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how do you replace menuki on a tanto koshirae (without doing a wrap)?


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Ok this is my first post on the forum. 

I recently acquired a black lacquer ebi-style tanto koshirae with silver fittings that I'd like to "bring back to life", and restore to some degree without doing any damage.


Here's the issues:

1- It's missing the menuki. So all it has is the original, antique glue residue and the the post holes.

I took my time to get a set of menuki that would compliment it well (well, that's according to personal taste of course...which is always subjective:P):

I decided on clusters of shakudo clamshells because they'll blend in with the shape and color of the koshirae and make a nice palm swell for the otherwise small sized tanto tsuka. 

Question 1: what's the best way to remove this old glue residue from glossy smooth black lacquer?

Question 2: what's the best way (or original way) to glue the new menuki onto the tsuka?

Question 3: should I file down the menuki post diameter to fit the existing menuki post holes in the tsuka, or try to increase the size of the holes in the tsuka instead? I'm leaing towards filing the posts a bit... make less changes to the koshirae itself?


2- The wood blade was long gone and had already been replaced by some shoddy scrap of wood just to hold it all together. Luckily the original habaki was kept with the set :thumbsup:.

I spent a few hours making a new one today. It really sucks trying to figure out the shape of the blade. The first try was a passible success but I'll probably do it all again to make a better one, now that I've learned some of the more specific details and nuances to this koshirae.


3- The tiny kozuka doesn't have a blade. I'm going to make a replacement blade by modifying some old kitchen paring knife. I'll reshape it and file it by hand to give it that "authentic look", but I just want to be able to have it sit where it belongs in this koshirae.

So similar to the menuki question: how do I glue the new blade into the kozuka? I don't want to use some sort of permanent glue like an epoxy, but would rather use something that will hold it in there, but might be dissolved easily in the future if needed.

Any suggestions? Has anyone tried making and using their own rice glue for something like this?


Any advice would be much appreciated.





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Dear Glen.


I'm sure that pictures would help but here are some thoughts.  I wouldn't file the menuki at all, much easier to enlarge the hole in the tsuka slightly, especially if the tsuka is lacquered wood rather than same.

While Chris is correct that rice glue is used for saya and tsuka cores the more usual glue for metal fittings is based on pine resin. A thread here, 


The kozuka is often secured to the kogatana by nothing more than a paper wrap to provide enough thickness to make the blade fell firm. again, I wouldn't use any glue here. 

The blade itself is sometimes replace with a bamboo tsunagi, this allows the kozuka to display well in the koshirae and because it is small bamboo is more resilient than the usual timbers.

And lastly, yes, working backwards to make a tsunagi fit a koshirae is tricky.  I've just done one and it is much more interesting than making one to match a blade so well done for that bit.




Hope some of that helps.


All the best.

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thanks for the input everyone. It's much appreciated 


Geraint, nice work! :thumbsup:

I'll look into the pine resin.

And it's a great suggestion to use bamboo for the kozuka tsunagi.


Here's some pics.









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welcome to the NMB forum!

These weapons need a lot of very special knowledge to be able to really restore them! Often, amateurs destroy more than they can build up, so be very cautious. 
On the first photo it looks as if the TSUKA does not fit properly into the KOIGUCHI of the EBI SAYA. It this a 'before' or 'after' installing the new TSUNAGI photo?   

Making a small bamboo TSUNAGI for the KOZUKA is a much better idea than trying to repurpose a household knife (which will never have that 'authentic' look). Besides that, you can buy original KOGATANA, but they may differ in size. 

Is there a nice WARI KOGAI in the SAYA? That would be a fine addition!

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Thanks Jean.


The improper fit was due to my faulty first attempt at making a tsunagi.

While making the tsunagi, I assumed the shape would follow the same curve as the saya, but boy was I wrong. Turns out the opening is almost completely straight inside the saya. 

Before I figured out the curved vs straight issue, I thinned the tsunagi out so much that I had to use some tiny shims to keep the habaki from sliding forward.

In adding the shims, it shifted the habaki downward, which kicked the tsuka out of alignment.

I'll correct all these issues on my second go at making a tsunagi. hopefully... :)


And yes that is the original wari-kogai that goes with the set. Tiny little things though... must have definitely been for use as "hair picks" rather than "chopsticks" because I can't imagine anyone using these as actual chopsticks.


And have no fear, I will do my due diligence before applying any kind of cleaners, solvents or glues before applying them to this koshirae. I certainly don't want to damage it in any way.


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OK I ended up making a metal kogatana for the small kozuka. Now it's able to fit back into the koshirae again.

I didn't have a piece of bamboo (thought I had some left over) and just gave it a go with steel. I managed to get it to stay in securely with just a friction fit so I'm pretty happy with that... no glue needed!


This is just the rough finish... still need to refine the surface and the edge.

Now that i'm looking at it in the photos, does anyone think I should thin the width of the blade some more to make it a little more stilleto-shaped?


I'm also redoing the wood tsunagi to correct some of the issues from the first attempt :)

The proportions are much better the second time round ... will post when it's done.




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have a look at some authentic KOGATANA. That will help you to find the right dimensions. This one seems to be quite wide and relatively short. A "STILETTO" is a special dagger type and in no way close to classic KOGATANA shapes. 

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Thanks jean! I felt like several aspects were a bit "off" and It's great to have another set of eyes on it.

In looking at more images of the kogatana in the kozuka, I see that both edges of the kogatana taper towards the point.

Here are some of the images I found:


I originally assumed the back edge of the kogatana would be straight because the opening for the tanto blade/tsunagi of this koshirae is actually shaped like an o-kogatana that doesn't seem to taper at all along the the majority of its length. 


As for the length, I didn't want to make the kogatana as long as most kogatana/kozuka combinations because my wari-kogai are so tiny, only 10.8cm long. The kozuka is only 6.7cm.

I'm trying to keep the proportions of the kogatana in check so as not to overpower the wari-kogai.  

On top of that, my original goal was mainly just to get the kozuka to stay in the saya :) but now it has gradually morphed into "getting it right".


All that being said, adjustments are on their way...

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I like the choice of menuki Glen, as the clams fit in well with the ebi theme.  Be careful of kokatana on Yahoo.jp.  First, there are many fakes.  It apparently is pretty easy to fake these things and make them look old.  Second, be careful how they describe them.  I am having a problem with one right now where the seller included the word "sword" in their description, and Buyee is so inept in their automated way that they keep telling me that it is a prohibited item.  Just an FYI.

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5 hours ago, Surfson said:

I like the choice of menuki Glen, as the clams fit in well with the ebi theme

Thanks Bob! I'm pretty happy with them, but it's always nice to have some validation on a choice like that. I know that all the tosogu choices can all be intensely personal choices, so not everyone will like the choices someone else makes.

5 hours ago, Surfson said:

Be careful of kokatana on Yahoo.jp.  First, there are many fakes.  It apparently is pretty easy to fake these things and make them look old.  Second, be careful how they describe them.  I am having a problem with one right now where the seller included the word "sword" in their description, and Buyee is so inept in their automated way that they keep telling me that it is a prohibited item.  Just an FYI.

This aspect of Buyee drives me nuts. It's so frustrating to have this potential looming threat of "we not be be able to export it, even if you buy it" or just a straight up "banned item" because it was poorly described as a sword, which counts as a weapon. I can't see kogatana being much of weapon at all lol.

I decided to stick with making my own for now. Especially because I can't imagine how long it would take to track one down that first my kozuka.

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Update on the restoration :)






1- Made a second tsunagi out of oak that is now proerly fitted to the habaki, tsuka and saya. I chose a piece of oak that had a grain pattern that looks like the straight grain pattern of a real blade (I forget the name of that pattern at the moment)

2- Cleaned off most of the old glue residue using "Googone" and some cotton swabs. I first tested a small area where the kozuka sits in the koshirae and the Googone didn't affect the lacquer at all, so I gave it a go.

3- Used a dremel and fine bit to slightly enlarge the holes to fit the larger posts of the clamshell menuki. The clamshell shapes fit nicely in the hand, which is something I was hoping would happen.

4- Reprofiled the DIY kogatana so it had a slimmer, more tapered look. It has a much nicer look to than before. Thanks again Jean :)

5- Added this sageo. The one that came with it was a bit garish, with some bold purple contrasted with a muddy beige, and likely not original to the koshirae anyway.



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