The core of this project is a high carbon blade, charcoal-forged from reclaimed steel, water quenched with clay and sharpened with waterstones, an outdoor knife that has the foundation of the Japanese sword but is 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.
The subtle and rustic appearance of hammer marks on the blade and hand-carved wooden handles 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 hearth. A hand crafted tool for adventure that would be very much at home in the field, forest, or mountain landscape.
Forged from century-old mining car rail, the wider blade profile of the mountain style kotanto is based on proportions of a classical katana and this blade has a tapering takenoko (bamboo shoot) shape with a drop point. This blade retains some of the original pitting along with the forged hammer texture. The temper of this high carbon steel blade has been left relatively hard in order to hold a keen edge. This particular combination of old 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 and finished with traditional unfiltered urushi lacquer with undertones of black to highlight the facets of the wood in certain light. An organic bean-shaped forged copper hamidashi style guard and vintage tombo (dragonfly, symbolizing pressing on to victory without retreat) sword fitting complete the handle and a hammer textured copper koiguchi and horn kurikata accent the scabbard. The removable peg is carved from susudake, a piece of bamboo that served for a century or more as part of the ceiling or inside thatched roof structure in a kominka, darkened and hardened by decades of smoke wafting up from the irori hearth.
The blade is 5.5″ long, the overall length is about 10″, and 11.5″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is about 6mm thick.
Nagasa (blade length): 137mm
Motokasane (blade thickness): 6mm
Motohaba (blade width): 31mm
Sori (curve): strong takenoko with drop point
Nakago (tang): 93mm
Tsuka (handle): 112mm
Koshirae (overall): 292mm
Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, iori-mune, with ubuha
Hamon (edge pattern): suguha
Boshi (tip pattern): ko-maru
Nakago (tang): futsu, kuri-jiri (as forged), one mekugi-ana
Mei (signature): mumei (unsigned)
Koshirae (mounting): satoyama hamidashi style, issaku (except for the reclaimed fuchi, koiguchi)
Materials: reclaimed mine car rail steel, scrap copper, vintage copper sword fitting, Magnolia, water buffalo horn, natural urushi lacquer, susudake Bamboo
This piece is available online.
This knife began as a century-old mining car rail that was heavily pitted by rust. This was the first blade of the season that was forged and underwent yaki-ire at the museum forge documented by photographer Jourdan Causey. The handle and scabbard were crafted at the museum during the summer demonstrations.