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A Katana and a Tanto: Asking the Opinions of Wiser Men


M_Rocha
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Hi everyone,

 

I have recently acquired two nihonto, a katana and a tanto, and I humbly step here to ask your opinions about them. I paid a low price for them and I knew I wasn't getting any prize worthy pieces, but I found them both appealing and intriguing, so I took the plunge.

 

The previous owner "cleaned" them with sandpaper between the first batch of photos he sent me and the second, which gave me a slight heart attack and a new permanent tear that hangs inside my soul. This means that unfortunately, not much of the blade's activity can be seen, although a continuous hamon can be found in both of the blades. The fittings are what convinced me to buy these blades, as they fancy my tastes and show good workmanship, especially the ones of the tanto. They are beaten up by time, but that gives them an extra layer of charm. 

 

The Katana has a nagasa length o 73,5cm. The yokote line is hard to spot but exists ever so faintly, like a shy Will-o'-the-wisp. The hamon appears to me to be a notare-midare hamon, with long, very irregular waves. I do spot a lot of ware and a fukure. I am but a humble beginner at the art of appreciating nihonto, so I don't think I know enough to say much more of relevance. I don't find any mei on the tang and I find the blade's curvature rather pronounced, but that's the extent of my knowledge and I can't begin to atribute any era for the blade's manufacture.

 

As for the tanto, it has a nagaha length of 31cm and a Suguha hamon. I find it very healthily shaped and doesn't have nearly as many flaws as the katana. I am also unable to find any mei on the tang. The fittings of the tanto came with a kogatana without the kozuka. This workmanship on these tanto's fittings is marvellous. The details in the insects is mind-blowing to me.

 

Finally, an extra kogatana also came with the swords, which has what I assume to be a dancing frog on the kozuka. It has a blade of 10,5 cm with a symbol. It also appears to have some red lacquer on the blade. The blade shape is unusual to me and the blade is extremely thin.

 

I think that's all I can say about the pieces. I'll try to add as many photos as I can. I'm planning on keeping these blades, but I'm unsure if they are worth polishing or not. I would also like to know as much as possible about them and try to find how old they are. As such, I come ask the help of wiser people so that I might learn a little more about them. I'll try to add as many pictures as I can. If I'm missing any important detail, please tell me so that I can take further pictures.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

 

M. Rocha

 

 

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Hello Miguel and welcome to the forum !

 

Did you get / request a discount after he sandpapered the sword ? Seriously, for me this would be a deal-breaker. He greatly reduced the sword value in the process. You would be entitled to ask for a discount.

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Francois,

 

Thank you for the welcome! I did use that fact to lower the price, yes. It was quite heart broken when I discovered the sanding had happened. The dealer is a good honest person, but unfortunately, didn't know much about nihonto and wanted to clean the rust. Good intentions often lead to great harm.

 

I ended up paying 640€ for both blades and the kogatana, a price I considered fair given the fittings. I don't believe I'll make any money from this and don't plan on selling, but hopefully I saved both blades from further harm.

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Dear Miguel.

 

Welcome to NMB.  The kozuka depicts a demon with a drum and the blade with it is nothing more than a paper knife.  You have rescued these, now you are faced with the difficulty of knowing what to do with them.  First step is to take of the habaki and lightly oil the blades.  Clearly both now need a professional Japanese polish, some of our European members might be able to recommend who to use if you decide to go down this route.  However, looking at the nakago of the katana it seems thicker than the blade which suggest that it has already had several polishes, given the depth of some of the rust patches it might not survive another.  The koshirae looks OK for this sword.

 

The tanto looks healthier and does not seem to be so badly damaged, more hope for this one.  I like the mounts, though again they need some restoration.

 

For now learn what you can from them and stabilise the rust as far as you can.  Take careful advice and decide what you want to do with them.

 

Enjoy!

 

All the best.

 

 

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During the Meiji period when wearing swords was outlawed, many fittings craftsmen looked for other ways to make a living and began making sets of table ware using kogatana for handles. This kogatana and knife blade look typical for the Meiji era and were mostly intended for the European tourist visitors to Japan. I have found some in the past on eBay selling as table ware rather than with Japanese swords.

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Thank you so much for all the insights.

 

I have already oiled the blades, hopefully stoping all rusting for the time being. The katana does indeed look like it has been polished a lot. Could this indicate that it is rather old? I would be inclined to say its curvature reminds me of older blades, but once again, my knowledge is very limited. As for the tanto, it does indeed look much healthier than the katana and I think it might be worth polishing. I'm most curious to understand how old both these blades might be.

 

As for the "kogatana like knife", the blade doesn't seem to be of very good quality, so all that has been said here makes a lot of sense. Would it be feasible to fit it's kozuka on the kogatana that came with the tanto? Or would this be a criminal act that might sentence me to nihonto hell?

 

Once again, thank you Geraint, Barry and Ed for your insights and advice.

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If it’s eBay I would suggest filing an item not as described claim or threatening to file unless the guy with the sandpaper provides restitution or takes the damaged swords back. It’s not right that he sell them as regular out of polish swords and then cause major damage to your swords because he thinks no rust will get him more money. 

 

Personally, I try to take a hard line against eBay vendors that secretly slip you buffed/sandpapered blades since if they don’t suffer penalties, they will continue to destroy good swords and sell those wrecks to customers.

 

PS: I apologize, I just read your follow up posts, so it seems my suggestion is irrelevant, I should have read before letting a grudge get the best of me. Still, I don’t think he should be selling old swords when he’s shown such terrible judgment in conserving them and might give his clients the idea that sandpaper is fine.

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