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Old 11th June 2021, 07:04 PM   #1
Norman McCormick
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Default A curious Japanese? sword

Hi,
First of all as I know next to nothing about 'samurai swords' I always stay away from the rarified minefield of Japanese steel but I unintentionally picked up this odd Japanese type sword as nobody else seemed very interested in it. A crudely mounted 59.6 cm Wakizashi length blade with an overall length of 82.3 cm and a scabbard length of 68.8 cm. Everything is tight and the hilt peg hole aligns perfectly with the most forward one in the tang. The blade fits snugly in the scabbard and firm thumb pressure eases it out of the scabbard ready for drawing. The tip as you can see is swollen akin to armour piercing type points on some Indo-Persian weapons. The blade has been bent at some point and straightened and there are mild ripples in the blade as a consequence it also has numerous nicks on the edge. There is in hand what appears to be a hardened edge but I'm having difficulty capturing it on film. This sword does not pretend to be what it is not but I am curious as to why what I think might have been a reasonable blade in its youth has such crude fittings. Of course it may not be Japanese at all. The obvious other choice is Chinese fakery.
A forumite has kindly given me some suggestions but I am keen to hear some other observations.
Regards,
Norman.

P.S. I have added a close up of the tang which appears to show file marks and the peg holes are not drilled but look to have been made using a punch/drift.
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Last edited by Norman McCormick; 11th June 2021 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 11th June 2021, 10:30 PM   #2
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From the way the handle is wrapped and the quality of fittings, I believe this is a Satsuma Rebellion sword. Low quality, but real
Japanese sword. Can't tell much from blade pics, but seems (?) to have some sort hamon (temper line). Tsuba(guard) is likely cast, not "crafted". Best I can do. Hope you can find more. Try Googling Satsuma Rebellion swords.
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Old 11th June 2021, 11:01 PM   #3
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Certain elements remind me of what I've seen on a number of Korean swords of the latter Joseon period (18th -19th cent),
1, The style of grip wrapping, sometimes with even wider braid.
2. Simple sleeve-like ferrule and pommel of rather thin metal
3. Radiused edge at the tip without the yokote or perpendicular delineation at the the apex of the typical angular kissaki on a shinogizukuri configuration blade.
4. The very narrow spine created by a marked taper of the blade cross-section above the shinogi ridge. Perhaps coincidentally, I've seen an identical cross-section in a Bukharan saber in the Moser Collection, in profile the blade looked almost double edged in that extreme example. 'Don't know if it's a continental affectation, although a couple of Chinese examples have come to my attention over the years; they are not common and the Bukhara manifestation is the only instance of that type I've seen so far from that region.

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Old 11th June 2021, 11:19 PM   #4
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Hi Rich and Philip,
Many thanks for your insights. The Korean idea did momentarily cross my mind in my mental search for other societies with similar weaponry to Japan and I think it is an avenue worth exploring. If any more detailed photos would help with your thoughts please let me know.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 11th June 2021, 11:59 PM   #5
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I don't believe this is a Japanese sword.
The shape and tip of the nakago, the not perfectly straight filing marks, as well as the rust covering them are giveaways.
However, I am not very knowledgeable about Japanese swords and would advise you to post it on Nihonto Message Board forum.

https://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/
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Old 12th June 2021, 01:55 AM   #6
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G'day Norman,
Unfortunately this isn't Japanese and is probably a Chinese fake. Nothing about the tsuka (handle) is Japanese, the tsuba is crudely cast, the nakago is very crudely finished, blade geometry all wrong and the notches where the habaki fits don't line up. I don't know anything about Korean swords, but most likely a Chinese wall hanger.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 12th June 2021, 12:46 PM   #7
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Hi Marius and Bryce.
Thanks for your continued interest. Bryce I'm afraid I have to disagree with the Chinese wall hanger attribution. Although the fittings are obviously cruder than normal Japanese ones the blade is not wall hanger junk. It may not be up to Japanese standards but in hand it is definitely not of the 'katana will cut steel' variety. To me the habaki seems to fit o.k. maybe you could elaborate on the misalignment a bit. The scabbard furniture is a bit of a riddle but appears to conform more to the Korean setup. At the moment I am pursuing the Korean and non Japan idea. Thanks again.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 12th June 2021, 02:31 PM   #8
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Hi,
This may be of interest.

Do, commonly referred to as a Hwando or "military sword," was a single-edged sword, used as a sidearm for the Korean soldier well into the 19th century. Sometimes referred to as a "short sword," relative to the larger sized two-handed Sangsoodo, its length of 24 to 34 inches was comparable to that of the two-handed Japanese Katana which may have been the inspiration for the Ssangsoodo. Reports found in the "Book of Corrections," a Korean record of the Imjin Warum (15921598), state that Japanese swords taken in combat were readily pressed into service by simply trimming the length of the hilt. Forged of carbon steel the Do has a single-edged, curved blade, a sword guard, and a grip typically of wood. Earlier practice saw the Do suspended from a cord (Jul) and with a simple metal hanger which allowed the soldier to speedily discard his sheath. In later practice, the sword was suspended from a girdle or belt but retained a simple metal quick-release clip.[12]

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Norman.
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Old 12th June 2021, 02:32 PM   #9
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Regarding the misalignment of the notches, just have a look at the photo.
In Japanese swords they are perfectly aligned.
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Old 12th June 2021, 02:41 PM   #10
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Hi Marius,
I see what you mean. The 'habaki' on this blade has been manufactured
to take account of this difference.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 12th June 2021, 07:13 PM   #11
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I had this one down as an "Island Sword" dating from WW2 with a repurposed genuine Japanese blade. The yokote is notorious for disappearing with a bad or worn polish, and not all blade styles had one.

The idea of it being a Korean Geom or Yedo had not occurred to me, though they do often have a passing resemblance to Katana.

Island sword is a bit of a catchall term for WW2 katana of dubious origin. Legitimately made and carried by Indonesian collaborator troops, and independence fighters. P.E.T.A.
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Old 12th June 2021, 08:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R View Post
Island sword is a bit of a catchall term for WW2 katana of dubious origin. Legitimately made and carried by Indonesian collaborator troops, and independence fighters. P.E.T.A.
I totally agree with you, David! Once I saw such a sword and they told me exactly the same thing about it. I can see the skin of a snake or a lizard on the hilt, but not a stingray in the Japanese tradition. For me, this is the sign of the Island sword.
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Old 12th June 2021, 10:25 PM   #13
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G'day Norman,
It is a sword which was made in an Asian country other than Japan, in imitation of a Japanese sword. Whether it was made 10 years ago or 80 years ago is hard to judge from the photos. It is possible that the blade was Japanese, but has had a very hard life and was shortened by a non Japanese craftsman some time ago. The file marks on the nakago actually look like grind marks to me, where the nakago has been ground flat? Hard to tell from the photos. The non-aligning hamachi and munemachi (notches) is a classic Chinese trait.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 13th June 2021, 12:30 AM   #14
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G'day Norman,
A Japanese sword which has had this hard a life will have grain openings in the blade, which are evidence of folding during manufacture. If there aren't any openings on your blade than I think we can rule out any chance that the blade is an old Japanese one.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 13th June 2021, 05:31 AM   #15
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I do not know much about Korean sword; thus, I have to rely fully on the chapter by Park Je Gwang, a curator of the War Memorial of Korea. This was published in a book titled "History of steel in Eastern Asia", a catalogue of the Macao exhibition. Two of our colleagues, Ian and Jose ( Battara) coauthored a chapter on Sandata, Philippines bladed weapons.

Back to the Korean swords. The main cultural difference between them and the Japanese swords was a very different attitude. The was nothing of a " Sword is the soul of the samurai". Swords were just implements, no more. The main physical difference was the attachment of the handle to the tang: in Japan the mekugi was easily removable, in Korea they had a true rivet, that prevented any disassembly.

Look at yours and see which method was used in your sword.
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Old 13th June 2021, 03:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
G'day Norman,
A Japanese sword which has had this hard a life will have grain openings in the blade, which are evidence of folding during manufacture. If there aren't any openings on your blade than I think we can rule out any chance that the blade is an old Japanese one.
Cheers,
Bryce
Hi Bryce,
There are distinct signs of opening along the edge of the blade. I hope the photo attached is good enough for you to see what I mean.
My Regards,
Norman.

P.S. There are some along the spine as well, again I hope the photo is sufficient.
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Last edited by Norman McCormick; 13th June 2021 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 13th June 2021, 03:25 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel View Post
I do not know much about Korean sword; thus, I have to rely fully on the chapter by Park Je Gwang, a curator of the War Memorial of Korea. This was published in a book titled "History of steel in Eastern Asia", a catalogue of the Macao exhibition. Two of our colleagues, Ian and Jose ( Battara) coauthored a chapter on Sandata, Philippines bladed weapons.

Back to the Korean swords. The main cultural difference between them and the Japanese swords was a very different attitude. The was nothing of a " Sword is the soul of the samurai". Swords were just implements, no more. The main physical difference was the attachment of the handle to the tang: in Japan the mekugi was easily removable, in Korea they had a true rivet, that prevented any disassembly.

Look at yours and see which method was used in your sword.
Hi Ariel,
The hilt is secured by a peg and not a rivet so I guess from your research that rules out a Korean attribution.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 13th June 2021, 04:03 PM   #18
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David and Ren Ren,
A valid point.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 13th June 2021, 04:41 PM   #19
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I suspect that the reason for the offset "machi" is to get the look of the traditional habaki, which is a more complicated piece of work than people realise, without all the fiddling around.....
I have made a couple of habaki, and there is a lot of fiddling around.
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Old 13th June 2021, 04:45 PM   #20
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Hi,
A Korean sword with a pegged hilt also just discernible is an 'offset habaki'.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 13th June 2021, 04:52 PM   #21
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Hi,
Another Korean sword with a discernible 'offset habaki' but with the more common 'rivet' through the hilt which also doubles as a hole for a tassled cord.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 13th June 2021, 05:51 PM   #22
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Tubular rivets for a sword knot are a very Chinese (authentic) feature. Not always present but seen often enough.
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Old 13th June 2021, 05:59 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R View Post
Tubular rivets for a sword knot are a very Chinese (authentic) feature. Not always present but seen often enough.
Hi David,
From my searches a very Korean thing too. Images I presented taken from this site http://www.swordsofkorea.com
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 03:14 AM   #24
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G'day Norman,
The new photos of the blade you posted don't prove the blade is Japanese, but on the other hand they don't rule it out either. If you can see a hamon then that makes it more likely to be Japanese (or maybe Korean?).
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 14th June 2021, 01:47 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
G'day Norman,
The new photos of the blade you posted don't prove the blade is Japanese, but on the other hand they don't rule it out either. If you can see a hamon then that makes it more likely to be Japanese (or maybe Korean?).
Cheers,
Bryce

Hi Bryce,
Maybe there's something but difficult to capture on film. In the YouTube film attached in a subsequent post you will see that the hardened edge the smith scribes on the blade is straight and even along the length of the blade in comparison to the more usual flamboyant edges on Japanese blades.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 03:19 PM   #26
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Hi,
Check out the 'habaki' on the sword at about 8min 46 sec, it appears to be offset. The 'habaki' on mine closely follows the contour of the blade and certainly looks like it was made specifically for this blade.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf8KFkEd4oQ

Regards,
Norman.

P.S. Also how the wrap is finished at 3 min 12 sec.
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Old 14th June 2021, 05:21 PM   #27
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Hi,
Screen shots of the relevant bits, also notice the strip of material in the centre of the grip similar to the 'snakeskin' in the centre of mine. Also notice the 'misalignment' of the notches on one of the other swords. The sword with the equal notches is double edged.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 08:12 PM   #28
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Hi,
A modern Korean sword made for martial arts. Note the offset 'habaki'.

I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that my sword is a distinctly Korean construct and probably has nothing to do with Japan. I will continue to seek more information and post as and when. If anybody has any more thoughts on the subject please let me know.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th June 2021, 08:51 PM   #29
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Hi,
Close up of the 'habaki' and point of a 19thC Korean Hwando. The tip looks as if it has a slight swell. Obviously a much more upmarket version.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 16th June 2021, 02:40 PM   #30
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Hi,
Some more Korean sword information and images.
Regards,
Norman.
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