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Keith Larman
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Location: Sunny Southern California
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 237

PostPosted: Fri 19 Nov, 2004 5:11 pm    Post subject: Engnath Wakizashi I just finished         Reply with quote

Something for a client of mine. I unfortunately don't have time to take "good" photos and get all the good lights out... So these will have to do...

First what the customer had to say about the design of the mounts. In the quote he refers to a photo that I haven't included here but it was basically just a photo of the woodworking prior to finishing and another drawing of the mon (family crest essentially or "identifying design") I had proposed.

Quote:
Before I talk about the mon designs, I should really cover some of the earlier decisions regarding this project. Mr. Larman -- correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it went something like this...

Keith determined that the blade still had a good quality polish and did not require a touch-up. While it might not be absolutely mirror-quality perfect, it was not worth the time, effort, or money for such a small gain. Since the previous owner already had it in for finishing when he decided to sell it, I basically purchased the blade sight unseen. Keith's judgement of the polish was good news.

Keith and I agreed to finish the blade in an aikuchi mounting style: exposed rayskin without wrapping, tsuba, or other metal work. Keith has gone with delrin "fittings" (koiguchi, fuchi, kashira) and traditional horn tsuno (hook) and kurigata. We went with the aikuchi for a couple of reasons:

1) The blade is so large that it would have required custom-made metal hardware. This would have been an expensive choice. Another artisan’s involvement would have been required and the project would likely have been delayed while these pieces were being crafted.

2) The wrapped handle would have been too large for most people to get an adequate grip on. While I do not plan on cutting with this blade, I wanted it to have some degree of functionality and not be a completely unusable conversation piece.

3) Keith and I did not want too much activity/color taking away from what is essentially a tribute to Bob Engnath’s work. In this regard, the other mounting option we considered – shirasaya – might have been a better choice, but that option felt somehow incomplete to me.

The menuki (not shown) were purchased from Nihonto.com. They each show a bull in what might be called his “power” pose. Very detailed artistry in these menuki - with rather subdued brown coloring. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the creation or history of these menuki. I briefly considered a pair of similar menuki from Aoi-art.com in Tokyo, but decided they were too flamboyant for this project. Thinking back, the bull menuki theme was not my original vision... but I'll spare you that story for now!

I wanted something special to be done with the saya paint – something that would give the sword a bit more depth without adding too much flash or be radically groundbreaking. Some of you may remember my Bugei HC1086 katana from a couple years back that had an “oceanscape” painted along the length of the saya courtesy of Ted Tenold’s shop. While I absolutely love that sword and it’s painting, I recall that the sword community’s reaction was mixed – you either loved it completely or thought it was too gaudy and without any historic basis.

My original suggestion was for this saya to have gold flecks in the black paint. Having seen the photos Keith has posted of his previous saya work, I knew what this would look like. He suggested that perhaps adding a mon design to the black paint would work better than the gold fleck. So I looked thru the book "Japanese Design Motifs", where I found a mon (above-left) that had a meaning appropriate to this project. This mon was to be repeated randomly all over the saya – but our plans quickly evolved. Keith found an old photo (not shown) of a tanto that had three large mon instead of many smaller ones.

The first mon (left) incorporates the historic symbols for both "Sword" and "Bullseye" - representing that Bob Engnath made a special (even unique?) blade here. And since each symbol within the mon is shown 5 times, the fact that this is my fifth sword purchase is also represented.

The second mon (middle) was recommended by Keith. I call it the "Tri-Comma", but I believe it is more accurately called a "Mitsu-Tomoe" - a beautiful and simple statement of "three". Keith reminded me that three artisans have worked on this blade: Bob Engnath made the blade, Ted Tenold did the original polish, and Keith Larman has completed the sword with his koshirae.

Thinking more about the concept of "three", I realize that I am the third owner of this blade (at least that I know about - correct me if I'm wrong). Also, this is my third custom sword (Engnath/Clark/Walters) and it completes something of a generational trilogy for those swordsmiths (Past/Present/Future).

The third mon (right) is a “Crescent Moon”. I don’t know the Japanese name for it. Keith described it better than I could – “It represents the heavens where Bob now resides.”

I’m sure that with enough time more meaning could be found for the various features of this sword. Maybe even about the order they’re placed in on the saya. The “Crescent Moon” specifically seems to have more potential meaning. At the risk of getting overly dramatic, it might represent how a man’s accomplishments in life are sometimes lost in the darkness after his passing. I have to think more on that one…

Anyway… my thanks to all who had a role in this project: Keith, Ted, Rey, and most especially – Bob Engnath!


Below are photos of the koshirae as the piece has been finished. I don't have the time to really get all my lights out and all the stuff I'd normally do to shoot a new piece. So these are quick and dirty.

Basically it is a wakizashi made by Bob Engnath and polished by Ted Tenold many moons ago. The blade is loosely based on a shape that was popular in certain periods. What they did was take some of the old, large naginata blades (Japanese halberd) and recontour them (they were often really quite big) into a shape that could be used as a sidearm. It is called "naginata naoshi" fwiw (which essentially means a naginata blade "corrected").

Some notes of interest. The fittings (kashira, fuchi, koiguchi) are all carved from delrin plate for added strength. This is in part because I knew I wasn't going to go with tsukamaki so I wanted to ensure the toughest possible parts. And since the blade is so big, I used a very high grade piece of same' to do a full wrap (seam visible on the ura) to further reinforce the tsuka. Since the same' was going to be lacquered, I used a very strong glue for placing the same'. I could use this glue because although the glue will discolor the same', I was planning on lacquering it anyway, so it didn't matter and I wanted the increased strength. And as an added thing I used hot epoxy into the seam on the ura to "soak into" the same' and wood after the original glue had dried. Then once the glue was good and set over a few days of drying time I lacquered the same' and started in on the saya.

All and all an interesting piece to mount.

Just fwiw.

Photos.

The whole blade. Sorry, best shot I got since I'm rushed for time as I have a lot to do...



Now the entire koshirae on display. Notice how the mon's visibility changes depending on the light. I wanted this one to be bright but still a bit subtle at sharp angles or low light. But I did want it more "vivid" since the mons were part of the point of the piece.



The other side.



And details of the mon work in the saya.



and



And finally one of the menuki. Very nice shakudo bulls with gold highlights.


Keith Larman
http://www.summerchild.com
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Scott Irey




Location: Seattle, WA. USA
Joined: 17 Nov 2004

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri 19 Nov, 2004 9:51 pm    Post subject: Nice Work         Reply with quote

Very nice work Keith. Out of curiosity did you use adhisive mons and then clear lacquer over them or did you do the mons by hand?
Scott Irey
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Nov, 2004 12:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That has a very nice substantial yet elegant look to it Keith. I'm sure that the owner will be very happy with it.

Beautiful piece.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Jeff Larsen




Location: Austin, TX
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Nov, 2004 5:44 am    Post subject: WOW !!         Reply with quote

Hi Keith,

Great work. I am sure the new owner is very proud of the effort that you put into this piece. It is very nice.

Thanks for sharing,

Jeff Happy
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Keith Larman
Industry Professional



Location: Sunny Southern California
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 237

PostPosted: Sat 27 Nov, 2004 12:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Nice Work         Reply with quote

Scott Irey wrote:
Very nice work Keith. Out of curiosity did you use adhisive mons and then clear lacquer over them or did you do the mons by hand?


Sorry, I posted the pics then took off on a family vacation for a week. Just got back...

There is no clear coat. I don't use stickers. The mons are a gold dust in the finish.

Keith Larman
http://www.summerchild.com
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Zach Stambaugh





Joined: 08 Mar 2004

Posts: 73

PostPosted: Sun 28 Nov, 2004 1:20 pm    Post subject: wow         Reply with quote

YOur work is truly exquisite. I also azppreciate your willingness to make elegant and tasteful projects that are well thought out. This is a modern blade, you respect tradition without being bound by it. I believe that ancient smiths polishers, and artisans would have also been as artistic and varied in styles as your work, had they had the access to knolwedge and materials as you do.
It is better to be over careful a hundred times than dead once. --- Mark Twain (give or take a slight misquote)
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Keith Larman
Industry Professional



Location: Sunny Southern California
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 237

PostPosted: Sun 28 Nov, 2004 8:08 pm    Post subject: Re: wow         Reply with quote

Zach Stambaugh wrote:
YOur work is truly exquisite. I also azppreciate your willingness to make elegant and tasteful projects that are well thought out. This is a modern blade, you respect tradition without being bound by it. I believe that ancient smiths polishers, and artisans would have also been as artistic and varied in styles as your work, had they had the access to knolwedge and materials as you do.


Thanks for the kind words.

I must admit this piece was somewhat special for me. I had spent time in the late Bob Engnath's shop years ago when my wife and I were first married and moved to Glendale. I used to walk my dogs by his shop. I'd look in, marvel at the knives and swords, and tell myself I'd get into that stuff someday when I had more time. And after a few times talking with the man I finally decided to go by and really spend the time and money to learn more. Just to find he'd passed away.

And over the last few years I've been spending a lot of time learning polishing and mounting with Ted Tenold. So when I was asked about mounting a blade made by Bob and polished years ago by Ted when he was first starting out, it just felt like karma. The customer had some ideas himself which fed into some feelings of my own. So it was very nice to be able to do something to in a sense pay my respects to two other fellas who were very important to me then and now and at the same time help the customer realize his own ideas of the piece.

Keith Larman
http://www.summerchild.com
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