Jump to content

Gassan Sadakatsu and the Japan Iron Sand Steel Industry Company


Recommended Posts

G'day Guys,

Gassan Sadakatsu swords are sometimes found with the inscription :

 

"Nihon Satetsu Kogyo Kabushiki-gaisha Motte Seiren Ko"

 

I think his translates roughly to  " Made using steel smelted by the Japan Iron Sand Steel Industry Company". If I have got this wrong, please correct me.  The Japan Iron Sand Steel Industry Company made sponge iron from iron sand using rotary kilns, after first treating the sand to recover vanadium. They were established around 1937 and were listed by the US Airforce as a bombing target during the war. Before I started researching this company I had assumed they made tamahagane, but it now seems they made western steel, using iron sand as the base ore. The question is why did Gassan Sadakatsu make these swords? The most likely explanation is that the company commissioned him to make a batch of these swords, so they could be presented to important people to promote the company's product. A less likely scenario is that Gassan Sadakatsu was endorsing their product because of its quality. So far I have identified seven of these swords, five made in 1940 and two made in 1941. Three of these are kogarasu maru and four are shinogi zukuri, with and without bohi. They are also made in ayasugi, masame and soshu style.

 

Below is an example made in 1940 in masame.

 

Cheers,

Bryce

 

Sugata.jpg

Tachimei.jpg

Mei2.jpg

Hada1.jpg

Hada2.jpg

Hada3.jpg

Habaki1.jpg

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gassan Sadakatsu died in 1943, and there is some debate as to when his son started making his swords, as his father became ill/infirm. 

These swords still paper paper regardless. 

Bryce, I don't think the term Western Steel can be attributed to what you have researched. Firstly, it was not made in the "west" and secondly, it was still made from Japanese iron sand. Western steel normally applies to rail tracks made in Europe etc. And as you correctly point out, the steel made in the rotary furnace was still a sponge (like tamahagane) and not a melted refined steel. And metallurgically, if it was not inscribed on the sword, there is NO WAY of determining what metal it was made from. 

It is interesting you say that the Iron Sand Company was established in 1937. When I was searching the world for my Sadakatsu, a number of collectors said "try and find a pre 1937" , coincidence, I don't know. I found a 1933. 

I have swords by other smiths that indicate different steels being used in their manufacture, and maybe these new technologies were being shown off as advanced technologies back then, and maybe even superior quality.   

Regardless, they all paper, and are accepted as true nihonto. And to inscribe the steel companies name on the sword, Sadakatsu must have thought highly of the steel, OR made them for the Steel company as promotional swords of the time.   

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Neil,

I am not a metallurgist, but assumed (perhaps wrongly) that the company then went on to convert the sponge iron into steel in the "Western" manner. Could Gassan Sadakatsu have made his own steel using the sponge iron produced by the company?

Cheers,

Bryce

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When a sword is made from tamahagne or sponge iron, it is formed into a sword by hammering, folding and forge welding, the iron never melts. The swordsmith controls the carbon content during forging. The forging process removes all the contained gas and slags from the sponge, and the hada you see in a sword is the layers or folds that result from forge welding. 

So this sponge iron becomes steel (Iron + Carbon).  

So to answer your question, Sadakatsu made steel from tamahagane or sponge iron ONLY in the traditional forging process, not by a steel separate making process. As I said, the steel in sword making the traditional way has never been melted. 

For my sins, I am a metallurgist.   

  • Like 8
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Neil, good to know. Just so I am crystal clear, tamahagane made from iron sand in a tatara and sponge iron made from iron sand in a rotary kiln are basically the same thing?

Cheers,

Bryce

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Forgive my ignorance, for it is Legion, but I thought I was told that tamahagane (and the nihonto qualification) had to be made from a tatara.  That is why blades made by Yasugi steel are not considered gendaito/nihonto.  Yasugi Co used kilns and advanced tech, rather than tatara.  Am I not understanding something (highly likely!)?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day Bruce,

As I understand it, as long as the smith made the sword in the traditional folded manner and quenched in water, it doesn't matter where the steel came from.

Cheers,

Bryce

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Bruce is correct - gendaito need to be made from Tamahagane

What Bob points up is that, other steels, like namban tetsu, meteorite, gun barrels and the like have historically been mixed in, in small amounts and used as a selling point. I think the amount of nie in the example sword makes it clear this is a product of tamahagane, but also clear is that the smith mixed in some "sponge iron" to make something worthy of presentation as noted in the original post. mho

-t

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From a purely physical point of view steel is steel and its properties are the same whatever the origin of the ore, iron is iron (Fe). Tamahagane is produced in a low furnace whereas industrial steels are blast furnace cast iron and decarburized to be able to be forged. the atomic bonds make it possible to have nie (martensite) in the 2 types of steel. This is why it is sometimes impossible to determine whether a sword was made with tamahagane or not.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, Bryce said:

The question is why did Gassan Sadakatsu make these swords? The most likely explanation is that the company commissioned him to make a batch of these swords, so they could be presented to important people to promote the company's product. A less likely scenario is that Gassan Sadakatsu was endorsing their product because of its quality. So far I have identified seven of these swords, five made in 1940 and two made in 1941.

Nice research Bryce.  We need more of this in our sword-world.  I wish we had a time machine to go back and ask all our questions! 

 

1 hour ago, Bob M. said:

' Namban Tetsu'.

Like Bob and Thomas point out, I don't think the smiths were as concerned about which steels were used as much as maybe the buyers were (Army for example).  It boggles my mind that so much is made of what beach a sand iron is taken from, or whether it was smelted in a clay furnace or a mechanical one.  It is one of Ohmura's biggest pet-peeves. 

 

But to get back to Bryce's OP, I'm anxiously awaiting further research!  I think your theories sound plausible.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/13/2021 at 2:55 PM, Bryce said:

"Nihon Satetsu Kogyo Kabushiki-gaisha Motte Seiren Ko"

I think this translates roughly to "Made using steel smelted by the Japan Iron Sand Steel Industry Company."

 

I double checked the characters and this is what I am seeing.

日本砂鐵鋼業株式會社 = Nihon Satetsu Kōgyō KK.

The last four characters seem to be 以精X鋼; but, the second to last character is unclear at the moment.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bryce, thanks for the closeups.  There are several old characters in that inscription and you nailed it down pretty good.  There are no changes to the company name and the last four characters are 以精錬鋼 (motte seiren-kō).

 

If you would like to do an Internet search, you will need to convert the characters I posted to the new versions.  The old characters will not yield many hits.  To convert from old to new characters is literally a click away.  The link below is the website that I use for this.

Old Japanese Kanji to New Japanese Kanji Converter

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The characters on the obverse side of the tang are as follows.

皇紀二千六百年 = 1940.

月山貞勝謹作 = Gassan Sadakatsu kinsaku.

At the very bottom is Gassan Sadakatsu's signature [花押 =  kaō].

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bryce, just a quick note to let you know that there is a 40 year company history about Nihon Satetsu Kōgyō KK entitled 日本砂鐵鋼業40年史.  You can cut and past the title over at the NDL and get all the details about the book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day Thomas,

Thanks very much for that. I was aware of the book. Now all I need to do is figure out how to get access to it.

Cheers,

Bryce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, PNSSHOGUN said:

Of course Jacques, the sword below proves Sadakatsu was making oil tempered showato, right?

 

https://warpathmilitaria.com/product/star-stamped-tachi-sword-gassan-sadakatsu-rikugun-jumei-tosho-196/

Thanks John!  I didn't have a star-stamped Sadakatsu in the files!  I wish the site had said what they meant by "tosho #196" sounds like a number on the mune.  No pics though, sigh.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day Guys,

So far I have evidence that the company produced sponge iron, vanadium and titanium oxide, but no evidence that they went on to produce steel from the sponge iron.

Cheers,

Bryce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Jacques,

So the company did produce steel from the sponge iron. The question remains did Gassan Sadakatsu make these swords from sponge iron in the traditional manner or did he start with "Western style" steel billets produced by the company and does it really matter?

Cheers,

Bryce

 

Japan Iron Sand Steel Production 2.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think it matters because it is generally accepted that he made some of the finest swords during this period, so he knew what he was doing and would have worked with only the best materials...

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today, when the latest technology comes out, every one breaks their necks trying to adopt it, ie look at the ques for the latest iPhone, thinking it is better and they must have it. 

So why wouldn't the same apply in the 1940's when a new technology in steel came out, that some sword smiths rushed to try it, and may even have found the properties better? Even advertising the fact when they cut the mei on the sword? 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Bryce said:

Thanks Jacques,

So the company did produce steel from the sponge iron. The question remains did Gassan Sadakatsu make these swords from sponge iron in the traditional manner or did he start with "Western style" steel billets produced by the company and does it really matter?

Cheers,

Bryce

 

 

 

 

It doesn't matter the result will be the same, The only difference is that it shortens the forging time. 

This technique for the production of sponge iron was developed because the iron sand cannot be reduced in the blast furnaces (it clogs them). 

 

One can conclude that this sword was forged and quenched in a traditional way but from a material that is not, which I repeat here must certainly have been the case for many star stamped swords

 

Let's not forget that Japan was at war, that it had no iron mines and that the vast majority of the steel produced was destined for armament.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day Guys,

Thank you for your interest in the topic. I managed to purchase a copy of the 40 year history of the company. Maybe it will shed some light on the subject? Here is a shot of the boshi. Very difficult to take good photos with an iphone.

Cheers,

Bryce

Boshi1.jpg

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...