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POSSIBLE BIZEN TANEGASHIMA with Sakai influence


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This was my first Tanegashima, .... purchased many years ago. At the time very little research material was available for study, ... and although this has somewhat improved over the last few years, much work is yet to be done. Unfortunately due to the limited space ( pixels ), I will be unable to post a photo of the overall gun. I will however post what is allowable from my picture files.

 

The stock is of high quality oak with beautiful stripping grain running the length of the stock. The floorplate has a well carved brass dragon skilfully inlaid. The pin holes for securing the barrel to the stock are stengthened by plain round brass escutcheons. The off side of the stock has a Chrysanthemum Match Holder/Match extinquisher. In this case more likely a match holder as it is a full 1 inch deep. In addition the stock has an angled brass lined transverse hole to carry the match from the serpentine to the Match holder. The stock also bears a silver medallion, probably added by the original owner of the gun.

 

The barrel is tapered octagon ending in a bubulous poppy shaped muzzle that I usually associate with the Sakai Gun makers. The front sight has a gold bead for aid in sighting. The barrel is otherwise free of decoration. Caliber of this gun is .43 inch ( 2 monme ). OA length of the gun is 53 1/2 inches.

 

The Lock has a top pinned serpentine, and is of the outside spring variety. The lock is of high quality and carefully inlaid into the stock. The trigger appears to be Bizen in style although the Awa makers cannot be ruled out.

 

The barrel is signed : Bitchu Nimi Yoshida Rikizo made.

The fact that Bitchu borders with Bizen would give reason to assign this gun to the Bizen Gun Makers, ... but with Sakai influence.

 

Photographs are attached. Respectfully submitted for the enjoyment and study of the NMB members. ... Ron Watson

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The name on the far left is your gunsmith in Niimi.

 

There was a line of gunsmiths there, and the Sakai influence was very strong. Collectors living in the Niimi area still keep an eye out for these when they turn up.

 

On the map you can see the Sanyo-do. The central part is divided into Bizen, Bichu and Bingo, with Mimasaka above. You can see Niimi in the north of Bichu, at about 10:30 on the map. It is true that the whole area of present-day Okayama corresponds to a general appellation of Bizen, but not in the narrow sense.

 

Just for readers who may be confused, the main indications of a Bizen gun are a dark lacquered stock, all-iron lock, kemuri-gaeshi, panlid and and serpentine, (though the inside of the panlid is lined with brass). The locking pins are usually headed with a silver boss. The muzzle is a smooth-surfaced Rakkyo pickled onion shape. There is often a kanmuri-otoshi cut-out along the top outside edge of the butt.

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Dear Piers,

Interesting you mention the " silver headed pins ", ..... on this particular gun, ... the only restoration I needed to attend to was the Serpentine Pin. It was cracked thru where the round section turns to a flat section. I still have the broken pin, ... and it does have a silver head. I built a new Serpentine Pin, .... but should have silver plated the head. When doing any restoration, ... one must always adhere to the original, .... and at the time I never thought of this small detail or of it's being that important. A good lesson learned. I shall attend to it.

Since you have access to knowledge about this line of " smiths " , .... did you by chance note if there were dates given for this man's era of work. His dates may be shown on the paper you posted, ... but if so I cannot read it :oops: . It would be nice to add an approximate date to the gun. ..... Ron Watson

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Certainly Ron, I can ask. I have connections to the people there. Nothing in the book though, sadly. All it says is Yoshida Rikizo (+ on left, alongside, Zo? = possession of) and down below Bichu Niimi Ju

 

My 'boss' description above was not good. Typical Bizen-zutsu pins simply have silver heads, as you say. That sounds much better than the way I phrased it, and it would indeed be a nice touch to get your pins replated. :clap:

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Dear Eric,

When the gun was new, ... the ideal was to remove the barrel from the stock, ... un-screw the threaded breach plug leaving a barrel open at both ends. Since black powder residue is soluble in water, a funnel was placed in the muzzle and hot water ( the hotter the better ) was poured thru the barrel. This removed the bulk of the fouling. Next a cloth soaked in hot water was pushed thru the barrel using the ramrod or other suitable rod. After repeating this procedure a few times, .... if the barrel still looked dirty, ... a brass brush would have been pushed thru to loosen any stubborn residue. This was then followed by the wet cloth yet again. If the barrel appeared to be clean, a dry cloth was then pushed thru to remove any moisture. The breach plug was then cleaned and replaced. If the gun were not to be used for a while ( a week or so ), ... an oily rag would have been passed thru barrel to prevent any rust from forming. When the gun was next to be used, a dry cloth would be passed thru to remove any oil before loading. In reality few Samurai went to all this trouble. One reason being that the breach plugs were of notorious poor fit, and the threads were often wrapped in a very thin lead sheet to aid in getting a gas tight fit between the threads of the breach plug and the threads of the inside of the barrel breach. In fact allowing for some residue in the very bottom of the barrel allowed for a better gas tight seal in this vunerable area. What was normally done to clean, ( and by the way even today with western type muzzle loaders ) is that all the steps I outlined are followed EXCEPT for the removal of the beach plug. Hot water is poured down, but instead of running all the way thru, .... the barrel is tipped down for the water to run back out the muzzle. In fact this NOT removing the breach plug and adding a little pressure from the cloth tipped rag forces water out the touch hole, and thereby aids in cleaning residue out of it. Once the barrel cloth comes out clean upon withdrawl of the cleaning rod, ... a dry cloth is used on the cleaning rod to dry the barrel, and once again if the gun is not to be used for sometime, a little oil on the cleaning rod cloth pushed down and withdrawn will help prevent rust. Just remember as before, .... before using the gun a dry cloth must be used to remove the oil from inside the barrel. The outside of the barrel and lock are also cleaned with warm water, and oiled as black powder residue is highly corrosive.

You can count on spending at least an hour to properly clean a Black Powder Muzzle Loading gun.

........ Ron Watson

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Astonishingly good description by Ron there, and in fact, despite doing this process every week 15 weeks a year, I learnt a couple of useful things from it. Many thanks.

 

The only thing I might add, and this may be self-obvious, is that pouring scalding water down a funnel is a very dangerous job!!! You may want to position the barrel somewhere so that you do not need to touch it, and to wrap the barrel in a towel so that you can lift it and turn it round to pour the other way, and hold it steady while you ramrod it. The added benefit of the boiling water is that the residual heat evaporates all the rust-causing moisture out from inside the barrel, the touch hole and around the kusabi and ama-ooi.

 

PS One further WARNING. Never forget to replace the breech plug. One of our members forgot during cleaning and reassembled his gun for a display. When the order was given to fire, much of the explosion went up into his right cheek and eye. He still has black freckles on his upper right cheek today.

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Dear Eric,

When the gun was new, ... the ideal was to remove the barrel from the stock, ... un-screw the threaded breach plug leaving a barrel open at both ends. Since black powder residue is soluble in water, a funnel was placed in the muzzle and hot water ( the hotter the better ) was poured thru the barrel. This removed the bulk of the fouling. Next a cloth soaked in hot water was pushed thru the barrel using the ramrod or other suitable rod. After repeating this procedure a few times, .... if the barrel still looked dirty, ... a brass brush would have been pushed thru to loosen any stubborn residue. This was then followed by the wet cloth yet again. If the barrel appeared to be clean, a dry cloth was then pushed thru to remove any moisture. The breach plug was then cleaned and replaced. If the gun were not to be used for a while ( a week or so ), ... an oily rag would have been passed thru barrel to prevent any rust from forming. When the gun was next to be used, a dry cloth would be passed thru to remove any oil before loading. In reality few Samurai went to all this trouble. One reason being that the breach plugs were of notorious poor fit, and the threads were often wrapped in a very thin lead sheet to aid in getting a gas tight fit between the threads of the breach plug and the threads of the inside of the barrel breach. In fact allowing for some residue in the very bottom of the barrel allowed for a better gas tight seal in this vunerable area. What was normally done to clean, ( and by the way even today with western type muzzle loaders ) is that all the steps I outlined are followed EXCEPT for the removal of the beach plug. Hot water is poured down, but instead of running all the way thru, .... the barrel is tipped down for the water to run back out the muzzle. In fact this NOT removing the breach plug and adding a little pressure from the cloth tipped rag forces water out the touch hole, and thereby aids in cleaning residue out of it. Once the barrel cloth comes out clean upon withdrawl of the cleaning rod, ... a dry cloth is used on the cleaning rod to dry the barrel, and once again if the gun is not to be used for sometime, a little oil on the cleaning rod cloth pushed down and withdrawn will help prevent rust. Just remember as before, .... before using the gun a dry cloth must be used to remove the oil from inside the barrel. The outside of the barrel and lock are also cleaned with warm water, and oiled as black powder residue is highly corrosive.

You can count on spending at least an hour to properly clean a Black Powder Muzzle Loading gun.

........ Ron Watson

Thanks Ron, very interesting, I have never used black powder so the water thing is news to me. Do you know what kind of oil would have been used..I do not know when petroleum based oil would have started to be used in Japan.
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One of the causes of misfires is residual oil, so we have to be very careful as Ron says to clean it off before use. I use a whole range of gun oils I bought in the West, depending on my mood. A light gun oil seems good.

 

Our members tend to use CRC 5-56 from Kure. Not quite sure why.

http://www.kure.com/line_up/556/index.html

 

What they used in Edo and before, Eric is a good question. I would suspect it might be something they would already have to hand, eg clove oil for cleaning/protecting swords. Perhaps Ron can answer this better.

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Dear Eric,

I should think the oil of choice was clove oil. It has much the same rust preventative properties as the petroleum based oils of today.

..... Ron Watson

Ron, I have read that pure clove oil should not be used on swords..have you ever heard this? I just did a little reading and its possible that whale oil was used, whales were hunted in Japan for many hunderds of years and whale oil is one of the best lubricants in the world. Camellia oil has been mentioned also.
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Dear Eric,

I've never heard that oil of clove is bad for swords, ... I think quite the opposite is true in moderation. Whale oil would work, as would any number of natural oils. You might remember a gun is not a sword. I would not use a petroleum based oil on my swords, ... but on/in a gun barrel I use it all the time, as I'm sure Piers does as well. On the wood I prefer to use lemon oil, .... but in/on the barrel I use 3-1 light machine oil.

...... Ron Watson

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Eric must be referring to a warning that was posted here on the NMB a year or more ago about 'pure' clove oil ( a blue substance?) being terribly strong, so never to use that by mistake on your Nihonto.

 

Normally-sold traditional clove oil however, the diluted version, is what has always been used apparently, and people should not go wrong.

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Ron,

 

Nice piece! As are the others you've shown. I think these guns are very interesting, but I now next to nothing about the styles, names of the parts, different locks etc.

 

I Would surely like to learn some more, do you know if a book in english with nice pictures and explanations on the subject is available (title, author, possibly ISBN-nr)?

 

Thank you,

 

Eric K.

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Dear Eric K,

The only book I know of in English is: THE Japanese MATCHLOCK - A Story of the Tanegashima by Shigeo Sugawa There is no ISBN number shown in my book. First edition April, 1991. The book is hardcover well illustrated but only 61 pages printed on high quality paper.

I recently saw one listed at $ 150.00 . You might be wise to do a Google search of Used Book Sellers, ... or perhaps one of our members may have a copy available ( Bridge of Dreams member ). Regards, ... Ron Watson

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The book actually has a part II, at least in Japanese. I thought I had both books in J and both in E, but I've either misplaced Part II (E) or lent it to someone, or quite possibly my memory is playing tricks and there was never an English version of Pt II.

 

There is a very shortened version on the web, Eric. Try , or if that doesn't work, misspell it and try "Japanease" for luck!!!

 

Click on MATCHLOCKS

 

http://japaneseweapons.com/

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Along with Ron and Piers methods of cleaning, I would also mention a home-made recipe that works really well for a cleaning solution that goes by different names, such as 3-2-1 and Moose Milk. The basic recipe is 3 parts alcohol, 2 parts hydrogen peroxide and 1 part Murphy's Oil Soap (hence, the first name). There are some similar recipes that also add in castor oil, witch hazel, water, etc., but I've just used the basic and it cleans the bore out well.

 

Thomas

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Thanks Piers,

 

Found it, with this I should be able to link my gun to a school. :thanks:

 

Best regards,

Eric.

Have you posted a picture of your gun here before, Eric? Maybe we can help you narrow it down?

 

Thomas, thanks for the recipe! Now, if I could just catch and milk one of those elusive Japanese moose... :shock:

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Dear Thomas,

Christ, .... I live in Canada, .... :shock: ... I've been chased by a moose, ... I've shot a moose, ... I've eated a moose, ... I've even been love sick like a moose ( sorry guys who are trying to translate - Hope your translation is not mechanical ), but I'll be damned if I'd milk a moose ! By all means Eric, ... post a picture.

Kind regards, ... Ron Watson

PS> The receipe sounds exactly the same as what many of our locals drink by the way.

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Dear Gents,

 

Thank you for the offers to help. I haven't posted a picture yet but still you might have seen the gun before as I bought it from a forum member (indirectly through an add in this forums "for sale" section).

 

First I'll do my homework, and then when I reveil it you can confirm or correct my findings.

 

Best regards,

Eric K.

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Dear Eric,

At least half the pleasure in owning something is to share. Whether we own a bit of unique knowledge, ... or an interesting artifact. Sharing with others of the same interest is what the study of Nihonto and related items is all about. I always find something new, .. unusual, .. educational, .. or derive just plain pleasure in seeing other collections. Please do post a few photos when you are ready. Kind regards, ... Ron Watson

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Well Ron,

 

Faster than you expected, here we are!

The total length of the gun is 120 cm, the barrel alone is 98 cm with a 12 mm bore.

The trigger looks like an axe-blade, no trigger guard and most pieces of the lock seem silverwashed. The barrel is secured by 2 mekugi - rear and middle- and a brass loop near the front.

The stock is darkbrownish with a nice tiger stripe.

The barrel is unsigned, octagonal up to the rear sight, after that round. It shows some irregular groups of small rectangular "dimples", in some cases still filled with what looks like steel. Welding flaws that have been repaired (umegane)??

 

Based on the two mekugi-ana I think of Sendai, otherwise Bizen because of the trigger and the butt of the stock.

 

I'm curious for your opinions -and what they are based on.

 

Thanks,

EricK.

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Cheers Ron, a very helpful description indeed. One question: the recommended treatment for use if the gun is not to be used "for a while" should last for quite some time, I take it? Obviously, being a small museum and not having anywhere to do it (though I'd love to - sigh) we don't get chance to shoot our pieces, even if they're in good condition and working order, metallurgically and mechanically. Still working on our latest acquisition, I'm now at the stage of de-rusting (as far as possible) and then oiling the barrel for protective purposes. You should've seen the face of the local gunshop's attendant when I asked for a .60 brush and a four-foot cleaning rod :glee:

 

... I'd quite like to possess a caplock Tanegashima, now I think about it... :freak:

 

Added: Also, Piers and others: Converting a Tanegashima to bolt-action!? Sounds like quite a tall order. I may be wrong here, but wouldn't the barrel be a problematic area? Bolt-action being largely associated with smokeless powder, I'd have thought using a black powder barrel - a smoothbore at that - with a modern smokeless cartridge, firing a small bullet, would produce results that were at best inaccurate, and at worst very unpleasant for one's face.

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Eric, apart from the (?) silverwashed serpentine and lock, your piece is almost 100% typical Bizen, at least what I can see from that distance, even down to the Kanmuri otoshi on the offside of the butt. (Fujioka-Ryu) Can you get a closer shot of the lock area? Although you do find brass, the Bizen lock is typically of iron/steel, but usually goes a dark rusty color/colour. Possibly someone in the West may have cleaned yours up in some way?

 

As to the bolt action conversions, M. Jones, they are mentioned in Perrin's book, but you are perfectly right. A nightmare proposition.

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