A better way

With some help from Ted Tenold, I’ve put together a nice modern sword care kit to replace the uchiko-based kits-o-death that are commonplace destroyers of swords everywhere.

I’m supplying these for free to first time buyers of high quality swords from my site. So if you were looking for a reason to drop $50,000 on a sword, it has arrived.

Rejoice!

Send money.

Continue reading A better way

Pass Factor

I had a good question come in about my references to lower tier schools, and the question asked me to reflect on what were the top tier schools. You can find in Nagayama’s The Connoisseur’s Book of Japanese Swords good listings of the Leading Schools for each time period. I think every collector should have this book. It was out of print for a while and prices went way up, but it is back in print now and you can buy it following that Amazon link (which does not make me money, just get this book and use it).

Trying to get a handle on which schools are the best actually seems easy at first but it gets a little bit complicated the deeper you dig.

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Fungible (fŭnˈjə-bəl)

  • adj.
    Law Returnable or negotiable in kind or by substitution, as a quantity of grain for an equal amount of the same kind of grain.
  • adj.
    Interchangeable.
  • n.
    Something that is exchangeable or substitutable. Often used in the plural.

If you want to properly understand attributions, you need to understand this concept thoroughly.

Continue reading Fungible (fŭnˈjə-bəl)

Green Papers Pt. 2

I am glad my post on green papers is getting some traction and the issue is being discussed. There is some of the expected harrumphing and finger pointing going around as people are reacting to the information, and I suggest to not get distracted by it. No handwaving is required and no conspiracy theories necessary about this being a scam wherein the NBTHK accuses itself of fraudulent papers in order to get people to pay twice for papers (kind of like shooting yourself in the face in order to claim insurance).

This is the appropriate response if you think your green papers are good:

I GUARANTEE IT.

If you really believe in it, you can do it.

Continue reading Green Papers Pt. 2

Daisho

A nice to have on everyone’s list… the daisho. The name literally means “big-small” and refers to the pair of swords that only a samurai was authorized to wear. 

There are some simple basics about daisho and some misconceptions. The learning curve is shallow but some people skip over the essentials, and it can cause some damage.

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The humble wakizashi

You may have gotten advice when you started out to buy a wakizashi as your first item. I am not 100% sure yet if this is completely out-dated bullshit advice (like uchiko improving a polish), or if it is meant well and properly. I want to poke at that idea a bit and see if something comes out of it. 

There is certainly a bias in the market against wakizashi. This has some merit, and this in other regards lacks merit. Basically, a wakizashi is a case by case thing. Who made it, why they made it, when they made it, all of this factors into how you should be thinking about them.

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Your swords: not samurai swords. Daimyo swords!

The title refers to a conversation I had with a top Japanese dealer.

I try hard to focus on quality and to weed the weak out when I select something for my site. I don’t want to get commercial grade items and host them, this to me isn’t interesting, and I don’t want to pretend to fawn over items that were basically utilitarian in their time. 

This spawns some thoughts.

Continue reading Your swords: not samurai swords. Daimyo swords!

Oil your nakago

Japanese books say to leave the nakago (the tang of the sword) to age, because the condition of the nakago indicates how old it is.

I think this is good advice for the mid-1600s. But we are past the Edo period now. Swords are historical treasures. If we continue to let nakago “age gracefully” then there is a future where they turn into dust.

Not now, not next century, but not so far past that.

The black oxidated state of nakago are fairly stable, but not perfectly stable. Otherwise, there would be no “graceful aging” at all. Logically, we cannot have it both ways, that the nakago is safe from eroding away and that different period nakago will show different aging conditions. If these nakago were not slowly rotting away on a centuries timescale, then they would hit a stable point and then never change. 

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Green papers = no papers

Actually, green papers on a sword at this point are worse than having no papers. They are a virtual guarantee that the sword was made by anyone else except for the guy named on the papers

“But, Darcy,” you say, “this that and the other thing! This one is real!”

GREEN PAPERS = NO PAPERS

From a standpoint of the offended side in the consecutive incidents having taken place last year, one in Fukuoka Kyushu where the Society’s Local Shinsa of Kicho Token was disgraced by an intrusion of local organized outlaws in March and the other involving forged certificates widely circulated in the autumn, the Society had entrusted the Metropolitan Police Department with investigation into those regrettable incidents. After eight months’ thorough investigation by the authority, eight persons in the forgery ring were arrested and twenty-eight more connected with the ring have been sent the police reports to the public prosecutor.

— NBTHK Token Bijutsu (English), 1981

“But, Darcy,” you say, “I really feel good about this one!”

GREEN PAPERS = NO PAPERS

“But, Darcy,” you say, “let me explain why this one is the exception!”

GREEN PAPERS = NO PAPERS

The bigger the name, the worse it is.

Continue reading Green papers = no papers

Uchiko considered harmful

Uchiko is an abrasive compound that comes with a lot of sword care kits. This compound is needlessly, carelessly and incorrectly applied most times and causes damage to the polish, even when correctly applied. 

It’s an abrasive, there is no getting around this fact and I won’t use it, and encourage other people to not use it.

Continue reading Uchiko considered harmful