Take this detail of a piece of steel. The photograph cannot pay justice to the reality of this 1075 monosteel. It shows dust that was not visible to my tired naked eyes.

For the technical description one could call it a wild choji-gunome with ko-nie. To me, seen with the ha up, what I see could also be water spraying against invisible shores, poetry frozen in steel. Let this not so good picture be the introductory theme to the beautiful sword that carries it.
INTRODUCTION TO THIS SWORD  

The concept of this blade was prompted by the Mino-Den style katana by Anthony DiCristofano.
To those who require information, Mino is one of the five main styles of Japanese sword making.
For some reason I do not wish to explain, I have a great preference for the Kamakura Period.
Though I am not particularly fond of recreating mountings of a period, I could not but think of a most beautiful blade with mountings that are rather unique.
The concept is not to repeat history, but be inspired by it, from a time when tachi gave way to the uchigatana.


ANTHONY DICRISTOFANO  
Anthony DiCristofano, from Namahage Swords is a very talented smith, a martial artist and a maker of beautiful katana, tanto, nagamaki, and many other traditional Japanese weapons.
I deem that his work, along with Louis Mill's and Rick Barrett's are those that most closely follow Japanese tradition, though with individual personal interpretations as well as varied ranged of steels. In saying this I am not excluding other smiths. I am just making a statement based on hamon.
Though not for any other purpose, as this is an art sword, I would like to state that even art swords for display should be perfect weapons.
This video shows Anthony proving that his swords are real weapons as well.
BLADE SPECIFICATIONS  


Nagasa:
29 inches
Motohaba: 30.5 mm
Sakihaba:
28.5 mm
Motokasane:
6 mm
Sakikasane:
5 mm
Nakago: 10.5 inches and two nakago-ana
Yasurime: obviously choice by Smith.
O-kissaki : 10 cm (4 inches) estimated
Sori :
2 cm Tori-Zori
Hamon: "wild" choji-gunome. Yakiba with misty edges
Yokote: very straight and defined
Horn fittings: Koijuchi lined with wood, round horn kurikata, tsunegaeshi, kojiri, fuchi and kashira. All in horn.
Saya: 32 inches long for a 29 inches blade.

INSPIRATION. A CHINESE BOX

 

Boxes exert a fascination on me. They are intended to be used to keep things, but while this may be true, their shapes and decorations seem extremely attractive, as if blossoms inviting to be discovered.
To me there are two kinds of boxes. Those conceived to conceal, and those made to reveal...

This Chinese box used for storing Mandarin necklaces has a very beautiful and rather unique type of lacquer. I have owned this box for a number of years and its beauty has always attracted me. So when I commissioned the blade, and instant connection went into the creation of Koshirae. Memory of a box and the vision of its lacquer work being transferred to a saya which somehow dictates the entire schematic color of the koshirae.
The right side photograph shows the detail of what I wanted for the saya.

The lacquer work that Anthony was able to achieve according to the sample I sent him, and which is viewable above, certainly shows a great command in the art of lacquering and blotting. The exchange of comments between us at this stage is really something where the picture can speak by itself.
The saya results further below show a very great achievement mainly because it is exactly what I wanted, it is very unusual in a saya and it is also  finished in a pearl like satin finish that reveals all the details.
The combination of reddish brown, black horn and the copper-gold color of the metal parts is already announcing the warm combination of colors.
THE BLADE IN THE RAW  

Anthony's work is remarkably beautiful even at its very early stages. Here are a series of pictures of the blade sent in its raw state. Sugata and details are viewable.

Even in this stage and being a monosteel, the hamon apparently shows some ashi

Here is a polish simulation in Photoshop. I paid more attention to the Yakiba and left the Ji not flat in terms of surface so as not to look too artificial. This was a way I came up to somehow preview the blade's polish.

Further pictures of the Nakago, Yasurime and the Mei

Through the good assistance of Anthony himself, the date has been inscribed in the Japanese style of inscription:
"
heisei ju roku nen san gatsu kichi jitsu". Translated this means " 16 year (of) heisei (period) (which is 2004), 3rd month, lucky day." In other words, "made on a good day in March of 2004".

The habaki

Here the habaki, the tsuba,seppa, horn fuchi, the nakago and Anthony's Mei are all visible.

TSUKA

 

I requested Anthony for the tsuka to be 11 inches long with black leather ito, bokken style with a slight ryugo (hourglass shape) in the center.
Light brown transparent wash on first class samekawa.

Tsuka was carefully built, and can be seen on the raw and the assurance of a full samekawa wrap is therefore achieved.

The beauty of the tsuka and its uncommon samekawa color further complements the saya's brown lacquer warmth. It was a color combination that was purposely thought of in advance so that even the copper seppa and habaki becomes an intrinsic part of the composition.

If one looks closer it is possible to view the corresponding dialogue between the habaki and seppa reddish copper and the samekawa color while the soft leather tsuka-ito matches the horn fuchi-gashira and the tsuba.

TSUBA  AND KOSHIRAE

 

The tsuba for this sword should be in horn. As Vince Evans offered this difficult to obtain horn size there was some delay in its making here in Macau. Therefore a second tsuba, a Lotus Tsuba was added to allow Anthony to complete the mounting.

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An dark blond-brown horn tsuba

While the horn tsuba was in the making, and not to slow down Anthony's fast work, I have asked for a Fred Lohman's tsuba that I found could be the best match to the entire ensemble, although being the only naturalistic element, together with the menuki.

I dare believe that in fact the pictures prove my instincts were right.

Fred Lohman's alternative Lily Pad's tsuba

The picture Anthony sent me shows a full brown oriented set of fittings as gold and copper colors are within the warm range of colors where brown is.

Here is a view of fuchi-gashira in horn (notice the unusual white dots in the horn) the seppa and tsuba.

The horn fuchi-kashira) and its very unique white dots. Note how the kashira flares as requested in the drawing below. Remarkable workmanship by Anthony DiCristofano.

The making of the saya

 
THE SAYA'S LACQUERING  

This beautifully lacquered saya finished the sword, now ready to be polished by Brandon Thell, of FOREVEREDGE who has already done some outstanding polishing on Anthony's blades.
Brandon's low profile and good nature has brought him an increasing number of customers.

POLISHING BY BRANDON THELL

 
Brandon Thell sent me this picture of him polishing my Mino-Den Uchigatana by Anthony DiCristofano.
He further sent me the picture below of the superb hamon being brought out stone after stone.
Brandon is well acquainted with Anthony's style of work and I could not see someone else without a close relation with Anthony working on one of his blades.

As time closes into the date for the Chicago Custom Knife Show, where the blade will be displayed at Anthony's table, I guess we all share the excitement of its presentation.

Though I will not be able to attend, I believe and trust that it will be very well received.

The sword at uchigumori stage

The blade already showing a well brought out yakiba. Notice the difference between the earlier picture and this one. It is now ready for finishing the kissaki and for burnishing.

Now the full blade with the kissaki for finishing. Notice the finely done yokote.
Below are some more pictures of hamon details. I believe comments are useless.

THE FINISHED SWORD  

This was the first picture Anthony sent me of the sword finished mountings. I felt extremely pleased as though while the picture was done in natural light I know what is in the saya, how it looks like, how the samekawa talks with the saya and the tsuka ito speaks with the tsuba, fuchi-gashira, and the rest of the horn fittings. I find it to be understated beauty.

As I received the blade I took some natural light pictures indoors. It does not pay enough justice to the blade.

A closer look with the horn tsuba. The nakago-ana will still have to be drilled, but the hamon came out rather effortlessly.

THE SWORD ON SHOW

 

Anthony DiCristofano and Brandon Thell respectively at the Chicago Knife Show with my sword in the center of the table. I am very honored for this having been an invitation by Anthony himself as he was very pleased with the final outcome. Click image for a very large view.

A closer look shows why Anthony so kindly placed my Mino Uchi-gatana as the center piece. His work is extremely attractive and therefore would deserve all enthusiasm.

 

Photos: Copyright 2004 by Anthony DiCristofano, Brandon Thell and Antonio Cejunior