View Full Version : Onin style tsuba

10th September 2013, 01:08
Hello all,

Nathan Scott recently posted a thread about a yari he had restored. It got me thinking about some projects I've been meaning to work on. I've had this tsuba in my collection for about 20 years and i have always liked it. The biggest problem with it though is that some well meaning knucklehead thought it would be better spray painted gold. Not such a good plan.

Dr. Richard Stein helped me identify the tsuba as Onin style, so named after the Onin era (re: Onin War) during the Muromachi period. The style of tsuba was popular for about 50 years before the Onin era and for another hundred or so after the Onin era but the style really came into its own during that era so that is why it is named that.

My first task was to remove the gold spray paint. I used some acetone and an old toothbrush to really work it off. I then had to deal with some red rust (not that much really) and some old nasty crud. We're looking at about 500 years of build up so it was gross but not too bad. When removing this old red rust and debris you need something hard enough to get it off the iron plate but soft enough that it won't damage the old patina. Ivory, antler, bamboo and some woods are popular materials to make scrapers. I went with bamboo because I have access to a lot of chopsticks ^_^

Anyway with some time and love I got the worst of it off. I then took to rubbing it with a piece of old tee shirt until it started to get a little bit of the luster back. After getting a lot of the old paint and crud off I found that the brass was more polished than I had thought (I could never tell what was polished and what was paint previously). My next task will be to get a nice golden brown patina on the brass.

Years ago I had read an old time collector mention that one of the best ways to patina old soft metals like brass and copper was to leave it in the bathroom near the toilet and shower for several weeks (a mix of the gases from the toilet and the dampness from the shower helps the metal patina... gross I know). I had an old tiger menuki made of shakudo; the tiger's stripes were made of gold. Someone in the past thought that it was too dull and shined it right up. Not a good idea. So I placed it in the bathroom and left it there for a couple months. When I went back for it the shakudo had turned a rich redish/purpleish black and the golden stripes were very clear. I think this might help me get the effect I want out of this tsuba.

Sadly there is a little bit of brass missing from the omote side near the top. Also at one point the brass wire had a rope pattern cut into it. Age has worn away most of the rope pattern. It can still be seen in a few places though.

Anyway here is the progress I've made so far. Feedback is welcome!

Best regards,

http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=121472&d=1378675029 Omote
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=121471&d=1378675029 Ura
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=121514&d=1378762742 Omote cleaned
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=121515&d=1378762742 Ura cleaned

Nathan Scott
10th September 2013, 02:53
That's a lot of work! I actually was working on removing some rust from a tsuba a couple of days ago, and found that old mekugi (hard, dry bamboo retaining pins) worked pretty welll - and was a convenient recycling of used material. Removing red rust is very time consuming though.

I'm looking forward to seeing your tsuba when you're done.


10th September 2013, 12:47
Thanks Nathan,

It took a little elbow grease that's for sure! Now it is just a matter of time before the brass ages back to what it should be. It should look something like the ones here: http://home.earthlink.net/~jggilbert/heianjo.htm

10th September 2013, 16:04
Wow! That came out really well Chris, great job.

You probably know this, but keep a close eye on it to make sure the red rust that you got off doesn't come back in that damp environment (had that happen to me).

10th September 2013, 20:22
Thanks Paul. I'll be keeping an eye on it to make sure no red rust forms again. I'll post photos when I get some more patina on it.

Nathan, I'd love to see photos of the tsuba you were working on.