I purchased the bare tanto above from Dan Pfenensteil in 2005 and the complexity of the steels in the blade prompted a contemporary approach based on a traditional tanto mountings where metallic grooves were the theme.
Between the purchase of the bare tanto and the finalizing of it, it took 2 years to be finished due to the complexities of the silver mountings.
This page shows the entire process of creating the tanto, the making of the silver mountings and of the woodwork and the final assembly. Top notch work all the way.

this is a layered steel tanto. Steel is 1095 and 1050 with just a couple of pieces of L6 to add flavor, around 320 layers. Plain copper habaki. Bought as a bare blade.
Nagasa: 22.7 cm
Nakago: 7.7 cm
PRICE: Lowered to US$1.800
Potential customers should consider the amount of work that went into this tanto and then compare the price with a production tanto priced at US$649 that was chosen at random from a Google search.
An this ever be compared?


The design was based on the tanto below, but focusing only on the metal part of the saya.

The theme is highlighted in this picture.
First thing was to find who could do it. That was Kendal Chow who had done some work for me before. Kendall is a promising jeweller and wax carver. I've seen many wax carvings by him. But before that it would be the shirasaya to
Making a shirasaya is, in this specific case, building up the wooden foundation for a three step mounting process:

1.- The making of the shirasaya itself.
2.- The wax carving of the fittings based on the shirasaya and the casting of the fittings.
3.- Returning the shirasaya and fittings for lacquering and mounting.

This tanto, already fitted with a habaki, is made in a very unique method that invites for a mounting and fittings that can match the uniqueness of the hada.

The Nakago measurements were provided by Dan, and I am inclined for a mekugi-ana 1.5 inch away from the munemachi due to the need for space for the aikuchi mounting, tsuba and fuchi, as it will be quite unique.

Recently received blade photo with the measurements.

Here is my exercise of making a sequence in order to obtain a tsuka length in the raw, as well as a saya length in the raw in oval section.
Glue: it is requested that white glue is carefully used since it will be the fnal saya and tsuka in alder wood.
The horn koiguchi should be 15 mm wide for design purposes. Both ends of the shirasaya will later be mounted with custom fittings as mentioned before, hence the reason for this page that will grow as things develop.

Here the shirasaya is seen with the horn koiguchi removed and a 12 cm length of the saya shaved, corresponding to A as if it were for the application of samékawa. However it is for applying a thin wax sheet so as to create an area that will then be carved and cast in silver. Every measurement here has a reason.


from left to right
Kashira: 2.5 cm
Fuchi: 2.3 cm flaring
Tsuba (aikuchi): 5 mm thick
Grooved sleeve: 12 cm with flaring koiguchi (2.3 mm) linked to sleeve and round kurikata.
Kojiri: 2.8 cm

Kendall Chow is a talented fittings maker (for now). I commissioned this tanto silver mountings which took him a lot of dedication. Here are part of the casting process for the mountings plus his own observations.
Kendall was able to figure out how to do it the best way after an early mishap.

Silver is ductile so Kendall carved the tube in a lathe for casting and then changing it into the tanto section.

The first attempt of the casting broke.

He then casted it again from wax, now the tube being broken down in separate parts.

This is definitely a delicate and careful job.

more parts on the works

and the molds being made.
The darkened silver combination
the glow of the silver getting into liquid state and
being poured into the moulds
and solidifying.


The silver parts aligned, with a patina for a darker silver color.

Another detail of the mountings assembled.

A final view before going back to Randy for final wood adjustment and lacquering.

One of the great challenges in long distance design is to be able to communicate and also to allow room for interpretation as the different craftsmen may look at a design with different eyes. While I did not feel the need to illustrate the rendition with a curvature (sori) I tried to convey the main message. I realize that Kendall could not interpret the linearity of the design with no tsuka tapering.
This is another experience for both me and Kendall. How accurate can one interpret the design? How much do I need to fill in with words.
One thing is to read between the lines of an illustration, another is interpreting. But the overall outcome is not too far from the original concept. Just a little tapering where it should have been straight.

Randy sent me these photos on June 14,2007, after the shirasaya required some corrections

The adjustment work done. The tanto is now ready for lacquering

Tanto picture before shipping. The colors are not correct due to light temperature, but main problems have been solved.
At this point I am not yet in possession of the tanto. I can only guess, and know through email, that the color is not correct and that Randy tried to convey a metallic look to it all.
This review, in fact, ends up being like a diary. You know how it is developing by what you get to see across continents.

The tanto arrived today, August 6, 2007. It is a very sturdy and strong piece with a very metallic finish. The silver fittings have been patinated to a very dark grey which lead to a metallic interpretation of the lacquer. I'm not disappointed, as it is another variation of the look I was aiming at. In this color photograph, one seems to look at a black and white photograph.

These photos were taken with natural light. The clear lacquer coats can be seen in the way it reflects light.

The grip is very powerful and the blade strong and beautiful as can be seen above.

The wood core is the only accent that shows that the picture is in color. The rest is a very nicely and unexpected grey look that does bring this tanto into the realm of black and white.




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Antonio Cejunior BLADESIGN 2005