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Would like to learn more about this sword.


MarkGee
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A relative has had this sword.  It has been in "hibernation" for a long time and it is time to learn more about it.  I've got some info on it but there is much more to learn.  I was hoping some experts here could help me date it and learn more about the markings.  I've learned it was made by a Kanemoto and has a theme of the Tanabata.  I've got some pictures of the inscriptions but am receiving errors went trying to attach them.  It is in need of restoration (which I hope to have done in the future at some point). 

 

Thank you for all the help

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Hi and welcome Mark!

All I can do is confirm the translation “兼元” (Kanemoto). Obviously one of the many Kanemoto’s from Mino province. I’m sure the sword scholars here can help you along, as far you provide more pics of the blade. 
BTW, the tsuba (sword guard) was made by “大高寛長” (Ōtaka Hironaga), a late Edo artist from the Bushū-Itō school.

Now I leaf the stage to the more knowledgeable….

 

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Welcome Mark!

 

I am looking forward to more pictures especially as I think the fuchi is rather nice.  Overall shots of the blade might help us date it a little more but it is very common for swords to be much earlier than the mountings they are in so it is quite likely that the blade is somewhat earlier than the fittings.

 

More pictures please.

 

All the best.

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Dear Mark.

 

I'm fairly sure that Jean means noshi, originally strips of dried abalone cut and tied as a gift, now more often paper versions of the same thing.  The tsuba seems very nice and all in all o does the sword.  So far we are missing the hilt ornaments, the menuki, but the rest of the mountings seem to deserve proper restoration, as does the sword.

 

The tang, nakago, has what are called higaki yasurime, these are the decorative file marks which match the signature and confirm the origin of the sword as the Mino tradition of sword making.  The patterned edge or hamon also confirms this as it is in sanbontsugi pattern or three cedars which is classic Mino.  

 

Proper restoration is going to be a costly and slow process, take it easy and ask here for advice as you go.  A first stage might be to source some good menuki and have the hilt re wrapped.  Once that is done you have a complete sword to enjoy.  Sooner or later you are going to have to decide whether to get the sword properly polished or not.  This is a highly skilled and therefore expensive process.  It would be quite alright to leave this and simply keep the blade lightly oiled, avoiding touching it with your fingers at all costs.  A poor polish will ruin the sword, a good one is expensive so you might want to hold off on that and simply get the mounts done so that you can enjpoy owning the seord.

 

All the best.

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Mark, its a nice looking package, but yes needs some work to pull it together.  The very regular sanbonsugi hamon and the smooth (looks like)  boshi (around the tip), plus the rounded mei, look like a late Kanemoto generation (Shinto).  Presumably also has a nice saya?

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Thank you for all the informative replies.  I had to find a site that names all the parts so I know which parts have been talked about!

 

The saya is not in the greatest shape either.  It has started to separate into two pieces and is missing the koiguchi.  It is also missing shitodome.

 

As for the tsuka: yes, missing the ito, sageo (don't think that is original) and the menuki.  It does have its mekugi and the same (if it looks like pieces of rice?) is failing. 

 

The blade edge has many tiny pieces missing, as if it was used to defend other sword strikes.  Is it possible to have these small nicks ground out in the polishing process or are they there to stay?

 

As for the age of the blade, I am doing some online research with the info provided.  If I am understanding what I am reading, you say it was made after the second generation of Kanemoto, the zokumei, Magoroku?  Or would it be the second gerneration (magoruko, since the hamon does not have a uniform pattern and does have rounded edges, three cedar style?  The paragraph that talks about this is hard to understand for the beginner in the link below)?  I am using this site for help..  https://www.nihonto.com/magoroku-kanemoto-孫六兼元/ 

 

So with my confusion for the periods of Kanemoto, I am still at a loss for the date range for the blade. 

 

I would definitely think it would be best to leave the blade repair for last (since it is said most expensive, hardest part) and have the other parts restored first.  These are things I wouldn't do myself as this is such a wonderful piece of history, I wouldn't want to damage it.  Getting the tsuka and saya back in great shape would be the way to go.  How would one go about having these items restored?  Can missing ornamental pieces be replaced (menuki, shitodome, koiguchi, sageo, and the small ornamental piece under the ito) with something that matches the rest of the theme of the sword?  I assume I will not be able to find anything of the same period but maybe reproductions of some sort.

 

 

 

 

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Dear Mark.

 

There is a lot to learn now you have embarked on this journey!  Here are some thoughts to help make sense of what you have discovered so far.

 

The tsuka or hilt is usually wrapped in tsuka ito, the flat silk braid that you will see on most swords.  The sageo is another braid that fits through the kurikata and is used to secure the saya to the obi or belt.

Japanese tradition makes it perfectly acceptable to have all these restored and to replace the koiguchi.

 

From what I can see in your photographs the edge damage is not too serious and would in most cases be removed by a proper polish, rarely the polisher will opt to leave some if too much metal would have to be removed to get them out.  They are almost certainly caused by mis use rather than combat for a variety of reasons.

 

From what we can see your word is ubu, unaltered; this means the nakago or tang is as it was originally made.  You have not yet told us the measurements, the most useful being the nagasa which is the distance from the tip to the notch on the back of the blade where the habaki or blade collar sits.  It is not going to be possible to get an exact answer as to who made the sword and when unless you go down the route of polish and then authentication papers in Japan but there are some things we can deduce.  Keep in mind that false or fake signatures, gimei, are a very common thing in the world of Japanese swords and that big names are especially tempting targets.

 

You have already discovered that there are many generations signing this way and have ruled out the first two so we are pretty certain that this sword was made between 1600 and 1850.  Have a good look at the boshi, which is the hardened edge or hamon in the kissaki or tip.  If the line of the hamon smooths into a line following the curve of the tip of the blade then it is most likely a Shinto period sword, 1600 - 1800.  If the line is irregular or in some way a continuation of the hamon pattern then it might be a Shinshinto blade.  1800 - 1860.  Some examples here, http://www.touken-matsumoto.jp/en/info/boshi_patterns

 

Enough for now?

 

Others will advise you about properly trained craftsmen who can do the restoration for you in the US

 

All the best.

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Thank you Geraint for that information, it is extremely helpful.  Looking at your link, it appears the hamon continues in an irregular shape that follows similarly down the blade.  I will assume then it is the later dates, 1800-1860s (matching the info provided for the dating of the tsuba).

 

You could be right about the misuse.  I hope that an expert would be able to address the blade.  It might be worth the money to then have it polished.

 

A quick measurement, without removing the tsuba, puts the blade just about 28" from the tip to where the top part of the tsuba sits against the blade.  I hope that is the same measuring point you mentioned.

 

I do look forward for advice on restoring the sword and replacing missing items to make it whole again.

 

New question!  On the bottom of the tsuba, there are more markings, one of which is covered with some corrosion.  Is there a safe way to remove the corrosion?  For car parts, I usually soak them in "Evapo Rust", which doesn't harm the metal.  I don't want to use anything abrasive on it.  Here is a picture of it....

spacer.png

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, MarkGee said:

New question!  On the bottom of the tsuba, there are more markings, one of which is covered with some corrosion.  Is there a safe way to remove the corrosion?  For car parts, I usually soak them in "Evapo Rust", which doesn't harm the metal. 

I'd use nothing more than a dry Q-tip gently on those wet looking areas and see if it will remove whatever is giving that appearance.  

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Mark,

why don't you dismount the TSUBA and make nice shots in the right position (cutting edge upwards)? Would make it a lot easier to read.

As it seems, I was wrong with my assessment (NOSHI). Now it looks like a nice TSUBA with bamboo leaves design. 

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14 hours ago, MarkGee said:

OK!  The Q-tip idea worked, now need help translating the text.  The other side has a small plate with text too.  Both pics here...

 

 

 

They are strips of paper in the tsuba design.

 

織女星 (Shokujosei) – Vega

天の川・・・・・小舟 – Milky Way……(A poem related to Tanabata)

 

 

七夕2.jpg

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Thank you Nobody for the translation.  That makes the story of Tanabata complete (for the tsuba).  The "strips of paper" on the top side have "Orihime" and a "haiku" talking about Tanabata and then a third tag that says "Tanabata".

 

Next step that is needed is repair/restore....

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Nice sword and nice thread.  Looks late Edo to me and very worthy of consideration for full restoration.  Is it missing seppa?  If so, it may be loose and there is danger the habaki will put undue wear on the very nice tsuba.   I just skimmed the thread, so sorry if I am repeating what others have said, but I would think that the next step is to get it into shinsa, though I am pretty confident that it is genuine.  By the way, nice posting Geraint!   

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Hello Surfson, thank you for the response and nice compliments.  I don't know if it is missing the seppa, I thought that was the piece that the maker of the tsuba had his name engraved on.  I need to take it apart and separate the tsuba to confirm this.  It is loose though, from age and wear. 

 

Would you have it in shinsa before being restored or does that matter before/after?

 

 

 

20211029_114525.jpg

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I usually have shinsa done before restoration, unless I have no doubt about the sword's authenticity.  I haven't studied the mei on yours at all.  But the company that it keeps (i.e. the very nice mounts) and the hamon are both helpful to give confidence.  It's not that hard to submit to NTHK shinsa, and restoration for this sword in Japan is about a $6000 proposition, so yes, unless you are sure it is shoshin, I would suggest you submit it.  

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13 hours ago, MarkGee said:

.....I don't know if it is missing the seppa, I thought that was the piece that the maker of the tsuba had his name engraved on.  I need to take it apart and separate the tsuba to confirm this.  It is loose though, from age and wear. ...

Mark,

in KOSHIRAE like this, you usually have two SEPPA (other swords mountings may have that differently). These are the oval washers with the serrated rim. Their respective contact area on the TSUBA is called SEPPA-DAI; that is the place where you find the TSUBA MEI. You should have one SEPPA (of the correct shape and thickness) on the upper and one on the underside of the TSUBA when mounted. If one is missing, the TSUBA will become loose and rattling - that is dangerous as the blade has no longer its secured fit in the TSUKA! 

If a sword is well cared for, nothing will ever become loose.

 

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Surfson,

 

I would like to get shinsa on it, perhaps one of the big shows in San Francisco or if they have one on the east coast.  In the meantime, I think it is important to get the main parts restored and wait on the blade.  What would you estimate cost for restoring all the parts besides the blade?  Are there certified restorers in the USA?  The condition of the tsuka and saya need help the most.

 

The sword has been in the family since the 40s, I don't know if there were fakes or copies made in Japan but I do remember sometime in the 80s(?) that these took off in popularity in the USA.  I don't know when the fakes/copies started here.  I am basically a novice in this realm.  I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  With the history of it here though, I am pretty certain it is real.  Of course, I could be wrong.

 

 

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Mark,

you had already the handle off! Just pull the metall parts backwards off the NAKAGO, that's all! Also remove the HABAKI in case it does not resist. Then you can make nice photos of the tang and the TSUBA. You might already know that it is important not to touch the naked blade with your fingers to avoid corrosion.

Replacing the missing SEPPA is no witchwork. Our trustworthy expert dealers will supply what you need, but exact measurements will be needed.

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Mark, if it passes shinsa in SF, then I would send the whole sword to Japan for restoration.  That can include the saya, having new seppa fitted (I would recommend gold foil covered seppa), rewrapping the handle (does it have menuki?), making a tsunagi (wooden sword) for the mounts, making a shirasaya and, of course, polish and papers from the NBTHK (preferred to NTHK papers).  Total cost would be $5000-8000, depending on work required.  

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