The First of Its Kind – Walnut Kotanto

Designed in collaboration with a Japanese collector, this piece represents the foundations of my current work in two ways. One is that it has been forged and shaped from entirely reclaimed materials, down to the smallest part, and the other is that it is mounted in the traditional Japanese manner using only a single bamboo peg to create a clean mechanical connection that holds the whole knife together.

There is plenty of room for improvement when compared with my current works, but is an accurate representation of where I have come from in terms of research, understanding, and practice in implementing elements of traditional Japanese design and craftsmanship in my fusion style works.

Though the prefix “ko” can be used in many contexts, I am coining the term “kotanto” (and this knife has since become the father of all kotanto) to refer to blades that are slightly shorter than most small tanto but have the blade depth of a larger tanto, almost as if the tip of a full sized tanto has been cut off and made into a small knife.

The mounting style is known as aikuchi but has some of the smooth lines and simple finish of a kaiken tanto. A scabbard and handle of walnut wood, red bamboo, and slightly aged copper round out the warm color palette. The wood has been burnished smooth (and was left unfinished for the first two photos, but) then coated with 100% pure tung oil for a beautiful, deep, natural finish.

The blade was hand forged from a reclaimed harrow tooth and shaped mainly by hand using files and shaping stones. Blade construction is muku. The copper fittings are forged, shaped, and finished by hand (rather than cast, as with most modern reproductions), and the saya and handle are carved with knives and chisels to accept the blade and tang. The blade is 4.5″ long and the overall length is about 10.5″.

Material: Reclaimed harrow tooth steel, reclaimed copper, reclaimed walnut, reclaimed red bamboo from Japan

This piece is in a private collection in Texas.

Vancouver Island Blacksmith: Hand forged knives

Vancouver Island Blacksmith: Hand forged knives

Vancouver Island Blacksmith: Hand forged knives

Vancouver Island Blacksmith: Hand forged knives

2015 UPDATE: I wonder if it is possible that this humble tanto koshirae could have been part of the inspiration for Takayuki Takeya~san’s design work for the samurai stormtrooper model (see the more recent photo below with orange silk sageo cord for the look). I certainly hope so!

Vancouver Island Blacksmith: Hand forged knives

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