Tanto in the shobu-zukuri style of standard-twist forge-welded cable construction. 10 inch nagasa with dynamic hamon.
Copper habaki. Koshirae mounted with hamidashi tsuba of antique forged wrought iron with matching wari-bashi (or wari-kogai). Seppa of copper. Partially ribbed, black and red, two-tone saya with “tiger stripe” pattern.
Handle wrapped in same-kawa and black silk ito. Gold dragon menukiand shitodome. Fuchigashira of shibuichi. By Gabriel Bell.
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Here are some inital photos of the cable tanto. I was just able to take a few quick photos; with the all the moving into the new shop and work on improving our facilities, we are not very well set up for photography of polished blades at this time. Please disregard the specs in the photos, which are small shavings from the freshly carved saya. These photos are at least enough to capture some of the effects in the steel. I must say I am very pleased with this blade, things disappear and reappear in the steel as you move the blade in your hands. There is a lot of activity to spend time looking at. The koshirae is still in progress, but I will be sharing some photos of the hand forged antique wrough iron wari-bashi in a few days. With the matching hamidashi tsuba, this tanto will be mounted in my personal favorite style.
A couple photos of the wari-bashi that are being mounted in the koshirae have been added. Notice the small notch on one hashi that fits, mortise-and-tenon-like, into the slot on the other, which allows for the two wari-kogai to slide from their place in the saya together.
As progress continues to be made on the koshirae for this tanto, we will continue to post more photos of the process of it’s construction. Although as an artist, we can be somehow hesitant to share work-in-progress, when its not exactly ready for public view, it is also important that those interested can get a deeper insight into really goes into every little aspect of the Japanese sword. And because this tanto has the extra embellishments of saya ribbing and a scabbard implement in a wari-kogai, in addition to a silk wrapped tsuka and tsuba, this piece is an opportunity to show to those interested step by step photos of more complicated style of koshirae.
I am now working on fitting the same-kawa to be wrapped around the tsuka. Working same is tricky because the rayskin can only be worked moist, but if the same become too wet it will expand enough to affect the fit. A nice tight seam on the tsuka is the mark of good craftsmanship in this aspect. Because the handle will also be wrapped in black silk ito, the width of the ito must be taken into account. A properly made tuska should have an esthetically pleasing waist to it, and the handle should flow with the saya. The newest photo added also shows the beginning of the lacquer work on the saya. A great deal of detail-intensive sanding still needs to be done, especially in the black ribbed section of the scabbard.
I decided to spend some extra time to do a special two tone lacquering on the non-ribbed section of the saya. This was done by adding powdered charcoal to the black cashew lacquer in order to thicken it up. This thickened black lacquer was then first laid down and built up like an impasto. The low valleys in the black were then filled with the “chinese red”.
The same has now been fitted and wrapped around the tsuka. Most tsuka for tanto that are wrapped in ito have same that is inlaid in panels on both sides of the handle. This method is much easier, less time-consuming and requires less skin. However, it is a much weaker method. When it come to katana, we here at Dragonfly Forge believe that the inlaid same panel technique makes for a weak handle given the length of the tsuka. Because of this, all of our katana tsuka are fully wrapped. For tanto length handle the difference in strength is neglible, but since so much extra time has been devoted to this tanto, it made sense to do a full wrap. “In for a penny, in for a pound.” I also like to think there is something to be said for doing things the more difficult way, just as a matter of pride.
The topic of full same-kawa wraps versus inlaid same panels brings up a little tidbit of Japanese sword knowledge. It is because of all this that the seam is left visible on the ura side of the tsuka, as a way of showing the full wrap (although it can be faked). The tightness of the seam is also a display of craftsmenship.
Obviously if the tsuka is to be wrapped solely in same (without ito-maki), a full wrap is the only technique that can be used.
I recently finished wrapping the tsuka. The silk ito is from Namikawa Heibei Co. in Japan and of very high quality. It was a pleasure wrapping the handle in it. The menuki are gold dragons with matching gold shitodome.
I put up one more photo of the entire blade assembled in its koshirae for the first time. This final stage of making a sword is the most painstaking, as every little detail including the tsuka-maki, the lacquer-work, the patina on the fittings, as well as a bunch of other important details must be gone over a touched up before all of the buffalo horn fittings on the saya can be glued and the sword finally be finished.
Once this is completed I will add photos of the finished project in a new post in the Available for Purchase section. As you can see this post has been moved to a new section Work in Progress. Due to the postitive feedback from posting photos of work-in-progress, we will in try to post more entries at various stages of our work.