Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Wakizashi

Our objects conservator has been working on this 19th Century Japanese small sword, called a “wakizashi.”  The sword is skillfully made from a range of materials including wood, lacquer, metal, and manta- or sting-ray skin. The decorative metal elements feature dragon designs. The bumpy white ray skin on the hilt, shown here separated from the blade, is naturally granular and would help to improve grip. The sword has been taken apart to allow its composite parts to be cleaned and treated. The hilt has suffered a break in the wrapped lacquer decoration.  In order to repair it, the conservator has been slowly humidifying the bent lacquer to enable it to be put back in place. Once all of the parts have been cleaned, the sword will be reassembled and ready for display.