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started my collection at a garage sale?!


noobja
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Hello, I am new here - please pardon my ignorance!  I recently stumbled on a rough Wakizashi at a garage sale, it was at a fair price and I couldn't resist.  I am hoping it is genuine.  Can anyone help me with this?  

 

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Hello! Welcome to the board! I'll save you some headache Haha ... Please take it off the concrete! Or hopefully that's a drop cloth?

 

I can still see a nice sword under there. Maybe some issues with the Mei but that's the name of the game with swords that are centuries old. The chiseling looks a little newer/higher than the Nakago due to the lighter/ redder colored rust but the more familiar might have seen contemporary mei with rust that color while the rust behind and around is darker. It's just signatures are always suspect. Sword could be a winner tho but needs polish. 

 

What you pay for it if I may ask?

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From what the pictures are showing, it appears genuine. To know more will require more pictures I think. Capturing a picture of the hamon in any part of the blade would help; as well as a close-up of the kissaki (tip). Measurements too.

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Thank you Blazeaglory!  I paid $150 for it.  I was under the impression that polishing might hurt the value?  Please advise!!

 

Thank you Chris W. - the blade is 20 inches to Kissaki.  25.5 inches overall.  Here are the photos you requested.  I really appreciate the assistance in this.  I have been a knife collector for 40 years, this is my first sword, I am addicted!!!

IMG_4459 3.jpg

IMG_4457 3.jpg

IMG_4458 3.jpg

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So a few things to know about Japanese swords (nihonto):

 

1. Never touch the metal of the blade directly with your hands or bare skin (the oils on your skin will eat into the metal and cause damage that can only be removed professionally)

2. Never treat the metal with any kind of polisher or abrasive. To protect the blade, you should use something called "Choji oil." It is readily found online and sold by many businesses who specialize in nihonto.

 

3. If you oil the blade, do not get oil on the tang (nakago), that is where you may freely grip the blade from.

 

4. Even if it appears dull, it almost is always sharp still. (you're a knife guy, so you know this all too well I bet!)

5. This link has everything else you'll need to know on care: http://www.nbthk-ab.org/swordcare.pdf


 

As for the blade itself? It appears genuine and probably about 300 years old in age approximately without knowing the translation of the mei (signature). It has several carbon blisters (fukure) in it but does not appear fatally wounded. Look for any cracks in the edge that appear on both sides, those are always considered fatal. Small chips are fine as long as they don't go through the entire hardened edge (hamon). Your blade is out of polish and the yokote (vertical line near the kissaki) is no longer present.

My question is: did the blade come with a metal collar (usually copper, known as a habaki) that slides up the tang and fits snugly against the notches where the cutting edge begins?

I would wait and see if someone can help you with the translation, but for $150, I think you did well!

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2 minutes ago, ChrisW said:

So a few things to know about Japanese swords (nihonto):

 

1. Never touch the metal of the blade directly with your hands or bare skin (the oils on your skin will eat into the metal and cause damage that can only be removed professionally)

2. Never treat the metal with any kind of polisher or abrasive. To protect the blade, you should use something called "Choji oil." It is readily found online and sold by many businesses who specialize in nihonto.

 

3. If you oil the blade, do not get oil on the tang (nakago), that is where you may freely grip the blade from.

 

4. Even if it appears dull, it almost is always sharp still. (you're a knife guy, so you know this all too well I bet!)

5. This link has everything else you'll need to know on care: http://www.nbthk-ab.org/swordcare.pdf


 

As for the blade itself? It appears genuine and probably about 300 years old in age approximately without knowing the translation of the mei (signature). It has several carbon blisters (fukure) in it but does not appear fatally wounded. Look for any cracks in the edge that appear on both sides, those are always considered fatal. Small chips are fine as long as they don't go through the entire hardened edge (hamon). Your blade is out of polish and the yokote (vertical line near the kissaki) is no longer present.

My question is: did the blade come with a metal collar (usually copper, known as a habaki) that slides up the tang and fits snugly against the notches where the cutting edge begins?

I would wait and see if someone can help you with the translation, but for $150, I think you did well!

 

 

Thank you for the care instructions.  I will follow them closely.  There was no metal collar with it.  and, oddly, the scabbard is sealed - the handle is not.  Is that normal?

 

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The scabbard (saya) is likely the original portion of the shirasaya for this blade. The handle (tsuka) of this shirasaya appears to not be original and was likely made to compensate for the lack of habaki.

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Mei says

備州長船助宗

Bishū Osafune Sukemune

 

Bishū is another name for Bizen province (modern day Okayama, basically). Osafune is a town name. The town still exists. 

Sukemune is the name of the smith. 

 

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Hi Seth,

To answer your question about polishing.  While it is best to leave other antique items as is, Japanese swords are treated differently.  Only if the blade is properly polished is it possible to see the temper line (hamon) and grain (hada).  However, a proper polish is expensive and an improper polish (done by an amateur or a self taught knucklehead) is a terrible idea.  Only if a sword has value greater than the cost of the polish does it make sense to have the work done.  From what I've seen of your sword, I would guess a polish isn't warranted; the defects shown in your pictures affect the value too much.  A proper polish with new habaki and shirasaya, both of which would be necessary, would cost at least $2,000 and when you were done it might be worth $700 or $800 at best.

Take some time to read and study.  This is a fascinating field and you're off to a good start.

Cheers,  Grey

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Yes, I was going to mention that too. It looks a lot like Sukeie, but I couldn't find any relevant reference either. So, with slight reservation, I'm leaning toward Sukemune.

 

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To my eye the Mei is very poorly cut - Sukeie is an Ichimonji smith so never made wakizashi - but if this is a Bizen blade it might add value to add that name at a later date...

-t

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From the shape its Kambun shinto. The mei is cut in shinto rather than koto Bizen style. There was shinto Bizen Sukesada, but besides him Bizen signatures in shinto are extremely uncommon. The mei cut by uneven, shaky hand, which is uncommon for Bizen shinto or koto for that matter. 

Its most likely gimei.

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12 hours ago, ChrisW said:

The scabbard (saya) is likely the original portion of the shirasaya for this blade. The handle (tsuka) of this shirasaya appears to not be original and was likely made to compensate for the lack of habaki.

Okay, that makes sense.  

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12 hours ago, Grey Doffin said:

Hi Seth,

To answer your question about polishing.  While it is best to leave other antique items as is, Japanese swords are treated differently.  Only if the blade is properly polished is it possible to see the temper line (hamon) and grain (hada).  However, a proper polish is expensive and an improper polish (done by an amateur or a self taught knucklehead) is a terrible idea.  Only if a sword has value greater than the cost of the polish does it make sense to have the work done.  From what I've seen of your sword, I would guess a polish isn't warranted; the defects shown in your pictures affect the value too much.  A proper polish with new habaki and shirasaya, both of which would be necessary, would cost at least $2,000 and when you were done it might be worth $700 or $800 at best.

Take some time to read and study.  This is a fascinating field and you're off to a good start.

Cheers,  Grey

 

Thank you Grey, I would like to have it polished - but if the defects are too overwhelming, I guess it would be a waste.  I don't plan on selling the sword, but it doesn't make sense to throw potential purchase money on another sword away on this project.

 

 

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11 hours ago, SteveM said:

Yes, I was going to mention that too. It looks a lot like Sukeie, but I couldn't find any relevant reference either. So, with slight reservation, I'm leaning toward Sukemune.

 

This gives me a direction- much appreciated

 

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12 hours ago, SamuraiNoodley said:

Very interesting find! I’ve only seen endless flower vases and used plates at garages sales :laughing:

LOL!  It was either a sword or a strange lamp shade collection!!

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10 hours ago, Toryu2020 said:

To my eye the Mei is very poorly cut - Sukeie is an Ichimonji smith so never made wakizashi - but if this is a Bizen blade it might add value to add that name at a later date...

-t

interesting...   thank you!

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9 hours ago, Rivkin said:

From the shape its Kambun shinto. The mei is cut in shinto rather than koto Bizen style. There was shinto Bizen Sukesada, but besides him Bizen signatures in shinto are extremely uncommon. The mei cut by uneven, shaky hand, which is uncommon for Bizen shinto or koto for that matter. 

Its most likely gimei.

does this mean that there is no way to establish origin or actual bladesmith and age?  I am really confused now...

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Dear Seth.

 

For $150 you have bought yourself a ticket to an amazing theme park, one that will keep you entertained for years to come.

 

Just to pick up some of the points made:

The mei, signature, has been read and as Steve says, the Bishu part is a shortened way of writing Bizen which is a province, Osafune is a town and the smith;s name is Sukemune.  However, many swords have signatures that are false, a bit like finding a violin with a Stradivarius label.  In order to know for sure you would have to get this sword professionaly polished and submit it to shinsa, a process where a group of Japanese experts make a decision and issue a paper confirming the signature or they reject it as fake.

 

Kirill suggests that the shape of the sword is typical for those made during the Kanbun period in Japanese history, once you start researching and reading you will find a number of charts that show how the sword shape changed over time, it's quite subtle.  Just to get you started here is an unrelated Kanbun sword,  https://www.aoijapan.com/wakizashi-jumyo/

 

There is a wealth of Japanese terminology to get your head around, take it slow and feel free to ask questions.  If there is a sword club near you then go along and see what they have, it's endlessly interesting.

 

All the best.

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, Rivkin said:

From the shape its Kambun shinto. The mei is cut in shinto rather than koto Bizen style. There was shinto Bizen Sukesada, but besides him Bizen signatures in shinto are extremely uncommon. The mei cut by uneven, shaky hand, which is uncommon for Bizen shinto or koto for that matter. 

Its most likely gimei.

 

 

 

As there are in Muromachi 3 smiths (low ranked) who signed Bishu Osafune Sukemune , i wonder what allows you to say that it is probably gimei. As for the sugata since this blade is very tired (see the machi) it is difficult to date it especially without  any measurement. 

 

I think it's probably a kazu-uchi mono. 

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2 hours ago, Geraint said:

Dear Seth.

 

For $150 you have bought yourself a ticket to an amazing theme park, one that will keep you entertained for years to come.

 

Just to pick up some of the points made:

The mei, signature, has been read and as Steve says, the Bishu part is a shortened way of writing Bizen which is a province, Osafune is a town and the smith;s name is Sukemune.  However, many swords have signatures that are false, a bit like finding a violin with a Stradivarius label.  In order to know for sure you would have to get this sword professionaly polished and submit it to shinsa, a process where a group of Japanese experts make a decision and issue a paper confirming the signature or they reject it as fake.

 

Kirill suggests that the shape of the sword is typical for those made during the Kanbun period in Japanese history, once you start researching and reading you will find a number of charts that show how the sword shape changed over time, it's quite subtle.  Just to get you started here is an unrelated Kanbun sword,  https://www.aoijapan.com/wakizashi-jumyo/

 

There is a wealth of Japanese terminology to get your head around, take it slow and feel free to ask questions.  If there is a sword club near you then go along and see what they have, it's endlessly interesting.

 

All the best.

 

 

 

 

I appreciate you clearing things up.  Where would I get it professionally polished?  I am gradually diving into this ocean of information. 

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Hi Seth,

You don't really want to get this sword polished; it would be a mistake to do that now (if ever).  Imagine we are talking about poker, not swords.  You have just learned what playing cards are and you're wondering how to sign up for the World Series of Poker.

Read, study, ask questions, but don't be in a hurry.  There is nothing you can do with Japanese swords today that you won't be able to do later and with more knowledge.  If you'd like to ask a bunch of questions feel free to call sometime.  I am not an authority but I have been at it for nearly 40 years and will help where I can.

Grey  218-726-0395 US central time

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17 hours ago, noobja said:

Thank you Blazeaglory!  I paid $150 for it.  I was under the impression that polishing might hurt the value?  Please advise!!

 

Thank you Chris W. - the blade is 20 inches to Kissaki.  25.5 inches overall.  Here are the photos you requested.  I really appreciate the assistance in this.  I have been a knife collector for 40 years, this is my first sword, I am addicted!!!

IMG_4459 3.jpg

IMG_4457 3.jpg

IMG_4458 3.jpg

 

 

Sorry I should have said a PROFESSIONAL polishing/ sharpening Haha

 

150$ is a super deal for that nihonto! I love hearing stories like this! But going forward you need to take good care of it. There is special meaning in nihonto and there are a set of procedures and rules that we need to follow to be caretakers for these hunks of metal.

 

I myself came here thinking that nihonto were like any other sword but boy was I wrong. Everything is different about nihonto from the method of forging to the method of polishing. It truly is an art. 

 

If that's your first find than you're in a good spot. I do see a serious flaw in the kissaki that I think they call a "crows beak"? I don't think it can be fixed with a professional sharpening but maybe it could be adjusted and taken down a bit.  It's not cheap tho. The mei looks like it had gold paint in it but at the same time it looks like someone had tried removing something. Either way, mei aside, the sword looks legit. It's a keeper!

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Polishing is a method of carefully removing metal in microscopic amounts to reveal structure; defects that penetrate into the body of the sword sometimes can be improved, but can also get worse. In my opinion, your sword can be improved, but the defects near the tip are not likely to be made better by polishing. It seems likely someone had started the process and found that to be the case.

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Why gimei?

90% of Muromachi Bizen signatures are done in thin script, with pronounced thinning in the middle of most strikes, typically with vertical strikes aligning parallel to the edge, with more or less constant distance towards it.

Here the writing is as broad as a typical shinto style, the angling of strikes is random, the distance is poorly maintained.

Sugata of late Muromachi wakizashi can be a tad straight, but one would hope for more graceful curvature. Maybe photography distorted it.

Maybe I am used to somewhat upper grade Muromachi Bizen, and this one is a really dustbin example, but I doubt that. 

 

Just a personal opinion.

 

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