We've come full circle...
View this email in the web archive
Hand forged traditional knives from reclaimed materials.

Island Blacksmith - Winter 2015

News from the Forge

Happy New Year! Thanks for journeying a circle around the sun with us through the first year of the quarterly. If you'd like to enjoy some of the past issues again, please visit the online archive.

The full circle reference also alludes to the long journey that began with an inspiration in my eighth-grade social studies class on historical Japan. I went home and made a miniature sword for my stuffed teddy bear from a broken butcher knife. Twenty-some years later I am just beginning to grasp all the elements involved in truly bringing that first vision to fruition!

Please visit the website at and follow us over on Instagram to see photos of work in progress, life on the island, and things that inspire.

Video: Sounds of the Workshop, Creating an Aikuchi Tanto Koshirae
Video: Sounds of the Workshop, Aikuchi Tanto

Sounds of the Workshop

Somewhat quieter than the last edition due to its emphasis on woodworking, this video documents the stages of creating a classical aikuchi tanto mounting by hand from driftwood.

An aikuchi koshirae does not have a handguard to divide the handle and scabbard. This particular example is very clean and simple, all wood, and finished with black urushi lacquer.

The peg holding this tanto together is an unusual decorative type involving dual washers and a single ended rivet made from hand forged silver. The design is based on the large nail covers used to strengthen castle gates.

If you blink during the introduction, fear not, you will still see it all later on:

Learn something new everyday!
This kotanto has a komaru mune, kasane: 5.5mm

Japanese Vocabulary

Kasane (重ね) conveys the idea of "piling up". In the case of nihonto, kasane and specifically motokasane, refer to the thickness of the spine at its widest part. The measurement is taken just in front of the mune machi, the notch on the spine next to the tang.

Historical examples of tanto tend to range from between 3mm and 4mm for very “tired” blades that have been sharpened for centuries to slightly over 10mm for the burliest yoroi-doshi.

The majority seem to fall in the 6mm-7mm range. The Aizu Shintogo is considered to be fairly worn but still checks in at a hefty 7.3mm!

Read a discussion on the captivating nuances of classical tanto geometry:

Aikuchi Tanto Process: where it all began
Aikuchi Tanto Process: where it all began

Aikuchi Collaboration

The current tanto in progress will be a collaborative work with the lovely and talented Shantell Martin, a UK artist currently in residence in NYC.

This will be an exploratory piece around the concept of seamlessly remixing the Muromachi Era with the modern day. The roots of this joint work go back a few years to when Shantell was also living in Japan, doing her live drawing performances in Tokyo clubs and galleries.

Now that the final urushi lacquer surface is finished, the piece is on its way to Shantell's studio for some final fusion style embellishment.

Follow the creative process here and stay tuned for more:

Kata Study: Aizu Shintogo Tanto
Classical Tanto Geometry: Nakago & Machi

'Smithing Secret

A tidbit from another installation in the series on classical tanto geometry.

Following the post on kata, a study of sword patterns through template creation, the next issue to tackle is understanding the three dimensional geometry as it relates to the two dimensional outline.

The geometry of the nakago (tang) is very important as the assembly of the knife hinges on the correct form and construction of the tang. Viewed from the spine, the thickest part of the blade is at the machi (notches) and there is a distal taper towards the tip of the blade and towards the tip of the tang.

Learn more about the geometry of the classical tanto tang construction:

In the shadow of Mt. Arrowsmith,
deep in a forest clearing,
away from the things of man,
there is a place where blades are born
of earth, and air, and fire, and water.

Copyright © 2015 Crossed Heart Forge, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp