Mountain Kotanto with Antique Fittings

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. 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 a unique Edo era katana habaki, carved with a traditional stone texture and bearing the patina of the ages. The two brass seppa (blade washers) are showa era sword fittings, the copper guard was forged from a large electrical washer, and the ferrule and koiguchi (scabbard mouth) are made from matching reclaimed bits of copper pipe.

The kataki hardwood handle and kurikata (cord loop) are carved from Teak reclaimed from a boat restoration and finished with traditional fukiurushi lacquer to darken and deepen the look of the wood and highlight the grain. The scabbard is carved from local magnolia, shaped with hand planed facets, and finished with unfiltered traditional fukiurushi lacquer built up in multiple layers to darken and deepen the look of the wood. The removable peg is carved from susudake, a piece of bamboo that served for a century or more as part of the ceiling or roof in a kominka, darkened and hardened by decades of smoke wafting up from the irori hearth.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

The blade is just under 6.5″ long with an overall length of just under 11.5″ and 12.5″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is 8mm thick.

Specifications

長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 163mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 8mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 30mm
反り Sori (spine curve): muzori (straight)
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 104mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 109mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 319mm

形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, iori-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 hamidashi, issaku (sole authorship) plus 3 antique parts

Materials: cultivator tine steel, Teak, Magnolia, antique fittings, reclaimed copper, susudake bamboo, natural urushi lacquer

This piece is in a private collection in Florida.


Process

This blade was forged and yaki-ire performed at the museum forge. It began as a pre-1960s (integral) cultivator tine used by a farmer a generation or more ago.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The starting point as a pre-1960s (integral) cultivator tine, about 3.5″ is first cut from the bar.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The large two-handed mukozuchi sledge is used as a one-handed bench hammer for the initial drawing out.
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.
After forging in the bevels.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Normalizing the steel to remove any stresses remaining from forging.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Some excess material remaining around the machi (notches) so it can be fit to an existing antique habaki.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The habaki came from a very old and well polished blade with little or no hamachi (edge notch) left.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Applying the clay mixture in preparation for yaki-ire.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The clay is thoroughly dried over the coals before heating to red hot.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
At the correct temperature it is plunged into water and a blade is born.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The steel took a nicely placed and active hamon, a tough blade with a hard edge.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Copper scrap forged, punched, and drifted for a guard. Copper pipe scraps (found lying on the road whilst skateboarding) are annealed and shaped for fittings.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Stone textured Edo or earlier katana habaki with silver foil that may have been added later as the blade became polished down.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The foil was damaged but the copper beneath looks lovely and has all the detail of the exterior.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The fittings are each adjusted to fit the tang in the proper location.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Ready to begin carving the handle.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Teak from a boat restoration shaped into a kataki handle, scabbard from magnolia.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Wooden parts shaped and ready for lacquering.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
A view of the handle.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
Multiple thin layers of unfiltered urushi give the scabbard a slight texture with depth and warmth.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
In bright sunlight the wood is still visible beneath the surface.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The kurikata, koiguchi, and ferrule are attached with nikawa (hide glue).
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.
The parts ready for final assembly.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from reclaimed steel.

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