Uzumaki Kotanto

Uzumaki means a spiral or whirlpool shape and refers to both the triple wave whirlpool shape of the bronze accent around the mekugi and the spiraling wrap of the gangi-maki handle. It also alludes to the cyclical nature of the history and journey of usefulness of the many materials reclaimed for its creation.

This tanto consists of sixteen individual parts that began as twenty two pieces, crafted from reclaimed items as diverse as Model T fender brackets from the forest and wrought iron salvaged from the bottom of the sea.

Materials for the koshirae include Model T fender brackets for the fuchi and kashira, a wrought iron timber bridge spike for the tsuba, a brass door plate for the seppa, and the double wrapping is reclaimed garment leather over shikagawa rawhide. The habaki was a heavy duty copper bus bar and the mekugi collar is a component of some reclaimed vintage handmade bronze jewelery from the Congo, smelted with copper from a mine in Katanga province.

The construction of the fuchi and kashira are based on a higo style that used internal tapers and mechanical joints rather than solder for locking the parts together. The surface of the wrought iron tsuba has been patinated with several courses of controlled rusting, burnishing with antler, and boiling in tea to convert the red oxide to black iron oxide. It is finished by sealing with a thin layer of natural urushi lacquer.

The saya is coated with a worn mokume-egaki or negoro style finish of traditional urushi lacquer. Several layers of natural and then black are built up and then selectively polished away before the final fukiurushi finish to create the feeling of a piece that has been used and cared for over many years. The wrought iron for the kurikata was salvaged from the sea and shows layering and tekkotsu texture. The buffalo horn for the koiguchi and kojiri was reclaimed from Canadian tourist trinkets from the 1980’s and the inside face of the koiguchi has bronze dust highlights embedded in the urushi surface.

From start to finish, the mountings for this small tanto were created with hand tools using traditional techniques.

Forged from a worn harrow tooth at an outdoor arts demonstration in Qualicum Beach, the blade was shaped with files and polished by hand with water stones at various demonstrations and events in the area. Blade construction is muku with a shobu-zukuri profile and a low iori mune. The blade is just under 5.5″ long, overall length is just under 10″, and the overall length when sheathed is just over 11″.

Specifications

Nagasa: 4 sun 6 bu (136mm)
Motohaba: 8 bu 2 rin (24.5mm)
Motokasane: 1 bu 8 rin (5.5mm)
Nakago: 2 sun 8 rin (63mm)

Construction: shobu-zukuri, iori-mune
Sori: straight/very slight uchizori
Hamon: suguha, hitatsura
Nakago: futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana, signed near the tip
Mei: hot stamped Crossed Heart logo
Koshirae: chisagatana, issaku

Material: Reclaimed harrow tooth steel, copper bus bar, wrought iron bridge spikes, Model T fender brackets, brass door plate, Nootka Cypress, shikagawa, reclaimed garment leather, red Bamboo chopstick, reclaimed buffalo horn, vintage Congolese bronze jewelery, urushi

This piece is in a private collection in Florida.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials


Process

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Setting the shobu-zukuri style bevels after forging the rough shape (outdoor demo, 2013).
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Forming the habaki (blade collar) from a reclaimed copper bus bar.

Kashira

The kashira contributes to balance and protects the end of the handle from damage. In larger swords it also serves to contain the wood core of the tsuka against splitting from the back. This kashira was made from steel harvested from a Model T fender bracket. Because of the type of wrapping that will be used for the handle, it is held in place by a combination of kusune (pine resin glue) and steel clips rather than by ito wrapped through shitodome ana.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The bracket from a Model T fender from the forest.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Cut off with a cold chisel.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Hot chiseled to a rough oval shape and hot punched through a ring to start the rounding process.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The view from the other side.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Hot punched through a slightly smaller opening, this time an old sledge hammer eye with a nice shape to it.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The domed shape at this point. It will go one more time through a slightly smaller hammer eye using a hardwood punch.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Filing off most of the excess save for the two tabs.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The tabs are forged and filed to shape and the surface filed, smoothed, and then hammer textured before heat bluing in the forge.

Fuchi

The fuchi is an important part of the strength and integrity of the tsuka, encircling the front of the handle where the stress from the tang is greatest, it helps prevent the wood core from splitting. This fuchi is made mainly from steel harvested from a Model T fender bracket. Its construction is similar to the Higo style in that the copper tenjo gane is forged in physically rather than soldered to the sleeve. The band was created by forging a screw hole in the bracket to stretch it to the size of the handle.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Another bracket from the Model T fender from the forest.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The last screw hole is cut off with a cold chisel, this little bit will become the sleeve around the handle.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Second round of forging, using a tapered punch to spread and then forge against to create a torus shape.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Third round of forging, it has the correct cylinder shape and just needs to be stretched out evenly.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Fifth round and getting close, now it is forged on the tip of the anvil horn. Note the kashira for size reference.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Seventh round, perhaps, this is the final size and shape, it will be filed inside and out to even things up.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
A reclaimed copper bus bar is annealed in the forge. The lovely colours are naturally occurring oxides from the heating and water cooling.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Cold chiseling before rough filing the profile.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Cold chiseling the nakago-ana.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The edge is tapered to match the taper inside the sleeve and carefully filed down until it sits just below the lip.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The lip is peened down over the rim of the tenjo gane, locking it in place against the tapered inside of the sleeve.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The rim is filed level and the nakago ana opened up to its final size and shape.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The outside of the sleeve is given its final shape by filing.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Before and after.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After drawfiling smooth, a tiny ball peen is used to texture the surface of the steel. It will be heat blued and then given a coat of tung oil or ibota wax to stabilize the surface.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The fuchi kashira pair ready to install on the tsuka.

Seppa

Seppa are used as spacers or washers between components of the koshirae. Most often next to the habaki, but also on the other side of the tsuba. The basic construction is simply a flat sheet of copper, silver, or an alloy, an opening slightly larger than the tang, and is shaped to match the finished fuchi and saya outline. They may be thin or thick, and can have fileworked or chiseled rims. The final fit to the tang is achieved by using a punch to push out four lobes of metal in the four corners and then filing to adjust slightly.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The seppa are cold chiseled and then filed from a sheet of brass reclaimed from a door push plate. This tanto will have two, one for each side of the tsuba. Note the shape of the nakago ana before fitting.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The seppa after fitting. They will be given a final polish at the time of assembly.

Tsuba

Tsuba for tanto are usually either non-existant or are very small. This leaves little room for embellishment so the focus is often on the rim, or the material itself. They can be made from either ferrous or non-ferrous metals, but should have seki-gane (non-ferrous spacers) to keep them from contact with the tang if they are made from iron or steel. This tsuba is made from wrought iron, an old form of bloomery iron produced up until about a hundred years ago. This is a small scrap off the end of a timber bridge spike that came from the forest.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
This is the bit before starting, it was a gift from John McGeachy, a fellow blacksmith, who cut it off as part of a test to see how well the old iron would forge weld where it had cracked.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
A couple of rounds of forging spreads it to about a fourth the thickness and four times the area.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
These lovely layers that are revealed by the fire are the edge look I am after for the finished tsuba. They are called tekkotsu (steel ribs).
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The nakago ana is partially drilled, then cold chiseled and filed to shape. A bevel is removed by cold chiseling to allow the seki-gane to lock on.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The outside is cold chiseled and filed roughly to shape.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Once the final shape is filed, drawfiled, and planished, the tsuba soaks in a fire with a strong air blast to reveal its inner workings again. The high heat and oxidization reveal the tekkotsu and a combination of wire brushing and dipping quickly into water removes the scale while it is being heated. This heating process is known as yakite or yakinamashi.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After the fire, any remaining scale, seen here as dark stripes, is removed by soaking in a weak solution of vinegar and hot water.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The omote side showing those lovely layers that have been in there all along in the iron.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Copper seki-gane hammered into place, round two of the rust patina. Hung above warmed vinegar in a mostly closed jar, another layer of new red rust begins to form.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After several hours in the jar and a couple rounds of removing the flake rust with an antler tip, the patina begins to look like older rust.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After burnishing with the antler tip, a traditional way to gently restore rusted iron pieces without damaging the patina.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After boiling in tea to darken the surface. The tannins in tea react with the red iron oxide to form more stable black iron oxide. This is a similar finish to traditional cast iron kettles, tetsubin.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
A layer of fukiurushi, urushi lacquer applied and wiped off, reacts with any remaining red iron oxide to create black iron oxide and helps to seal the surface.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
A final layer of urushi brushed on very thinly to give some of the warmer tones of raw urushi and add some shine to the surface.

Tsuka

Tsuka are split and carved to fit precisely around the nakago and then glued back together with sokui (rice paste glue). Then the outside is carved, taking into account the size of the fittings and the thickness of the wrappings. This one is made from a scrap of Nootka Cypress.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Bound with leather and wedged overnight to dry. The leather gives a nice even pressure even when the starting block is not square and true.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The fuchi is used as a starting point and the mouth is carved down to fit it.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The kashira sets the measurement for the end of the handle and wood is removed between the two.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
After some calculation adding the thickness of the fuchi and kashira and subtracting the thickness of the rawhide and leather wrap, the excess is removed. This is the ura so a double layer of rawhide will rest here in a style of maedare gise that countersinks both ends of the rawhide.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The omote, showing the tsukigata carved oversize to accommodate the layers of wrapping that will go over it. Tsukigata were originally designed to make room for the end knots to sit lower for standard wrapped handle styles, however they are often included on the omote side of unwrapped handles as well. My theory is that they serve as a reference point for the position of the handle and direction of the blade by feel. On a tanto length handle, the fourth finger sits right in the groove on the cross draw.

Tsukamaki

There are generally two components to wrapping a handle, the first being the shikagawa (rawhide) or samegawa (ray skin) layer which adds incredible stiffness and resilience to the tsuka, and the second an optional leather or cord wrapping to add padding, grip, and compression to the tsuka. When possible, the shikagawa or samegawa will fit part way under the fuchi for extra strength and integrity, but in this case stops at the boundary of the leather wrap to allow the rolled leather to sit in the groove. The style of wrapping is called gangi maki, a spiral of leather with a rolled front edge wraps from fuchi to kashira beginning and ending on the ura side. The kanji for gangi means a shape like steps, or the terraced shoreline near a seaport.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The double channel style maedare gise allows the shikagawa to sit flush with itself on both ends of the crossover. Here the rawhide has been soaked and bound until dried in the exact shape of the tsuka.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
When dry, it is removed, glued on with sokui, and bound again to dry in place overnight. Any bulges or inconsistencies in the surface are pared off with a chisel and then, because shikagawa is much smoother than samegawa, it is scored all over with small cuts to give a better tooth for the glue to bind to.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
A paper pattern determines the exact shape of the wrap, this leather is scrap from a reclaimed vest.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The leather is pasted with sokui (rice glue) and rolled as it is wrapped tightly around the rawhide. The ura side showing the initial crossover and the final travelling off under the kashira clip.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The omote showing the rim where the kashira clip will grip. The mekugi ana was drilled and adjusted before applying the leather wrapping.

Shaping the Saya

The outside work is carried out using chisels, planes, and occasionally coarse files. The block is first squared up and then taken down to the rough dimensions. The shape of the koi-guchi (saya opening) is marked and carved and then the rest of the block is chiseled down to meet it. A plane is used to smooth and true up the surface and final sanding is done with tokusa (horsetail plant, equisetum hyemale, 砥草, “to” as in togi) glued to wooden blocks with sokui (rice paste glue).

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
After the sokui is dry, the block is squared up to the blade opening using a tracing of the seppa in place on the tang as a template.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A chisel or knife is used to carve the koiguchi down to meet the outline.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Working with Nootka Cypress is a lovely experience. It carves well, planes smoothly, feels like silk, smells like spice, and the shavings look like spun gold.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The rest of the saya is planed down, at first roughly to eight sides.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The corners are removed repeatedly until the final shape is achieved.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The koiguchi, shaped and marked for carving the shoulder to fit the horn reinforcement.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Tokusa sanding blocks can be made in all sizes and shapes. Tokusa gives a finish that is a cross between fine sanding and burnishing, but does not leave grit as sandpaper can.

Horn Koiguchi

Often horn or metal reinforcements are added to the koiguchi to counteract the pressure of the habaki. The method for the koiguchi is to carve away enough wood for the horn or metal to sit in its place. The habaki is used as a rough guide for making the opening in the horn, a kiri used to drill holes and then files to create the shape of the guchi. Horn is tough but not as hard as bone or metal. It can be carved with chisels or knives and has a grain-like structure to it. Depending on the design, sokui (rice glue) or kusune (pine resin glue), or a mixture of sokui and urushi (lacquer) is used to fix it in place.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
In the 80’s every tourist stop gas station gift shop had these pairs of buffalo (or possibly even bison) horns mounted on hardwood bases and incised with maple leaves and the word, “Canada”. This pair came from a secondhand shop.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The wood is carved away where the horn koiguchi will sit, this is a patience building activity.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The opening is carefully filed until it just slips over the wooden shoulder on the saya.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A chisel and scraper are used to dish the horn slightly down to meet the edge of the wood, ensuring a tight fit at the mouth.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Rough shaped using the seppa and the saya to trace the outline on each side.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The recycled souvenir koiguchi ready for polishing and installation with an urushi and rice glue mixture.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Koiguchi sitting in place, polished inside, and ready for some final shaping and sanding outside.

Horn Kojiri

Often horn or metal reinforcements are added to the end of the saya to protect from bumps and dings. Horn is tough but not as hard as bone or metal. It can be carved with chisels or knives and has a grain-like structure to it. Depending on the design, a square tenon or wedge is used in conjunction with sokui (rice glue) or kusune (pine resin glue), or a mixture of sokui and urushi (lacquer) to fix the kojiri in place.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A thicker piece farther up the horn will become the kojiri to protect the end of the saya. Sawed out and filed to approximate shape.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The bamboo pegs give some additional stability against lateral bumps, another method is to use wedged horn or wood tenons.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
My old friend the leather strap doing some tricky clamping overnight.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Kojiri in place, ready for some final rough filing to bring the edge more closely in line with the saya shape.

Wrought Iron Kurikata

A friend of mine dives 50′ down holding his breath, sometimes he brings back old iron he finds in the ocean. This old piece of wrought iron has a nice low-res grain to it.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Here is the chunk of wrought iron as found, you can usually spot wrought/bloomery iron in the wild as it corrodes into a wood grain pattern. Modern mild steel rusts into a cratered moon surface rather than linearly.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Rough forging to shape to get the layers to flow with the top of the finished piece, wrought iron needs to be worked quite a bit hotter than mild steel or it will split along its slag layers.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The opening drilled, cold chiseled, and filed, and then the outside is shaped with a hacksaw and coarse files.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A hacksaw is used to cut the workpiece off the main rod before finishing the other side.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Drawfiling gives a good base surface for the oxidizing process. Using a little chalk on the file helps keep the gummy wrought iron from clogging the teeth and galling the workpiece.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The shape is adjusted slightly by forging and then high heat and strong air blast are used to get the surface to oxidize and reveal the natural grain structure. This process is called yakite or yakinamashi, one case where the smith wants heavy scaling to occur! Between heats it is quickly dipped in water and cleaned with a wire brush to expose new iron to the fire and air, repeating as necessary.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Fresh out of the fire, the grey surface and deep tekkotsu are a nice improvement over the shiny filed surface. It will be soaked in vinegar and water over night to remove the fire scale and then brushed clean.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Because of its tapered shape and slightly curved bottom, the kurikata can be tightly mounted in a keyway in the saya. A fine saw and small chisel are used to create and adjust the channel.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A few taps with a wooden mallet sets the kurikata tightly home as the curved bottom lifts it up into place.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The finished and installed kurikata, formed of wrought iron from the sea. The shapes and lines of this one remind me of the westcoast…

Assembly

As the parts are finished, they are polished, cleaned, given a patina, and coated with ibota wax or tung oil to stabilize and protect their surfaces. The blade is given its final polish and then the tanto is ready for final assembly.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Matsuyani (Pine resin glue) is spread in the kashira, then it is tapped into place with a wooden mallet and heated to activate the resin glue for a final seating. Urushi or nori-urushi are also used for this type of attachment depending on the fit of the parts.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The steel tabs are peened into place and lock into the rim around the tsuka. The fuchi slides into place against the rolled bead of the leather wrapping. An accent collar made from a piece of vintage Tanzanian bronze jewelery is attached to the mekugi-ana with nori-urushi.

Shitaji, Preparing the Foundation

There are two distinct stages to using urushi (traditional Japanese lacquer, made from the sap of a tree). The first stage is to prepare the base material by sealing, filling, and polishing, and the second is to coat with a smooth finishing layer. Urushi is used in several ways to prepare the surface, first by coating and wiping off, known as fukiurushi, and also as an adhesive and gap filler when blended with other materials such as sokui (rice glue) and finely powdered clay and earth.

Each time a layer is added to the foundation, a minimum of one day is required for curing, and then the surface is wet polished and dried before adding the next. The goal is to seal the surface and fill in any low spots so the final layers of urushi goes onto a smooth and even surface.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Using a thin wooden spatula the saya is coated with a thin layer of ki-urushi. After soaking a few minutes it is wiped off with a sturdy cotton cloth. Raw urushi looks like light chocolate milk but it immediately begins to oxidize to a darker and darker colour as it sits out.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
After about four hours the colour is a reddish chocolate. The next day it has cured enough to handle and add the next layer.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
A putty is made from roughly equal parts ki-urushi, and sokui (rice glue), and a double measure of very finely ground clay. In this case the only areas that need this kind of gap filler are along the edges of the horn koiguchi and kojiri and around the kurikata. A thin wooden spatula is used to work it into the gaps and remove the excess.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Two days later, the excess is carefully and sparingly sanded down with wet 400 mesh paper. When fully dry, another layer of fukiurushi is always applied (wiped off with cotton cloth) to saturate the jinoko or sabi layer.

Urushi, The Final Layers

There are several approaches to applying the final layer, depending on the desired finish and the style and skill of the artisan. One is to paint the last layer thicker than the foundation and middle layers and allow the urushi to settle out into a glossy surface. The other is to polish the brushed layer and then apply several coats of fukiurushi followed by a fine oil polish.

Each time a layer is added to the surface, a minimum of one to two days is required for curing, and then the surface is wet polished and dried before adding the next. The saya is placed in a warm and humid place, kept as dust free as possible, to ensure the urushi will cure properly.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Two layers of raw (natural colour) followed by a layer of half natural and half black, and then two layers of black. Each is applied, cured, and wet sanded with 1200 mesh paper. During the process, the black is selectively sanded through to reveal the natural urushi layers in areas of natural wear.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
The final layer of black is wet polished with charcoal and 1200 mesh paper.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials
Several coats of black fukiurushi are applied to the saya and allowed to cure in the furo for a day or two each. In the bright direct sunlight, the worn and cared for negoro inspired look is quite apparent, but under normal viewing conditions the surface is far more subtle and has a dark chocolate colour and tortoise shell appearance. The finishing touch will be a thin coat of 100% pure tung oil.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged reclaimed knives made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
The carved top of the bamboo mekugi is lacquered and sits just below the surface of the uzumaki accent.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged kotanto made from reclaimed and natural materials

3.03022 cm
= 0.1 shaku(尺)
= 1 sun(寸)
= 10 bu(分)
= 100 rin(厘)

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