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Togishi - Polishing Blades thru the Ages


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Hello Forum/Guys, :)

One aspect of Japanese Swords that fascinated me, was the the way " Modern Day "Smiths yearned to re-create the masterpieces of the Kamakura period.

 

In that,

I also was wondering if, in those times, were the Blade's "Polished" as good/nice/relieving as the Polish/Finish on  those Old Blades have on now.

Being re-polished in our modern times?

 

Basically, was the polishers in those early times better ?

 

Like, their techniques/secrets are long lost like the Blade maker's techniques?

 

Or, does Modern technology, availability of newer/different stones, and, communication/information as time went by, improved the Polish/polishing quality?

And, if so, would the modern day Nihonto World see different things in the Blades that a "Better Polish" would/might bring out?

 

Thanks for viewing,

Alton T :)

 

 

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Polishing today is more developed than it has ever been - we see things today the collectors of old may not have seen

My teacher in Japan was a polisher and when he spoke on the subject he liked to say - "swords of the Heian and Kamakura period have lost a little something over the years, polishers of old could not bring out the activity the way we can today. However if these blades were seen as Meito in those early days how spectacular they must have been fresh out of the forge!"

-t

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Thank You Thomas. :)

 

"swords of the Heian and Kamakura period have lost a little something over the years, polishers of old could not bring out the activity the way we can today. However if these blades were seen as Meito in those early days how spectacular they must have been fresh out of the forge!"

 :)

So,

the Blade was "Beautiful" when 1st. forged and polished, and thru the years, needed to be "re-polished" , but, could not be done as good as when the blade was first made, until now. 

Was that because the lost of Togishi Knowledge/ Techniques of Sword Polishing was lost as the same way making the Kamakura Blades was Lost  or  forgotten,

and, in Modern Times, the the Togishi re-immerged / gaining in higher knowledge /quality polishing in what we see today?

 

On another thought.... :)

I was watching "The Art of the Japanese Sword" video that Paul Martin sells..

In that , an interview with sword maker  Kawachi Kunihisa says in the old days, Swords were "Beautiful" because the way the cut.

Did he mean ,

Not emphasizing on Polishing but more on Physical characteristics ( for strength and sharpness/ edge hardness.. )  ?

 

 

" Polishing today is more developed than it has ever been - we see things today the collectors of old may not have seen "

 

I'm glad for that.., in these modern times, we are really fortunate to "see" the most out of the Early Blades.

 

Thanks for posting and viewing.

Alton :)

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So its not that polishing was great and then the technology was lost - what he meant was that a newly made sword with a simple basic polish by the swordsmith shows it's features quite well even through the rough scratches of those early stones - blades we see today, masterpieces, can fairly light up a room but if they shine today, how much more they must have shined back in the day. (even without the advanced polishing of today...)

 

Prior to 1600 any innovation in shape, hada, hamon or activity had to stand the test of battle. If they did not they were not widely adopted and the swords were not preserved or passed on. After 1600 it was possible to get by with more "cosmetics" since blades were not being tested on a daily basis...

 

-t

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A little text about polishing from the Baur Museum in Geneva 

Quote

 

POLISHING AND RESTORATION OF Japanese SWORDS.

The sword, MURAKUMO-NO-TSURUGI (later called KUSA-NAGI-NO-TSURUGI) is one of the three treasures of Shintoism, the other two being YATA-NO-KAGAMI, the mirror and MAGA-TAMA, the jewel.
These SAN-SHU-NO-SHIN-KI have since become the legitimizing elements of imperial power.

The art of polishing is undoubtedly of very ancient origin. During the KAIKA reign (157-98 B.C.) the sword of the emperor's son rusted after a battle; it is said that it took a lot of work to restore it. This implies that there was already some skill in maintaining the blades. A skill that probably came from the experience gained in finishing the raw blade coming out of the forge.

We have to wait until the Heian era (9th century), to be able to speak of a timid beginning of the art. It must be said that no ancient polishing has come down to us. Probably, it was the smith himself who proceeded to the finishing, because in the KAMAKURA period (1190-1337), two smiths, KUNIHIRO and TAMESADA, are mentioned who gave their swords a pleasant finish. The craftsman certainly did not reach the current degree of finesse; he was content to prepare a weapon for combat. Personally, I agree that the old blacksmiths or sword owners could not appreciate all the details resulting from a highly elaborate forge. Even less those of a particular temper.

In the middle of the 13th century, HONAMI MYOHON studied, dissected and deepened the ancient empiricism. He standardized the working steps and then proceeded to a meticulous development of each operation. This set of revisions gave birth to precise and complex processes, refined by the following generations; the HIDEN, workshop secrets, were then born, which were transmitted from master to disciple, jealously, by word of mouth. The HONAMI family is still a very active and renowned line of polishers.

 

Three events will have great consequences 
At the end of the 16th century, TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI officially proposed the appreciation of the artistic beauty of swords as well as of all the different parts of the mount.
At the beginning of the XVIIth century, his successor TOKUGAWA IEYASU, reunited the country around a new administrative capital and proclaimed the EDO period (1615-1868). It is the end of the internal wars and Japan knows a peace of two centuries and half.
Finally in January 1877, an imperial edict forbids the carrying of the sword. From then on, the KATANA definitely far from the battles, becomes a reason of attraction, admiration, consideration and care. It traded its reputation as an exceptional weapon for that of a prestigious and artistically precious object.

The polisher does not add anything to the intrinsic qualities of the blade, but he is nevertheless the repository of a set of skills that makes him indispensable to access the captivating world of the study and the dazzling beauty of Japanese blades.
This craftsman is confronted with the constant problem of adapting the finishing material to the quality and particularities inherent in each blade.
It is this process of trial and error, of successive approaches and constant research, that the polisher's approach is made of

 

 

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Thank You for clarifying Thomas..  :) 

Thank you Jacques.. :)

How do you guys find these articles on the internet?

I try the different terms/names to search for, and most times get selling / store websites..:laughing:

I went looking for that site and tried to search for Honami Myohon, and, according to Marcus' Honami Family Book, there, it explains that

they could not verify because al the Family records was lost.

 

" In the middle of the 13th century, HONAMI MYOHON studied, dissected and deepened the ancient empiricism..."

 

I was wondering if they meant the Mid 1300's ? After the Kamakura era...?

 

Anyway, Thanks for all the help.

I was generally asking if the "Original Kamakura Guys" saw what we see today, in those Kamakura Blades..

 

Hey Guys.. Nihonto is a great past time. But, 

I don't have $$$$ to buy and admire Blades, so, the next best thing is to get into get interested and,

 try learn  in all the aspects of what makes Nihonto so great..  

 

Thanks for viewing..

Alton :laughing:

 

 

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The text i shared cannot be found on Internet; i got it from the curator of the Baur Museum whom i know personally. It's written in french and i translated it (hope translation is correct). 

 

Quote

In the middle of the 13th century, HONAMI MYOHON studied, dissected and deepened the ancient empiricism...

 

Must be read as we do, not in the Japanese way => 13th century = 1400s

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Good Morning Guys.. :)

Cold Morning here in Hawaii.

Feels so good compared to our hot afternoons. 

 

Thanks guys..

Hey Jacques, no worries. You did good!!! :thumbsup:

Look at me.. i misspelt  Markus Sesko's name wrong..  :o

Sorry Markus..   :)

 

Thanks everyone, have a safe fun day..

 

Alton T  :)

 

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It would be very interesting to read a history of polishing technology; it may be that one or more exist (in Japanese) but i do not know.....I would pay good money for one in English! High level polishing, in my opinion, comes down to: access to good technique, access to good stones, and lots of patience. These are all things that the Japanese people have had access to for a thousand years. I have heard that some mines of particular stones have become exhausted and good stones harder to obtain (or very expensive, try $3000 plus for a good uchigumori finishing stone.) Goes a long way to explaining why polishing is expensive.

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Alton -

When I started out I was a poor student (then as now) no funds for these pricey toys so I determined early on that I would learn as much as I possibly could and see as many good swords as possible to build a collection in my head that no thief could steal. I feel I have been successful and along the way thru the kindness of other collectors I have put together a modest collection of real blades of which I am proud. Stick to your studies and the same can happen for you...

-t

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About Hon-Ami Myohon, the picture below is from the french version of this book

https://www.amazon.fr/Japan-Encyclopedia-Louis-Frederic/dp/0674007700/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=9780674017535&linkCode=qs&qid=1627412358&s=books&sr=1-1

 

 

Translation Hon-Ami Myöhon , sword maker (1252-1355) Ancestor of the Hon-Ami family.

Hon-Ami.jpg

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