Making the Mikazuki Kotanto
This piece is named for the silvery crescent moon in the drifting clouds of spalted Pear tree on the saya. The moon was formed from a piece of forged nickel silver from a silver plated spoon. The handle wrap is attached with kusune (薬練, くすね, pine resin glue made from matsuyani).
The clay tempered blade blade construction is muku with a hira-zukuri shape. The habaki is hand forged from a large copper fuse connector and the tsuba and kashira are carved from partially fossilized cow bone. The seppa was made from the same spoon as the crescent moon. The handle is Nootka Cypress wrapped with black ray skin and the Pear wood scabbard has been coated with pure tung oil. The final work may be seen here:
An old silver plated nickel silver spoon is forged out flat then chiseled and filed into a seppa blank, a nickel silver washer for the small blade.
The tsuka (handle) blank carved to hold the nakago (tang) tightly, then glued with sokui (rice glue) and bound to dry.
The mekugi-ana (peg hole) is drilled, the tsuka (handle) is shaped, and the end is keyed to hold the kashira (pommel).
Tsuba & Kashira
Partly fossilized cow bone, complete with ancient coyote gnaw marks…definitely harder to cut than wood!
Checking the fit of the ancient bone slice after cutting the profile (still a few coyote tooth marks).
Final shaping, filework, and smoothing is done on the bone, a combination of vinegar, rust, and tea highlights the age cracks.
Checking the fit and clearances before making anything too permanent.
The bone kashira (pommel) is fixed into the keyslot with pine resin glue which is then scraped flush with the handle.
Kusune & Samegawa
This was a tense moment, I haven’t got too many scraps of ray skin around right now! The pine glue works well and the handle looks great.
The mekugi-ana (peg hole) is hand drilled in the tang and a mekugi is carved from a retired red bamboo chopstick.
A well aged knee-of-Pear-tree is selected and sawed into the two halves that will become the saya (scabbard).
The inside of the two halves is carefully leveled by sanding on a flat stone quarried on Shiraishijima…also: alligator.
The inside of each half is carved until the blade just fits inside without rattling or touching.
Once the blade fits and the habaki (blade collar) is snug, the two halves are rejoined with rice glue and wrapped tightly to dry.
Once the glue is dry, the saya (scabbard) is carved, shaped, and sanded in preparation for several coats of tung oil.
Several coats of 100% pure tung oil bring out the warm glow of real wood, it takes a while to dry but is worth the wait.
Count ’em if you dare…each dent is one tiny hammer blow, the habaki (blade collar) is textured and polished.
After a couple hours of hand polishing on the stones the blade really starts to clean up and shows a subtle hamon.
The blade is polished as far as the habaki will cover, the tang left in its rougher state as a testament to its journey.
The remains of the spoon are used to create a silvery moon is the finishing touch for the saya. It will be locked in by a copper stem, similar to a tanto menuki.
A drop of hot kusune (薬練, くすね, pine resin glue made from matsuyani) in the keyway locks the metal to the wood.
A shot of the koshirae (furniture) before the final assembly.
Let’s review: here are the raw materials, then check the finished work below.
View the finished work