RICK BARRETT'S BLADE

Not very often are we given the opportunity to look at something and say: that is it.
T
his happened to me when I saw Rick Barrett's blade below, in its raw, unpolished state. There were two similar style blades, and I gave precedence to one that was chosen by a very dear friend. I don't think I lost or gained anything. I just opted for this particular blade, which had an amazing activity.

T
hen came the creative process which took some hesitations, using readily available fittings that always left me hanging in the air with a feeling of dissatisfaction, while Rick Barrett bore with me my hesitations.
As usual with me, when a creative problem arises, I slept over it and let my mind clean itself on worrying how would the process would develop.
The Katsujin-ken paradox had to be resolved and I would have to find a means to express it, as opposed to the Satsujin-ken, the Life-taking sword which I abhorred.
O
nce more, as I grew detached of the issue, the solution came to me. It was obvious that the sword had to be a sword of Light, something that had to symbolically and physically shine and become something  subject to the contingency of the evolution of the entire process of a blade. At that time I was also designing my own mon and that gave me the final personalization that I required.
 
My mon could be simplified to six dots displayed hexagonally, slightly separated. So the theme was found and silver fittings were what I felt could better represent the symbolism of Light from the sword. Black would have to be the remaining color.



T
he Katsujin-Ken is an idea that is dear to me for its meaning: Life Giving Sword embodying in such a denomination a philosophical approach that had to carry a precious look.

This blade had so much rich activity even in the raw, that I was immediately attracted to it. It would shine in different ways, a work of art that just asked me to listen to its  voice with my own ears.
To me it demanded to be treated and adorned like a jewel, so it was.
I designed a contemporary style sword which would reflect and not conflict with the traditional style of the blade, but would hopefully blend nicely.
Fittings were designed by me and done by Patrick Hastings while the now polished blade showed all its magnificence.

PATRICK HASTINGS FITTINGS
More and more the blade and the mountings were getting closer to the virtuality of the design renditions.

T
he sword was subject to a lengthy process in which Patrick Hastings had to deal with the technical problems of reproducing the mon in a white background in the fittings. Some attempts were made as it was not an easy task.

A
lso, as my own choice, the surfaces were all very plain and flat and made of pure silver, which made them vulnerable to the weather and to scratch.
But that was the price for an art piece of predominant jewelry character.

However I wanted this sword fittings not for cutting purposes, but basically an art sword, a blend of a traditionally made forge folded blade with a more contemporary vocabulary for the fittings and even saya.

It had to be a piece of jewelry, a treasure dressing a treasured blade of which Enomoto Sadaito, Rick Barrett's mentor and teacher, said it was an amazing work of art, a master- piece.

T
his blade, which is extremely sharp, is a blade of contemplation and of an inner journey, not a sword for doing imaginary battles, that so many are fond to call battle ready.

T
hen Patrick had to carve the horimono in the omote side of the blade's shinogi-ji, according to my exact specifications, which would also have to match the style of kanji characters that were in the tsuba. Reason why Patrick did it.

Actually the kanji positioning on the tsuba was pretty intriguing since it appeared reverse and facing the blade.

The choice was mine and had to do with my own symbolist world of presenting the kanji in the direction of  an opponent. That is when the sword would achieve all its meaning, in my own interpretation. It would be to go back into the saya.

 

PROGRESS OF THE FITTINGS

As the work evolved, Rick Barrett kept sending me some pictures to view how things were heading.
I had by this time forgotten about the blade's length, and my original request for a 14 inches tsuka had to change.

The nagasa was 27 inches I recalled then, when I saw the tsuka in the raw so I asked Rick to cut it short as it was too long for the blade length.
This is why it is important to keep communication when something is in the making.
This picture still shows the tsuka with the original 14 inches tsuka which is my preferred length, along with a 29 inches blade length.

Another complicated task was the saya.
There was an early misinterpretation of the saya from the renditions as they were taken for grooves instead of rings in silver.

Therefore Rick had to carve the grooves in the saya.
I decided for eight grooves separated by the silver kurikata, instead of the early ten grooves and I'm happy I did that.
After the grooves were cut with precision, Rick Barrett had to make strips of 8 mm silver pieces that would have to fit the grooves with entire precision.

These pieces would then be bent around the grooves and then would have to be welded together without hurting the wood. Another precision work and I would very much like to express my gratitude to Rick Barrett for this painstaking job, but I was also very confident because he is also a very good jeweler, so I knew he could do it.
Once this painstaking job was done, the primed saya was then lacquered and polished a number of times. It must have been a painstaking job, but I believe it is well worth it. The outcome was, in my opinion a superb job.

THE BLADE'S ACTIVITY
Kissaki of the shinogi-zukuri

The blade is forge folded 1095-1045 steels combined with some orishigane and the hamon is a ko-choji/midare with abundant ashi, profuse nie and sunagashi. The boshi presents extra activity as Rick repolished the kissaki for better view of the activity. Kissaki is 1.5 inches
Though the mune had also plenty of activity, I did request Rick to burnish it off as it would become more balanced as well as make room for  the horimono kanji be more consistent.

 

THE HORIMONO

 

THE FINISHED SWORD

The end result is of a sword that bears all the shine of both black and silver
 
DON MYRA HAS FINISHED A KEISHO POLISH
Sugata picture by Don Myra
Details pictures by Don Myra

Sword Specifications
Overall length
: 43.5 inches
Saya
:30 inches
Tsuka
: 13.5 inches
Tsuba thickness
: 3/8 of an inch
Nagasa
: 27 inches
Motohaba
:1 3/8 inches
Sakihaba : 7/8 of an inch
Mune at Motohaba : 8 mm
Mune at Sakihaba : 4.5 mm
Sori : 0.75 inches

 
 
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