Tsukimizu (月水, “tsu-key-me-zoo”) literally translates “moon-water” and carries the idea of the reflection of the moonlight in the ripples of a pond or stream. The name is drawn from the layered steel ripples along the edge of the hamon and also ties into the motifs of the fittings. This is a unique combination of a satoyama mountain tanto with a full classical chisagatana mounting incorporating antique sword fittings in kura style, a satoyama blade that displays and carries like a classical tanto.
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 scabbard, paired with antique sword fittings—treasures from the kura storehouse. A hand crafted tool for adventure mounted in a classical tanto koshirae.
Forged from century-old pre-industrial blister or shear steel from a mining car rail, the blade retains some of the original pitting along with some forged hammer texture but was partially polished before yaki-ire to reveal some of the layering in the steel. The wider blade profile of the mountain style tanto is based on proportions of a classical katana and this blade has a very slight drop point. 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.
Six antique Edo period sword fittings are incorporated into the mounting of this knife—the copper habaki (blade collar), the shakudo fuchi (ferrule, of copper and gold alloy) with inlaid copper crescent moon and clouds, brass ripple inlaid iron tsuba (hand guard, attributed to the Omori school, late 17th century), gold overlaid copper seppa (blade washers), and gold overlaid shakudo koiguchi (scabbard mouth, copper and gold alloy). Additionally, the buffalo horn kurikata (cord loop) appears to vintage or older, and the samegawa (ray skin) handle under-wrap was carefully repurposed from an antique sword handle.
The core of the handle is carved from Magnolia, fully wrapped with antique samegawa, and finished with traditional leather tsukamaki in the style of tomaki nihon kumiage. The mekugi (removable peg), kashira (pommel), and kurikata (cord loop) are made from water buffalo horn. The scabbard is carved from Magnolia, left with subtle planed facets, and lacquered in a deep reddish colour made from multiple layers of unfiltered black urushi and natural tree-source urushi.
Along with the lovely antique fuchi, one of the crowning details of this mounting is the antique Omori school tsuba (hand guard) crafted for tanto in the late 1600s (early Edo period) in Japan, a collector’s piece on its own. The tsuba features patinated refined tamahagane iron with wide forged mimi around the rim, carved and inlaid with twenty individual pieces of brass depicting two reflecting ripples in a pond and imitating repetitions of the crescent moon form.
The blade is just under 7.5″ long with an overall length of just over 12.5″ and 15″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is 6.5mm thick.
長さ/刃長 Nagasa (blade length): 188mm
重ね/元重 Motokasane (spine thickness): 6.5mm
元幅 Motohaba (blade width): 32mm
反り Sori (spine curve): muzori/uchizori (almost straight, very slight drop point)
中心/茎 Nakago (tang length): 99mm
柄長 Tsuka (handle length): 117mm
拵全長 Koshirae (overall): 380mm
形 Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri, iori-mune, with slight ubuha
刃文 Hamon (edge pattern): suguha with ko-notare
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 mining car rail steel, Magnolia, water buffalo horn, antique samegawa, leather cord, antique fittings, natural-source urushi lacquer
This piece is available online.
This blade was forged and yaki-ire was performed at the museum forge. It began as a century-old mining car rail that was heavily pitted by rust. The handle and scabbard were crafted at the museum during the summer demonstrations.