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Will it be possible to restore this sword? UPDATE-PICS PG 4!


DaveM4P99
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All - I have been seeing these conversations online for 15 years. I have been collecting and studying Nihonto for 45 years and have seen enough polished blades to make a comment here. No great diatribe, no long point-for-point comment, just the simple statement "Chris Bowen is right on the money. Any other opinion is delusional bordering on willfully ignorant". Chris used the word "hubris". Spot on again. Time to lock this thread...

 

Barry Thomas

Melbourne, Australia

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Quick intro: I'm the guy that gave DaveMP49 a push in the direction of getting this particular blade looked at in the hopes that it might be worth saving, and I recommended

David Hofhine to him. A recommendation that I would gladly repeat.

 

1) Rita Mae Brown defined insanity as; repeating the same mistake over and over again, but somehow expecting different results.

 

2) Every amateur polisher will tell you that they know when to polish and when not to polish, yeah, sure, I've seen it too many times now with my own eyes that these are nothing more than mere words.

 

3) When it comes to nihonto one always pays extra for cutting corners.

 

4) Please add me to the list of snobs as I'm a firm believer based upon experience that there are only two kinds polishers, those that are and then everyone else who wished they were.

 

5) Just as the common advice of "save your money up until you can afford a good sword" is often given, the same advice goes for polishing, especially if it's only one good sword in the collection. And, keep in mind that once metal has been removed there is that much less for the next polisher to work with.

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Tired of this old debate. For more input, just go read the other threads about the same thing.

Fact...this IS an elitist activity. It is a 1000 year old tradition. If you think that everyone should be hanging a Picasso over their stove in the kitchen if they can afford it, then you might think we are elitist. If you think that preserving the swords is more important than us owning them...you might just be on your way to being a proper collector.

Nothing is more important than conservation of these items. Nothing.

Therefore we don't encourage amateur polishes, and we don't encourage anything that can be detrimental to the health of a sword. Cutting..polishing..lack of maintenance..poor education. All ruin good swords.

There are ok polishers that might not have studied in Japan 100%. We have seen one or 2 on the forum. But to actively start encouraging people to seek out non-traditional polishes and polishers is just negligent.

Frankly, most of the poeple encouraging amateur polishes wouldn't know a top polish if they saw it. Most don't know what a real polish does to hada and hamon. Have you seen the oily-liquid look of a really good sword? Most don't know the difference between burnishing and buffing.

 

To the point: This forum takes the official stance that polishing should be by experts. We might not always be as serious as we would like to be, but since we try..this is the ONLY stance we are ever going to take. Anything less would be irresponsible. That is not going to change. It might sound elitist because this is an elitist past-time. Most of us are lucky to be able to play in a field that is much bigger and more important than us.

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Frankly, most of the people encouraging amateur polishes wouldn't know a top polish if they saw it.

 

And now we have reached the very heart of the matter......

 

Regarding my affiliation with David, as I have said, I know him and his work very well, surely better than anyone on this board. He is a great guy. I like him. That's personal. But when it comes to polishing collectible blades, I send them to Japan. That is business. I have had this conversation with him many times.

 

The only bias I have is for high quality work....If I was telling people that they could only get a proper polish by submitting the blade through me that would be one thing but as I have said time and again, there are dozens of people who can facilitate a proper polish in Japan. My best advice, based on seeing what you get with a self trained polisher versus a professionally trained polisher, is to send to a pro using someone, anyone, if you have a blade worthy of quality work.

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As with any debate depending on perspectives there will always be two sides - so if I state I am on the side that will send any blade worthy of restoration and preservation to Japan, how does one know when it is gone for two years to Japan that unless it is worth many thousands of dollars it will be polished by the newest apprentice of the toshigi? I perfectly understand what all are saying but am a little gun shy about sending one of my babies 15000 miles away with all the inherent hassles of postage and customs but in reality - no one unless they go with the blade can be sure that they are getting what they think they are.

 

Comments about surgeons etc are applicable unless you are being treated at a teaching hospital in which case although the "big man" may be in the OR. your heart or whatever may be in the hands of a first year surgical resident as they gotta learn somewhere !

 

I guess its more of a process deal and in my case it would be better to leave them alone and appreciate what they are than take the chance in either case :dunno:

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Point taken on the response to my surgeon comment.

Best analogy I could make, as I am not sure I would have bet on the "before" patient. By profession, I don't lose bets very often.

 

Chris Bowen's point about the incandescent lightbulb viewed down length of the blade is a good physics test I like using, given to some variability.

While I am fairly certain David has polished at least one Juyo blade, the comment that blades are Juyo.... not polishes.... should be carefully considered.

Short version is he didn't muck it up, yet the very very nice sword got Juyo. Not the polish. It says something, but it is not conclusive.

 

As Guido said, "dear Lord, not this thread again" or "Great Buddha, not this thread again",

yet here I am contributing to it despite trying to resist.

 

Dave, hope to meet you at the club next weekend. This has been an interesting restoration, though the polisher debate is :flog:

However, there are a few flecks of gold buried in it.

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I want to make it very, very clear that this debate is NOT about this particular polisher or this particular blade. It is about the subject in general. I think this sword came out quite nice, and have seen good jobs by other US polishers. I hope people will understand that it is impossible for serious students of Nihonto to encourage this though, for all the reasons already presented. Who is going to say who did a fair job and who didn't? Is this a good save of a poor condition sword? Yes. Is it a good polish? Compared to what? Compared to the before photos..yes. Compared to a Mishina polish? No. Did it cost the same? No..but we have to leave cost out of this since it is about art and preservation and everything else....very lastly about cost which is irrellevant to the preservation of art.

So at the end of the day, don't make this about any particular polisher or sword. Do what you feel is right and try and see as many top polishes as you can before you make a judgement.

 

Brian

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I want to make it very, very clear that this debate is NOT about this particular polisher or this particular blade. It is about the subject in general. I think this sword came out quite nice, and have seen good jobs by other US polishers. I hope people will understand that it is impossible for serious students of Nihonto to encourage this though, for all the reasons already presented. Who is going to say who did a fair job and who didn't? Is this a good save of a poor condition sword? Yes. Is it a good polish? Compared to what? Compared to the before photos..yes. Compared to a Mishina polish? No. Did it cost the same? No..but we have to leave cost out of this since it is about art and preservation and everything else....very lastly about cost which is irrellevant to the preservation of art.

So at the end of the day, don't make this about any particular polisher or sword. Do what you feel is right and try and see as many top polishes as you can before you make a judgement.

 

Brian

 

Thanks Brian...I think that sums up both sides of the argument nicely.

 

I mean, if this was a $15,000 blade made by some highly ranked smith, I would have definitely looked into spending the money for a "certified" polisher...but for this particular case of preservation, I think I did just fine...and I think it came out quite well.

 

As always, I look forward to any other comments, and appreciate all of the info.

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David - as said before considering ALL the circumstances you done good.

 

I still think I will leave mine alone rather than risk anyone here OR a novice apprentice in Japan and everyone will be happy.

 

That said, for an interesting half hour you can watch Okisato Fujishiro explain how its done properly in this clip from the Met where many of us know Morihiro Ogawa went to be curator after he left the Boston Museum of fine art.

 

 

Enjoy :clap:

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how does one know when it is gone for two years to Japan that unless it is worth many thousands of dollars it will be polished by the newest apprentice of the toshigi?

 

By having a good relationship with either the polisher or the agent and asking ahead of time if the sword will be polished by the master, or will he let his students work on it, if the polisher has any students. Few do these days....

 

. In any case, apprentices do not polish a blade until they are near the end of their training. They start with simple things that they can't mess up and progress as they gain experience to more difficult tasks.

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Can we all agree to change the name of this board to Elitist Nihonto Message Board? I'm tired of being called an elitist snob just because I don't think nitwits should teach themselves to polish on whichever sword they get in their hands. Perhaps with the name change, all those who accuse us of elitism will give it up.

Somewhat tongue in cheek; somewhat serious. Grey

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Well tongue in cheek or not - there is a difference between elitist and discriminatory - we could always have a password but who cares what others think - all you can do is give advice - best advice and hope folks listen. If we shut it down every time someone expressed a counter opinion the ones remaining may as well e-mail each other once a month :freak:

 

-( thanks by the way Chris - one would obviously use a broker to assure the right toshigi gets the blade )

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-( thanks by the way Chris - one would obviously use a broker to assure the right toshigi gets the blade )

 

It is always best to use someone you trust to look out for your best interests who has good relationships with skilled craftsman.

 

I spent 5 years looking all over Japan for craftsman that I was comfortable with as both people and craftsman. I met many excellent craftsman but for one reason or another, we didn't connect. It is all about relationships in Japan....trust is the bottom line....

 

I actually sold a few shinsakuto that were really knockouts because after meeting the smith, every time I looked at the blades all I thought about was what as ass he was.....some times ignorance is indeed bliss....

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I haven‘t followed this -finally- interesting topic because the initial pics of a badly rusted sword were not of interest for me. However this as seen was an attitude of bias...I have never thought a sword in that state would show such a satisfactory result like this after a polish :thumbsup:

 

The motif that I enter belated in this discussion is the following:

 

Many years ago, together with German collectors, we used to send swords for polish to Japan, to Kasuga Art Center Ltd., Kobe. There was a total of 21 swords and Kasuga wrote:

 

„Please be advised that we are going to do „Better Polish“ on most swords except for 2 items we are going to do „Best Polish“, Kiyondo and Tadahiro, because these items are extremely fine in make“ and for another two items we have estimated the charge on the basis of „Ordinary Polish“

 

All swords went to shinsa. Two of them were disqualified, a Norishige Katana of mine, with the remark: „it would most probably „Green Paper“ pass if did not carry a signature because it is fine in make“.

 

The Kiyondo and the Tadahiro got „green paper“, 17 white paper, 2 disqualified.

 

That said, as one can see, a sword gets the polish in Japan depending on its quality...at that time anyway.

 

Eric

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In Japan, most people would not have a chu-saku ranked blade polished by a mukansa togi. That doesn't mean it will not receive a good polish by an unranked polisher. Undoubtedly there are togi that are more skilled than others in Japan though the absolute difference is usually not all that great. It is almost impossible to find a polisher that has completed his apprenticeship that is not competent. Those without the skills get weeded out....

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Dave, just picked up on your post after quite a while, kudos to you for restoring that sword, most would have trashed it and written it off, in fact i have seen blades in much better condition written off verbally on this forum by many. Kudos to the polisher for polishing that blade as well, that would have taken a toll on ones joints and much longer to polish than most swords. Most polishers would not have touched that blade so it is nice to see it restored.

 

The fun just never stops on the NMB eh!

 

Have a great and prosperous new year everyone!

 

Sincerely,

 

Louis Skebo

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Hi John, actually heading north to my camp tomorrow morning, my friends are stuck at km 34 on the road so I'll have to help them out - tire chains on the LX470 and the thing is like a tank. Wow john, you better keep that fire stoked!

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Dave, just picked up on your post after quite a while, kudos to you for restoring that sword, most would have trashed it and written it off, in fact i have seen blades in much better condition written off verbally on this forum by many. Kudos to the polisher for polishing that blade as well, that would have taken a toll on ones joints and much longer to polish than most swords. Most polishers would not have touched that blade so it is nice to see it restored.

 

The fun just never stops on the NMB eh!

 

Have a great and prosperous new year everyone!

 

Sincerely,

 

Louis Skebo

 

Thanks Louis! Glad the restoration is appreciated by some! I will post more pics when I get the Tsuka rebuilt completely in my existing shin-gunto WWII style mounts!

 

Sounds like you Canucks up North are getting quite the storms! I am from Upstate NY (Rochester area) and am in NYC pretty often for work as well...not much snow in Rochester, and none in NYC.

 

We get our fair share of blizzards in upstate NY, but nothing compared to you guys who are practically on the north pole!

 

Keep warm!

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No Problem Dave, there are other forces at work and I call it as I see it. Last night we got rain so our snow has been knocked down a bit, but north at my camp is going to be just great. I'll be snowmobiling, ice fishing and snow shoeing - it's how us Canucks roll:)

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  • 5 months later...

When I saw 118 replies to this thread, I just had to check it out. The one thing that stuck out was Barry Thomas's comment about being into swords for 45 years! Mate, it's been at least half a century, right? I'm not that much older than you!

 

As for polishes and quality of polishes, it took several trips to Japan to actually "see" and handle the quality of polishes one sees over there in museums and private collections. It's amazing! As was pointed out here, sometimes a lesser quality polish will at least "save" a lesser quality blade. Most important is that if something is beyond a polisher's level, he should admit to that and recommend the work to be sent to a more qualified polisher. Tanobe san has given that advice a number of times saying, only so-and-so is qualified to polish a particular sword. Prayer also helps! Looking back over the years, I've only been disappointed a very few times with a polish. Call it luck, whatever...or faith in who is placing the sword into the hands of a polisher.

 

Ron H.

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First, congratulations on what looks like a total turn-around for your blade. Have to admit, I've been watching this thread closely for a while as I'm considering something similar for one of my swords, which appears in only slightly better condition than your original pics. I can't wait to see pictures of it when it's totally finished to your satisfaction.

 

As someone who happens to have inherited two swords and is fairly new to the world of sword collecting in general I did my share of research, and have to sit on the fence in the "amateur American" vs. "trained Japanese" polish. Yes, I believe it is possible to get an acceptable job done in the states for a reasonable price; let's face it, if they were abominable, they'd quickly be out of customers. I would love to send both of my blades to Japan to be handled by a true artist, but I can barely afford to get one done in any country.

Of course, then you run into the trust/language barrier. Someone said they like to get to know the person who will be handling their blade. I'd love to get to know them that way myself, however, I don't speak or read Japanese at all, nor can I afford to go to Japan. I may not be able to fly to New York or some other state either, but at least I can communicate clearly (and hopefully quickly) with an English-speaking polisher.

 

But then there's the other side of the coin. If it's worth getting polished, it's worth doing it right. A whole lot of time, effort and artistry went into creating the blade in the first place. Most of the swords discussed on these boards have been around for several centuries and lovingly cared for. Or at least adequately cared for. And a whole lot of time and effort and artistry will go into preserving them and bringing out their true beauty. As someone else pointed out, these swords can not be replaced. The concept of "original knowledge" cropped up in a previous post and I couldn't help but laugh at that idea; it inspired some pretty entertaining words in my mind, but I'll try to lay it out in a civil manner.

No one taught Wilbur and Orville Wright to fly, true. However, they would not have survived their first dog-fight or made the Thunderbirds. Yes, there is a valid argument for original knowledge, but I want a Rembrandt, not a finger-painting when it comes to my sword and the amount of money and time I'm going to shell out for it.

 

Then there's the matter of elitism. Of course this is an elitist hobby. You're taking a very specialized hobby (that of sword collecting) and narrowing the field even more by specifying Japanese swords and arms, then still further narrowing it by basically ignoring most WWII era and later blades. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but it does pretty much fit the definition of elite; the best. The problem is there are quite a few of us "accidental elitists" who had a blade just fall in their lap. Anyone – no matter if they're the curator of an arms museum or Joe Blow down the street who bought his blade at a flea market and uses it to clear the cane fields – anyone who takes the time to come to these message boards and learn as much as they can should get a pat on the back. Learning has to start somewhere, and writing off the people on these boards who have a true passion for Nihonto and have taken the time and effort to become truly knowledgeable about this subject because you think they're "elitist" is just plain silly.

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As someone who happens to have inherited two swords and is fairly new to the world of sword collecting in general I did my share of research, and have to sit on the fence in the "amateur American" vs. "trained Japanese" polish. Yes, I believe it is possible to get an acceptable job done in the states for a reasonable price; let's face it, if they were abominable, they'd quickly be out of customers.

 

You assume that these customers can appreciate the nuances of what constitutes a poor, good, and better polish. I assure you there are few who can in the West. The fact that these amateurs have the work they do is proof of this as anyone who does understand what a skilled polish is and that you can not teach yourself this craft avoids them like the plague. Some are better than others but none that I am aware of does as good a job as those I am familiar with in Japan and most do a true disservice to the blades. Just because the rust is gone and the blade is shiny does not mean it has not been ruined.

 

I would love to send both of my blades to Japan to be handled by a true artist, but I can barely afford to get one done in any country.

Of course, then you run into the trust/language barrier. Someone said they like to get to know the person who will be handling their blade. I'd love to get to know them that way myself, however, I don't speak or read Japanese at all, nor can I afford to go to Japan. I may not be able to fly to New York or some other state either, but at least I can communicate clearly (and hopefully quickly) with an English-speaking polisher.

 

This is the sad truth that fuels the continuing march of blades into amateur hands:people without the means to properly restore them think nothing of taking the cheap way out. Most don't realize that the most expensive polish is the cheap one.

 

One does not need to speak Japanese, go to Japan, etc. All you need to do is locate a competent and experienced agent. There are several people doing this that can be trusted to properly take care of the process. And they speak English.

 

Please think about this. It would be nice to see you off the fence and on the side of proper preservation. Remember- doing nothing but oiling the blade costs even less than an amateur and will do no harm to the blade. Perhaps the next owner will be able to properly restore it.....

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