May 16, 2011

Iwasaki and Tamahagane

I asked Iwasaki san about "Tamahagane".
He came back with 2 chunks of raw "Tamahagane".

Ancient and New Tamahagane

He said:"The bigger one is Tamahagane made now by The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords ." "It is made every year by Hitachi Metals by old methods."
"The small one is an ancient Tamahagane made by a Tatara master. Not all ancient Tamahagane are top class. Before modern steel came to Japan in Meiji period (1868-1912) there have been many ancient Tatara places. These Tatara places has been named by the masters who made the Tamahagane. I have a stock of excellent and famous masters and I use these for my razors."

I had a chance to make photos of his very special ancient Tamahagane:
Ancient Tamahagene Stock
 Near to this stock I saw some other steel:
Hocho Tetsu

I asked what it is.
The answer was it is Hocho Tetsu and it is the mild or soft steel made by the Tatara method. It has been used to make latticework in a window of an old storehouse. The name of these storehouse is "Kura" and you can see it at google picture. Storehouses which have been build before the Meiji period have these Hocho Tetsu.
These can be used as Jigane (clad) or you can enrich it with carbon to make carbon steel and it will be the same as Tamahagane.

I found also a box with the letters The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords Tatara Tamahagane:

The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords Tatara Tamahagane Box
The Tamahagane made now comes in this box to the blacksmith.

When I made the tour of his workshop I found a bigger charcoal furnace; far to big for razors.
It was a furnace to make a Tamahagane bar from the chunk of raw Tamahagane by hammering and folding to get rid of the non melting impurities.

Charcoal Furnace to Purify Tamahagane
I asked Iwasaki san and Mizouchi san if they are making Tamahagane razors now.
The answer was yes!
They make few Tamahagane kamisori (Japanese razors) but not western razors.
I asked if they are for sale?
The answer was no!
I did not ask further.
I do not know where the new made Tamahagane razors go.
Maybe to museum or to inner circle.

I got a look at old Tamahagane western razors too:

Old Tmahagane Western Razors with Defects
These are all Tamahagane razors with defects which did not leave the workshop but too good to go to trash. The steel of these razors can be recycled said Iwasaki san.

I hope my readers have enjoyed to see Tamahagane.


  1. Thank you very much, this is really interesting.
    There is something that, maybe, I haven't well understood: you say that Iwasaki san is not selling tamahagane razors; but then what are those Iwasaki tamahagane razors (with tamahagane stamp) that are sold on some famous sites? I have one too. Were they made earlier? Were they made with another type of tamahagane (maybe the "modern" type?)

  2. Thank you for comment.
    Iwasaki san and Mizuochi san does not make western razors now. They said they make few tamahagane kamisori (Japanese razors).
    I never saw a new Iwasaki tamahagane razor on sale.
    I only see new old stocks on auctions sometimes.

  3. Oh, sorry, I didn't understand; I thought you were meaning they do not make kamisori too.
    It's one of those that I have myself.
    Thank you again for your really informative blog

  4. Excellent blog and information, thank you very much.

  5. The quality of tamahagane made is depend also on the processing. No wonder that it would cost a lot than ordinary steels.

  6. I definitely appreciate your blog. Excellent work!