Louie Mills (1944-2018)

I just received word that Louie Mills (Yasutomo – 康友) has moved on to the next stage of life, passing peacefully in his sleep this morning. A friend to many and generous with his knowledge and craft. He will be missed on this side but we hope to… Continue reading

Making a Bamboo Scoop for Water Forging

Simple technology for pouring water on the anvil, takeno mizusashi (竹の水差し) made from a piece of bamboo.

Forging with a thin film of water on the anvil and hammer prevents forge scale or oxide from being hammered into the surface of the steel. The hot steel instantly vaporizes the water and the resulting steam explosion blows the scale off of the work, keeping it clean as it is worked. This type of bamboo scoop is a traditional style tool for evenly applying water to the surface of the anvil or the hot steel. Read more about the process of making one.

Japan Photo Essay: Hinoki Forest Management

A photo essay depicting some elements of selective management of a Hinoki Cypress forest on a mountainside in rural Japan. The main idea is to reduce the density of the trees to promote healthy growth but there are several additional benefits as well. Secondary goals of management include… Continue reading

Japan Photo Essay: Chashitsu-goya

Building a small farm shed in an inaka area of Japan. The materials were mostly reclaimed and from what was on-hand on the farm. Incorporating elements of local architecture, the design allows farming tools and materials to stay on site at the field and provides workspace at a… Continue reading

Japan Photo Essay: Inaka Architecture

Photographic inspiration from traditional Japanese countryside construction. Additional views here. View from the mountain across the valley of roof tops and rice fields. Backing right onto the steep mountain slope, water and soil control is very important. These buildings have stood here more than a century. Hundred year… Continue reading

Japan Photo Essay: Orchard Garden

Photographic inspiration from the edges of satoyama in a Japanese countryside orchard garden. The crops include yuzu (citrus), nashi (asian pear), kaki (persimmon), sudachi (citrus), ringo (apple), sumomo (plum), momo (peach), kuwa (mulberry), muscat (grape), satsuma imo (sweet potato), yama imo (mountain potato), tamanegi (onion), saya endou (peas),… Continue reading

Differential Hardening Sunnobi Tanto

Sunnobi tanto are larger than ordinary tanto (nagasa above 1 shaku) and may have sori similar to ko-wakizashi. Read more about the process of yaki-ire.

1. Using approximately a 1:1:1 mixture of natural clay, polishing stone powder and ground charcoal to mask the back of a hand forged blade about 1-1.5mm thick to slow down the cooling rate.
2. Brushing on a thin slip layer with extra charcoal added along the exposed edge to speed up the cooling rate and protect from carbon loss.
3. Carefully heating in a charcoal forge supplied by air from a fuigo box bellows until the edge reaches critical temperature.
4. Plunging edge-first into cold rainwater to cool the blade quickly and harden the edge while leaving the rest tough and resilient.
5. Testing for successful hardening with a file and then removing the clay with a mild steel scraper.
6. Slightly reheating the blade over the flames to temper the edge.
7. Test polishing on a coarse Japanese waterstone to check the hamon.

Yakiire – Traditional Clay & Water Quench

The immersive experience of being in the darkened workshop during a traditional clay and water quench using a charcoal forge. A hamon is created on a tanto using a 1mm thick layer of roughly 1:1:1 natural clay, charcoal powder, and polishing stone powder. The blade is about 29cm long (nagasa), 2.3cm wide (motohaba) and 6mm thick (motokasane). The final shot shows the rough kajitogi polish to check the hamon placement using a very coarse waterstone (torajirushi 80#, lobstercarbon 120#).