while looking at those fanatstic Saotome helmets published in HELMETS OF THE SAOTOME SCHOOL by Teruo Orikasa, Luc Taelman and Jo Anseeuw, I was wondering how the fantastic dark chocolate brown patina on these helmets was created and (even more important) if a worn down patina can be restored (by either a natural patination process or by using chemistry).
As I am a tsuba guy, I can say for sure that Japanese collectors do restore the patina on their old iron tsuba (for example before submitting the pieces for shinsa). Even though I do not have any hard evidence (because I never tried to put patina on a tsuba myself), renowned collectors from Europe and Japan confirmed as a matter of course that many Japanese collectors and dealers use chemical substances to speed up the patination process significantly and do not wait for a natural patination process.
Coming back to kabuto: I have heard rumours of dark brown shoe cream and gun brown solutions being used to create a surface which at least resembles the original patina. Is their any better method (including natural patination) to come as close to the original patina as possible?
Some factors to be considered before attempting to enhance a dull hachi.
Rust. This can be removed and there are threads within the forum that explain the process Dryness. The hachi can be oiled which will bring back the dark brown luster, again all the information is here within the forum Damage. If the patania has been removed it requires special attention, someone like Ford.
I would not recommend that anyone who is untrained applies any form of acid to the tetsu.
Dark black would look awful. My advice would be to leave the hachi and buy one from Yahoo. You will find Saotome listed there every month.
You will need to weight this up. If you want the kabuto to look nice with a shikoro you will need to have one made, that's around £3,000 where you can pick up a real Saotome for around £4,000.
If you just want the hachi I would suggest you send it to Ford. He has many techniques which are not yet documented in his books. Ford is the best craftsman I know for getting the correct patina with russet tetsu.
thank you for your quick response. I am afraid, it seems that I have been a bit imprecise here.
Let me give you more background on my question: I had seen an unsigned well-made 64-plate sujibachi kabuto (parts of the shikoro were missing) in an antique shop years ago. The condition of the helmet was not too bad, however someone had ruined the patina by applying some kind of chemical solution. The price was low but still more than one would like to spend on a ruined hachi which has only a small chance of being brought back to life. If it had been a Saotome tsuba at that time, I would have been able (at least to a certain degree) to predict how the tsuba would have looked like after restoration.
Discussing this situation with a fellow collector recently put me in a reflective mood and I read through a couple of discussions here on the board. They all included different ways of patination and restoration. However, I have not found any before/after restoration pictures showing the results of the specific patination method applied and comparing the results of the methods applied.
As the result will always be different depending on the patination method applied, there must be some methods which are better fitted for specific schools than others (or let me put it that way: I do not want to have a chocolate brown patina on an Akasaka tsuba nor do I want to have a deep purple black patina on a Saotome helmet). This begs the question: do we know how the old armourers created the original patina and/or can we achieve the same patina today by applying a specific method?
Let me clarify my original question: Is there a best-practice known today (by professional restorers like Ford or yourself, David) to come to a result which I have seen in the Saotome book or do I need to buy an already mint-condition kabuto if I desire such as-close-to-the-original-as-possible dark chocolate brown patina? It would certainly be helpful to see pictures of helmets restored by Ford (although I can understand why people do not want to share these on the internet).
Seems like the above was posted before I was finished... quite strange. Thank you, Dave! Your post included the answer to my question before I was able to rephrase it: Ford is able to get the correct patina for a Saotome helmet. Do you have (by chance) any pictures of his results?
Chris, The problem on most russet armour is not the russet as such but secondary rusting. When in use, the russet surfaces were treated with oil, as were swords, but over time this loses it ability to protect and new rusting breaks out. In some cases this seems centred on inclusions in the iron as the secondary rust seems to start as spots over the surface. I once had a helmet in which this was so bad nothing I did stopped these spots breaking out fresh rust within a week or two of treatment. Provided the piece has not been 'de-rusted' with an abrasive or given some chemical de-rusting treatment, the original patination can be easily recovered by removing the secondary rusting as described elsewhere on the Forum. How the original russeting was done is like much else in Japanese armour making, not really described. Being previously a chemist (defrocked after withdrawing subscriptions to the Royal Institute of Chemistry there will have been some initiator applied to the bright metal to start the process. Without something like that the rusting that would take place naturally would not be uniform. Gunmakers, who russeted, their barrels, had their favourite mixtures but many of the components in published recipes didn't actually do anything. A common one was one of the highly volatile ethers or a derivative which would have evaporated almost instantly. What actually did the work was an acid. My guess would be the Japanese used plum vinegar, possibly mixed with other things to moderate its action and ensure it was even (much depends on getting the metal chemically clean first). It is them a matter of time and brushing off loose powdery rust until the hard russet forming on the surface is the colour needed. Remember all the colours are iron oxides with varying amounts of hydration. Boiling the final result stops the rusting. In my memory is a comment that russeting pieces were placed outside the workshop and people were encouraged to pee on them. That makes sense since hygroscopic salts in the urine would speed the process. What might be worth doing is to clean up some bits of iron or mild steel and try things like vinegar on them. Ian B
thank you so much for this in-depth answer. This once again confirms that a full-repatination should only be done by a professional. I am curious who came up with the idea of a public toilet kabuto patination in old Japan... I asked myself the same question when I learned what they did in ancient Rome to create blue color without using indigo (it was all about the ammoniac in the urine and some kind of plant if I remember correctly).
Anyway - thank you very much for your kind assistance, Dave and Ian! BTW, I think that the kabuto which is for sale at Czerny's is a case for Ford, is it not?
Post by Dave Thatcher on Jul 28, 2017 10:23:22 GMT
Ian, I was told horse urine was also used.
Russet iron is out of my current skillset as I work more with urushi and textiles. I can clean and oil them but that's just about how far I feel confident with. I have no idea if Ford has ever worked on any hachi, however the last time we chatted on the phone he was talking to me about restoration on russet tsuba.
Chris, if I purchased the hachi in the photo I would just clean and oil it and add a replacement shikoro.