Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: Glass showcase as good as shirasaya?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Koenigswinter, Germany
    Posts
    8

    Glass showcase as good as shirasaya?

    Hi!
    The traditional form to keep a nihonto at home of course is lightly oiled, inside a shirasaya.
    But is it necessary to hide it in this way?
    In museums around the world, blades are displayed behind glass, without any oil, exposed to the air in the cabinet.
    So... what is the secret of the museums? Is it to keep the showcase airtight with very little humidity (and how would you do that at home)? Are there any downsides compared to the traditional way? Or is it even better, since you can skip the sword care?
    So many questions...
    Holger

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    11,761
    You could do it similarly if you had a silica tub that sucked the humidity out of the air. Or you could opt for climate control.
    I like swords.

    ______________________________
    SCHOLA GLADIATORIA
    ______________________________

    If you want to climb a mountain, begin at the top.

    "Integrity, justice, courage, and action - without these, a person is of no consequence." - Don Nelson

    learn the way to preserve rather than destroy.
    avoid rather than check, check rather than hurt, hurt rather than maim, maim rather than kill.
    for all life is precious, not one can be replaced.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Koenigswinter, Germany
    Posts
    8
    Thanks Jeff! Sounds feasible.

    Any experience of others, who have actually done it, is more than welcome.
    H.

  4. #4
    I have been to a fair number of sword shops and museums in Japan and they have glasses of water in the glass fronted booths. This is usually to keep the humidity constant for koshirae, but, I see it in displays of blades alone. They are cleaned and oiled regularly. So, take it from those experts, a dry atmosphere is not beneficial, care is. John

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by John A Stuart View Post
    I have been to a fair number of sword shops and museums in Japan and they have glasses of water in the glass fronted booths. This is usually to keep the humidity constant for koshirae, but, I see it in displays of blades alone. They are cleaned and oiled regularly. So, take it from those experts, a dry atmosphere is not beneficial, care is. John
    This is not correct advice. It is true that Koshirae will shrink and crack if kept in a space where moisture is eradicated but you need to keep koshirae seperate and display the blades in a COMPLETELY MOISTURE FREE ENVIRONMENT! I use violin case dessicant and it reduces moisture to nill. I also must add that shirasaya are used for the purpose of protecting the blade from abrasion primarily and only limit the amount of moisture in the immediate environment of the Nihonto. I live in Germany and the humidity is close to where I lived in Kyushu. I have witnessed the benefits of storing the blades where I can see them as opposed to hiding them away in their Shirasaya after several fittings and blades recieved damage due to moisture while I lived for 2 years in Japan. I do not have that problem or worry now as I visually monitor my collection without disturbing them except for bi-annual cleaning.

    Also I also must add that in the Tokyo museum and other exhibits where the Koshirae are displayed with the blades a coating of high grade petroleum wax is applied to the blade. But in no case should anyone ever put an oiled blade in a case with any vessel containing water. And last, a dry environment is the best way to preserve Nihonto period, but your Koshirae and shirasaya will swell and then shrink if put in said environment.
    Jim

  6. #6
    The NBTHK museum has water in their displays as does the Tokyo museum and just about every shop that has large displays. The reason is dryness from central heating. Especially shirasaya and koshirae are effected. You are talking rennaisance wax for the blades, never for Nihonto. It is very hard to remove. John

    Here is an example from the DTI 2010.

    Last edited by John A Stuart; 05-11-2011 at 06:12 PM. Reason: add pic

  7. #7
    I also wanted to add that I was at the 2010 Dai Token Ichi and one must consider that was a temporary display and not really what we are talking about.
    Jim

  8. #8
    In the displays at the tokyo museum where there are no Koshirae displayed the moisture is kept to 2%. Where koshirae are kept with their respective blades the humidity is around a 6% constant. I saw a display at Hirado castle dissasembled and there are silicate containers under the racks. I saw them prepare the blades for a viewing and they washed the wax off in a solution. I was very early and asked many questions. Rennaisance wax is a polish developed to preserve wood but the wax used in displays is specifically developed by Japanese for said purpose. It is a carbon polymer saturate derived from pure mineral oil. It is what is used I was told by all curators in Japan. DO NOT PUT WATER IN WITH YOUR BLADES!!!!! Just use common sense. Paul Martin at the British museum is usually good about replying to questions about curation and would confirm everything I have said as I have been there and seen the cases with my own eyes as well.
    Jim

  9. #9
    I must add one more thing that disturbs me. Rennaisance wax is a silicate polish and should not even be brought up in a discussion about Nihonto, never be near Nihonto and certainly is not used by anyone with even the smallest shred of common sense.
    Jim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    85
    I was also curious about this, as i've ordered a plexiglass display case and would like to keep my blade out of fittings to be able to admire and inspect the blade easily.
    So to summerize, if i store the blade and saya in the same display, i can put those desiccant silicate bags in with the sword under the display, and maybe monitor if the humidity doesn't get too low under 6% not to mess up my saya?

    correct?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Koenigswinter, Germany
    Posts
    8
    Thanks to John and Jim for your most interesting posts! Indeed, what Jim says makes a lot of sense to me (no offense, John, and your picture is still a little disturbing).
    Jim, since you live in Germany, would you like to send me a PM and tell me where exactly? I would like to buy you a drink, if that´s o.k. It is certainly good to know someone with such a wealth of knowledge.
    Robert, since Belgium is not too far away, could you tell me by PM where you bought your display and what you paid for that? Merci beaucoup!
    Holger

  12. #12
    I live near Trier and Flyfish near Verviers in Belgium all the time. You can retrofit any cabinet to be airtight and the best antique furniture deals in the western world can be found in Belgian markets that run all day every day all summer long.
    Jim

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Posts
    502
    Quote Originally Posted by jim rousch View Post
    Paul Martin at the British museum is usually good about replying to questions about curation and would confirm everything I have said as I have been there and seen the cases with my own eyes as well.
    Jim
    Perhaps you shouldn't believe your own eyes.
    Direct quote from Paul Martin on this question - "This is the first time that I have heard of this about Japanese conservators using wax. At the British Museum, we never, I repeat NEVER used wax at all. The gallery was kept at a constant 25 degrees C. and 55% +/- 5% humidity. The UK is less humid than Japan, and the blades were kept dry while on display and oiled when in storage. Organics and metals were usually kept in separate storage facilities, but as koshirae and armor are a mixture of both that was a challenge. Sometimes I have seen water in cases in Japan, usually when there is koshirae. Sometimes I have seen desiccants in the display cases, but these are usually kept out of view so as not to clutter the display.

    I am 99.9% sure that Tokyo National, the Sword Museum, the Sano Museum, Atsuta Shrine, Okayama Art Museum, and the Bizen sword museum do not use wax. Some places without temperature controlled environments (I.E some older Japanese castles, and shrines) keep their swords in oil when on display, and as you know from experience this obscures viewing somewhat. I can't see the Japanese sword specialists doing anything other than what they have always done: oil and uchiko, even the use of microfibre cloths is still in the minority there. I have never seen anyone use alcohol or the like either in Japan. This is why I never endorse any practices other than moderate uchiko and oil, or microfibre cloths."
    The one certainty is that I will be gone soon, and in going, so will a legion of ghosts.
    - Joe Simpson

  14. #14
    Wax is just the term for the heavier petroleum oil. I do not mean wax in the literal sense. I have seen it applied and it is thicker than choji. If anyone knows the name for this I am curious to know. Maybe it is used in Japan as Kyushu is very Humid. I was told 6% is the constant humidity. And a solution was used to wash the blade of all impurities. They also said that only silk was used as the backdrop due to the fact that other fabrics break down and will cover the surface of the blade. And like I said the dessicant was under the fabric directly beneath the blades. This is a very interesting thread for me. I went to school to study archaeology and have worked on several late-archaic indian sites. I mention this because conservation techniques are a very specialized practice and field. I wonder if any good papers have been written on this subject in it's entirety as realating to Nihonto.
    Jim

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    central New Mexico
    Posts
    3,250
    6% is *Extremely* *low* humidity! Even living in a true desert we generally have humidity higher than that!
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    85
    Very interesting indead. I might try to look up some papers about nihonto conservation, i work at a university and so have access to most scientific databases. if i find something all let people know. Anyway Verviers is like a half hour drive for me
    As to the humidity in my case, i'll put silica desiccant in it and see what the humidity drops to...

    greets

    Robert

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,209
    There is some chatter on a conservation mailing list that mentions a course run by the Stibbert Museum in Florence.

    http://cool.conservation-us.org/byfo...2006/1159.html

    http://cool.conservation-us.org/byfo...2003/0904.html

    Cheers

    Hotspur; those from a quick search of this list that has been very helpful to me in the past

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    955
    It is tricky to conserve objects like swords constructed with several materials which need different relative humidity levels. Ideally the relative humidity level for steel/iron should be at 35% or lower. 6% is completely unrealistic, and would be unsuitable if any organic material was with it (bone and leather may need, for example, more than 35%) . But the important is really that the RH level and temperature be always stable, even if it is not ideal. Drastic changes are much more damageable.

    If you want to keep a case at a good humidity you will need your silica gel to be conditioned, which can be complicated. You would be better to order pre-conditioned gel, the amount will depend on the volume you need to control. Here is a good option: http://apps.webcreate.com/ecom/catal...roductID=27844

    You will also need this to measure the RH inside the case: http://apps.webcreate.com/ecom/catal...roductID=20802

    And yes you case will need to be pretty much sealed, otherwise the air around it will change your RH. This might be useful for doing it: http://apps.webcreate.com/ecom/catal...roductID=18419

    But honestly, except if you have a lot of money to burn, I wouldn't invest in such a complex solution, except if you live in a very very damp environment and don't check your blade often. Most people can successfully do without it.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Koenigswinter, Germany
    Posts
    8
    I just received a reply to my query to Deutsches Klingenmuseum ("German Blade Museum") in Solingen (www.klingenmuseum.de), which displays tons of interesting swords in its showrooms (though, sadly, only a handful of Nihonto). Pay a visit if you are in the vicinity!
    Mr. Hoffmeister of the museum confirms that
    - the glass case should be reasonably airtight
    - the humidity should be managed to be below 40% (preferably by silicagel if you do not use an A/C showcase which is obscenely expensive)
    - the fluctuations of humidity should be small (e.g. with the instrument in Max´s link)

    I think that is feasible (though not easy). Of course it needs some investment but if you can see your treasures all the time in their full beauty and compared to what they cost I tink it is not totally unreasonable.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •