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Sword Related Presentation

One of the benefits of belonging to a sword society is that enables people at different levels of understanding and study to meet and discuss various aspects of sword manufacture and restoration/preservation. The journey can be extremely long (but also extremely enjoyable) and the reality is that in the West even after a lifetime’s study we are really still at the beginning. At Samurai Art Expo the educational programme focussed on different features of the Japanese sword and the different traditions and schools. This year we would like to move the focus a little. Many of our previous audiences were taking their first tentative steps in to the subject and based on feedback some of the topics discussed were a little mystifying. This year we are attempting to do something a slightly different in the two main sword related presentations.

1.Beginning the journey

For many of us collecting and studying swords started a very long time ago. What inspired us to start is forgotten in the mists of time, but if you were to ask those that do remember there are likely to be as many different answers as there are collectors. The initial trigger could be something profound but equally it could be a trivial occurrence that sparked that initial curiosity and led to a lifetimes study. Over time as our understanding increases we become focussed on the fine detail of a subject and we tend to lose track of the basics. For anyone starting out or with less experience attempting to understand and appreciate technical features can be both confusing and daunting. We thought we could help address this by discussing one person’s experience as they entered the field and progressed with their study.

The presentation will offer a fascinating insight in to a collector’s progress. The presenter will discuss what initially awoke his interest in the subject, how he began the study of a particular blade and what he has learned.  It is important that we should be reminded of the fundamentals. Starting, as most of us did, He bought a sword because he liked it, but without knowing much about it. As with many of us having bought a blade he wanted to understand it better and answer a number of questions:

  • Why was the blade attributed to a specific smith?
  • How does the maker fit in to a particular tradition and school?
  • What was happening in Japan at the time of its creation and what influence did that have on the way it was made?

He will chart and share what he has learned about the sword, tradition, school and smith. He will discuss how he went about the process and share his research.

2. Polishing a sword blade

One of the greatest causes of argument and debate within Society meetings and on various message boards relate to polishing a sword. So often people appear with a piece they have “restored” themselves and wait with obvious pride in their achievement to receive positive feedback. They rarely (actually never) do. Today unqualified polishing is the most common cause of damage inflicted on a sword blade. This is why people become so passionate about the subject and why often beginners find themselves criticised and disappointed. Polishing is a great skill and requires many years of training.

 We are delighted that this year one of the presentations will be on the subject of polishing. It will go in to detail about the process and intricacies involved. This is not a do it yourself guide; it is a clear demonstration of why polishing should only be carried out by a qualified artisan.

We hope by broadening the scope of our sword presentations we will offer something to both novice and experienced collector. There will be time after each presentation for questions and both presenters will be available throughout the fair should you wish to discuss any of the points raised during their presentations.  

Following the presentations we will hold a sword kantei. In the previous event this exercise proved extremely popular and enjoyable. Those who took part (which was the vast majority of attendees) gained a great deal from the experience. I will discuss this in more detail in a separate topic.

Paul Bowman

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