade that had several dings in the edge where someone had whacked something really hard (like metal).  You can't see the burrs in the photos, but they were there bad enough that I couldn't do uchiko without the paper snagging and ripping on the burrs.  So I used a fine file to take the burrs down.

 

On the mismatched saya, that is really quite common.  We see more of those at the forum than matched ones, and I have one too.  Regardless of how that happened, they are both WWII history are were part of the war.  I would care for it with the same respect as with a matched set.

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4 minutes ago, Bruce Pennington said:

 

On the mismatched saya, that is really quite common.  We see more of those at the forum than matched ones, and I have one too.  Regardless of how that happened, they are both WWII history are were part of the war.  I would care for it with the same respect as with a matched set.

True, especially for the copper handle NCO sword, mismatch or no number on the scabbard are more than match ones.

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Understood. I plan to take care, i just meant that it was less precious as a mismatched set. I really want the sword to endure. The saya is pretty rough as is right now. I basically want to stop it from just crumbling altogether. 

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