Photo Essay: Views of the Shiageba

Talented Vancouver Island photographer Jordan Wende stopped in at the Island Forge in mid-July to document the atmosphere and some of the work going on. In this installment of the series, several views of the shiageba at rest. Photographed and edited by… Continue reading

Natural Earth Plaster Walls

In contrast to the rough walls of the kajiba, which are arakabetsuchi (荒壁土), the traditional infill technique using a rough mixture of natural clay, sand, and straw applied over lath (komai/kabekomai 壁小舞), the interior walls of the shiageba are finished with a… Continue reading

Island Forge: Kajiba Kanagu

An overview of kanagu (hardware), both made and found, to add to the island kajiba series of photo essays, documenting the preparation, construction, and set up of a simple swordsmith style kajiba (鍛冶場, forge building) from the ground up. The main inspiration… Continue reading

Building a Togi-Dai for Polishing

Togi (研ぎ) is the process of using several stages of abrasive stones to refine, smooth, and sharpen a blade. The word togi does not differentiate between the action of polishing and the action of sharpening, in the Japanese concept the operations are… Continue reading

Preparing the Shiage-ba (finishing shed)

Traditional knifemaking is generally divided into rough work and clean work. Forging, shaping, and kaji-togi polishing can be done in the kajiba, but finishing work must be done in a cleaner area. This small shiageba will provide work areas for carving saya… Continue reading

Preparing and Loading the Charcoal Kiln

The first fire is relatively small and is intended to dry out some of the moisture in the clay/earth around the kiln remaining after construction and before winter. After cooling and cleaning it out, a “floor” is created above the steel floor slats using thin boards and brown charcoal from previous charcoal runs. Then the wood (mostly Pine) is split and stacked vertically from back to front leaving only a small airspace at the top. The front will be filled with kindling and bark and then the opening closed up and mostly sealed before lighting. Controlling the air intake slows down the burn and prevents loss/crumbling/cracking of charcoal wood. read more about the kiln and making charcoal.

Charcoal Kiln V.4.0

As part of the island kajiba project, reclaimed and natural materials were used to construct a larger traditional style charcoal making kiln. The basic concept is a simple chamber with a door on one end and a chimney on the other, insulated… Continue reading

TLDW #27 – Forging a Saya Nomi (鞘鑿)

Saya-nomi (鞘鑿) are a type of Japanese chisel with several unique features designed for carving the inside of a wooden scabbard or handle. Hand forged from a reclaimed harrow tooth, the elongated neck is slightly curved for clearance and the bottom and side corners are slightly rounded and the tip is slightly bull-nosed to facilitate cutting inside a concave surface without leaving corner marks. A scrap of magnolia makes a clean, simple handle for use as a push chisel. more about the process of carving saya (scabbards)

TLDW #26 – Traditional Yaki-Ire, Hardening a Tanto

During the hardening process the clay layer causes a split second difference in cooling time which creates two different hardness areas in the same piece of steel. The edge cools faster and forms a very hard steel structure called martensite while the body cools slower and forms a very tough steel structure made of ferrite and pearlite. The boundary between these two areas is called hamon and is commonly seen as a frosted line down the length of a polished sword blade.
more about the process of yaki-ire

First Lighting of the Forge & Antique Habaki Utsushi (写)

First lighting of the newly rebuilt charcoal forge in the island kajiba followed by stamping the tang and then hand forging and filing a classical tanto style habaki, silver soldered in the charcoal forge and closely based on an antique Edo period habaki. An utsushi (写) is a closely based study of another work for the purposes of professional development. Polishing and patinating will be done after the saya has been carved. information about the machigane | habaki making process