Sunagawa Kotanto w/Antique Fittings

$1700

A 111mm hammer-forged kotanto blade mounted, including antique sword fittings.

In stock

Description

Sunagawa (砂川, sand river) was chosen because the texture of the blade and the flowing edge of the hamon are reminiscent of the bank of a calm river. 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 hamidashi mounting is in the rustic kura (蔵, storehouse) style and includes antique fittings from swords carried long ago.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

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.

The subtle appearance of hammer marks on the blade, the rustic carved and lacquered wooden mountings, paired with antique sword fittings—treasures from the kura storehouse. A hand crafted tool for adventure that would be very much at home in the field, forest, or mountain landscape.

Forged from an old-style cultivator tine, the blade profile of the mountain style kotanto is inspired by a kamakura sword and is wider with a more pronounced belly and a slight drop point. This blade has a flat hammer-finished surface that shows a clear mizukage (water shadow) and lovely suguha hamon. The temper of this high carbon steel blade has been left relatively hard, a particular combination of steel and heat treatment that is well suited to users who require a good edge and are willing to take care of it.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed 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 centerpiece of this mounting is an antique brass fuchi (ferrule) inlaid with pure silver bamboo and carved with wisteria vines. The two-part Edo era katana habaki is hand etched with a jyujika (cross) symbol, may have been carried by a kakure kirishitan (隠れキリシタン, hidden christian of the 1600s), and bears the patina of the ages. The koiguchi (scabbard mouth) is made from buffalo horn and the brass kashira (pommel) forged from reclaimed door plate.

The handle and scabbard were carved from local Magnolia, shaped with hand planed facets, and finished with several very thin layers of natural unfiltered fukiurushi lacquer to darken and deepen the look of the wood but preserve a matte surface. The mekugi (removable peg) and textured koiguchi (scabbard mouth) are carved from buffalo horn.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

The blade is just over 4.25″ long with an overall length of 9.25″ and 10.5″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is 5mm thick.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 111mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 5mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 29mm
反り Sori (spine curve): uchizori (reverse) with slight drop point
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 79mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 109mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 268mm

形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, with slight ubuha
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 two antique parts

Materials: cultivator tine steel, Magnolia, antique fittings, buffalo horn, reclaimed brass door plate, natural urushi lacquer


Process

This blade was forged and yaki-ire performed at the museum forge. It began as a pre-1960s (integral) cultivator tine used to work a farmer’s land a generation or more ago. Parts of the same tine were used for a mountain kotanto and a sunnobi tanto.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The starting point as a pre-1960s (integral) cultivator tine, shown with the remaining original bar split in half.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Beginning to lengthen and allocate steel for the tang and blade, tapering the thickness and width.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
After the bar has been lengthened the sunobe (preform) is forged with all tapers and proportions in place.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The iori-mune (peaked spine) is forged in first before the bevels begin.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Downward curving the tang in advance to counteract the forces of bevelling.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The tang is finished bevelling, next is the blade (note the future edge is facing upwards).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Normalizing the steel once the blade is finished to remove any stresses remaining from forging.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
This is the surface and form after hand hammer work only.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The profile is cleaned up by hand filing in the machi (notches) and drawfiling the spine.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
At this point the edge is about 1mm thick and about 1.5mm along the edge of the tang, as forged.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The profile after filing, bevels will remain as-hammered.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Some draw filing in the sen dai (staple vise) to establish the location of the final edge, still about 0.5mm thick.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Applying the clay mixture in preparation for yaki-ire (quenching/hardening).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
This steel takes an exceptionally well-placed and lovely hamon, a tough blade with a hard edge.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
After soaking in vinegar water to clean off any remaining forge scale the smooth hammered surface and lovely proportioned hamon are further complimented by an angled mizukage (water shadow) showing another internal dynamic of heating and cooling in the yaki-ire process.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
A piece of reclaimed brass doorplate is a good colour match for the antique fuchi (ferrule) and is formed into a simple kashira (pommel).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Sawing a Magnolia slab into a rough koshirae block.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The block is split in half vertically with a saw and planed to smooth.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
After choosing the best grain direction, the tsuka (handle) blocks are split from those for the saya (scabbard).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The inside of the halves are carefully carved to fit the nakago (tang).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The tsuka halves are glued back together with sokui (rice paste glue) and wrapped to dry overnight.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The inside of the saya (scabbard) halves are carefully carved to fit the blade and habaki.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The saya halves are glued back together with sokui and wrapped to dry, wedges provide extra tension and pressure where needed.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The handle is rough shaped and a shoulder carved to fit the fuchi (ferrule).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The rest of the handle is shaped from the fuchi back and the kashira (pommel) is fit snugly.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
A kiri is used to drill the mekugi-ana (peg hole) in the handle to align with the one in the tang.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The mekugi (retaining peg) is carved from water buffalo horn.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The handle complete and ready for finishing.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Beginning with the outline of the fuchi, excess wood is removed from the scabbard with kanna (handplanes), from four sides to eight sides to sixteen and so on taking thinner shavings until the final shape is achieved.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Nearing the final form of the profile and shape.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
A delicate shoulder is sawn and carved around the koiguchi (mouth of the scabbard).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Water buffalo horn is drilled and filed to fit snugly onto the shoulder.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The outside is sawn and filed down to the saya outline.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The wood is set back slightly into the koiguchi reinforcement to help the fit when closing.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Wooden parts shaped and ready for lacquering.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
After multiple thin layers of unfiltered urushi lacquer to give the scabbard a slight matte texture, the parts are ready for final assembly. The brass kashira and horn koiguchi are glued into place with nikawa (hide glue).

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

**Please note that in order to preserve the patina and texture of the antique/reclaimed components involved in this mounting there may be minor damage, scuffs, variations in colour, and other indications of their stories over the centuries.