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Bamboo tsuba


Brian Chan

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Guest ford hallam

Hello Brian,

 

another decent piece of work :D It's clear your painting lessons, in terms of composition have been well learned.

 

It is clear that you have a serious interest in this work and as such I think I would be less than honest if I didn't respond with a fairly direct and thorough, constructive critique.

 

First let me reiterate, your design is very pleasing and very well expresses the feeling of young bamboo, this in itself is no easy thing. However, my feeling is that the design is actually the wrong way round. While you do occasionally see designs arranged in this way; ie; weighted to the left side, if you consider how the tsuba is worn and that it is the right side that is most easily viewed then it follows that that is a more suitable position for the design to originate from. Similarly, you have used the kogai hitsu to balance the composition by creating the opening on the right whereas I would have instictively used the kozuka hitsu on the left to do the same thing.

 

You have very accurately shaped both the nakago ana and the hitsu but I would suggest that ( as I wrote in this thread, post no:8), that they are perhaps just a little too stiff, by which I mean too precise or mechanical. The flat edge of the kogai hitsu in particular makes me feel as though it's true function is not clearly expressed. Of course, it allows the kogai to be slid into the saya when the sword is sheathed but the rather stiff, and perfectly straight edge, looks a bit hazarous to be sliding a delicate impliment past. Again, you do see shapes like this but I would contend that my comments would apply there too. Not every antique example is perfect! ;)

 

Fianally, if I'm reading the photo right it looks as though the plate is flat. Here too you will see countless similar antique examples. I would encourage you, on the other hand, to consider using that surface to your advantage. A perfectly flat plate like this may actually appear to bulge sightly in the centre. To counter this awkward illusion it is very effective to gently dish the tsuba blank. It only requires a subtle amount of shaping to create a gentle and pleasing form. This dishing of the plate also seems to help to draw the composition together and contain it. On such small and delicate work these subtle aspect make all the difference and help to enhance the intimacy of the piece. It is possible to shape the plate in the opposite way, ie; to create a convex surface but it is a lot more difficult to achieve a truely pleasing form and if you don't the result can be quite poor.

 

I do hope what I have written is taken in the way it is intended and that some of it is of some use not only to you but also others who may be planning their first tsuba.

 

Namaste, Ford

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Hi Ford

 

I have just read your response and very useful advice and would like to ask a question?

 

When you say that the tsuba would benefit from gently dishing, are you refering to 'rounding' the edges of the plate to soften the apperance or are you suggesting that the body of the tsuba be carved in some way?

 

Forgive me if you think this is a silly question, but I am at a similar stage with my own tsuba (although I have rounded the rim of my piece) and would be greatful for any advice offered.

 

Thank you

 

Mike Mc

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Mike,

 

the dishing I was describing is in fact over the whole surface not just the rounding of the edges. So the plate has a concave cross-section, the centre is lower than the edge. Hope that's a bit clearer :)

 

This can be done by forging the plate while hot, by hammering it when cold, by carving or by using an angle grinder and various automotive abrasive disks or wheels to refine. Be aware though, that using power tools probably requires the most care and skill...and makes the most noise! :blink: I'd probably opt for a degree of hammering with a large, round-faced hammer and work on a similarly curved makeshift "anvil". Car boot sales are always a good source of suitable tools, look for old panel beating doilies for instance. You can also find handy scraps in metal junk-yards. Happy foraging ;)

 

I look forward to seeing your own piece then, gambatte!

 

regards, Ford

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An attractive design, Brian.

Something for me to aspire to.

 

Ford, with the forging you describe, would your final result be concave on both sides of the tsuba or would it actually be a very subtle bowl shape, ie. one face concave and one face convex?

If it's concave on both sides, then I assume the forging would be done to the interior, and both sides, of the blank, moving the steel outwards?

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Guest ford hallam

Hello Lee,

 

the shaping would be applied to both sides in this case. This is why I suggested to Mike that he work on a curved anvil, this helps mantain the shaping on both sides. You do find cupped examples of tsuba ( they are thought to be inspired by European rapier styles ) but these are not all that common really. What I'm suggesting is a far more subtle and gentle effect. Here are two examples borrowed from the ever reliable MFA, both Otsuki school. These examples will both have the same degree of scooping out on both sides. You could do even less than this, in fact in Brians piece I'd probably suggest even less dishing than these examples.

 

 

 

 

 

Regards, Ford

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Hi Ford,

 

Could Brian not be able to get a similar effect by upsetting the edge on the one he has shown us? I might suggest heating the entire disk and then quenching the center portion and the striking the perimeter carfully to allow the flaring of the edge. I suspect it is best to start a new piece. How fortunate of Brian to have your constructive advice and guidance.

 

So Ford when are we going to be able to buy videos and books? I, for one, am starved for information and the stimilous a book or video would give.

 

Sincerely,

Fred

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Fred,

 

poor old Brian, he's going to get back to us to find he's spawned a whole detailed exposition of the ins and outs of tsuba forming :blink:

 

yes, you could get a perfectly acceptable effect by upsetting the rim, however it is extremely difficult to create an edge this way that isn't just confined to the immediate edge area. I felt that given the delicacy of the kata-kiri and indeed the subject matter, a more subtle approach would be more in keeping with the feeling I was getting. Of course it comes down to personal taste/aesthetic but my response was prompted by the feeling that the design, rendered as it was, ie; in delicate kata-kiri, would benefit from being a little more "framed", and "contained" but without being too obvious.

 

I realise that my comments on aesthetic matters like this are naturally only my opinions but what I was hoping to point out, and hopefully guide people to, was the understanding that there is so much more potential in terms of expression in these often seemingly simple artifacts. In fact the more simple the object the more one can focus on these subtleties. It is exactly these more subtle aspects we sometimes discern in antique examples that distinguish the work of the really great artists in this medium from the merely competant artisans.

 

As for books and film footage.....I'll have an ongoing series of tutorials on the web-site ( yeah!, I know...the mythical web-site....I promise it is coming....soon...ish!), the book will be a few more years in the making as I intend for it to be as comprehensive as I can possibly make it. We will be including a few hours of DVD demonstration with the book but will release some of the footage as we go, particularly the basics.

 

Regards, Ford

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Hi Ford

 

Thank you for the continued explanation about the concave effect within the tsuba, my initial thoughts about the process had me imagining tons of heavy pounding to get both sides of the tsuba dished, but after seeing the images you kindly posted and visiting http://www.mfa.org to look at other Otsuki School tsuba, I can see more clearly what you mean.

 

The more you look at your 2nd image the easier it is to understand just where the subtlety lays.

 

Thank you

 

Mike Mc

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Hi Ford,

 

Could Brian not be able to get a similar effect by upsetting the edge on the one he has shown us? I might suggest heating the entire disk and then quenching the center portion and the striking the perimeter carfully to allow the flaring of the edge. I suspect it is best to start a new piece. How fortunate of Brian to have your constructive advice and guidance.

 

So Ford when are we going to be able to buy videos and books? I, for one, am starved for information and the stimilous a book or video would give.

 

Sincerely,

Fred

 

Hi Fred,

The effect would be similar, but it would not achieve the same look. they can certainly be used together and the look is attractive to combine the raised rim and the dishing it creates an elegant look on it own. The subtle dishing that Ford is referring to can be very subtle and is just enough to break the curse of the flat deadening the life from the bamboo. and I am not sure you can do this with a hammer just from the edge. You could raise the rim, but the thickening does not travel very deeply. If you do it hot (from the edge) the pattern of thickening is not correct though it can be deeper. It ends up making more work than grinding it out of flat stock. Hammering it from the faces work great (hot) in the case of iron, but softer alloys can be done cold. Grinding it out is not a bad way to go, but the hammer is more fun as you know already.

 

Brian,

I think is just fine. All this info is not to fix this Tsuba, but to make a better Tsuba in the future. This one is ripe for Patina experiments if you ask me.

Regards

Patrick

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Mmm, Chocolate...

 

Thanks Ford and everyone else for the constructive criticism, it's very welcome, I doubt there are many sources out there with this kind of valuable input.

 

Here's how my reasoning went for having the bamboo come around the left side counterclockwise: I've just made a lot of tsuba that have their man focus on the bottom right area, so I wanted something new. I also envisioned it as a "young wind-blown bamboo" design, and I just feel like the left-right direction is more pleasing to the eyes. Of course this conflicts with maintaining maximum visibility.

 

As for convexity of the plate, I deliberately wanted this to have a slight lenticular/cookie shaped cross-section, since, again, I've done so many raised/upset edges, that I didn't want to make another upsetting tsuba (That was bad). Since I was starting with 1/8" plate, I couldn't make the cookie effect very pronounced, so the result is that the tsuba is mostly flat, and only starts rounding right near the edge, about 1/4" in. If you have any guidelines how to do a proper convex tsuba, I'd gladly listen.

 

For the most part I think I'll stick to raised-rim designs, I just like the look more, whether it's a tsuba on its own or mounted on a sword.

 

I did reshape the nakago-ana and kogai-ana ever so slightly. Thanks for that advice too, it does feel and look better.

---

 

Treated with repeated dippings in Hydrogen Peroxide+Salt+Vinegar, rinses of hot water, toothbrush scrubs with and without toothpaste, one warm steaming ie. I took a hot shower, baking soda, two days of handling, oil, degreasing, more H202_NaCl_Vinegar mix, hot water, and some wax.

post-1626-1189483849.jpg

post-1626-1189483861.jpg

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Very Nice Brian,

Lenticular will work better with a thicker plate obviously, but one of the things Ford showed me is to combine the Lenticular cross-section with the raised rim. So the plate tapers down, then the edge is raised. The effect is agian subtle, but very nice. While it is hard to discern these details from pics one way or another, your Tsuba looks very pleasing as a stand alone piece.

Regards,

Patrick

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Guest ford hallam

Hello Brian,

 

glad you were able to get something from my ramblings. :) I must say though, that my comments aside, your finished piece ( to echo Patricks sentiment ) looks really good as it is. To be honest, and ignoring the so called rules of placement, I feel the design looks lovely as it is. There is a real sense of lightness and freshness in the leaves. I don't think it works as well when flipped over to a mirror image :) So much for convention! ;)

 

I also like the sound of your approach to patination. I find that the most convincing finishes are achivied like this, ie; by working through a series of "layers".

 

...and just to clarify what Patrick was describing ( for those who aren't familiar with lenticular cross-sections ;) ). You first taper the plate from the edge of the seppa-dai ( the flat, oval area around the tang opening ) to the edge of the plate. At this stage the plate can be annealled or left hard, this will result in different effects. You can put a further bevel on the immediate edge and then start working at upsetting the rim ( terrible pun, Brian! :blink: ). I'll do a series of step by step photos showing this approach, in a few weeks time.

 

anyway, You've created a very pleasing piece of work Brian, thanks for joining us and sharing.

 

Namaste, Ford

 

p.s. the softened hitsu do appear to have added a little something to the atmosphere pf the piece, don't you think?

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That's a lovely piece.

 

The slight speckles around the lower branch of bamboo on the top picture make me think that a few small dots of silver would give a nice impression of snow falling, and the colour of the patination gives me a feeling of a cold, crisp night with a few flakes of snow being blown gently through the leaves.

Very nice.

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  • 1 month later...

Very good! I like it but in my opinion composition is wrong. In main site motive should be on right site and on other site carving should be on left. Why? Because when you have your sword in saya, behind obi main motive should be visible for persons who are passing you so it should be away from your body on outside. I don't know if I'm clear to understand.

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