Making the Mikazuki Kotanto

This piece is named for the silvery crescent moon in the drifting clouds of spalted Pear tree on the saya. The moon was formed from a piece of forged nickel silver from a silver plated spoon. The handle wrap is attached with kusune (薬練) made from matsuyani, natural Pine resin glue.

The clay tempered blade blade construction is muku with a hira-zukuri shape. The habaki is hand forged from a large copper fuse connector and the tsuba and kashira are carved from partially fossilized cow bone. The seppa was made from the same spoon as the crescent moon. The handle is Nootka Cypress wrapped with black ray skin and the Pear wood scabbard has been coated with pure tung oil. The final work may be seen here: islandblacksmith.ca/2013/03/mikazuki-kotanto/


Seppa

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
An old silver plated nickel silver spoon is forged out flat then chiseled and filed into a seppa blank, a nickel silver washer for the small blade.

Tsuka

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The tsuka (handle) blank carved to hold the nakago (tang) tightly, then glued with sokui (rice glue) and bound to dry.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The mekugi-ana (peg hole) is drilled, the tsuka (handle) is shaped, and the end is keyed to hold the kashira (pommel).

Tsuba & Kashira

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Partly fossilized cow bone, complete with ancient coyote gnaw marks…definitely harder to cut than wood!
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Checking the fit of the ancient bone slice after cutting the profile (still a few coyote tooth marks).
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Final shaping, filework, and smoothing is done on the bone, a combination of vinegar, rust, and tea highlights the age cracks.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Checking the fit and clearances before making anything too permanent.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The bone kashira (pommel) is fixed into the keyslot with pine resin glue which is then scraped flush with the handle.

Kusune & Samegawa

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
This was a tense moment, I haven’t got too many scraps of ray skin around right now! The pine glue works well and the handle looks great.

Mekugi

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The mekugi-ana (peg hole) is hand drilled in the tang and a mekugi is carved from a retired red bamboo chopstick.

Saya

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
A well aged knee-of-Pear-tree is selected and sawed into the two halves that will become the saya (scabbard).
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The inside of the two halves is carefully leveled by sanding on a flat stone quarried on Shiraishijima…also: alligator.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The inside of each half is carved until the blade just fits inside without rattling or touching.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Once the blade fits and the habaki (blade collar) is snug, the two halves are rejoined with rice glue and wrapped tightly to dry.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Once the glue is dry, the saya (scabbard) is carved, shaped, and sanded in preparation for several coats of tung oil.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Several coats of 100% pure tung oil bring out the warm glow of real wood, it takes a while to dry but is worth the wait.

Final Polish

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Count ’em if you dare…each dent is one tiny hammer blow, the habaki (blade collar) is textured and polished.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
After a couple hours of hand polishing on the stones the blade really starts to clean up and shows a subtle hamon.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The blade is polished as far as the habaki will cover, the tang left in its rougher state as a testament to its journey.

Mikazuki

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
The remains of the spoon are used to create a silvery moon is the finishing touch for the saya. It will be locked in by a copper stem, similar to a tanto menuki.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
A drop of hot kusune (Pine resin glue) in the keyway locks the metal to the wood.
Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
A shot of the koshirae (furniture) before the final assembly.

Raw Materials

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker
Let’s review: here are the raw materials, then check the finished work below.

Vancouver Island BC bladesmith knifemaker

View the finished work