INTRODUCTION

The idea of a hybrid tanto design
has been done and lurking for years here.
By then I had the urge of looking into sources of innovation as opposed to repetitive shape recipes that became boring as much as design is concerned.
When I saw this Maori axe in nephrite, it made me even more certain that there are sources of original cultures that deserve to be considered as artistic expressions of immense and genuine quality that can be extremely inspirational.
Through this axe I found the confirmation on my thoughts about how important it is to plunge into other areas of sword cultures for renovation: Ethnicity!

I find once more that innovation always comes when we go back to the source, and in this case, I believe it is not a shallow approach.

Paolo Abrera enthusiastically embraced the project of doing the hybrid tanto whose link is posted in the first paragraph, and it would be a warm-up project for another customer's project.

The banner of this page shows the source of inspiration, while the Maori axe represents the archetypal beauty found in different ethnic cultures that do point me the way to which I should pursue the design of weapons: being open to genuine, ethnic beauty becomes extremely refreshing as renovation is always going back to the beginning of the aesthetical journey. However the axe is shown here as an archetypal example, not a model for this concept.
Nonetheless what I pursue is hybridation in different areas other than technical, i.e. differential heat treatment. Then, slowly, hybridation as a cultural process of appropriation, viewed exogenously so as not to be bound by traditions, as too often, too much knowledge becomes to restrictive of creative freedom.

Then a brief but intense brainstorm begins. The Moro Kris is of a great historical importance as a weapon and a cultural expression of the Philippines, while the tanto is widely used nowadays as a knife shape. This project intends to approach both in an unconventional, even subversive way.

This is the wood for the saya. Two pieces of this length are more than enough for a scabbard.

Then Paolo introduces a new element to the design that made me slap my forehead. It was obvious. He further explained:
Baca-baca/asang-asang that hold the blade/gangya/handle together (i'm sure you're familiar with the detail). It has some practical purpose on the moro sword but like all details on these weapons, it also has many symbolic meanings attached to it. I was doing some sketches and toyed with the idea of integrating a similar feature into the tanto-kris design. It's more of a decorative feature that alludes to the kris inspiration but will also actlike a "wedge" at the saya mouth much like a habaki.
Just a bit more appropriation of shapes and forms from the moro kris. Maybe in textured copper or silver? You think it adds something or is it superfluous?

It obviously was not superfluous. One has to be open to ideas brought forth by someone like Paolo because only gain comes from his inputs, always formulated in his humble and colloquial way.
Then more information came as I suggested that we should even go further and have the Baca-baca pierce the blade, going a step further into innovation, if we consider breaking the rules of convention.

From what I understand the spirit/jen that is invited to reside in the sword passes through the base of the blade where the gangya mates with the blade proper.
The Jen will remain there and protect the wielder as long as the baca-baca holds the blade, gangya and handle together. It is a strong charm, the key if you will, that locks and unlocks the power source of the blade. In a practical sense, if the blade, gangya and hilt ever did fail and come apart in battle, the user would indeed be in big trouble. ;-)

In later times, the moro kris was usually not made with a separate gangya and the baca-baca is lighter and more decorative in execution and function. Both in a practical and spiritual sense...

And with the information came a first drawing to be seen below. I absolutely loved the concept. Now I must render it, not because it is necessary, but out of the need to further communicate.

If one sees the evolution from a traditional Japanese tanto into a total transformation, one can also see that any hamon will be absolutely out of place. It will require a pure canvas for these elements to preside.

As a consequence of what has been said before, here is a view of another step of the Kris Tanto. One of the baca-baca in silver is parallel to the blade's spine. The other one remains traditionally placed. The perforation solution is mainly to avoid a symmetry that has no correspondence in the inexistent wings of the Kris.
This solution should have a more longer extension of the straight baca-baca so as to increase the lack of symmetry as in Paolo's drawing.


THE MAKING OF THE TANTO
These are the earliest photographs I received from Paolo dated from July 5, 2007 and they are the first eight.

Forging the tanto

Adjusting the sori

Normalizing

Annealing

The tanto forged with a compensation curve at the kissaki

Profile being cleaned. In this case is the mune

The tanto with the cutout markings & compensation curve.

The cutouts being carefully filled out. Hybridation begins.

Second set of pictures received on July 18, 2007

the tanto with finished cut outs, ready for heat treating and a compensation curve at the kissaki. now Paolo protects the blade cut outs and the hole with insulating clay against cracking during quench.
heat treating the blade in this beautiful charcoal forge going for the quench in a glorious temperature
after the quench Paolo registered the substantial difference in the curve. Tanto is almost straight as originally planned. cut tests of the blade after cleaning off the quench residues. The cutouts look absolutely splendid.
   

Third set of pictures received on August 9, 2007 while the monsoon strikes in SE Asia.

Steel tsuba and horn blanks for both ends of the scabbard

Paolo fits the nakago in Filipino ebony. It is a beautiful wood for further explorations.

Picture of rough shaped saya with an already rounded
tsuba
The blade and the saya.
Notice the beautiful handle curvature?
Paolo brazing the butt plate The rough finished butt plate and collar.

Notes: At this stage, I'm already once more extremely impressed with the amazing bursts of quality work time Paolo puts in all his projects. And I feel the same anticipation for the outcome as with other designs, especially since this specific one carries a less common hybridation which will not include a differential heat treated blade. Hybridation is expressed by other ways and that is the intellectual pleasure of it.

At this stage I suggest to Paolo three little marks on the silver curved baca-baca made with a small triangular file to add a very simple adornment, very synthetic and purely aesthetic that can become a kind of a "response" of silver to the steel cut outs.

On August 20, and despite the heavy rain and flooding in Manila, Paolo sends me these progress pictures.

The blade is now inserted on a Ferric Chloride etch for grain Paolo now proceeds to working in silver for the baca-baca
The two baca-baca while unpolished show a contrast with the blade grain Dry mounted kris-tanto with the baca-baca and the mountings. It is already very clear the outcome.


Paolo
tells me that the silver will be polished and I know it will result in a very nice contrast with the etched blade surface. Paolo further agrees with the little marks on the curved baca-baca, just to break the routine. Further, Paolo tells me he is lining the scabbard and it is waiting for the glue to dry.

By September 8, Paolo sends me the last batch of pictures of the finished piece done amidst his very heavy schedule.

The gluing of the saya and the making of the saya mouth lining and the horn koiguchi requires extreme precision from Paolo especially considering that he has to allow room for the silver baca-baca.

While with very little tooling compared with others smiths, Paolo made miracles by hand. His low-tech spray gun as he describes it himself is part of the ingenuity that characterizes Paolo work along with our common interest for unique hybrid projects.

Here is the finalized hybrid tanto with a grainy Ferric Chloride surface and the finished tinted saya with a blackened tsuba that helps separate the blade from the fuchi. The handle is Filipino ebony that was darkened by my request.

Here is a close-up photograph of the main areas where the hybridation takes place. In a neutral blade canvas, the highlight is in the silver baca-baca and the cut outs. This project started before a design commission from a customer who will be having Paolo make a very unique custom design I did and was noticed by said customer from Europe.
All in all the variations on the nomadic search for elements that can be incorporated and fused into hybrid designs represents, as I see it, an answer for a quest towards innovation.

   
September 14, 2007 the Kris Tanto is delivered to me.

The package arrives by FedEx and is delivered to me. Paolo prefers not to use tubes, but boxes. Note how he cut the middle of three layers of styrofoam to immobilize the tanto properly. I went to the terrace to take some quick and final photos below.

The wood burl looks beautiful and appears exactly as shown. The ferric etch on the blade has given it a frosted look. Beautiful, in my opinion.

Paolo made all the fittings it is relevant to show how he shaped the horn koiguchi so as to meet the guard.

Other details of the Kris tanto.

Here's a picture of me with the Kris Tanto for scale. It is a 14 inch blade.

 

 
 

I'd like to thank Paolo, who is not a full time smith, for his consistent effort in doing something that has generated enthusiasm between the two of us.

 

Copyright by Paolo Abrera & Antonio Cejunior 2007

     

 

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