In early 2017 I was commissioned to make a maedate for a kabuto that was originally used by the Matsuura clan as a part of their Korean invasion force. The version I made was of wood and lacquer which was coated in kinpaku gold leaf. I based the design on the clan’s mon which is featured on the hitsu storage box.

A few months later another helmet was obtained by one of my clients. They requested a maedate with the same design but wanted it to be different. I decided to make it like an autumn leaf with the edges curving inwards. The material was 0.8mm mild steel sheet. I cut out the design and cleaned up the edges then hammered the shape out.

To prime the steel, I use a traditional process where a thin layer of ki-urushi is burnt onto the surface. After some fitting, I adjusted the rear bracket to make sure it would work with the helmets tsunomoto spring.

The next stage was to create a raised pattern. I did consider chasing the design as an embossment but decided to use a traditional dry lacquer technique. I built up the design with some rolled up washi paper and then sculpted the pattern with kokuso.

After completing the kokuso stages I used another lacquer technique which creates a gritty and uneven surface. I coated this with kinpaku gold leaf and then added a patina.

I really like this design. Now to my amazement, two further kabuto have surfaced in Japan that require these. So I will have to make a few more.

A bespoke maedate made from steel and urushi

Tags: kabuto / maedate / metalwork / urushi nuri