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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Identifiying a japanese tanto Reply to topic
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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2016 2:13 am    Post subject: Identifiying a japanese tanto         Reply with quote

Hello everyone

I'm new to this forum (and to historical weapons as well btw), but I have always had a fascination with japanese weapons, such as the katana, wakizashi, tanto, ...

Recently I have acquired (what I believe/hope) is a historical tanto. The blade seems to be old, but I know imitations are common. I have done my fair share of research before buying older weapons (I have a few modern). So I think the one I bought I the real deal (again I hope).

Now for the hard part: I'm trying to figure out more about this weapon, particularly the age and maker?
I've read a few articles and books to try and figure out myself what is written (signature/Mei) on the tang (Nakago).
The more I read, the more complex everything is starting to get and I think I'm in over my head Happy
It would probably take me a few years to decipher, so that's why I came to this forum.

I hope some of you will be able to tell me a little bit more about this tanto. Any help towards date, maker, value? would be greatly appreciated. I have included a few pictures below:


















Greetings
Hannes


Last edited by Hannes Vereecke on Thu 28 Jul, 2016 2:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

Posts: 313

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2016 2:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

山本正雄/Yamamoto Masao
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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2016 3:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, that was fast, thx for the quick reply!
Too bad it's only a name, I looked the name up through some lists of know wordsmiths but could find anything. So probably not a well known smith I assume.
Too bad there is no date on there, would love to know how old it approximately is. That would help me to know if I overpaid or not Happy
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional



Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 529

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2016 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Signatures and inscriptions are the easiest thing to fake, so don't lean on that too hard. The tang seems a bit odd to me for some reason. More closeup photos of the blade itself would be helpful; is any of the hamon visible?
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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jul, 2016 1:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a few close ups of the blade, no hamon I can see, since the blade is a bit pitted. And I don't want to clean it too much, since that could damage the value (if it has any) so i've heard.







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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
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Posts: 619

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jul, 2016 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The fact that the nakago (tang) doesn't appear to have a patina makes me think that, if it is an older piece, someone has already subjected it to some cleaning, and not the kind it needed. And since you cannot see a hada or hamon, I wonder whether the blade was either never polished (possible; in general the guy forging the sword and the guy polishing the sword were different people, so you might have a half finished blade) or whether whatever cleaning was done to it ruined the polisher's hard work. I would see if there are any qualified polishers in your area and go from there. The professional term to search for is togishi.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Fri 29 Jul, 2016 6:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interresting theory, that the blade may actually be unfinished. As for qualified polishers in my area or even country (Belgium), there are none that I can find by doing a quick search online. And I suppose polishing the blad would set me back quite a bit aswell.
If it then turns out the blade is a fake/worthless, i've spend quite a bit of money on nothing Happy
I'll have a look around also, if I can't find anyone who has the knowledge to determine if the blade could be worth anything, but I have no high hopes of finding someone atm.
I suppose there is nothing that I can do to the blade (or don't) or take pictures in a certain way so you guys can tell me more right?
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional



Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 529

PostPosted: Fri 29 Jul, 2016 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If the blade is at all sharp, it was finished. Also, I know of no instance where an unfinished blade was given an inscription.

Here are some directions I gave to someone with a blade that had been scuffed so that the hamon was no longer visible;

It seemed to me that I should write down for you what I was telling you about how to get a look at the hamon on your sword. The two grits of ultrafine sandpaper are 2000 and 1000 wet or dry (you will use it wet), which can often be found at auto parts stores, though my local hardware store (NOT Home Despot., though they might carry it) also had it. I miss them. The sandpaper should be put on a hard, perfectly flat surface, and held down around the edges somehow. To hold on to the sword, paper wrapped around the blade a few times will do it; that’s what I’ve seen professional sword polishers use. Enough layers, it won’t bite you. Always be aware that it will try to, though! Remember the slight rocking motion I was telling you about as you swirl it around; be sensitive to the shape, and work on feeling the shape as you move the blade, and follow the shape. I say again, follow the shape! Remember, it is slightly convex! Start with the 2000, and if that doesn’t get you anywhere, go to the 1000 grit. As long as the sanding doesn’t go past the scratches that are already there, you have not damaged it; a professional polisher would have to go right down to the bottom of them, anyway. Choji oil is what is usually used to inhibit rust, but all choji oil is, is mineral oil with a tiny amount of clove oil added to make it smell nicer.

The rocking motion only applies if the blade is slightly convex. You might go as coarse as 600 grit on the sandpaper (I say again, use it WET, NOT DRY), as the pitting looks like it could be deep. You really cannot damage the blade if you do not go below the pits; a professional polisher would have to grind the blade down to that point, anyway. Leave the tip and the back of the blade alone; that's for the pros. The hamon and the grain of the blade should start to become visible.

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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Fri 29 Jul, 2016 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I actually own water stones from 800 to 8000 grit, and I have "restored" a fake one before to test it out, took me almost 30 houres in the course of 6 days.
So I have some experience, but not enough in my opinion to try it on the real deal Happy

As for the scharpness of the blade, it definatly has an edge, but it does not cut paper ofcourse. However the tip is still very scharp and I bet i could cut myself on the edge if I tried, it's not entirely dull either.

To show you what I mean by the above, here is a before and after of a cheap chinese blade I tried to restore wich was damaged beyond repair. Meaning it's impossible to get the lines 100% straight since the blade is already very thin from me sanding it down on the stones. I think at one point it was handled with a grinder or something it was awefull:



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Tyler Jordan





Joined: 15 Mar 2004

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat 30 Jul, 2016 2:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:
The fact that the nakago (tang) doesn't appear to have a patina makes me think that, if it is an older piece, someone has already subjected it to some cleaning, and not the kind it needed. And since you cannot see a hada or hamon, I wonder whether the blade was either never polished (possible; in general the guy forging the sword and the guy polishing the sword were different people, so you might have a half finished blade) or whether whatever cleaning was done to it ruined the polisher's hard work. I would see if there are any qualified polishers in your area and go from there. The professional term to search for is togishi.


I was going to say, it almost looks like it might have never been polished in the first place.
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Ralph Grinly





Joined: 19 Jan 2011

Posts: 323

PostPosted: Sat 30 Jul, 2016 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Please correct me if I'm wrong.. I know the bladesmithing and the final polishing were done by different craftsman, but it seems to me that the smith would have given his blade a rough polish himself in order to check the hamon, etc, just to insure that the blade was up to his standard ? If it passed his inspection, then it would have gone off to get it's final polish ? So there's not likely to be a total unpolished and signed blade ?
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional



Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 529

PostPosted: Sun 31 Jul, 2016 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This blade's condition is entirely consistent with a polished blade that has been seriously neglected. Seen 'em. The fact that it still has a bit of an edge on it shows that it was finished, whether real or not. Hannes has the skill and everything he needs to reveal the 'soul of the blade' (or at least most of it) without damaging it, if he ever gets the nerve. Wink
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Hannes Vereecke




Location: Belgium
Joined: 27 Jul 2016

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Mon 08 Aug, 2016 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found someone not too far willing to take a look at it. He is no expert but definitely knows his stuff. He deals mostly with military items (like the shin gunto). At first glance he tought it was the real deal, but upon closer inspection he saw a few thing that weren't quite right. First were the Japanese characters, according to him they were carved too crude. Also the finish on the tang was quite rough. According to him, that could mean 2 things.
1) it's a fake
2) it was once a full length katana/wakizashi wich had been shortened (because it was damaged or broken at some point)

He also advised me to slightly polish the blade to see if a hamon would appear, so that's what I did:









As you can see (or can't see, it's hard to take sharp photos) on the pictures, there appears to be no hamon visible, so I suppose this means it's a fake unfortunatly.
I used my 8000 grit stone for this, took me about 30 minutes to get some shine in there.

At this point I'm just going to go coarser with the grids and make the best of it, make it nice again Happy
Never know I just need to grind a bit deeper to see a temper line, but I doubt it
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