Category: Essentials

Working Both Ends

I know I said we were going move onto making charcoal-But I changed my mind.

Why?  Because I can. And I have this thought nigglng at me.

I spend a lot of time over at Don Fogg’s Bladesmith Forum. Great bunch they are. Sometimes the discussion turns to why?

Why we stand next to a hot fire beating on hot metal with a hammer. Why we don’t just grind to shape or even use a milling machine to be more “accurate”.

In one of our discussions Dave Stephens of Stephens Forge said it very well

“Not to get too “new age” or anything, but bladesmithing is for me a very spiritual thing. It’s the only thing in my life in which I totally lose myself. I can go to the shop and believe I’ve only been out there for an hour or so, then glance at my watch and realize I’ve spent six hours. Again, not to get too Zen or anything, but during that time I lose all sense of “self.” I am the process. I’m not thinking about what happened yesterday; I’m not stressing about tomorrow. It’s the closest thing to meditation I get, and the only “healthy” stress relief I have.”

Don Fogg In his article The Way of Bladesmithing talks about how a tool works at both ends. One end works the item being made the other works on the maker.

Fire, hammer and anvil are about as primal as it gets. Shaping the the hot steel is very much an organic process. Knowing where to strike and how hard is born from long practice. Repetition is the key and discipline is freedom. This is a theme you will hear over and over if you hang around  here. It is only through discipline and repetition that the the skills and knowledge can be internalized. It is this internalization that allows us the freedom to become as Dave said-The Process.

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Not By Numbers Alone

Going Beyond

We are going to talk a lot about the technical aspects of building a sword. Trust me, there is an almost overwhelming amount of details associated with Japanese swordmaking.

But I am going stop a moment in our headlong rush  towards technical mastery and talk about going beyond the pale.

Meaning moving beyond numbers alone.

It is easy to get lost in the numbers.

What is the carbon content of the steels.

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What is the critical temperature?
How many folds should we make to get “X” number of layers.

And when we do that, with carbon migration what is the real final carbon content?

And on and on and on.

Mastering the language?

In the previous post I talked about how mathematics is a beautiful, expressive language. But it is just language.

All the elements that go into making a sword are the alphabet, words and phrases of a complex language.
It is imperative that we master the nuances and details of this language.

It is our job to master this language so that technical inability does not get in the way of what we want to say. The ultimate goal is to be able to take an idea from glimmer to cut with little thought in between.

In reality this is not really possible. There is just too much. So at times we flow through the work effortlessly and at other times we have to think through it with great effort. But even the heavy thinking is adding tools to our language.

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Welcome to KatanaBuilders

Welcome to the first post of the KatanaBlog. Beginnings can be exciting and difficult all at the same time. Exciting for everything is new-difficult in knowing where to start. Most of who I am and what we hope to accomplish is detailed in the ABOUT page. So I will not repeat everything here.

But, in a nutshell , I am a long time blade maker working mostly in the Japanese tradition . It has been a part time but passionate endeavor for over thirty years.

Deja vue-all over again

I am starting all over again. I have spent the last 7 years building my own house in my spare time on my little patch of heaven in Texas. During that time I have done no bladesmithing, nor even had any place to work.

Now I am building my Kagi-ba from the ground up and the chronicle of it begins-Now.

I have built three complete Kagi-ba over the years. Two off the ground so I could stand and use my power hammer and one on the ground as the Japanese do in a rent house just to have a place to work.

To be honest I like both. But I like the added mobility of being able to stand the best.

I saw two different Katana Kagi work from pits sunk into the ground and the idea appealed to me. That is the basis for the current build.

Ugly beginnings

The spot where I am building is a covered area off of the main shop. There will be the forge built into the ground. The pit where I will stand and next the foundation for a spring style Japanese power hammer.

Just before I started the dig a wind storm ripped the Tyvek off the walls.

It is to say the least, an ugly beginning.

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