Post by Dave Thatcher on Feb 27, 2015 19:58:40 GMT
A lot of the repairs and restorations I conduct on Japanese armour is usually unpublished. The reason for this is that sometimes I just forget to take photographs. For most of my commissions I cannot publish what has been undertaken as they are owned by my clients.
Today one of our members posted some examples of a horrible restoration that was commissioned by a museum. The quality was substandard, and completely overpriced. So I've decided to publish a few restoration diaries for your amusement.
I wanted the first one to be a challenge. After searching through a number of boxes I found a badly damaged item to work on. I estimate that the turn around will be 4-5 weeks depending on the drying times of the lacquer. I will provide a simple overview and list the hours taken. What I like about this first project is the helmet was destined for the katchu graveyard.
Lets save it! Restoration projects keeps the art alive.
Post by Dave Thatcher on Feb 27, 2015 20:07:57 GMT
After three hours I have:
- Removed all the outer urushi. All remaining areas that still have the outer urushi needed to be removed. Underneath the surface its rusty. i did this by hand using a small carving tool and a rubber hammer. - Removed the odoshi on the shikoro
- Removed the tataki nuri from the bottom lame of the shikoro Same technique as the hachi
- Treated the rusted areas (tannic acid/methoxy-2-propanol/ammonia) Stored overnight to fully dry.
Post by Dave Thatcher on Feb 28, 2015 17:59:29 GMT
I only had 3 hours spare today.
I've patched the larger holes and re-enorfced the koshimaki. Cutting small plates and making small rivets is a pain. (Michael Peters please forgive me).
Because katchu makes use of so many ground layers this will all be hidden from view. The smaller holes will be patched using asa hemp/kokuso. I've seen this technique used frquently when the original katchushi cheated. One of the benefits of being a restorer is you get to handle a lot of deconstructed items.
I make a lot of repairs to the items that I sell. 100% of it is invisible, but I can see items go out of the door that could be repaired. I do this because it will make the item last longer and prevent any further damage or degradation for occurring. As I've said before most armours are ticking time bombs of self destruction. Keeping the art of katcu restoration alive is important to ensure the long term survival of the things we love.
Here is a close up of one of the fukigashi from the kaga restoration. I cleaned a section of the outer lacquer, as you can see it is becoming shiny again. The problem we have is that the urushi outer surface is like a plastic, whereas the area in between the metal and urushi is like a clay. Metal expands and contracts with the changes in temperature, also bending of the metal contributes towards these inner clay levels cracking. Once cracked moisture creeps in and penetrates the clay levels causing the damage. In this example the metal surface is rusting creating cracks and delimitation of the outer urushi surface.
Another example from inside one of the shikoro lames. The bubbling areas are rust underneath the urushi outer layer. The most common means for water to enter the clay layers is through the odoshi no ana holes. Here you can see the red rust in between the odoshi-ge.
After a very gentle pick with a knife the outer shell simply comes away.
If you have a few minutes spare go and inspect your collection, take a close look at the urushi and see just how many cracks or delaminated areas you have. I think this is what John mistakenly referred to as battle worn. You can now see that its more a case of degradation by neglect over the centuries with no maintance.
Back to the kaga project: I have glued some vintage asa hemp in place and then treated it with a layer of ki-urushi. After 10 hours in the furo is has dried and stiffened enough to work with.
On the outer surface I have filled all the holes with kokuso filler. This will need around 3-7 days to harden. For that reason I will move onto the shikoro for the remainder of the week and re-visit the hachi next weekend.
If you have any questions about this restoration please feel free to ask. ( I will have to withhold some trade secrets)
"Cutting small plates and making small rivets is a pain."
Lol, Indeed it is. It's much easier to make new stuff than repair originals. Japanese armourers were the dodgy auto body workers of the past. My original dou had repairs under the urushi that made me completely rethink how armour was made. Some kokuso and fresh urushi and the Daimyo will never know the difference.
Part of the reason (but only part) tetsu sabiji is my favorite finish.
Michael, I've seen so much of this. The first time I called Ian B, I had a hotoke duo that was made up of some many scrap bits I couldn't believe it. Ian explained that they had to recycle due to the scarce amount of tetsu available during sengoku.
Another point to remember is that katchushi were not samurai, there was no honour in what they sold, it was just business, by way of supply and demand. The tetsu is so thin its rusts away in no time. I hope these new DIY guys realise that its all about the pog and lacquer on the plates thats makes samurai armour what it is. I'm hoping that this diary will open some eyes.
I've poisoned myself too much this week and will have to take a few days off away from the urushi. Update my website for the lacing.
Dave, you have definitely opened my eyes! I've arrived at a point where I think that many of the reproduction armours I've seen may look nice and shiny, but absolutely not as authentic as I want mine to look. They lack a certain... "depth" I think is the term Ian used to describe it, and I feel like I'm beginning to understand what he meant by that.
Post by Dave Thatcher on Mar 11, 2015 19:34:33 GMT
The hachi is starting to look good.
I've allowed all the kokuso filled areas to cure, now its a case of building the ground layers up. Note, I've rebuilt the edges of each ken allowing the ground layers to be applied without losing the crispness of pates.
The photo on the left shows the first layers being applied to the ken. The photo on the right shows the second (wet) coat being put on with a hera. The only way to describe this part of the process is sculpting with bubblegum.
Well its been a few weeks. I had a virus that knocked me sideways for a while, hence the delay with this restoration.
The suface has been coated in kokuso and then mugi-urushi. It's now had the first application of sabi-urushi. The first two layers are made from red tonoko, it's like painting with a gritty compound, almost like sand. The layers have dried and now it's ready for the final yellow, then white tonoko sabi-urushi layers.
There will be a fair transformation as the final grounds are applied. The hard edges on the ken will become smoother.
I will post some photos once the final sabi-urushi layers have been completed.
The surface will then be ready for the lacquering process. Remember all that damage. It's all hidden, just like Kozan relates in his book.
Here is a view of the inside of the hachi. I'm hiding the repairs using dry lacquer. Its a mixture of course powder, followed by a rough layer of kokuso. After cutting back the surface will be coated in mugi urushi, cut back and then a heavy coat of tetsu sabiji nuri to make the inside look like rusted iron.
The red is ki-urushi. Its not oxidised in the air yet, which turns it a dark brown.
I've applied layer 1 of the tetsu sabiji nuri. One more coat and the repairs to the inside of the hachi will be invisible. It's going to be hidden by an ukebari, but I didn't like the idea of the repairs being visible for future owners.
Yes, thats Shu Urushi on my thumbnail. Mercury is being absorbed into my blood stream. Apparently it drives people insane.
Post by Dave Thatcher on Apr 23, 2015 17:29:45 GMT
Since my last post I've built all the ground layers up. I have to harden them by soaking in thinned ki-urushi. Once cured I had to rub the entire surface down again to ensure its smooth and even. It took hours upon hours.
Today I applied the first coat of urushi. The process now involves applying urushi, drying, cutting back and repeating the process until the urushi becomes a uniform and smooth outer shell. There's going to be some hours invested in this. During drying times I'm going to bring the shikoro up to speed.
Remember the urushi coating was drying on the 23rd. This is just a standard polish and it's already mirror like. I can't afford to overdo this finish, it's still got to have the same original lacquer standard, after all its not daimyo grade.
The urushi layers are cut back using a wet stone, from 1500 to 3000 grit. Each time the process is repeated it creates a level surface. The final surface is cut back with charcoal 呂色炭, then polished with different pastes. It takes hours.
Kozan talks about dull black for katchu, that's the 呂色炭 stage of the process.