This project was a unique opportunity to work with legacy materials to craft a useful tool that is already an heirloom. A charcoal-forged blade, water quenched with clay and sharpened with waterstones, an outdoor knife that has the foundation of the Japanese sword, finished in the simple and humble style of farming and foresting tools of 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.
A subtle and rustic appearance with hammer marks left on the blade, hand-carved wooden handle finished with natural urushi lacquer made from tree sap, reminiscent of hand-hewn beams in a kominka farm house that are darkened by years of smoke drifting up from the irori cooking hearth. A tool for adventure that would be very much at home in the field, forest, or mountain landscape.
Forged from a reclaimed file that belonged to a client’s great-grandfather, the blade profile of this field style kotanto is inspired by a kamakura sword and has more pronounced belly with slight drop point. The temper of this high carbon steel blade has been left relatively hard in order to hold a keen edge for tasks such as wood carving and hand work. This particular combination of steel and heat treatment 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.
The handle and scabbard are carved from local magnolia, reinforced with cord wrap, and finished with traditional fukiurushi lacquer to highlight the facets of the wood. The beautifully coloured copper seppa/guard was made from a scrap of tubing sourced from the same workshop as the file, and most of the stages of the project from steel to copper to wood involved shaping with other files from the same location. The removable peg was carved from seasoned bamboo from Japan.
The blade is 3.5″ long, the overall length just under 7.25″, about 8.25″ sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is about 5mm thick.
Nagasa (blade length): 89mm
Motokasane (blade thickness): 4.75mm
Motohaba (blade width): 26mm
Sori (curve): uchizori (drop point)
Nakago (tang): 75mm
Tsuka (handle): 97mm
Koshirae (overall): 212mm
Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, slight iori-mune
Hamon (edge pattern): suguha
Nakago (tang): futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana
Mei (signature): mumei (unsigned)
Koshirae (mounting): satoyama kominka style aikuchi, issaku
Materials: reclaimed file steel, Magnolia, cotton cord, copper pipe scrap, natural urushi lacquer, Bamboo
This piece is in a private collection in France.