My name is David Thatcher, and I am the longest established professional restorer of Katchu, Japanese armour outside of Japan. 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 甲房) located in the historic Roman town of Towcester in Northamptonshire, England. I offer all aspects of armour restoration 修復 and armour making 制作.
My customers include leading museums, international dealers and collectors both inside and outside of Japan
You may be surprised to know that there is no formal qualification for restoring armour as the art is completely non-regulated. These days there are only a handful of restorers in Japan and ever fewer operating outside. Unfortunately, many of today’s restorers cannot lacquer to an acceptable standard. The opportunity arose that I could begin to study the art of Japanese lacquer. My sensei, Miss Miho Kitagawa, a professional urushi teacher of the Kyoto Prefectural University was able to help me adapt traditional lacquering techniques that were used on armour. Understanding lacquer and the important role it plays in armour is a necessity as nearly all restorations require some form of lacquer repair.
I only use traditional materials and authentic procedures in my restoration work
I am also a PhD student in the subject of Conservation and Preservation of Japanese Armour. To date, I have been able to carry out restorations on some of the worlds finest samurai items crafted by the Myochin, Nagasone, Saiga, Baemen, Iwai, Saotome, Neo and Haruta Schools.
As part of my Continuing Professional Development, I visit Japan on a regular basis where I learn from the worlds leading Katchushi including such teachers as Nishioka, Toyoda and Ogawa.
You are guaranteed that by using my services you will receive the very best restoration standard outside of Japan.
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.
Decades 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 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 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.
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.
This website is a showcase of the work and services that I can offer. If you have an item of samurai armour that requires attention, please feel free to contact me for some assistance.