What you see
here is the result of months of work and a product that made me very
happy. Like an antique sword or even an expertly fitted and polished
modern forge folded blade, these swords are not meant for cutting
bottles or mats. Rather, I have with me a pair of swords that I will
enjoy holding and examining, discovering new details and appreciating
the artistry and intellect that went into them.
We decided to use a pair of swords as the canvas to develop the
idea of contrast – a light versus a dark sword. We chose the chokuto
rather than the more common katana, as something different and as a
challenge to Joe as we wanted a visible hamon on both swords.
Hikari no Ken (the sword of light) is a simple sword whose wood
had worn smooth through time. In contrast, Kage no Ken (the
sword of darkness), with its club-like kashira, oversized habaki and
solid kojiri, was designed to be brutally ugly with nothing subtle or
With this two-sword canvas, Antonio and Joe
worked on the details of color and texture to enhance the picture of
contrasts as well as the unifying theme of time and age.
On its own, each sword is a unique piece but seeing the swords
side by side, you can imagine the dichotomy of lightness and speed
against mass and power. Pushing imagination further, you can
picture contrasting fighting styles or even the opposing nature of the
men who wielded these two swords in combat and the timelessness of
Eric Litton's superb renditions helped very much in the
full perception of the swords.
With Joe totally in tune and involved in the design process,
production flowed seamlessly from design. Both swords were made of 1084
steel, differentially hardened. Fittings were made of mild steel, etched,
pounded and textured.
For Hikari no Ken, Joe chose maple for the saya and
tsuka to match the copper colored koshirae. He deliberately selected wood
that was devoid of any attention-grabbing grain or burl to emphasize
austerity and simplicity.
The tsuka shows Joe’s attention to detail as he carved
sections to reflect a handle that had shifted and cracked and which time
had smoothened. Darkened the areas around the fittings copy the staining
of metal corrosion and patina on the wood.
Hikari no Ken’s blade has a pearly, matte finish with areas of
corrosion and discoloration inter-playing with the blade’s hamon.
By design, Kage no Ken is dark, dirty and rough. We added an
oversized habaki to add mass and allow for half-swording movements. Joe
ingenuously addressed the problem of excessive weight by carving out
sections from the steel block.
Unfortunately, pictures cannot capture the range of Joe’s
magic on blade. Aside from the clearly defined hamon, at certain angles,
streaks and splotches of brown, gray and black are also noticeable.
Statistics and Handling
Hikari No Ken
Tsuka Length: 10.5”
Nagasa Length 25.0”
Thickness at the Tsuba 3/16”
Kage No Ken
Tsuka Length 11.0”
Habaki Length 4.5”
Nagasa Length 20.5”
Thickness at the Tsuba 3/16”
Both swords are extremely sharp and can surely cut through
typical material for cutting exercises.
As expected, Hikari no Ken is a light and fast sword. As
a one-hander, the lightness of the tsuka and the absence of blade
taper make Hikari no Ken balance out just a bit farther from
the tsuba than I would prefer. Used with two hands, this
characteristic is barely noticeable.
Kage no Ken is a heavy sword more appropriate for two-handed
use. The pommel design provides a surface to help in the thrust and
retraction of the blade. Beyond this, I have still to explore the
range of motions that can be achieved with the kashira and habaki
combination, making room for all the possible stabbing and slashing
I write this review as a message of appreciation and admiration
for Antonio and Joe. Especially for Joe as he
delivered a truly successful project. Equally important, he has also
made the process pleasant and educational for me with his patience,
humor and generosity with his knowledge.
Through this review, I also I hope to share a different
direction in sword collecting – of building on the familiar form and
explicit purpose of a sword to celebrate the creativity and innovation
of a modern sword smith.
What an interesting phrase - “a modern sword smith” and I must
add a word of thanks to all of you out there. To the modern sword
smith, whether your swords honor history, support a martial
discipline, continue a tradition of forging, grinding and polishing or
as in this case, present a way of creative expression, thank you so
much for making it such a great time for people like me who treasure
COMMENTS BY JOE WALTERS
The theme of 'Light and
Dark' embodied in a pair of swords was a project that struck a
very strong chord with me.
Antonio's design based upon Anton's concepts clearly mapped
out a canvas to work within. Construction of the blades proved
difficult, but very educational. I studied countless examples of
corrosion and aging to develop an authentic, ancient feel for the
blades, learning that the most challenging aspect was to be
maintaining a balance between 'deliberately destroyed' and 'naturally
As a result, I chose a grey-frosted oxide for the Hikari No
Ken, simulating ancient steel that has been protected from the
harsher elements and has grown old in rest. To bring forth feelings of
darkness, a harsher pitting and corrosion was chosen for the Kage no
Ken. The black oxides were built up with a blend of molten salts and
acids. Brownish-red oxides were added with another blend of acid
patina. There is a lot of depth of color in the blades that can only
be seen by angling the blade under light.
The fittings and wood for both blades follow the same theme:
what would two, opposing living swords evolve into if concealed for
ages, undisturbed. I was lucky in finding the maple, which matched the
Hikari no Ken perfectly. Serendipity played a role in the
texture for the Kage no Ken's saya, which evolved into an
ancient-twisted-looking piece of old wood under an aged lacquer.
It is rare that I get to work with two friendly and warm
clients and friends with such openness and freedom. This was a
blade smith's dream project from beginning to end, and I am grateful
for the experience.
DESIGNING THE SWORDS
OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS BY ANTONIO CEJUNIOR
Anton has kindly
requested me to add some text on my experience with the design of these
It is always a pleasure to work with Anton because, apart
from being a well learned gentleman and a very kind customer, Anton
perfectly understands the role of a designer by very clearly expressing
his wishes. Something Ancient, for me, meant almost inventing a
story. which I did begin to write, but became unfinished due to the fast
development of the project.
Though unfinished, here is
what I wrote as a way of exercise. I called it The Swords of the
Absolute, since the two main elements explained by Daoism refer to
Yin and Yang, two opposing forces that complement each
other which proves to be a philosophic principle extrinsic to mankind, yet
omnipresent. Magnetism is based on positive and negative poles attracting
each other, electricity has also a negative and a positive pole, the
succession of day and of night, cold and hot, light and heavy. All these
realities that apparently confront each other are more of a parts of the
Another interesting aspect is based on the fact that steel is
obtained with the participation of all the five elements: fire,
water, metal, earth and air.
Then, some research was made to find Jokoto swords and my
books helped a lot.
This is an example of a Sword with pommel
in the shape of guy (Chinese Jade symbol) and silver
Kofun Period, 6th. century.
Sword with pommel
in the shape of guy (Chinese Jade symbol) and gilt bronze
Kofun Period, 7th. century.
These two swords helped develop the concept of the large kashira
as well as the long habaki.
Sword with fern
frond shaped pommel.
Kofun - Nara Period, 7th. - 8th. century.
With these swords and the study of
them I came up with Anton as customer and Eric Litton as
renderer to develop a correct rendition that took many phases as can be
seen here. This can show
the process of tuning up the renditions to provide Joe Walters with
the correct effects of swords belonging to a unfinished tale.
During the interaction with Anton, it was very rewarding to
see how gratifying was his questions and understanding of the answers.
The next thing a designer has to do is to find the right smith, and in
this case, I knew Joe Walters was the right smith for his extensive
I decided to suggest a shortening of the blades so that they would
keep a length that would provide maximum control in yaki-iri and
Joe took the challenge with entire success. The pitting, texturing and
all aspects are of extraordinary quality.
As a designer it was great fun and
pleasure working with all the team and Anton proved to be a
customer and friend who knew where to stop as well as where to allow
Nothing is more rewarding than to assemble a team that works in
I would therefore like to thank Anton, Eric Litton
and Joe Walters for the tantalizing and unique work we managed to
put up together.
Antonio Cejunior, September