Kuromon can be translated as “the black gate”. Designed around the concept of textural exploration as a companion project to Kuromatsu Aikuchi Tanto, this tanto with koshirae is a bold yet restrained piece that has the austere simplicity that appealed to the refined tastes of working samurai centuries before the Edo period.
This tanto is hand forged from reclaimed shear steel that was likely made before the mid-18th century, housed in an aikuchi koshirae crafted entirely with hand tools from driftwood and finished with black urushi lacquer.
Materials for the koshirae came from Nootka Cypress driftwood, Oceanspray ironwood for the kurigata and koiguchi, forged copper bus bar for the habaki, and forged silver scrap for the mekugi. The exterior is finished with a charcoal polished natural urushi lacquer surface, selectively distressed and oiled to give the feeling of a long-carried and well-cared-for piece. The solid silver mekugi is shaped like an iron kugikakushi (釘隠), a large nail cover found on a traditional castle door or gate, and is a symbol of protection.
The blade was hand forged in a charcoal fire from a horse-drawn carriage leaf spring, shaped with files, differentially hardened using traditional water quench yaki-ire, and polished by hand with water stones. The unusual polish shows a very strong hada, revealing the blistery texture and flowing layers of the forge-welded shear steel. Blade construction is muku with a hira-zukuri profile and an iori mune. The blade is approximately 7.75″ long, overall length is around 12.5″, and the overall length when sheathed is about 14.5″. Accompanied by a handcrafted reclaimed Black Walnut display stand and a hand stitched reclaimed silk obi storage bag.
長さ/刃長 Nagasa: 6 sun 5 bu 2 rin (197mm)
元幅 Motohaba: 8 bu 5 rin (25mm)
重ね/元重 Motokasane: 2 bu (6.5mm)
反り Sori: 3 rin (1mm)
中心/茎 Nakago: 3 sun 4 bu 5 rin (104mm)
柄長 Tsuka: 3 sun 7 bu (111mm)
拵全長 Koshirae: 12 sun 3 bu 5 rin (374mm)
形 Katachi: hira-zukuri, iori-mune
刃文 Hamon: suguha, double “kimono” mizukage
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: kuro nuri aikuchi, issaku
Materials: Century-old horse carriage spring shear steel, copper electrical bus bar, silver scrap from local miners in the Congo in the ’80s, driftwood Nootka Cypress, Oceanspray island ironwood, natural urushi lacquer
This piece is in a private collection in Texas.
Detailed accounts of various stages of the process are documented here: Making the Kuromon Aikuchi Tanto
= 0.1 shaku（尺）
= 1 sun（寸）
= 10 bu（分）
= 100 rin（厘）