As importers and suppliers of SAMEGAWA (Stingray skin), we find that 4 inch wide strips of the skin vary in value mostly depending on what part of a much larger skin (some up to 17 inches wide) they are removed from. Those pieces of skin (1.) that possess a row of slightly larger 'nodes' (the bigger bumps) which are removed from the center of the skin, cost more because of those who know that 'bigger is better' and, (2.) that skin from the 'field' which has average sized nodes. The majority of available skin is from the field and as a result, it is more reasonably priced.
Because of its rough texture, the Japanese have always placed Stingray skin under the cord to prevent the cord from slipping. The skin is directional in that it is rougher when 'petted' (rubbed) in one direction and less so when rubbed the other direction. Therefore, care should be taken to insure that the skin is properly 'oriented' so that it is rougher when rubbed in the direction toward the end of the handle.
In spite of the fact that the entire skin is 100% equal 'inch by inch' in its ability to restrict movement of the cord, it is the arrangement and size of of the 'nodes' (white bumps) that determines the value of the skin. IF you prefer to restore your own handle, Stingray skin is available and custom sizes can be cut to fit your needs. The skin pieces (natural rawhide, 4 inches wide) from the field are priced at only $5 per running inch and for an 9 inch handle, the cost is only $45.
IF you know how to get the skin to conform to the shape of the wood core, great ! (if not, because you will need to know, ask! ) After it has thoroughly dried, If you decide that you prefer black skin under the cord, use a (lacquer) 'Spray can'. That's how it's done, not a mystery. Simple and easy !
Chemically 'Tanned' (turned into leather) skins are available from other sources but because the rough nodes were ground off and polished, the skin is smooth and obviously not recommended to be used on Japanese sword handles.
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