An early summer on the island...
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Hand forged traditional knives from reclaimed materials.

Island Blacksmith - Summer 2015

News from the Forge

Summer is almost a month ahead of itself this year so the shade and cool earth floor of the forge makes it a welcome sanctuary. This week we are in the middle of a major workshop clean up and reorganization. Though the time for spring cleaning has long past, the goal is to better align things with the current workflow.

I was recently asked to share my perspective for those considering a traditional apprenticeship in Japan. The resulting discussion covered some of the subtleties and differences between western and eastern culture and included some helpful input from Pierre Nadeau. In order to assist others in their journey I published a distilled version of the conversation on the blog.  

News for those in Alberta and particularly the Calgary area, we have been invited to participate in a gallery show in Canmore September 11-13 along with a contingent from the Coastal Carvings Gallery. We hope to have several works on display and possibly some form of demonstration as well. Details will be added to the website as they become available, email us or Coastal Carvings for more information.

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.

Sounds of the Workshop: Finishing a Hon-Yaki Nata
Sounds of the Workshop: finishing a nata

Sounds of the Workshop

Nata come in various sizes and shapes, but most fit the description of a light brush hatchet or heavy camp knife. Characteristics include thick spines and heavy blades, often with single beveled edges similar to Japanese wood chisels. This type of tool works well for rough carving and shaping, green wood work, and bamboo splitting.

This piece has been assembled using elements of nihonto handle engineering and features swordsmith style hon-yaki edge hardening. Read the case study about the creative process here:

Watch the video here:

Learn something new everyday!
This tanto has a ko-maru boshi

Japanese Vocabulary

Boshi (帽子/鋩子) refers to the hamon pattern in the area of the tip of a tanto or sword. In most historical cases the hamon turns back for a distance so that the tip is hardened on both the spine and edge.

The most common pattern is called maru, which means rounded, and it is further categorized by the relative size of the radius as the hamon turns back, ko-maru is smaller, o-maru is larger.

Other notable patterns include tsukiage (coming to a sharp point), hakikake (like brush marks or a sand wash), and yakitsume (straight with no turnback). The distance of the turnback also varies depending on the smith and the type of tanto, and may even travel back most of the spine on certain types of yoroidoshi tanto.

See more photos of the tanto pictured above:

Yozakura Tanto: a single petal falls
Yozakura Tanto: a single petal falls

Yozakura Tanto

The nightime viewing of cherry blossoms by moonlight is cherished for the unique perspective and focus it brings to the experience. The dark tones of the sky and the gentle light of the moon provide subtle variations in colour, texture, and detail that cannot be fully appreciated by day.

Though this piece is playful in its combination of materials and colours, it is also subtle and refined, evoking the feeling of a familiar and treasured object. A single stylized sakura petal graces the copper fuchi, a reminder that even a single petal falling to the ground does not go unnoticed and is not without significance.

Follow the creative process or see the finished work here:

Why You Need a Swordsmith’s Fuigo Box Bellows
Swordsmith's style fuigo: wooden box bellows

'Smithing Secret

Japanese style box bellows, fuigo (鞴), reached their current and finalized form by about the sixth century. They are constructed almost entirely of wood and allow a smith to supply a highly controlled air blast to the forge by pulling and pushing the handle slowly back and forth.

Using dual chambers and two sets of valves, the air is supplied on both the push and the pull stroke, and the blast may be highly intensified or stopped in an instant as needed by the smith.

Three of the possible reasons why the fuigo box bellows became the default air supply for Japanese sword smiths include better fuel efficiency, instant fire recovery, and more reliable yaki-ire.

Read more about why *you* need a Japanese swordsmith’s style fuigo:

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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