Menuki is a particular ornamental piece that is usually mounted on the Katana Tsuka to complete a master piece called Samurai Sword. Actually it is unfair to talk about Menuki without talking about Tsuka-Ito and Mekugi equally known by Nakago. The superposition order is very particular. One is hiding the other but by the same time is protecting and allowing it to be more attractive: it does hide it partially indeed.
The proficiency level that requires making the serial of pieces is high; selecting the best material, the best color then the best design to incorporate within the group is a delicate duty. Though Menuki is known of being an ornamental piece with no distinguished function, it ensures the filling of a gap of design.
Since the Tsuba is the line of symmetry of the Katana parts, Menuki complete the Katana parts by symmetry to what there is on the Saya. It has a definite role of counter balancing the overall concept.
The importance that has the Menuki is generally due to the design and the conception of the piece. Actually, the patterns are real piece of art; they are sculpture of real or legendary creatures and can be illustration of some scenes.
Initially, Menuki was intended to prevent the hands from slipping over the Tsuka. This role is reinforced by the wrap Tsuka Ito and assisted by the Menuki. The main role of the Menuki pattern is ornamental. The main represented patterns are animals which traduce mighty and power, honor and freedom.
In the Japanese mythology, and the Asiatic culture, several animals are associated with these concepts. It is very common to find Dragons, Birds and the every cherished domestic animal that has the significance of living represented by Menuki. This tendency is present over the major ornamental parts mounted on the Katana.
The pattern and the representation described by the Menuki has evolved and gained higher complexity level along with the industrial revolution and the creation of more sophisticated tools to handle the Pattern printing on the material pieces. It is important to notice that the Menuki gives its qualification as the main description for the Katana.
Basically made of Gold, the Menuki can be made of others shining materials. The importance is that the piece has the glow under the Ito wrap which tends to cover it.
The Glowing properties of the material have to complete the group of pieces, whether they have an ornamental duty or functional duty. The Menuki has to be made of material that can appear under the Ito Wrap, can describe the shape and expose the pattern. Generally, Gold, Silver and Lead are the materials that have these properties.
Making Menuki requires a mold already prepared according to the desired design. The mold is made of Silicone or clay, the material that are easily prepared and that exhibit efficient resistance to heat. It is also possible to make Menuki from Solid Resin or hard plastic according industrial processes using particular machinery.
The price of the used material is definitely a determinant factor that rules the price of the Menuki along with others factors, for example the complexity of the design and the originality of the pattern. In some designs, Menuki has to be painted to distinguish the shapes and the make the design more attractive because the
item has acquired the decorative role. Some Menuki painting are made using shining products with Gold like glow. Having the role limited to ornamental function, the conception and the design of the Menuki are to make carefully to preserve the overall concept of the designed Katana.
Making A Menuki
Menuki is made using a mold that will receive the melted material. Therefore, the mold has to be created using material that support high temperatures of the melting metal. The mold preparation is the most important phase because it will determinate the pattern that will be printed on the Menuki.
The choice of the pattern to print is to do with respect to the overall design of the Sword, the general layout of the Tsuka, generally in harmony with the Fushi-Kashira-Tsuba complex. The Menuki has specific dimensions that have to be respected to fulfill the ornamental role, which is preponderant and accomplish the protective role for which it is initially designed.
The making process begins with the choice of the material to use for the motif, then the pattern to print on the Menuki. The Mold is made in a way to print the designed motif and to give the form resulting Menuki. The fused metal is then fitted in the mold.
After cooling, some polishing and cleaning works are necessary to eliminate bad formations. Finishing is with painting the borders of the motif, making them more visible and creating the depth effects. It is possible to paint with different metal if the initial is not shiny; some details are to coat with this glowing metal to emphasis the shape and make it more visible.
Customize The Menuki
This association has to be considered when intending to customize any of these elements. It is recommended to choose every part with extreme care and attentively not to create a noticeable contrast within the group.
The harmony of color and shapes is to preserve whether the Katana is intended to decorative purposes (Collection, Gifts) or functional purposes (Practical). It is always possible to select Menuki from a list provided by the Katana Maker or seller, because it is possible to select every part to mount on the desired sword.
It is better to know the purposes of the sword and the availability of the different parts; then it is important to determine if the desired design would be affected by the customization. Asking the help of professional is a good initiative to make because it helps saving time and money.