Artist in Residence: Museum Forge

Although temporary demonstrations and events have been held at the museum since early 2012, the blacksmith-in-residence project at the museum forge was officially launched in 2015 by Red Cod Forge. Building and installing the traditional swordsmith forge was started in 2016, the first lighting in 2017, and since then bladesmithing has been a regular part of the work undertaken there.

Circumstances in 2020 and 2021 provided more time to participate in forging onsite at the museum, and in 2022 I was able to contribute in the capacity of a dedicated artist-in-residence. Regular Saturday forging from April until October along with several mid-week sessions allowed more visitors to experience this particular specialty of metalworking.

The weather this year provided a much longer forging season than usual, giving more opportunity for visitors to observe traditional knifemaking work during the summer. And for the first time ever, part of the forge was temporarily converted into a shiageba (finishing area) for carving handles and scabbards for the knives forged earlier in the year as well as demonstrating some classical sword polishing.

Thank you to “the museum ladies” for daily support, encouragement, and assistance making the project a success, Teppoishi~san for helping with the togi-dai, and thank you to all who have stopped to watch and express interest in the work, the portfolio book, and the website.

Craig Heritage Museum Forge Sign Design by islandblacksmith
Interpretive signage supporting the blacksmith shop and crafters-in-residence program.

Schedule

Tentative current schedule is Saturdays from about 11am to 4pm plus a day or two extra per week in the high season. Forging blades will be from April–July, carving handles and scabbards from August–September. The bonus round will be making mountings and polishing for at least part of October and then possibly resuming Saturday forging occasionally as the weather holds.

Craig Heritage Museum Forge Sign Design by islandblacksmith
Map of the museum grounds, forge is located near the main entrance between the tractor shed and firehall.

The Forge

Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
Constructed over winter 2016, this is the only full-sized traditional swordsmith forge in western Canada.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A view of the various tools used for knifemaking in the traditional forge area.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
Lighting the charcoal knifemaking forge.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
The hnd powered fuigo (box bellows) provide air to the fire.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
Working at the forge to shape a kotanto blade.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
Drying the clay in preparation for yaki-ire (hardening the blade).
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
The forge after a day of working on a classical tanto style blade.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
Classical tanto style blade resting on the anvil after yaki-ire (hardening the edge).

Forging a kotanto blade from an old harrow tooth. See more information on the knifemaking process.


Shiageba

Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
The western side of the smithy converted into a temporary carving area for making handles and scabbards.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Carving a handle profile with a small kiridashi knife forged from a file.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Using a kanna (handplane) to prepare a saya (scabbard) for shaping.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Texturing the outside rim of a copper tsuba (handguard) using a small hammer.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Using a nomi (chisel) to remove waste material from a tsuka (handle) block before planing.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
A view of the display and shiageba workspace configured for the Railway Days event.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Traditional togi-dai (sword polishing platform) demonstration of polishing techniques.
Railway Days at the Parksville Museum
Waterstones from Japan, used for polishing antique and classical style swords.

Finished Works

Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
The first kura forest kotanto forged from an antique carriage spring and mounted with edo period sword parts.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A full sized forest tanto forged from an antique chisel and mounted with edo period sword parts.
Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from antique steel.
A sculpture study of a classical yoroidoshi (armour piercing) tanto hand forged from antique wrought iron rail plate.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A kura field kotanto forged from an antique plowshare and mounted with edo period sword fittings.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A kominka field kotanto forged from an old file and lacquered with traditional tree-source urushi.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A mountain kotanto forged from part of a century-old mining car rail during a visit from some young students of craft, handle carved from local 70 year old pear tree.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A fusion style takedown knife forged from an old file and scrap copper, handle carved from sapele wood.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A fusion style takedown bowie forged from scrap steel and copper, handle carved from reclaimed teak wood.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A mountain kotanto forged from reclaimed file steel and brass door plate, handle carved from Magnolia and lacquered with traditional tree-source urushi.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A forest kotanto forged from reclaimed file steel with forge welded iron guard, handle carved from Magnolia and lacquered with traditional tree-source urushi.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A mountain kotanto forged from reclaimed file steel, mounted with reclaimed sword parts and lacquered with traditional tree-source urushi.
Artist in Residence at the Parksville Museum
A field kotanto forged from reclaimed cultivator steel, mounted with edo period antique parts, handle carved from Magnolia and lacquered with traditional tree-source urushi.

A short film on the Satoyama Project. See photos of the finished work.


Building western Canada’s only full-sized traditional Japanese style swordsmith forge. See the whole process and more video here.


First lighting of the museum forge, using a bamboo fire saw. See how charcoal is made and prepared for the forge.

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