The restoration Path: Why restore armour?
Within a decade or so of the opening of Japan western tourists flocked there to see for themselves this strange and fascinating country that had been closed to the world for so long. For a few decades there was a craze for all things Japanese, and naturally, these tourists brought back souvenirs; amongst which were armour and swords which they used to decorate their homes. This passion for things Japanese finally faded in the early years of the 20th century when the curios and souvenirs were relegated to attics and cellars, not to re-emerge until a new generation of collectors began to appreciate them after WWII.
Years of inappropriate storage and mishandling has not treated these treasures kindly. Many are now suffering from chipped and flaking lacquer, corroded fittings and rotting lacing. The odoshi lacing on those armours that have not suffered misuse are often in a bad condition or even disintegrating, because of the use of dyes that damage the silk. This was not a problem in feudal Japan because armours were refurbished on a regular basis, particularly during the protracted campaigns of the Sengoku Jidai, when armour had to be worn for long periods of time in all weathers – as well as being suffering damage in action. Even during the peaceful Edo period, all armour needed to be kept in good condition in case it was needed and would require cleaning and re-lacing on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, if the odoshi lacing of armour is intact and structurally sound, it is important that it be retained. However, broken or badly weakened lacing puts a greater strain on the lacing that survives intact and in the interests of conservation the damaged lacing should be replaced to prevent further damage occurring. In the case of urushi modern materials are not suitable as it’s impossible to replicate the same finish that original lacquer can achieve. Real lacquer is resistant to impacts, scratching, acids and alkalis.
My name is David Thatcher, and I am the longest established Katchushi professional restorer of Japanese armour in the UK. I began to restore armours in the early 1980’s committing to a full-time venture in 2011. I work from a dedicated commercial studio (Koubou 工房) located in the historic Roman town of Towcester in Northamptonshire, England. I offer all aspects of armour restoration 甲鉄修復 and armour making 甲鉄制作. I frequently visit Japan to further my studies and improve my skills from some of Japans leading masters.
This website is a portfolio of the work and services that I offer. My client base includes leading international dealers, collectors and museums. If you have an item of samurai armour that requires attention, please feel free to contact me for some assistance.
Katchushi Studio UK
portfolio of restorations
A Logical Approach To Restoration Over Conservation
Before any work being undertaken a full assessment should be conducted, it’s important to retain as much of the original preserve as possible and focus on only that which requires attention. Assessments apply the following principles:
Conservation work includes cleaning, repairing and consolidation of urushi lacquer.
Where damage has exceeded any preservation process, the item can be restored. This includes, for example, rebuilding damaged lacquer.
When an item has parts that are either missing or too severely damaged to repair, they can be replaced. This is the case with silk lacing and the silks used on armoured sleeves and thigh guards. Often with helmets, the original liners and cords are missing. Vintage materials or authentically produced substitutes can be sourced for missing components.