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 a reclaimed file, the narrow blade profile of the forest style kotanto is based on the tip of a classical yoroidoshi tanto and has a tapering takenoko shape with slight drop point. This blade has a subtle forged swedge along most of the omote side and a very interesting suguha hamon. 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 and finished with traditional fukiurushi lacquer with undertones of black to highlight the facets of the wood. A spiral forge welded hamidashi style guard and reclaimed brass sword fitting complete the handle and a natural cord wrapped koiguchi accents 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 just over 6″ long, the overall length is about 10.25″, and 11.25″ when sheathed. The spine at the munemachi is about 4mm thick.
Nagasa (blade length): 156mm
Motokasane (blade thickness): 4mm
Motohaba (blade width): 29mm
Sori (curve): 1mm with slight drop point
Nakago (tang): 99mm
Tsuka (handle): 105mm
Koshirae (overall): 285mm
Katachi (geometry): hira-zukuri (or subtly kata-kiriha-zukuri), iori-mune, with ubuha
Hamon (edge pattern): suguha
Boshi (tip pattern): ko-maru
Nakago (tang): futsu, kuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana
Mei (signature): mumei (unsigned)
Koshirae (mounting): satoyama hamidashi style, issaku
Materials: reclaimed file steel, scrap iron rod, reclaimed brass fitting, Magnolia, natural fiber cord, natural urushi lacquer, susudake Bamboo
This knife began as a very old file that was pitted by rust and no longer sharpenable. The blade was forged and underwent yaki-ire at the museum forge as part of a demonstration for the Nanaimo Shop Teachers Association professional development day. Additionally the scabbard was crafted at the museum as part of a demonstration at the Railway Days event.
**Please note that in order to preserve the patina and texture of the reclaimed/antique components involved in this mounting there may be minor damage, scuffs, variations in colour, and other indications of their stories over the years.