One of the most common mistakes when attempting to recreate a Japanese classical style tanto is to caricature or over exaggerate certain design elements while entirely missing others. The Japanese aesthetic is subtle and nuanced, millimeter differences can make or break the… Continue reading
This blade began as a segment of reclaimed horse-drawn carriage spring and was hand forged in a charcoal fire, smoothed with files and a sen scraper, hardened using traditional water quench yaki-ire, and polished by hand with natural Japanese water stones. Crafted… Continue reading
In a forge on Vancouver Island, reclaimed steel is turned into tanto.
Directed, Photographed, and Edited by Trevor Komori
Location Sound: Sean Brouwer
B Camera Operator: Liam Leyland
Music Composed by Kurtis So
Production Assistants: Vivian Hu & Judy Zheng
still images | behind the scenes | making this tanto | view on youtube
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.
Arashiage is the stage of rough shaping following hizukuri (forging) and in preparation for yaki-ire (hardening). Earlier posts have described tanto kata and the geometry of the tang, machi, blade, and kissaki. Familiarity with these geometry points is a prerequisite to success… Continue reading
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.
Making a habaki from reclaimed copper. Material is scrap copper from an electrical bus bar, forged and bent to shape, silver brazed with hard silver solder in the charcoal forge with fuigo, finish work done with files and rasps. Watch the shorter overview edit here.
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#).
A custom mameganna (small “bean” plane) such as might be used by furniture makers can be made fairly quickly from an old chisel. This type of kanna might be used for shaping saya or tsuka or for other small woodwork projects requiring… Continue reading