Bladesmithing at the Museum Forge

Forging a forest kotanto in the swordsmith forge. The starting material was a harrow tooth, the finished blade is hirazukuri, iori mune, 140mm / 5.5″ nagasa, with a sturdy 6.5mm motokasane. The finish will be tsuchime (hammer texture) so there was no filing or polishing before yaki-ire, which was done at my forge for the dim and consistent light conditions.

Process: Making the Fittings – Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

The fuchi and koiguchi are from a reclaimed buffalo horn souvenir, the kurikata is from a reclaimed horn button, the wrapping is rawhide samegawa, the mekugi is copper and silver. All of the parts are first shaped and fit, then the samegawa is wet formed to the handle contours, dried, and then attached with sokui (rice paste glue). After the scabbard and handle are lacquered, the horn parts will be polished and attached with sokui as well. The mekugi cap is soldered on with hard silver solder in the charcoal forge. carving the inside | carving the outside

Process: Carving the Tsuka & Saya – Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

In this video the tsuka is carved first, starting with the fuchi end and then the kashira area, carving the profile outlines and then removing the material in between before carving the final shape and sculpting the details. The saya is next, first dimensioning the blank is to approximate size and then profiling the koiguchi and then the kojiri, removing the material and carving as close as possible to the final shape using kanna and kiridashi. Finally any remaining high points in the curves are smoothed with a fine rasp. carving the inside | making the fittings

Process: Carving the Inside – Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

In this video the tsuka is carved first, starting with the omote side and then the ura, carving each half from the mune to the ha. The saya is next, starting with the omote and then the ura, each half beginning with the fitting of the blade (from the mune towards the ha) and then the fitting of the habaki area (koiguchi). Finally the halves are glued together with rice paste glue, wrapped with leather cord, and wedged tightly to dry overnight. The first half is almost real time, the repeat steps edited out during the second half. The wood is hounoki, carve carefully and check often! carving the outside | making the fittings

Making a Handle for a Japanese Swordsmithing Hammer

Traditional Japanese swordsmithing hammers have rectangular eyes with no taper. The handles are not wedged but are held in place by a compression fit involving careful shaping, hand forged wood, and soaking in water. The wood is shaped a couple of mm oversized, compressed by hammering, and then… Continue reading

Making Fire with Bamboo – museum forge first lighting

The first night turned out to be quite an event as there were three forges and six blacksmiths/strikers operating in the museum workshop. Thanks to Tim of Reforged Ironworks, and Josh for their energy and charcoal chopping to get the forge up and running, and their assistance swinging the big sledges to finish drifting and shaping the smaller hand hammers as the first preparatory projects in the charcoal forge. Read more about the museum forge project or watch a more detailed demonstration of lighting fire with bamboo.

Sumi-kiri – chopping charcoal for bladesmithing

Charcoal is chopped and then processed through four sizes of screen, the largest is for tanren, the second for hizukuri (I tend to use the largest for hizukuri as well and keep the second size mainly for yaki-ire), the third size isn’t useful in daily forging activity but… Continue reading

Making 篩 for charcoal screening

Traditional Japanese swordsmithing forges are fueled by softwood charcoal which is first chopped, screened, and sorted into several sizes for different stages of the forging process. The “furui” (篩) or sieve is used to separate different sizes of charcoal during the sumi-kiri process. This one is the smallest mesh of the four, made from window screen, and saves the fines for the charcoal bed and allows the powder to fall through. See the whole museum forge project here.

Making 箕 for charcoal sorting

Traditional Japanese swordsmithing forges are fueled by softwood charcoal which is first chopped, screened, and sorted into several sizes for different stages of the forging process. The winnowing basket shaped “mi” (箕) is used to store and move charcoal between screens during the sumi-kiri process. See the whole museum forge project here.