Just plain simple advice

Submitted by oldguy62 on Wed, 2017-11-08 11:52 katana
Recently acquired Yukimitsu mei Katana. Nakago is old, hard, black oxidation. This is a simple 2 figure mei. My quandry is this. It is a spectacular weapon which I am thinking is in original polish. It doesn't have that "super-duper mega shine " but it does show fantastic activity in the entire length. If it really is what I "suspect" an original 1320's Yukimitsu should I spend the huge amount of money to have the polish done? I can clearly see all the mokume w itame grain, the toranha hamon etc... it has a beautiful "lightening in the clouds" appearance and I happen to like the idea of it being in it's original "battle polish" from the late Kamakura period. These things may well be works of art but they are also works of war and death and I hate the idea of changing from that. I happened upon this Katana at an estate sale in a very upscale neighborhood. Apparently (according to the elderly owner) He was a member of MacArthurs occupation staff and was given this sword by a family for extreme favors. Of course these stories are hard to authenticate but certainly this sword is of extremely high quality. Intense research plus the condition truly lead me to believe this to be a valuable item. I know the tsuka has been re-wrapped although it does show a considerable amount of use! Plenty of sweat/oil etc. but no broken ito. The Tsuba is signed although I haven't got it translated yet it does appear to be the right period. The original saya has long since split and was apparently covered in a thin leather or "skiver?" I assume I will have to have someone make a new one which should not have effect on the value of the katana. Should I have it made "shirasaya or actually made to compliment Koshirae?
This is only my 4th Nihonto but I certainly consider it the most beautiful. I am not wealthy and this was just a really lucky day for me. I want to do what is best in the long run. All advice is greatly appreciated. I will try to post photo's in the future as it is truly a beauty to behold. I wish there was a way to get it graded here in the U.S. which would be "trustworthy" Any advice in that area would also be appreciated.

no polish

My advice: Do not get it polished. From your description, it is pretty good as-is.
Remember that a polish removes metal, and it can never be put back. A new, high-quality polish will make it look "prettier", but what's the point? And, if it is the better-than-average blade that you describe, then it needs a GOOD polish, which is quite expensive (probably $2000-3000 at least) and will take months in Japan before you get it back.

Saya: A proper saya will be quite expensive also, and you must send the blade to the saya-maker (the fit has to be exact). I would go with a shirasaya, then perhaps get some restoration work done on the original (but do NOT put the blade back in the old saya, unless the restoration work is done by someone qualified!).
If the blade has not been damaged by being stored in the old saya since WWII, it is probably OK to continue that way.
You could also look into building a storage box for the blade - an enclosed wood box that ONLY contacts the blade in the nakago and habaki area - it 'floats' everywhere else. Use an appropriate type of wood that does not 'out-gas' anything harmful.


Response to my request for advice...

Thanks for the advice. I have collected old firearms for years and unless something is "unfunctional" we ALWAYS leave them alone to preserve the history. This blade has a few very tiny chips... maybe few scuffs (very small) but one can see this blade was USED. It certainly didn't just hang around someone's waist. I would venture to say it got used hard and perhaps even "put away wet" as it were. To polish it all up would be akin to taking Jesse James S&W Revolver and polishing it and having it gold plated. The old saya is pretty well split and I have considered having Lohmans make a new saya.. Not some "high falootin" one but something simple that would be what it originally was in. I hope I can post some decent photos... getting the hamon to show up is tough for me with my chintzy little camera... The hamon really "rolls" as the blade is moved and I can't seem to get a good "close up" of the grain which is just beautiful.
BTW... I will sit for hours just studying the blade and fittings....rolling it in the light to be amazed at what I see. Is that considered an "enthusiast" or a "Nut." LOL

Thank you for the advice.

Thank you for the advice. Interesting developments. The blade itself is "nagamaki" apparently. I guess these were considered the "super swords" of the period. I am still trying to figure if it was forged "Katana length" (30 3/8") or if the nakago was "cut down" This sword itself is a tiny bit "heavy" and has the Nagamaki back but it is so.... how do I say it....shapely? It just doesn't "feel" cut down. The "mei" is a simple 2 character signature...and the gentleman from whom I acquired it actually found the saya which was original to the blade. BEAUTIFUL!! Repaired twice but still beautiful. Red lacquer over leather over wood core. It has a small split but it still covers the blade well and appears functional. I wish I had a better camera to take photos. There is a massive amount of Mokume and itame grain. I cannot decide if I am seeing hitatsura tempering marks above the shinogi or if it is something else. To me the descriptions tend to be "subjective" and I would not venture to fully describe something if I believe I might make a mistake. All I can say is this is the most active sword I have ever held. One can almost sense the battles which this sword has seen. Anyway.... I have decided to submit it to a Professor for her opinion/.. but I won't do any additional polish. Like you said... it removes metal and I just refuse to do that. Thanks again for your advice.