A Harvest Moon Rises...
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Hand forged traditional knives from reclaimed materials.

Island Blacksmith - Autumn 2014

News from the Forge

Greetings from the forest! The kiln is loaded and charcoal making season is upon us as the cooler air and gentle rains begin to grace the island again.

At the time of writing there is only one *possibly* available spot for custom work to be completed by Christmas, but there are still a handful of pieces all ready to ship via the online shop, a couple left from the Culinary Knives Project and the Outdoor Knives Project.  We will attend the Village Christmas Arts Faire near the end of November so if you are eyeing something online, be sure to snap it up before the local crowds have their chance in person.

The last items to mention are some very interesting top-secret collaborations in the works right now, stay tuned as they are unveiled in the coming weeks.

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 a Tanto Blade
Video: Sounds of the Workshop, Tanto Blade

Sounds of the Workshop

This video is made from a collection of clips documenting the sounds involved at each stage of the process of making a traditional tanto blade from reclaimed steel.

For those interested, it also serves as a very brief overview of each step and a glimpse of each tool that is used, the exception being that a few of the polishing stones are omitted for the sake of brevity. Also notice that the blade is hand worked during the entire process and the sounds of power tools are conspicuously absent.

Don't worry, it's a little slower the second time around in case you miss anything in the introduction:

Learn something new everyday!
Drawfiling the blade bevels, prior to yaki-ire.

Japanese Vocabulary

Nagasa (長さ) simply means "length". In the case of nihonto, nagasa refers to the length of the blade. No matter the blade curvature, the standardized method is to measure a straight line between the mune machi (notch on the spine side) and the kissaki (tip of the blade).

Tanto are generally classified by having a length under 1 shaku (30.3cm or 11.93"), and are usually longer than about 20cm or 7.75".

Another length measurement that may be documented for a blade is the nakago (tang). It is measured from the mune machi to a line perpendicular to the nakago-jiri (tip of the tang).

Learn more about the captivating nuances of classical tanto geometry:

Tsukimi Tanto: under a harvest moon
Tsukimi Tanto: under a harvest moon

Tsukimi Tanto

Tsukimi means moon watching, and brings to mind the lovely harvest moon and the rustling sounds of the dry, frost coloured susuki grass as the evening breeze blows across the plateau.

This tanto consists of twelve individual parts that began as twenty one pieces, crafted entirely with hand tools from a reclaimed Caterpillar tractor engine part, silver spoons, copper water pipe, and steel salvaged from the bottom of the sea.

See photos of the finished work here:

Follow the creative process here:

Kata Study: Aizu Shintogo Tanto
Kata Study: Aizu Shintogo Tanto

'Smithing Secret

I am currently working through a series of posts to help shed light on some of the more challenging points of classical tanto geometry.

As a starting point, consider kata, a traditional method of creating exact pattern templates based on the works of the masters. Using mild steel in a thickness of about 1.5mm, the outlines of a historical work are carefully studied and reproduced, as accurately as possible.

Creating kata serves as a focused study of the subtle details of blade design and is a solid foundation for works of a similar or derivative style.

Learn more about kata and see an example based on a beautiful and well-known antique tanto, the Aizu Shintogo:

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.

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