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Japanese tetsubin

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Japanese Metalwork83 of 135Chimata-no-kami, Japanese "road folk spirits" plaqueRabbit (?) finial mystery themed cast iron kyusu
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    Posted 2 years ago

    (1023 items)

    This tetsubin is about 8" in diameter x 4" to base neck and 5.5" to top of neck. It has a maker's mark and weighs about 5 lbs. The design is Arare (hobnail) with a complex pine cone finial. The handle does not fold down but is affixed to two rings on the neck of the tetsubin. It is in excellent, used condition with some light rust inside.

    I thought I had made a mistake on this one. It is in really nice shape, but, though there were many watchers, I was the only bidder at a bargain price. Bidding on Japanese testsubin is typically very spirited with lots of last minute bidders. The seller had a reserve price of $25 and the option for an offer. Japanese tetsubin do not sell for $25..... Of course shipping was nearly $20, probably because, since the handle does not fold down, a large box was needed to ship it. I am actually on a spending hold due to some unexpected sewer issues, but had made the seller an offer of $30 before that took place just to see what would happen and the seller just let my offer expire. I expected a decline or what happened. No surprise, just kicking the tires on the auction, so I went ahead and put the minimum bid on it and forgot about it, before my sewer woes. Well, Hell, I won it for $25. Hmmmmm. The mark did not look particularly Japanese to me from the seller's images which were not very good.

    But.... This tetsubin has several features of an antique Japanese tetsubin. The complex pine cone is a classic Japanese style. The design of the neck is also classic in older Japanese tetsubin and very high end new ones. Though it may seem odd now, many antique tetsubin have this same handle configuration. Also, the two part body is fairly hard to do on a large kettle and I thought it was a 1.5 - 2 liter kettle, which is why I bid on it. It is the next size up from the tetsubin in my collection. The size was a guesstimate on my part as the seller just took some images of a ruler next to the kettle and the only dimension in their description was a 1.5" neck. They did give an approximate weight of 5 lbs. Of course, I did not analyze the construction of the kettle closely before bidding as I believed that I had no chance of winning it. Hence the "Oops!".

    One thing that really bothered me about this tetsubin is the treatment of the handle. There are two grooves cut into the top of the handle to create the impression that it has been hammered into shape. The front groove is easily seen in image #4. I've never seen this in a Japanese tetsubin or kyusu before. It gives the handle the appearance of a traditionally hand hammered handle, but it is not. It is also looked to be done in a very rough fashion. A few minutes work with the fine file could have smoothed the groves out and fooled the eye as to their nature. I was not sure what to make of this.

    So there I was. Was it a copy of a high end Japanese tetsubin or an incredible deal. Sigh.

    Conclusion: Once it arrived I determined that the mark is Japanese and the workmanship is good, not great. It will do exactly what it was made to do, though. I think that this is a good quality Japanese tetsubin meant for every day use. It holds 6 cups, about 1.5 liters, and turned out to be 8" in diameter and dwarfs my other tetsubin. It weighs a few tenths of an ounce under 5 lbs and is thin walled compared to my smaller tetsubin. It was extremely dirty inside, with towel after towel of nasty brown stuff coming out of it. It is the first time that I have filled a piece of Japanese cast iron with hot, soapy water. I am still working on cleaning it out before I restore the interior by boiling green tea in it. I suspect that someone tried using it as a teapot, for brewing tea, and what am getting out of it is tea stains. I now think the groove was cut in the handle on the spout side as a thumb rest and the groove at the back side was cut to artistically balance the handle again. The handle is definitely hand made and shaped. So. Incredible deal!

    I did find a very similar one on Etsy. If you check that one out, note that both tetsubin have the same horizontal lines bracketing the rows of hobnails..... The maker's mark does not look, to me, to be the same and the Etsy seller's provenance seems shaky, at best. I would have a lot of questions for the Etsy seller about their attribution at the price ($495 + $28 shipping) they are asking for it....

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    1. jscott0363 jscott0363, 2 years ago
      Though it may be a Chinese copy, it's still a really nice one and for $25 you can't go wrong.
    2. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks jscott0363! The cast iron teapot, as you probably know, was invented in China and copied by the Japanese many centuries later. The ceramic teapot was invented in China long before cast iron teapots. The main issue I have with anything Chinese made for use with food stuffs is that there have been many instances of lack of quality control of items coming from China, including food and cooking/eating tools, which resulted in making their products unsafe to use. I do not have issues with quality reproductions from China of many things, just not anything that has to do with food. If I find this kettle is made in China, I will toss it in the dumpster as I would not feel right in letting it pass to someone else. I think that I have mentioned that in the early 2000s, I purged anything food related that was made in China from my home after finding my Chinese made dinnerware had been flagged by the FDA as unsafe to use. I cannot control what foodstuffs in my home have Chinese origins, since that is so prevalent now, but I can control the utensils that I use. A bit of a rant, but I think it is an important topic...

      Thanks for taking a look at by questionable tetsubin jscott0363, Jenni and aura!
    3. PhilDMorris PhilDMorris, 2 years ago
      Good luck for this one, though it seems you have done your homework !~
    4. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comment and good wishes PhilDMorris! Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any authoritative sources on Japanese cast iron. There are bits of information spread across the Internet. Just like Japanese art glass, someone could probably make a bit of money cranking out some reference books, but it would probably have to be someone in Japan...

      Thanks, Eileen! I will definitely keep everyone posted!

      Thanks for loving my latest folly Kevin, Eileen, fortapache, Thomas and aura!
    5. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks for taking a look dav2no1 and Manikin!
    6. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thank you RichmondLori!
    7. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Updated images and description.
    8. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks for checking out the update to my post PhilDMorris! Still working on cleaning the inside up!
    9. Gillian, 2 years ago
      Would a mix of vinegar and water work on the inside? Boil and let sit for a while, rinse well and repeat.
    10. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks for suggestion Gillian! There are a couple of ways folks clean these out. One way does use vinegar and green tea (?), I think. If I can't get it cleaned out with elbow grease I will research the various other methods. I've read up on this in the past, but not had to do it before, so need to revisit this as the details are fuzzy for me now. There is a sort of finish created when the pot is manufactured, which is mostly done with high heat, so trying to leave as much of that as possible and not disturb what original finish remains.... Vinegar may well pay a roll though! If it was just a bit rusty, not grungy, then the way to go would be to boil some green tea in it for 10-15 minutes, empty it while still hot and turn it upside down to dry. Green tea has tannic acid which converts rust and then seals the finish.
    11. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thanks Eileen and Shuzbut!
    12. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Thank you AmphoraPottery!

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