Itten (一転, “eat..ten”) means a turning point or turn of events, as in a story or set of circumstances. It carries the idea of a sudden or unexpected shift, return, or change, and often means a complete turn around, in skateboard terminology this is known as a one-eighty (180°). This is the first hammer-finished full sized forest tanto and the first satoyama tanto mounted in kura style.
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 chisagatana mounting is in the rustic kura (蔵, storehouse) style and includes antique fittings from swords carried 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.
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 antique chisel that was forged from an older file decades ago, the blade profile of the forest style tanto is based on a classical yoroidoshi tanto and has a tapering shape with slight drop point. 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.
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.
Five antique Edo period sword fittings are incorporated into the mounting of this knife—the shakudo fuchi (ferrule, of copper and gold alloy) with carved brush-style horse, inlaid iron tsuba (hand guard), copper seppa (blade washers), and fine nanako-textured shakudo koiguchi (scabbard mouth). Additionally, the iron kashira (pommel) appears to have been a WWII field-repair and the brass habaki (blade collar) may have come from an iaido practitioner’s sword.
The kataki hardwood handle is carved from Sapele and finished with traditional fukiurushi lacquer built up in multiple coats to darken and deepen the look of the wood without losing the texture of the grain. The mekugi (removable peg) and kurikata (cord loop) are carved from buffalo horn. The scabbard is carved from Japanese hounoki (magnolia), left with subtle planed facets, and lacquered in a dark chocolate colour made from natural urushi, black urushi, and ground red crimson lake stone pigment.
One of the crowning details of this tanto is the traditionally hand crafted shikagawa leather sageo made in Kumamoto Japan by Hans Koga in the classical Higo method used by craftsmen in the Edo period, beginning with thin buckskin, cutting, stretching, rolling, wet folding, onion dying, and hand stitching with fine silk thread along the back.
The blade is just under 10″ long with an overall length of just over 15″ and 17.25″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is just over 6mm thick.
長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 257mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 6mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 30mm
反り Sori (spine curve): uchizori (slight reverse curve)
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 95mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 115mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 540mm
形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, with 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 chisagatana, issaku (sole authorship) plus 7 antique parts
Materials: antique file steel, Sapele, Hounoki, buffalo horn, antique fittings, natural urushi lacquer, crimson lake
This piece is in a private collection in Alabama.
This blade was forged and yaki-ire performed at the museum forge. It began as an old chisel that was hand forged from an even older file decades or perhaps generations ago.