Field Kotanto with Antique Fittings

The core of this project is a charcoal-forged blade, water quenched with clay and sharpened with waterstones, an outdoor knife that has the foundation of the Japanese sword. The aikuchi mounting is in eclectic kura style and includes antique fittings made for swords centuries ago.

Satoyama are the managed forest areas that border the cultivated fields and the mountain wilds in Japan. Historically they provided soil nutrients, firewood, edible plants, mushrooms, fish, and game, and supported many local industries and crafts such as farming, timber construction, and charcoal making. The interaction of forest, arable land, wetlands, and streams are an important component of the satoyama landscape.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

The subtle and rustic appearance of hammer marks on the blade and hand-carved wooden handle finished with natural urushi lacquer made from tree sap—reminiscent of hand-hewn beams in a kominka farm house that are darkened by years of smoke drifting up from the irori hearth. A hand crafted tool for adventure that would be very much at home in the field, forest, or mountain landscape.

Forged from an antique plowshare, the blade profile of the field style kotanto is based on a kamakura sword and has more pronounced belly with slight drop point. The temper of this high carbon steel blade has been left relatively hard in order to hold a keen edge for tasks such as wood carving and hand work. This particular combination of steel and heat treatment is well suited to users who require a good edge and are willing to take care of it.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

The tang is constructed in a similar manner to a Japanese sword requiring only a single bamboo peg to hold the knife assembly together. In addition to the sense of beautiful simplicity, this design allows the knife to be taken apart for cleaning, polishing, detailed cutting tasks, or major resharpening work.

The handle and scabbard are carved from local magnolia and finished with traditional fukiurushi lacquer built up in multiple layers to darken and deepen the look of the wood. The removable peg is carved from susudake, a piece of bamboo that served for a century or more as part of the ceiling or roof in a kominka, darkened and hardened by decades of smoke wafting up from the irori hearth.

Along with the hand forged copper guard, three antique Edo period sword fittings are incorporated into the mounting of this knife—the textured copper or shakudo ferrule (made from an old fuchi), shakudo kashira (pommel, carved with wisteria and overlaid with gold), and brass koiguchi (scabbard mouth).

The blade is just under 4.5″ long with an overall length of just over 8.5″ and 9.75″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is about 5mm thick.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 112mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 5mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 26mm
反り Sori (curve): 0.5mm with slight drop point
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 93mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 106mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 252mm

形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, slight iori-mune
刃文 Hamon (edge pattern): suguha
帽子/鋩子 Boshi (tip pattern): ko-maru
中心/茎 Nakago (tang): futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana
銘 Mei (signature): mumei (unsigned)
拵 Koshirae (mounting): satoyama kura style aikuchi, issaku (sole authorship) plus 3 antique parts

Materials: antique plowshare steel, Magnolia, antique fittings, reclaimed copper, natural urushi lacquer, susudake Bamboo

This piece is in a private collection in Texas.


Process

This blade was forged and underwent yaki-ire at the museum forge.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
Forged from a small rectangular scrap of antique plowshare steel, taken next to the mounting hole at top right.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
Shaped with an anvil, hand hammer, and charcoal forge.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
Hardened using a natural charcoal, clay, and water yaki-ire technique.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
After yaki-ire. The clay coating has caused the blade to remain tough and the edge to become hard.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
Magnolia wood is split in half and carved to fit the tang precisely. The finished exterior is coated with several thin layers of natural urushi lacquer.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
All parts ready for final assembly. The fuchi has lost its tenjo-gane and serves as a simple ferrule.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
Certain pressure-fit parts will be fixed in place with natural nikawa hide glue.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.

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