Yozakura Tanto

The nightime viewing of cherry blossoms by moonlight is cherished for the unique perspective and focus it brings to the experience. The dark tones of the sky and the gentle light of the moon provide subtle variations in colour, texture, and detail that cannot be fully appreciated by day.

Though this piece is playful in its combination of materials and colours, it is also subtle and refined, evoking the feeling of a familiar and treasured object. A single stylized sakura petal graces the copper fuchi, a reminder that even a single petal falling to the ground does not go unnoticed and is not without significance.

One of the elements of traditional Japanese aesthetics includes the appreciation for the natural process of wear, decay, and patina. Historically, this was expressed in the use of materials that bear the marks of longevity and even the creation of new objects that appeared to be aged, rugged, or bearing certain types of imperfection.

This kotanto is made from reclaimed shear steel from a horse-drawn carriage leaf spring and housed in a subdued eclectic aikuchi koshirae. 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 to reveal a sweeping suguha hamon with a sharp tsukiage turn back.

Local Nootka Cypress forms the core for the handle and scabbard, and dark-chocolate coloured scraps of Wenge wood were carved to form the mekugi (peg) and kashira (pommel) in the style of keito kashira 圭頭. The handle was spiral wrapped in samegawa, lacquered with multiple layers, and then polished to reveal the unique natural pattern. kurodamenuri (tamenuri)

A stone textured surface created with natural urushi lacquer and crushed iron oxide reclaimed from discarded kairo (hand warmer packs) gives a crimson-rust appearance to the scabbard. The habaki, fuchi, and koiguchi were forged from copper scrap and simmered in a niage bath to give them a rich rose-plum copper oxide patina.

Blade construction is muku with a hira-zukuri profile and iori mune. The blade is approximately 5.25″ long, overall length is around 9.5″, and the overall length when sheathed is about 11.25″. Accompanied by a hand stitched reclaimed silk obi storage bag.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa: 4 sun 4 bu 6 rin (132mm)
元幅 Motohaba: 7 bu 8 rin (23.5mm)
重ね/元重 Motokasane: 2 bu 4 rin (7mm)
反り Sori: uchizori
中心/茎 Nakago: 3 sun 1 bu (93.5mm)
柄長 Tsuka: 3 sun 3 bu 6 rin (102mm)
拵全長 Koshirae: 9 sun 4 bu 7 rin (287mm)

形 Katachi: hira-zukuri, iori-mune
刃文 Hamon: suguha
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: dashizame aikuchi, issaku

Materials: Century-and-a-half-old horse carriage spring shear steel, copper electrical bus bar, copper lightning rod cable, Nootka Cypress, iron oxide from reacted kairo, natural urushi lacquer, samegawa, Wenge

This piece is available online, please inquire for more information.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Process

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The raw material for this blade spent more than the last century as a leaf spring for a horse-drawn carriage. It is somewhat unusual to come across this type of steel and is a rare find. It is a type of steel called “shear steel”, predating mass-produced crucible steel and the Bessemer process. This pile is located on a former homestead of a blacksmith so it has a high proportion of carbon steel, saved for its value and usefulness in making tools and implements.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A comparison of the steel before and after forging, the area between the chalk lines was forged into the blade. The material to the left of the chalked area is rusted too thin to be forged, and the material to the right will become a larger tanto. There is a divot on the spring which can still be identified as a dark line in the tang just behind where the habaki sits.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The clay mixture dried on the blade in preparation for traditional yaki-ire style hardening. The thicker white layer delays cooling and the thinner charcoal-rich layer speeds up cooling, causing the blade to form two types of steel crystal, harder for the edge and tougher for the rest of the blade.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Immediately after hardening, the blade has been heated to critical temperature and then plunged into a water bath to cool. Once the clay is removed it will be tempered slightly to remove some of the stress along the edge.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Using the charcoal forge to silver solder the two parts of the forged copper habaki together. Forming an “oven” from charcoal and keeping the air blast as low as possible helps prevent oxygen from contaminating the joint and provides an even heat.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Using rasps, files, and finally diamond and water stones to shape and polish the finished habaki.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Annealing scrap copper electrical bus bar to begin forging the fuchi. Heating aged copper creates interesting colours as the oxides and salts burn off the surface.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Forging and filing to shape the two parts for the fuchi. Scrap electrical-grade copper is relatively pure and forges well.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Cooling the fuchi after silver soldering the two parts together in the charcoal forge. The oxidized steel wire provides tension as the parts are heated but does not stick to the solder in the event of an excess.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A scrap of Nootka Cypress is split and carved to fit the tang snugly and then glued back together with rice paste to form the core of the handle.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
When dry it is shaped with planes, chisels, and a knife and then carved to fit the copper fuchi.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Two contrasting patterned strips of samegawa are cut, soaked, and wrapped to fit tightly around the wood core until dry, and then glued in place with rice paste and urushi (nori-urushi).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
When dry, they are coated with multiple layers of black and then crimson-tinted urushi lacquer to build up a thick base. After the final layer is cured, polishing stones will be used to remove the high areas and reveal the unique textures and colours within.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
As with the handle, the scabbard is split and carved to fit the blade, then glued back together with rice paste. When dry it is carved to shape using knives, chisels, and hand planes. Note one of the earlier layers of lacquer on the handle at this stage.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The finished wood scabbard is coated with several layers of urushi lacquer and then sprinkled with iron oxide to give it a textured look. The iron oxide comes from reacted hand warmer packs, called kairo.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
After several more coats of urushi the iron oxide has become a stone texture surface known as ishimeji.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A kashira (pommel) is carved from scrap Wenge wood and affixed to the handle by means of a tenon and a strong adhesive made from urushi and rice paste. It is given a brushed, weathered surface to highlight the deep grain and rich colour.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Cord fittings for the koiguchi are forged, filed, and chiseled from various sizes of scrap copper wire.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The copper fittings are cleaned and then simmered in a niage bath to give them a rich rose-plum copper oxide layer.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged nihonto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The fittings are coated with a layer of natural ibota wax to seal the patina before being mounted to the saya and tsuka.

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

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