Repairing Kabuto seems to be very much of my staple diet. This example reflects a zunari dating from the mid edo jidai. These types of helmets are too often overlooked by collectors as they are plentiful and lack the edo period artery aesthetics. They are however one of the truest forms of a fighting helmet.
I am fortunate enough to be able to work on some great pieces of art, but my heart is always leaning towards these types of helmet. I am truly grateful that the owner shares this passion and has invested in securing its preservation for many generations to come.
The work undertaken was to clean the helmet as it was caked in grime, replace the odoshi (note we matched the original colour, which is rather bright). The real task with this was to replace the missing fukigashi ear that had been discarded.
The maedate that came with the Kabuto was broken, this was the only item that we decided to exercise some artist licence where the new owner requested its modification from red to gold.
So the first step was to remove the old rotted odoshi and separate the shikoro from the hachi. Most of the original odoshi had broken and in places, it was being held together with copper wire. The missing fukigashi had clearly snapped off at some time in the past. The edge of the shikoro had just enough spare metal for me to attach the replacement. The challange was how to match the urushi to conceal the repair.
After removing the shikoro from the hachi I had to unpick the rotted odoshi. The odoshi-no-ana is the holes in the plate that the braid is passed through. Sometimes water gets into the braid and causes rusting. This rusting is beneath the upper lacquered surface so removal of the old odoshi has to be done very carefully. There is a small leather plug that is used to lock the braid into place and prevent stretching, this fuses with the rust and silk fibres to create a solid anchored block. The hole has to be literary cut back open without lifting the urushi.
Once the old odoshi has been removed I set about cleaning the plates. I used a mixture of oil and tonoko powder to create a polishing paste. This cuts away the dirt and also restores the original urushi lustre.
Making the replacement fukigashi ear. I made a paper template from the existing ear, then hammered a reversed version from thin mild steel. I primed the steel by burning on a coat of urushi then fixed it into place with two steel rivets. The next steps involve creating the ground layers which are special mixtures of clays, flour, sawdust and lacquer. Using kokuso I resculpted the thin fukurin around the edge and with a number of sabi layers I thickened the steel. I applied numerous coats of urushi that were cutback with charcoal until a nice smooth black surface was achieved. Using a special process based on kojimi I blended in the urushi behind the ear so that no visible repair could be seen. I cleaned the hachi using the same method as I did with the shikoro.
For the maedate, I repaired the broken section by removing the sellotape and glueing the two broken pieces back together. I filled the gaps with kokuso and then sabi urushi and applied a lacquer effect known as tataki-nuri to the front. This was then gilded in gold and given an artificial patina.
The final stage was to re-attach the shikoro to the hachi, replace the byo and re-lace with silk odoshi.