Suneate 臑当 is a type of shin guard. They sit slightly above the ankle and below the knee of the wearer. There are many versions of these, most are made from iron splints called shino which are backed with a textile material called ieji. The knee guard section is called a tateage and is normally an armoured pad made up of a series of small iron plates called kikko which are covered with material or deer hide. Often located on the bottom inside edge there is a small leather patch called a kakozuri which was used to protect the inside of the wearer’s calf from making contact with stirrups when riding a horse.
The most common type of damage I encounter with suneate is the destruction of the tateage. This is caused by two defects, the small iron kikko plates rust away, they are usually only 0.3mm thick so rust can destroy then very quickly. The next factor is the decorative braid that makes the small hexagon pattern. The silk rots and the whole structure fails.
From a cosmetic view the outer ieji is often a decorative silk brocade, again this rots away which exposes the under layers of hemp cloth which is used as a backing.
The edging is either leather piping or a special silk braid called sasaberi.
If new kiko plates are required I make them from 0.5mm mild steel. I cut, drill and hammer them into a slightly domed shape. I then prime the surface by burning on a fine layer of ki-urushi. This will seal the surface and help to prevent rusting.
Sasaberi is no longer produced. A few years ago I commissioned a braid specialist to recreate the original weave and to produce a few hundred meters. As you can see in the photo the sasaberi is an exact copy of the original.
The following images have been taken over two separate commission where I had to match sets of suneate to armours. The first step is to disassemble all the components and to use them as templates. Where possible I will salvage any of the original parts and material.
In these images, I have used the original material to use as a template to replace the inner hemp layer. the inner layer is used to anchor all the stitching, so it must be strong enough. To keep the kiko plates in the right location I tac each one in position with a cross stitch.
Each kiko plate is connected to the outer material with an odoshi silk braid. The braid weaves in an out of the plates small holes where they cross over creating the hishinui knot. From inside a string is made by rolling a strong handmade washi paper. This is used to anchor the thin silk stitching that creates the decorative hexagon design. getting the hexagons to sit evenly is somewhat of a challenge.
The above shows the final stages of the tateate being completed.
Now that the tateate are finished they need to be connected to the main body where the shino plates are located. All plates and chain mail kusari are sewn down and locked. The outer is edged with sasaberi. The final item to replace is the two straps that are used to tie the suneate around the leg. Ue-no-o for the top and shita-no-o for the bottom. For this, I use asa hemp. The last images display the finished suneate that have been incorporated into two sets of gusoku armours.