1. A silver sheet is hammered out to a predetermined thickness and then cut into as many as 24 different parts.
2. The surface of each component is polished, first with a file and then with a traditional tool called a kisage (shave plane).
3. The kuwagata horns and sword are polished with charcoal to smooth off the minute filing marks. This preliminary polishing is essential. If it is not done, the surface cannot be polished to a high luster at a later stage. Kuwagata are the elements of the maedate (front) that jut out boldly to the left and right. The stag beetle is also known as kuwagata in Japanese, a moniker derived from these stylized horns.
4. Ground emery is sprinkled over the surface of the fukikaeshi (wing-like projections attached to the left and right sides of the helmet, originally intended to protect the wearer from swords and arrows) parts to create a nuanced texture. This process, called arashi, requires great technical skill.
5. After the arashi process is completed, the fukikaeshi pieces are decorated with gold, silver and copper solutions to give a brilliant and sumptuous finish to the designs. Each color is applied with care, and areas to be left unpainted are precisely masked off.
6. The craftsman uses a custom-made jig to bend the pieces of the fukikaeshi. With his fingers, he carefully works the silver sheet, which is between 0.7 and 0.8 millimeters thick, to create identical curves on the left and right sides.
7. The parts of the shikoro (neck guard) are given an antiquing treatment. Creating a vintage look takes two steps: First, treating the silver plates with sulfur to blacken them, and then polishing them with sodium bicarbonate on a dampened cotton wool pad till the surface takes on the burnished gleam of antique silver.
8. The craftsman connects the top, middle and bottom shikoro panels together by threading pure-silk odoshi-himo (braided cords) through the eyelets. He has to keep adjusting the tension on the cords so that the curvature of the sections will be uniform. The lacing process is so time-consuming that only four or five three-panel shikoro can be assembled in a day.
For more information, visit www.ginzatanaka.co.jp/en.
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