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Inherited unsigned sword, any information welcome


GeorgeLuucas
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I inherited this sword, and I'd love to learn everything I can about it. I've gotten some feedback on other forums that leads me to believe it might be a Kanbun era blade, possibly Mino school. It was suggested to me that I try posting photos here to get more feedback. I've been reading a lot on the subject and am slowly grasping the vocabulary and terminology. It's become a very fun hobby, and any information anyone can share with my about this sword would be really appreciated.

It's really hard to see the hamon on the tip of the blade, due to the rusting. I can't get a photo, but it looks like the hamon pattern continues gently to the point and curves back a bit, what I think is a "notarekomi" - Apologies if I'm off there. I also have a very hard time seeing the grain of the steel, but I think it's a more straight grain.

I know the condition is less than ideal, I wish it had been maintained better before I acquired it. Since then, I have only wiped the blade with 94% alcohol, and given it a light coating of pure mineral oil. 

Thanks for your time,

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The hamon type looks like sanbonsugi or a variation of it. There also looks like several deep ware on one side in the first photo. Can we get a close-up of those dark streaks to see whether they are simply stains or cracks in the metal? Its not considered a fatal flaw normally unless it goes through the hamon, they're just aesthetically detracting and may open up wider upon polishing.

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It looks like rust/pitting more than ware, as long as its not too deep, it shouldn't be a problem. There are several ware present on the blade though, and that rust is probably obscuring a few. A good polisher should be able to remove them without trouble but oil it asap so it doesn't worsen! Whether or not it makes financial sense to have restoration work is up to the quality of the blade. Since it is mumei (unsigned) and it is Kanbun (as pointed out earlier), those make it relatively more common. But the nice hamon patter is a big plus.

Ultimately, what I think it is going to come down to is that you should have it examined in-hand by a togishi or have it looked at by an expert/group near you. If money isn't so much a concern, then there's quite a few excellent togishi in the US that could do it for you. Most polishers ask for around $125/inch so you're looking at around $3k alone in just a polish, but you'll definitely want a shirasaya made for it which is around another $300. Prices vary according to whom you have the work done by.

How long is the cutting edge length? (nagasa)

Turnback of the hamon around the boshi and onto the mune is called "Kaeri."

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I really can't tell if they are bad rust or openings unfortunately. On close inspection I can't see any evidence of a crack underneath the dark parts, but that's only because the area is so obscured by the dark tarnish. I'm still learning, so I imagine an expert could tell me if they could see it in person. 

The cutting edge of the blade is approximately 26 inches. Any recommendations for polishers in the US, preferably western united states would be very welcome. I gently apply oil to the blade once about every 6 months, and I have it stored in a generally dry climate.

a Kaeri, thank you for clearing that up. Thanks again for all your help!

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Sounds like you've got the care part down!

As for a polisher, you can check under "Nihonto Info -> Links -> Restoration" at the top of the page for different polishers that are stateside. Bob Benson would be my first choice, but I've heard good things about several of the others listed. I would talk to several of them and get some opinions first. The cheapest option would be to find an expert close to you, or a sword show/club meeting.

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I will definitely shop around on the polishers, and see if I can get an expert to look at it. It's a family heirloom of sorts, and I want to respect it as much as I can; not only for it's personal sentimental value, but also for it's history. 

The dark tarnish marks look like surface buildup more than anything deeper into the steel. But again, it's really hard to tell with my untrained eye. As a kid, I had naively thought they were "blood stains", haha. 

Thanks again for the information and input. I appreciate it! 

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Well, it feels like a stick with some tapering, so probably Kambun. Judging by whatever we can see in the hamon its probably one of the period's Mino schools.

Re: polishers etc, it does not feel particularly valuable, though there is uncertainty due to condition etc.

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7 hours ago, David Flynn said:

Like Kirill, I at first thought Kanbun.  However, I don't think it's a Shinto Mino Hamon.   To me, it looks like a Shinshinto copy of a Margaroku.

That's interesting and would make some sense being shinshinto. The menuki on this piece is a depiction of a mouse on an ear of corn, and while I was informed corn was brought to Japan by the Portuguese in 1579 (thank you user Spartancrest in the Tosogu forum), I can't imagine it was common enough crop to be making menuki in the Kanbun era. I could easily be wrong there, I'm far from an expert. I always thought IF the fittings are original, or near original, it would date the sword past the Kanbun era. I know fittings are often changed throughout the swords life, so it was just my uninformed thought/theory - before I was leaning Kanbun

Can you explain what a copy of a Margoroku is for me? Is Margoroku a Kanbun smith or other era smith?
 

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Not Margaroku. It is a bit annoying when people do not make an effort to check what they have typed as a newcomer / beginner could be confused and led down a wrong track. 
 

Magaroku Kanemoto is what was intended to be said. 
 

The hamon is indeed in the style of late Kanemoto / mature Mino. 
 

One needs to analyse hada + kasane + boshi + nakago patina better to draw meaningful conclusions. 
I am curious how people could so readily place this in time essentially only on the basis of some partial hamon outline and sugata. 

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9 minutes ago, Gakusee said:

Not Margaroku. It is a bit annoying when people do not make an effort to check what they have typed as a newcomer / beginner could be confused and led down a wrong track. 
 

Magaroku Kanemoto is what was intended to be said. 
 

The hamon is indeed in the style of late Kanemoto / mature Mino. 
 

One needs to analyse hada + kasane + boshi + nakago patina better to draw meaningful conclusions. 
I am curious how people could so readily place this in time essentially only on the basis of some partial hamon outline and sugata. 


Thank you for clearing that up! and also the polisher recommendation. Thank you Stephen as well!

I've done a lot of research on my sword, and I've come to terms with the fact that I will very unlikely get a solid date on it's manufacture. Because it's unsigned and I can only share photos. At least until I get it to an expert. 

I fully intend to get it analyzed by a professional sometime in the next few years. All the information you are all providing, gives me rabbit-holes to go down with my own hobby research, and I appreciate it! I hope to learn everything I can about my sword, and others, with my investigation. That being said, I understand that only so much information can be provided from photos.

Thanks you all for the info, it's been a big help and a lot of fun investigating. I hope to preserve this sword, and maybe add more to my collection someday. 

Cheers!

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2 hours ago, David Flynn said:

Michael, a bit rude.   It was just my opinion.

 

Come on David, we are in serious and repeated violation of the Nihonto Code here. 

An opinion can only be expressed as:

 

I was instructed by O-Sensei to relay the following:

Those who see Kambun in this sugata are men of but half truths.

As it is written by Daiso Tadamichi: they grasp but do not breath, they fish, but do not smoke.

For a fresher fire lies within this steel.

Seek the path between the stone and the monkey.

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On 11/26/2021 at 10:51 PM, Rivkin said:

Well, it feels like a stick with some tapering, so probably Kambun. Judging by whatever we can see in the hamon its probably one of the period's Mino schools.

Re: polishers etc, it does not feel particularly valuable, though there is uncertainty due to condition etc.


I’m aware it’s likely not a “special” sword or a particularly valuable piece. Especially after seeing all the beautiful examples shared on this forum! But it’s special to me, and it would be a personal joy and achievement for me to restore it.
 

Thanks again everyone for all your help! 

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It looks like it may well be healthy to me and deserving of restoration.  You might try some Nevr-dull or acetone on it, in case some of the dark color is old grease that has hardened.  The hamon does have a Mino/Seki feel to it, but the yasurime is not the classic criss-cross that older Mino koto blades have.  The more distal nakago ana appears to have been chiseled, so it may be a koto blade with little sori or it may be kanbun shinto as has been suggested.  I doubt it is younger than that.  The mounts appear to be decent Edo era mounts and the tsuba looks like it might be a Tadatsugu pierced design (is it signed?).  

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On 12/2/2021 at 12:03 PM, Surfson said:

It looks like it may well be healthy to me and deserving of restoration.  You might try some Nevr-dull or acetone on it, in case some of the dark color is old grease that has hardened.  The hamon does have a Mino/Seki feel to it, but the yasurime is not the classic criss-cross that older Mino koto blades have.  The more distal nakago ana appears to have been chiseled, so it may be a koto blade with little sori or it may be kanbun shinto as has been suggested.  I doubt it is younger than that.  The mounts appear to be decent Edo era mounts and the tsuba looks like it might be a Tadatsugu pierced design (is it signed?).  

The Tsuba is not signed unfortunately, but I love its design. Thank you for the info and input! I’m looking into getting it restored soon

 

For a better look at the fittings I have a post in the Tosogu forum with some close-ups of the Tsuba

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31 minutes ago, GeorgeLuucas said:

The Tsuba is not signed unfortunately, but I love its design. ....

In addition to what I have already commented in the TOSOGU forum about it, I should add that it is a KO-SUKASHI (small cut-outs) TSUBA in TOSHO style, probably early EDO period.

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  • 5 months later...

Apologies for reviving this thread from the dead, but I recently received my sword back from an expert (whom I found through this forum). And I wanted to share with ya'll what I've learned, and what he was able to share with me about this sword. 

Looks like your kantei was very very good!
After seeing my sword in-hand, the expert believes it to be an early Shinto blade (maybe but less likely late Koto), Mino school, and a downstream late generation smith of the Kanemoto lineage. It is not an "art sword" but rather a utilitarian made sword, and on a scale of 1-10 of "quality of smithing" he said it was around a 4 or 5. In addition, he says it is restorable, but like has been mentioned, the process will probably cost more than the sword is worth. I still hope to have it done someday.

This is all fantastic news for me! I'm just excited to have learned so much about it. I'm still very novice in this hobby, but studying my sword has been a lot of fun.

Blade length: 26.75 inches (67.94cm)
Nagako length: 7.15 inches (18.16 cm)

Thanks to all those who have commented,
Cheers!

 

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22 hours ago, GeorgeLuucas said:

It is not an "art sword" but rather a utilitarian made sword

 

Bear in mind that in the eyes of the Japanese government and of the quasi-governmental authenticating body, this would indeed be considered an "art sword".  It's just the way the government classifies antique, traditionally made blades. They are classified as "art swords" to differentiate them from the "weapon" swords that were made for the Imperial Japanese Army of the 1900s.  

 

 

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2 hours ago, SteveM said:

 

Bear in mind that in the eyes of the Japanese government and of the quasi-governmental authenticating body, this would indeed be considered an "art sword".  It's just the way the government classifies antique, traditionally made blades. They are classified as "art swords" to differentiate them from the "weapon" swords that were made for the Imperial Japanese Army of the 1900s.  

 

 


Thank you Steve. The expert told me that too, I think his comment was a nice way of saying “this is no Masamune” or sword made by a known masterful smith, haha. 
 

It’s certainly a piece of fine art to me! and I’m beyond excited to have a real Nihonto as a springboard into studying. I’m also a history buff, so it’s all just very fascinating and exciting to learn about. I hope to respect it and preserve it the best I can. 
 

Thanks again for your input; following the threads on this forum has been a wealth of information, and full of amazing swords to look at. I hope to add to my collection someday 

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