Jump to content

Copper? Inlaid Iron Tsuba


Recommended Posts

Hi Everyone,

Recently a friend of mine brought over a number of swords, and asked my opinion.  This really is not my area, though over the years I have had quite a few Nihonto and such pieces, but I do collect early Japanese and Korean ceramics and therefore people bring me literally anything related to Asia ( always a fun learning experience).

I have reached out to an acquaintance who is rather experienced in these things and he tentatively dated it to Circa 1600.  I am curious the thoughts of the members of the forum, is there a guess to the school, or examples similar to this?

The blade this was on has a silver foil Habaki ( I will take more photos tomorrow), and I suspect it is a rather old blade.

Any info or insight would be most appreciated, and I will be posting the blades and other fittings ( these swords lived a tough life and are not complete, except one type 98... a shame really) shortly but I find this to be the most pleasing for some reason.  I also apologize for the rushed photos, I will shoot better ones in the morning.

Many thanks,

Jeremy Beer


The width is 77mm the height 78mm and the thickness is 2mm





Link to comment
Share on other sites

ONIN - Possibly going back to the Muromachi period in Japan. [1336 to 1573]. So it is possible to go back 200 years on your estimate.

However many of these ancient designs were made right up to the end of the Edo period.  The thinness of the plate is a good indication of age, under 3mm is average.


  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well like a lot of Japanese designs it is often in the eye of the beholder - but I might suggest the designs are a conventionalized cloud and a snowflake.

The larger opening could also be a Tomoe [comma shape] but they are usually curved more.

You should check this site out it has a lot of information on Onin tsuba and indeed many other styles of guard. https://varshavskycollection.com/onin-tsuba/


I was amused by one description [the first] on this site originally by Henri L. Joly  In 1910. I don't believe Ockham's Razor was a subject for Japanese tsuba makers!



  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thank you so much for the replies, and the information.  I actually took a look at the Varshavsky Collection after your first reply,  Amazing wealth of knowledge.  I wonder does the thinness point to earlier?  I ask because there are two or three on there sub 3mm and the dating is mid-Muromachi period.

Also there appears to be lacquer or a coating of sorts on the iron in a few spots, very worn or flaked off, is this an original feature.

I was wondering if the second cut out was a Tomoe, but it seems to be missing the curvature and the ball end.

Thank you again.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jeremy, yes it was common to have Urushi lacquer on early sword guards and it does indeed tend to flake off and leave small patches behind. From my understanding the thinness of the plate is also early work, it tended to get thicker later - someone might correct me on this and I am sure there are exceptions to the 'rule' [there generally are.]

There is an old thread here dealing with lacquer on iron tsuba.


  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...