Furusato Tanto

Furusato (故郷, pronounced “foo-roo-sah-toe”) means home place or hometown and contains the ideas of being rooted or grounded wherever one may sojourn, and a confidence and longing for return. This tanto has a simple and elegant form with a natural and humble mounting that reflects the rustic satoyama lifestyle and suits the aesthetics of the way of tea.

This tanto was forged from a reclaimed plowshare found on a homestead. The amount of wear was far beyond most plowshares from the previous century and it appeared to have a makeshift adaptation to continue using it long after most are replaced.

The wood was a discarded scrap that was just barely large enough for this project and comes from the Congo/Zaire. The block of wood sat for several years waiting for the right blade to make the best and most use of it. This precious dark chocolate coloured hardwood is locally called Tshikalakala or Dikela, meaning turn around or circle back, and this particular piece has a slightly curving grain that follows the line of the saya. In some ways this tanto also represents a return to the roots of my current journey of bladesmithing, sharing several general design elements with the original kotanto, but incorporating many nuances of refinement and skills learned through the years that separate them.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

The blade began as a reclaimed plowshare and was hand forged in a charcoal fire, smoothed with files and a sen scraper, differentially hardened using traditional water quench yaki-ire, and polished by hand with natural Japanese water stones in a process requiring about fourteen different stones.

One of the most technical challenges of this project was creating the ireko saya (入れ子鞘, nesting scabbard) lining within the tight constraints offered by the original block of wood. A refined detail that is normally hidden from view, the ireko saya protects the blade from the hardwood. A focal point for the koshirae is the unique antler crown kurikata which is reminiscent of a mushroom contrasting against the dark wood of a tree.

When difficulties come, I remember my home place…Someday I shall fulfill my task. And, then, return to my home place. To the green mountains and clear rivers of my home. Takano Tatsuyuki, Furusato

Materials for the wabisabi aikuchi style koshirae mounting include Tshikalakala (Wenge) wood for the kataki tsuka and saya, Hounoki (Japanese Magnolia) wood and cow horn for the ireko saya, copper bus bar for the habaki, buffalo horn for the mekugi, and pieces of shed antler for the kurikata and tsunakuchi. The tsuka and saya are finished in a thin layer of kijiro fukiurushi (wiped lacquer) made from natural source urushi lacquer.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques

Blade has a hira-zukuri profile, slight indication of hada or surface artifacts, suguha hamon, and an iori mune. The blade is 9″ long, overall length is just over 13″, and the overall length of the koshirae is just under 15.5″. Accompanied by a handsewn reclaimed silk obi storage bag. Pairs excellently with Yakisugi Antler Tanto Kake display stand.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa: 7 sun 3 bu 5 rin (227mm)
元幅 Motohaba: 7 bu (21.25mm)
重ね/元重 Motokasane: 2 bu (6mm)
反り Sori: uchizori
中心/茎 Nakago: 3 sun 2 bu 3 rin (98mm)
柄長 Tsuka: 3 sun 7 rin (93mm)
拵全長 Koshirae: 12 sun 9 bu 5 rin (392mm)

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: aikuchi, issaku

Material: Reclaimed plowshare steel, copper bus bar, shed antler, buffalo horn, cow horn, Hounoki wood, Tshikalakala wood, natural urushi


This piece is available online.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques


Process Highlights

scroll down or jump to the sections below:

Blade
Habaki
Tsuka
Saya
Polishing
Assembly


Forging the Blade

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The raw material for this blade spent most of the last century on a former homestead.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The original location of the plowshare, this one was particularly old and worn compared to others.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A large portion of the steel was used for another blade, this was the piece cut from half of the left side.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Slowly drying the clay for yaki-ire over the embers in the charcoal forge.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
After yaki-ire, an #80 grit Sun Tiger stone reveals the approximate hamon as the geometry is set.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Next a #120 grit stone removes the deep scratches from the #80 stone and refines the shape.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A #180 grit waterstone removes all the scratches of rough shaping, the edge is almost at its final geometry.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A #220 grit waterstone brings the edge right to zero thickness (but not quite “sharp”). The rest of the polishing will be done after making the fittings, handle, and scabbard.

Habaki

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Habaki forged to shape in preparation for silver soldering in the charcoal forge.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The habaki is textured with files and patinated using a blend of copper salts similar to rokusho.

Ireko Saya

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A two part black buffalo horn (ura) and blond cow horn (omote) lock keeps the two halves aligned when joined.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The omote half contains the edge entirely and has an oil collecting resevoir at the tip.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The ura half does not contain the edge, keeping it entirely in the omote half.

Kataki Tsuka & Saya

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The hardwood block is split and carved out to fit the ireko saya and the tang and then rejoined using sokui (rice paste glue). This wood is very hard on tools and they require frequent sharpening.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Nori-urushi, a mixture of natural urushi lacquer and sokui is used to reinforce certain areas, particularly the koiguchi where the wood is thinner.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Mixing the urushi and sokui along with a bit of extra water to help it cure inside the joint.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
It can take at least a month to fully cure nori-urushi inside a wood joint, more time is better for strength.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
After the nori-urushi is fully cured the tsuka and saya are shaped with kanna and smoothed with fine rasps and the horn mekugi peg is fitted.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
An antler crown and tip are used to form a very organic kurikata (栗形, a cord loop) and obidome (帯留, “belt stop”), usually called kaerizuno (返角, “turn-back horn”).
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The antler kurikata is fit to the saya using a carved sliding dovetail, with no room to spare!
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The kurikata slides in from one side and then tightens as it reaches the final position.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The obidome has a tenon that fits into a mortise carved in the saya, again carved right to the ireko saya.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The obidome/kaerizuno will be attached with sokui after the saya is lacquered.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
In preparation for lacquering, the open grain is cleared of dust using a stiff brush.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Ready for fukiurushi, the thin layer of wiped on urushi will preserve the interesting surface texture of the wood.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
After the lacquer has cured the surface has become a rich, glossy dark chocolate colour.

Polishing

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Once all the parts are made and fitted the blade can be taken through the final polishing stages using Japanese waterstones. Shown here is a #300 grit Monotaro waterstone.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Beginning with the natural #700 to remove the last of the arato/kongo-do stone scratches.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The natural binsui-do is the last stone to make subtle changes in refining the shape of the blade.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A #1000 synthetic is used steeply diagonally or almost lengthwise to remove the scratches from this particular binsui.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Natural kaisei-do is used lengthwise or almost lengthwise to remove the #1000 scratches.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Chu-nagura-do more clearly defining the hamon. From this stone onward the scratch direction is always lengthwise.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A white komanagura-do increases the polish level of the ha noticeably.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Suita uchigumori-do is used to bring out the final details of the steel, focusing more time and pressure in the area of the transition between ha and ji. Working with uchigumori-do is a very time and energy intensive stage.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Hazuya and jizuya fingerstones made from flakes of uchigumori-do and narutaki-do koppa attached to washi paper with natural urushi are used to even the surface and add depth. This stage is very time consuming as well.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Boiling water is poured over the steel to heat it up. The water is quickly dried off and sashikomi nugui made from finely ground satetsu (iron sand) and clove oil is applied.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The fine surface grain of the steel brought out by the uchigumori stone throws multiple colours in sunlight.

Final Assembly

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
A look at all the koshirae parts before assembly
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Antler kurikata and obidome attached using sokui and tapped into place with a small mallet.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Inserting the ireko saya into the koshirae.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
View of the hamon on the omote (front/display side) in angled light.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
View of the hamon on the ura (back/private side) in angled light.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Completed aikuchi koshirae.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Furusato tanto forged from reclaimed antique steel on Vancouver Island, Canada.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
The thick yoroidoshi style spine with peaked iori mune.
Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques
Macro detail of the interesting texture of the Tshikalakala wood pores.

Island Blacksmith: Hand forged tanto made from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques


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

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