Stream Kotanto in Shirasaya

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 but is finished in the simple and humble style of farming and foresting tools of 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 reclaimed from antique steel.

Forged from an antique rock blasting drill, the blade profile of the stream style kotanto is based on the tip of a classical yoroidoshi tanto with a takenoko shape and slight drop point. The blade has a traditional swordsmith’s ubuha, a section left unsharpened next to the handle which will disappear over time as the blade is sharpened, indicating its age.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.

The tang is constructed in a similar manner to a Japanese sword requiring only a single hardwood 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, oiling, detailed cutting tasks, or sharpening work.

The shirasaya (storage scabbard) is carved from Japanese hounoki magnolia, finished with a hand plane, polished with tokusa (horsetail grass), and given a natural ibota wax buffing. The removable peg is carved from a scrap of Desert ironwood. The blade is just over 3.5″ long with an overall length of just over 7″, and 7.75″ sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is about 4mm thick.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 90mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 4mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 21mm
反り Sori (curve): uchizori (reverse curve)
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 72mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 90mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 198mm

形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, kaku-mune, with ubuha
刃文 Hamon (edge pattern): suguha
帽子/鋩子 Boshi (tip pattern): maru
中心/茎 Nakago (tang): futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana
銘 Mei (signature): mumei (unsigned)
拵 Koshirae (mounting): shirasaya, issaku (sole authorship)

Materials: reclaimed rock drill steel, Hounoki, Desert ironwood, natural ibota wax

This piece is in a private collection in Florida.


Process

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.
The raw material for this test blade is a section of rock drill used for blasting.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.
After several heats of straightening to reverse the twist. Some of the interesting surface texture will be visible in the finished blade.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.
The bit has a diamond or leaf shaped profile which makes the core very strong.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives reclaimed from antique steel.
The sunobe forged as part of a demonstration at the museum. Note the tip cut and reversed in swordsmith style, the edge is facing upwards, spine downwards with the mune machi visible.

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