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.

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 a Swordsmith Anvil from Scrap

A Japanese swordsmith style anvil made from junkyard scrap. The two side pieces are cast steel or iron John Deere 8255C rear counterweights from a shovel dozer. They weigh about 200-240lbs each and measure about 2 1/8″ x 14 3/4″ x 25″. There is a ‘T’ shaped face and stem that extends to the ground between the plates made from welded spring or tool steel and weighs about 70lbs.

The face is about 1 3/8″ x 6″ x 15 1/4″ and has a pritchel hole in it and a sharp edge for cutting on one corner. The combined weight of the plates bolted onto the face and stem should be between 475 and 520lbs. The finished anvil should sit 7-7.5 sun from the ground or from the seat height. See the whole forge building process here.

Inside look at a traditional kaiken mounting

A look inside the carving of a small kaiken tanto mounting (futokoro-gatana) with additional examples from an Edo period tsuka and an even older shirasaya.

The omote is the “public side” of a tanto or sword, the side that faces outwards both when being worn and when on display. The edge faces upwards and the handle is on the left when displaying nihonto. The ura is the “private side” and faces away from the viewer when on display and towards the body when worn.

More on carving a tanto style tsuka.
Classical tanto geometry series archive.

Satetsu – testing iron sand, skimboarding bladesmith

Collecting and testing some local iron sand (magnetite/hematite) at the beach using a harddrive magnet. These samples were collected as west coast additions to soulsmith Pierre Nadeau’s satetsu archive. Bonus summer skimboard footage thanks to a couple of good friends who stopped by to enjoy the beach. Additional footage thanks to Dan King and Crow~san, watch Dan’s skimboard edit here:

Forging a Nakago Punch for Making Tsuba

This punch is specifically designed to create nakago-ana (tang opening) in iron or copper tsuba, saving time with a cold chisel and files. The concept is to forge something shaped similar to a tang but with an exaggerated taper for strength.

The tool could be hardened but will likely lose its heat treatment during the drifting stage so best to keep the neck sturdy and short enough to hold up either way.

Working at very high heat will help prevent splitting when punching wrought iron. The tsuba in this video is medium carbon steel.

As time allows, the plan is to forge a bottom die (rather than use the hardy hole) to reduce the amount of distortion at the edges of the nakago-ana and speed up the drifting process, reducing the required number of heats to drift.

Carving an Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae

Hand carving a classical tanto style mounting from reclaimed and local natural materials using traditional Japanese woodworking tools.

A note about the wooden koiguchi: I don’t recommend this method with any wood other than Oceanspray ironwood due to its peculiar strength in cross section…wood (or better, horn) grain should run vertically across the opening to add strength to the koiguchi in the correct areas.

The abrasive plant material used for fine sanding/polishing is dried tokusa (polishing grass), known as horsetail in english…the plant cells contain silica and it can be used dried as is or glued to wooden blocks with sokui.