The Kuromatsu tanto with koshirae is named for a species of Black Pine (黒松) that grows near the seaside in Japan. The bark changes from grey to black as the tree matures and ages, symbolized by the colour and contrast of the smoother texture of the blade with the leathery texture of the darker scabbard.
Designed around the concept of an exploration in texture and form along with Kuromon Aikuchi Tanto, this piece has roots in ancient samurai aesthetics and inspiration from the natural world. Mounted in a gentleman’s koshirae with slim styling and the lines of an older piece, it suggests certain elements of tachi mountings.
One of the elements of traditional Japanese aesthetics includes the appreciation for the natural process of wear and decay. Historically, this led to the creation of new items that appeared to be aged or rugged and had elements of imperfection and asymmetry, hearkening back to ages past and honouring materials and objects that bear the marks of longevity.
This tanto is forged from reclaimed shear steel from a horse-drawn carriage leaf spring, housed in a streamlined aikuchi koshirae crafted entirely with hand tools from local Cypress driftwood, and finished with black ishimeji style urushi lacquer. The blade was hand forged in a charcoal fire, shaped with files, differentially hardened using traditional water quench yaki-ire, and polished by hand with water stones.
In keeping with the textural theme, the unusual blade polishing style reveals a strongly textured hada with remnants of the original weathered surface, revealing the blistery internal texture and flowing layers of the forge-welded shear steel. The mostly suguha hamon has a mountain peak as well as some interesting external activity including tobiyaki.
The handle and scabbard are hand carved from local Nootka Cypress driftwood, habaki forged from copper bus bar, and silver scrap combined with a forged copper washer and bamboo for the mekugi. The habaki was finished with a texture hammer rather than filed to final shape. From start to finish, the mountings for this tanto were created with hand tools using traditional techniques.
The exterior is finished with a leather textured natural urushi lacquer surface made with the crushed iron oxide reclaimed from discarded kairo, Japanese hand warmer packs. The copper and silver mekugi is shaped like a stylized iron kugikakushi (釘隠), a large nail cover found on a traditional castle door or gate, and is a symbol of protection.
Blade construction is muku with a hira-zukuri profile and an iori mune. Though only recently mounted, it is the first full sized tanto I forged as well as the first from shear steel. The blade is approximately 8.25″ long, overall length is around 13.25″, and the overall length when sheathed is about 14.5″. Accompanied by handmade reclaimed silk obi storage bag, and a full colour 22 page hardcover photo book documenting the process.
長さ/刃長 Nagasa: 6 sun 8 bu 8 rin (208.5mm)
元幅 Motohaba: 8 bu 7 rin (26.5mm)
重ね/元重 Motokasane: 1 bu 8 rin (5.5mm)
反り Sori: uchizori
中心/茎 Nakago: 3 sun 3 bu 5 rin (101.5mm)
柄長 Tsuka: 3 sun 7 bu (112mm)
拵全長 Koshirae: 1 shaku 2 sun 1 bu 4 rin (368mm)
形 Katachi: hira-zukuri, iori-mune
刃文 Hamon: ko-notare with mountain peak becoming hoso-suguha, tobiyaki
帽子/鋩子 Boshi: ko-maru
中心/茎 Nakago: futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana, signed near the tip
銘 Mei: hot stamped katabami-ken kamon
拵 Koshirae: ishimeji aikuchi
Materials: Century-and-a-half-old horse carriage spring shear steel, copper electrical bus bar, silver scrap from local miners in the Congo in the ’80s, copper lightning rod cable, driftwood Nootka Cypress, iron oxide from reacted kairo, natural urushi lacquer, braided silk scroll cord
This piece is in a private collection in Alberta.
= 0.1 shaku（尺）
= 1 sun（寸）
= 10 bu（分）
= 100 rin（厘）