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KataKiriha Zukuri


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I finished this commission recently. I was asked to do a ko-wakizashi and when I received that request I knew what I wanted to do. I have several books on Japanese swords and this piece has always drawn me, in a geometry called Kata-Kiriha Zukuri. This one is a mid 17th century wakizashi from the Edo branch of the Yasutsugu family of smiths. This piece has always fascinated me for how the geometry, single fuller, and the hamon interact to create balance on the very different sides of the blade. I've wanted to try it for some time now. This piece is from the book:

"Cutting Edge: Japanese Swords int the British Museum"

Here is a pic of the original:


I really liked how the hamon on the kiriha side (the top view) follows the lower shinogi line and is quite sedate and gentle in deference to the imposing fuller. On the shobu side (the lower) the hamon is wilder and more active and together there is a fascinating balance.

Following discussions about themes and materials, this was my interpretation.



Central to the koshirae of this piece is the beautiful Edo period antique Fuchi and Kashira with inset dragons. This was one of the themes discussed and when I saw these I was pretty sure that it would fit very nicely in this piece.

The tsuba was a difficult piece to get right. At first I tried some traditional carving and quickly discovered how difficult it is so I shelved it and started again. (I think a course with Patrick Hastings is in my future).

It also occurred to me that I really wanted to highlight the beautiful fuchi/kashira and keep it light but also large enough to qualify as a wakizashi sized piece. To do this I forged a piece of wrought iron and did large cut-outs. I think the effect was achieved as it is large enough to be substantial but allows one to see the full interaction of the all the parts. Kind of a tying things together by omission, or negative space.

I think these shows what I mean:



In the rush to get this to arrive in time for the BLADE show, I didn't get any great shots of the hamon but one part I really liked was this one. When thinking of themes the idea of something astronomical was discussed. By chance this little horsehead nebula showed up.. well that's what I thought when I saw it. :)



Here's a bit of the hamon on the other side.


And heres a poorly lit video of the hamon on both sides.

the two tsubas (you can see part of the dragon on the lower one)


One of the koshirae. Though this is darker, it looks to me a little closer to the colouring.


Thanks for looking.

- Stuart


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Nice work Stuart, one day I'll learn about wrapping handles, then give one of these a go...that horse head is cool! I find the blade shape oddly attractive, even though I go for symetrical stuff myself, it sort of 'comes together' here!

To become old and wise... You first have to survive being young and foolish! ;) Ikisu.blogsot.com. Email; milesikisu@gmail.com mobile: +27784653651

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SO beautiful. And that does look eerily like the horsehead nebula. Just say it was on purpose. ;)


So the edge bevel (sorry, I dont know the japanese term) goes higher on the unfullered side of the blade? Does that affect how it tracks in a cut?

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Apparently this style dates back to the Kamakura period though it certainly isn't common. I'm not sure if it's particularly practical or the reasoning behind it. I imagine it lends to a tougher edge so maybe it was a transition piece, an attempt to combine the stronger edge of the kiriha style with enhanced cutting by having at least the one side shobu zukuri.


@ Jesus.. the fuller wasn't so bad considering I had finished this piece not long before. These took a loooong time... :P

- Stuart


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Awesome work, w00t.gif ! You sir are indeed a craftsman ! bow.gif

C Craft Customs ~~~ With every custom knife I build I try to accomplish three things. I want that knife to look so good you just have to pick it up, feel so good in your hand you can't wait to try it, and once you use it, you never want to put it down ! If I capture those three factors in each knife I build, I am assured the knife will become a piece that is used and treasured by its owner! ~~~ C Craft

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Stuart, your work has been awesome since I became aware of it, and you just keep getting better.

James Helm - Helm Enterprises, Forging Division


Come see me at the Blade Show! Table 26R.


Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.


My blog dedicated to the metalwork I make and sell: http://helmforge.blogspot.com/

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Stuart, from the marks on the tsuka looks like that sword is being used. :)

Hi/fullers are very time consuming.

Some of the very early Japanese straight blades called chokuto used the katakiriha geometry. As you said, some smiths liked it enough to repeat it later on, including you. Technically it is possible that the edge would be sharper this way.

Edited by Jesus Hernandez

Enjoy life!

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Beautiful as always. Your work just keeps getting better and better, and your not afraid to try new things. I can't wait to see what you do next.

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Thanks very much.


JPH.. I would be interested to see that geometry for sure. Anything, particularly the unusual would be a very welcome sight to me.


Thanks for the comments about the habaki. It was a little odd to make as the asymmetry seemed to want to distort the side I wasn't hammering. It took a lot more flipping, kind of hit, flip, hit, flip etc...


Still not as bad as making a habaki for a Kogatana. I just did one of those and working in miniature was a real challenge. I am part way through another one and I'm kind of putting it off...

- Stuart


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Mark Green


I have a way? Is that better then a plan?

(cptn. Mal)

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