Ok, that's great stuff Piers! I knew that the smiths only made the barrels, but I figured they would often be working exclusively with the same set of lock and stock makers. This gives me some freedom to make something pretty cool here then.
I went through and looked up that pistol thread yesterday and it was fantastic. Sorry about what happened to your stock, but the repair looked gorgeous by the end of it. Finding that other piece with an identical barrel was fantastic luck!
Now I need to start looking through and finding a design that's my favorite. I love the external spring locks but I don't have the degree of brass workmanship to make one.
In fact, what can you tell me about all iron locks? I know they're a staple of bizen and satsuma, but have you seen any sakai with iron/steel locks? That's a material I really know how to work.
Oh and one other thing, how come Muromachi guns are so hard to find or prove conclusively? Are there any features that tend to be more apparent in them outside of the classic regional features?
Now you are starting to ask the right questions, Arthur! Your teppo barrel has really helped you step into a fascinating world! For this reason alone, your purchase has definitely been worth it, IMHO. Even an old and battered barrel, seen in the right light and given plenty of TLC, can lead one positively in the right direction.
Off the top of my head I cannot answer 100% regarding iron locks internally as I have not opened them all to see what is inside. Iron rusts and corrodes, so with Japan's climate it was a gamble for artisans to create them in the first place, and remaining healthy examples are relatively fewer. Mr Doi, the ashigaru who usually stands beside me in the firing line has a wonderful example of a Himeji Castle gun, all-iron lock. Possibly the influence of Bizen over the hills. (?) Somewhere on this site I have posted a thread about my own Bizen long gun which I mentioned earlier, all iron throughout, with silver-capped iron pins in the lockwork.
Generally brass lasts better when exposed to gunpowder residue and humidity. I have seen many examples of iron serpentines on locks of bigger guns from Kunitomo and Sakai, but often these have lost their original beauty and become thinner and craggy. For every 100 guns with all-brass locks, you might find another 20 mixed, ie with iron serpentines, and perhaps if you include surviving Satsuma guns, 5 or 10 with all the lockwork in iron. In the colour photos in Sawada Taira's Japanese 日本の古銃 Nihon no Furu Ju there are some examples of iron serpentines on brass lockplates and pan lids.
Well, I got started making a steel lockplate tonight
I got a life size pdf scan from a Japanese seller of a couple of brass lockplates he has for sale (that unfortunately he was not willing to send overseas... and theyr'e only a thousand yen... I want to cry) so I'm doing my best to copy the shape in steel. Will keep you posted! Should have it done in a few days
Hi Arthur, even to write this makes me feel super mean, but you'd be surprised how many people ask me to sort things for them. Eventually I had to make a rule, all or none.
For a while I was doing this, but my wife freaked out and even told the delivery man to take things back that she did not recognize! I remember my daughter crying because her 'secret' cosmetics package got returned in this way.
There is, I have heard, a J resident 'foreigner' named Jeff something who organizes a) buying off J Yahoo, b) sending money to dealer, c) checking and re-wrapping the goods and d) shipping internationally, for a nominal sum of something like 10-15%, although I do not have the exact details.
(As a bonus, having set it up, I discovered that my J Paypal refuses to accept money from abroad! Govt policy, they explain. Grrr....)
well thanks for the being honest Piers, I appreciate it
Looks like I'm back to machining my own then. I have a steel lockplate that I'm gonna try and bang out over the next couple weeks in the garage. Fortunately the seller provided me with scans of the locks, so it gives me a great shape to copy.
Btw, as much as I love Teppou, my heart really is with the Heian-Jidai. Do you know of any Genpei reenactors by any chance? I've always dreamed of at least owning a suit of oyoroi, but figured it could never be something remotely obtainable within any affordable range. I was leaning towards doing teppoutai stuff because that's easily my second favorite...
Anyways, back to planning and rebuilding on this Portuguese Stick of Destiny (please forgive my sense of humor)
Just an update, sorry I've been out of the loop for a little while here!
I'm in the process of putting the lock together now from some raw brass. I ended up going for modern brass unfortunately, but maybe I'll try a more authentic medium down the road when I have some experience under my belt.
There was another reason why brass was favoured for locks and gun fittings - ease of manufacture. Using the lost-wax casting technique trigger guards, serpentines, lock plates and so on could be produced needing only a polish to finish them. Compare that with bashing lumps of iron with hammers and then having to shape them with files - it was no contest other than on cost grounds. I suspect the Bizen makers made iron locks because there was an abundance of cheap iron scraps from the sword making industry. Ian
At the local flea market yesterday I spotted a heavy block of old Shinchu brass, and the dealer let me have it for peanuts. Some kind of massive six-sided paperweight, like a pillar from the Giant's Causeway. Tomorrow it will be going as a gift to my sword teacher who makes Habaki collars for Nihonto blades as a living.
0_0 I'm amazed you were able to find that Piers! That's fantastic. I'm kind of glad I didn't go the antique brass route on this first one just because so far this has been a bit on the crude side. Hopefully I'll have something worth showing you guys soon. I got very sidetracked on this project, but I think I'll be getting there reasonably soon.
Ian, that makes a whole ton of sense now. Some pieces looked somewhat handworked, but a lot of them looked cast. The fact that teppou made in bizen province used iron most commonly now makes a lot more sense due to there being plenty of iron left over from the sword industry. I had been very curious as to why they did that in particular there. Would it be arguable that that's the reason in other styles such as the Satsuma guns?
Also Ian, if you have any pictures of the lock you made in the past I'd be very curious to see them!
Arthur, Sorry I have no pictures. In fact, the owner of the gun brought it over one morning and it was done and dusted by late afternoon. I was fortunate I had my own gun to use as a pattern. Essentially the process was to make a rubbing on paper of the lock cavity, glue that on a bit of brass and cut it out with a piercing saw and file it up to fit. The position of the holes for pins were then marked using a bit of rod with a dab of paint on the end pushed through the holes from the back of the stock to leave a mark on the inside of the lockplate. These were then drilled. The serpentine was the tricky bit. I cut it out of a bit of thick brass strip and roughly milled it to shape before a lot of filing to get it right. The secret here is to use a new file - one used on iron loses that extreme sharpness you need for brass. Once filed up it was bent to shape it to a nice shape and get it to reach the pan. The only other stunt was to hammer a piece of brass strip to harden it until it was springy before being bent into a U shape for the mainspring - the sear spring is a flat strip, again hardened by hammering and riveted to the lockplate. Now I remember, the pivot for the sear was a small block of brass with a channel milled in it the same width as the thickness of the sear silver soldered to the plate. All in all not a difficult job since the lock cavity gave all the dimensions. Ian B
Arthur, I think you are wise to cut your teeth on new brass and having absorbed the old techniques have another go (when you feel your muses) on creating a more 'authentic' lock set.
There is a dealer near here offering a small tray of old brass fittings from what must have been the corners of chests of drawers, or Buddhist altars. They are mostly worked fittings, fairly thin in cross-section, with decorative openings but it may be that parts of them could be used for restoration work. It is a temptation to buy the lot, and not expensive, but the wife really wants to move back to the UK and does not want any extra bulk/junk around the house. Hmmm...
That's really impressive Ian. I'm working with some fairly limited tools. A bench grinder, a dremel, a drill, a few hammers, some files that are not very new unfortunately, and a low powered propane torch. I'm going to try making the serpentine out of a thick piece of brass rod I picked up... Hopefully it'll do the trick. The bar for the sear was definitely something troubling me a bit. Luckily, a coworker of mine who is a very kind old German lady is an excellent metal worker and offered to help me silver solder this project!
Ugh, I've been so sidetracked from this project. I do a bit of WW2 reenacting and my focus lately has been on building a new German impression.
Piers, that sounds very tempting.... Maybe just sneak it into a corner of the shipping container
Arthur, If you have a propane torch, it is well worth learning to hard solder because you can use it on ferrous and non-ferrous and it gives a really solid joint that can be almost invisible when done - it also has the advantage of being a lot easier than soft soldering with a lead based solder. You can buy silver solder but it is expensive. In the past I have made my own by melting a bit of silver scrap on a fire-brick and adding a sprinkling of brass filings which lowers the melting point. It isn't as good as the propriety stuff but it works easily enough. You can use borax from the local pharmacy as a flux - just mix it with a drop of water to form a paste. When you heat it it froths and bubbles up before forming a glassy fluid just before the solder melts. For this reason, fasten the bits to be soldered together with thin iron wire to stop them moving out of position. If I were making a serpentine out of rod, I would hammer the part that is to be drilled to get it wider and give a flat on both sides then file the rod on either side to reduce the diameter. If you leave the end full size you should be able to form the match jaws. Be careful though!!! A lot of brass rod is an alloy made for machining that contains lead and has a rather pale look about it. It can be bent but is prone to breaking up, especially if heated. Ideally you need good old fashioned yellow brass. Ian B
Hey guys, sorry I've been out of the loop for so long!
I'm finally living in Kyoto now. Sadly I wasn't able to really get as far into this Teppou project as I would have like, but I learned so much more from it than I ever would have expected. Having a look at a couple of real teppou at the local shop here in town showed me how completely wrong the brass materials I was trying to use were, but oh well, lesson learned!
Looking forward to sharing new acquisitions with you all.
Arthur, Welcome back into the community. You are now saying the right thing - 'Having a look..'. That is how to learn in this game. Living in Kyoto gives you the chance of visiting every museum you can reach and you can also visit the famous Kyoto flea-market, which used to be held every month. Look at everything, dive into boxes of rubbish and I guarantee you will find a treasure. Ian B
Well took your advice and decided to look for any flea markets going on soon. There's the antique market tomorrow morning at To-Ji, so wish me luck! I'm at the very end of my funds, but maybe I can find a seller or two.
Btw, my local sword shop has a teppo in roughish shape but with one of my favorite inlays I have ever seen. The seller wants 13 Man yen for it, and would let me pay in installments. Do teppou ever go for lower prices than that on a regular basis, or do I start getting into the dregs below that?
Too late to catch you as Toji is today, so I will merely send you good luck! If I had seen this thread yesterday I would have warned you that Toji is generally expensive, and the dealers are looking to make a larger profit margin from foreigners.
Do not buy the first teppo you see. Save the buying for an exceptionally good example, after you have got your eye in.
If you cannot restrain yourself, use the cruddy gun as a hands-on learning aid, and get to know every inch, inside and out, before buying the good one. If the dealer wants 13 man, (without a photo we cannot judge if that is cheap for such a nice gun or expensive for such a poor quality gun) he may only give you 3 man when you sell it back to him. As an absolute measure though, 130,000 retail is cheap for a Hinawa-Ju. Why is it so cheap, I find myself wondering?
Yeah Toji was full of rip offs left and right. Some shady guy was trying to get over on me on a shakuhachi that needed like 2 man worth of repairs. A nice old man who was a shakuhachi player came up and warned me in a subtle Kyoto way.
So the 13 man gun was beat to hell. It had character, but the lock was really stiff, the stock was cracked really bad, the muzzle had the most frightening erosion I have ever seen on a gun, etc.
So I asked him to bring out his nice 20 man gun. It has a very conservative looking barrel that's around 13.5mm or 4 monme, and it's gorgeous. A sesshu smith if I recall. I'll send photos and the smith's name when I get a chance. The locks is super smooth, and the stock's wood is some of the nicest wood grain I have ever seen in red oak. Almost a tiger like look about it. It's a super blinged out sesshu stock, but the barrel again is very conservative. Just a thin silver band inlayed at the very bottom before the bisen area.
After sitting there for a while looking at it, I decided to take it. It's gonna take me at least 4 months the pay it off, but I'm happy with it. After agreeing to the price, the seller knocked off another 5 sen yen for me, and said he's not gonna charge me tax. I've bought an antique wood naginata from him, and my fire chief bought a shinto mumei wakizashi from him last month. So I think I'm building a good connection with him.
His shop is Kuraya Hashimoto, next door to Nijo castle. At first I thought they were an over priced tourist shop, but once I got to know him a bit more and his wife and son, I decided I like them. Some of their stuff seems to be full retail price for sure, but a really good condition hinawajyuu for that price to me is great. Don't forget, I'm used to American prices! I'd like to also add that at Toji a guy had a hinawajyuu in much rougher condition and a lower caliber for like 27-28 man. I got a few good scores on some other small things, but the musket balls were great. Got a lot of that grey patina, although sadly a lot of it rubbed off on the walk back home. Five of them are 6 monme if I measured right (and they were too big for a 13.5mm barrel) and one of them I think is a 4 monme, but did not test it.
The last thing I'd like to add is that the seller and I both thing that the one I'm getting from him is a military commissioned one and not just a hunting or merchant gun. I'm not sure of that of course, and chances are it's not an ashigaru gun, but the style and caliber of the barrel make me wonder.
Were some of the blinged up guns blinged up after the samurai era? Because the stock doesn't match the style of the barrel in the slightest. Like it's a perfect fit on the stock. The seller could hardly even get the barrel out! But the barrel is so plain and looks so much like something maybe made for ashigaru. The stock however is one of the most gaudy ones I've seen. It has a lot of the classic stereotypical inlays by the way. There's a shishi, a line of hares going up the bottom of the grip, and an odd one of a samurai's face on the plate that goes above where the bisen settles into.
I'll have some photos sometime in the near future, but from the description, any thoughts?
Sakai? The signature should be interesting to research. 4 Monme is right on the lower edge of ashigaru military guns, but the bling on the stock... could have been added later as you say. (?) The barrel being plain and undecorated is a good sign for gun purists. Sawada says that guns over 3.5 Monme were for military use, but show none of the typical signs of Sakai/Sesshu/Osaka. Yours could be a good compromise, and if you take it back to the States, people do love the decorations so you should be able to sell it, if and when. (Gotta look to the future!!!)
PS How do the pan/vent and bisen look? Looking forward to the photographs when you get around to hosting them. A very exciting time for you, I can guess.
I should have written down the smith's name!!! Darn...
Yeah Sakai most likely if I recall. I really do think the bling is a later addition because it really doesn't match the rest of the gun now that I think about it. The overall patina and even quality of the brass seems.. different. Like newer...
You really think I might have a military barrel? The only ornamentation is again a thin band of silver inlay at the bottom and a slightly ornate muzzle at the end, but that's the extent of it. If so, then this one has some good history to me! A good compromise like you said! Down the road of course I'd like to get something a little more militaristic... my dream gun is still a Kisshu gun. For my first complete Japanese weapon that isn't a pile of rust or something though, I'm very, very excited.
And like you said, could sell down the road! So far though, I have absolutely no plans on ever going back to America. Who knows, life could change, but this country is too good so far... They'd have to pull me away kicking and screaming.
1. The Pan/Vent isn't too too bad. Not clogged up by any means! Active rust though, needs some love. Also some active rust on the barrel under the stock, but it's not very bad at all. Will be an exceedingly easy one to work on. The pan cover has some green tarnish and is a bit stiff however, like you have to give it a little push to close it again.
2. Yeah the shop doesn't seem to put much on their site. When you first go in, it's full of a bunch of ninja stars and other touristy stuff. Some pot metal tsubas out front for 900 yen. Then you go in and see a few nice blades in perfect polish displayed in the thousands. A bunch of iaito too. Tiny shop as well. But first impressions don't mean too much to me the older I get... They keep a ton of good stuff in the back. They didn't advertise at all that they had Hinawajyuu, I had to ask! And they happily dug around until they found these ones for me on Friday. Couldn't get them out of my head, so went back yesterday and decided on the more military looking of the two, and sounds like I didn't do too terribly for an amateur hopefully.
Since I don't have any way of taking pictures, I asked them to send some my way. Hopefully they'll send them soon!
Oh by the way, was I correct in assuming that 13.5mm is roughly 4 monme? Or is it more like 3.5 monme? The seller's measurements and the torokusho measurements said 13.5mm. And the muzzle corrosion wasn't enough to make that some wildly different number.
No problem. Mekugi holes are different sizes, but yours will be relatively small, I guess. If you need immediate Mekugi, Arthur, you may find that toothpicks will fit for a start. When you feel more confident, buy a small bag of bamboo shishkebab 'kushi' spikes, or Takegushi 竹串. You can then file them down (set of small files at the 100 yen shop) to the right taper/size, cut them off and smooth/round off the ends. Number them 一 二 三 and rub them in your palms in olive oil etc. a few times to bring on a golden colour. Once you have done that, as a long-term project keep your eye out for smoked bamboo, the real McCoy.
One problem with old guns is that the red oak stock will eventually dry out and start to crack; the steel barrel is unforgiving. Then you will have to consider whether to oil the (inside of the) stock anyway. I think each of us has a different approach to stock treatment. It will depend partly on what kind of surface your stock has, the original urushi, or plain wood, or what?
So the stock is great on this one, and I'd like to keep it that way. The outside is clear urushi, however the inside is plain wood and looked a little dry. There is no signature in the barrel channel or anything of that sort.