Daisho Katana and Wakizashi

Work in Progress

September 2004

As a long-term project, I'm making a set of mounts for a daisho pair of swords; long katana and medium wakizashi.

Katana and wakizashi scabbards on stand

Katana and wakizashi scabbards

So far I'm just completing the lacquerwork on the wooden saya (scabbards). These are plain lacquered dark-red, in the Momoyama style. I might do some gilding work, but it will be restrained, not like the well-known "barber's-pole" presented to Hidekatsu by Hideyoshi!

Materials are lime (linden, basswood) for the saya and tsuka cores. The lacquer is shellac, coloured with red ochre.

Further tasks are to make tsuba, probably in forged iron and maybe inlaid. The koshirae might be cast bronze, or I might commission them from some silversmith friends. I'll wrap the tsukamaki myself, and would love to hear from anyone else doing this in the UK (where do you get your ito?). I've recently started to braid my own kumihimo to make such braids. The blades will also require polishing, which I also do (but not for anything old).

Katana and wakizashi bare blades on stand

Katana and wakizashi bare blades

Here we see the two blades exposed.

The katana blade (upper) was originally a wartime shin-gunto (shown below). Factory steel rather than hand work, but it's a good sword for iaido.

The wakizashi is Satsuma period - 1868. It has the typical "sun disk" menuki of Satsuma rebellion swords. It's hand-forged in traditional style, but not of high quality. I acquired it with a cast iron tsuba and worn tsuka wrapping, but no saya and oddly no habaki. This was the first habaki I'd made, in plain copper. To match the other, I might later plate this with silver or nickel.

Pair of wartime shin-gunto on stand

Wartime shin-gunto

Two wartime shin-gunto, the typical Japanese army sword of the period. They are both officer's models, although the shorter one is unusual in having a fullered blade. The longer one (used for the remount) is unusually long, and is an ideal length for a Westerner to practice iaido.

One of my reasons for this re-mount was to have my katana with a long tsuka (handle), rather than the shin-gunto's original tachi style mounting. Although the shin-gunto was an infantry sword, its mounting were of the classical tachi style, as were intended for use from horseback.