Thursday, April 12, 2007

Some Changes

GOing to try the forum again, things didn't work out quite the way I thought they would... such is life.

Take a look here;

I'll maintain an available board on the forum, as well as a general board for questions and discussions and updates for registered members, so stop by, and have a look.

I'm not sure at this point if I'll use the blog or not... I may, but I missed the forum format more than I thought I would and a lot of folks told me they really missed it.
New format and script, hopefully that will eliminate the issues I had before.

In any case, we'll just see what happens...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Some New Pieces Available

Despite some rather trying weather lately, things are coming back around to what passes as normal around here, and some stuff is coming up done. Life is good. Mostly...

Two new knives on the available page (check the links on the right of this page), both in my "woodsman" style, a 4+ inch wootz bladed knife with silver and brass mounts and fancy tiger maple, and a shorter version with a 2.5 inch blade that features a hamon and a simple birdseye maple handle.
Both are in moulded leather wood-lined sheaths, and I'm quite happy with both of them. I enjoy making this style of knife more than any other at this point. I don't think it gets any more "functional" than these.

These will be the start of a pretty steady stream of similar pieces I think. Things have been getting sorted out in the shop and I'm starting to ship some backorders out, some cashflow from the knives will assist in this of course.

I have a couple of more big projects that are coming up done this week, and I have a few days out-of-state this weekend to get some other projects resolved on a friend's powerhammer, which will give my poor old arm a needed break.

Once I'm back on monday, I'll be writing far more regularly again, and sending a whole flock of stuff off to hopefully happy owners.

March is going to be a much happier month I believe. Things are looking up.

Thanks for the patience everybody...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Just a quick note; sorry I havn't posted much the last little bit, just so close to getting a bunch of stuff done, and distracted by the weather and some other real-life stuff i needed to get done I just havn't gotten to the blog much.

But, in very short order, pics of swords, available knives, and finally notice to guys that your stuff is coming at last, will all be happening, then I promise, I'll write every day and spread joy an happyness across the land. Or something like that :0)

How bout that weather?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I don't like winter sometimes...

Yikes. Got a little colder than I was expecting.
When I wrote about winter on Friday morning, I had no idea what was coming. I've gotten into this habit of somewhat ignoring the local weather forecasters, because, well, they kinda suck. I gave up on them long ago. Should have been paying attention this time though.

So on friday morning I checked the guage on the propane tank and it was reading "15%", which is usually really "25%", cause the tank is old and the gauge on it has issues. Been after the company that owns it for a couple of years to do something with it, but hey, I'm resourcefull, and just dealt with it. Add ten per-cent. No problem.
And it got COLD cold, not " man it's kinda crispy out there this evening", but, "holy crap it's friggin COLD!" Needle bottomed at -5F, which I can deal with, lived in places that got a lot colder than that regularly. But the wind was brutal, and this old house ain't the most air-tight structure I've lived in. SO, had a few frozen pipes, that I caught before it got serious, so no biggie. But it pushes the stress level up for sure.

Saturday morning, after the furnace going non-stop pretty much all night, figured I better go out and check the tank. 15%.
Oh-oh... gave the guage a tap with my flashlight... ker-plunk. Float on the guage bounces off the bottom. I heard that before. it bounced though, so there's a little liquid, but the guage is sayin zero. And the temp is dropping again. Go into "emergency keep warm mode", call the propane folks, and spend saturday and sunday paranoid about the gas running out and stressed-out as far as I care to be. Kinda blew the whole weekend and the "I like winter" deal.

Well, it held out till monday night, and the propane guy got here, and he's a great guy, blew-off the 50 dollar emergency fill charge cause he's fully aware of the tank being in need of replacing and just as unhappy about it as we are. Cool, nice to have somebody on our side for once. SO we gave him some chocolate cupcakes and he dug it, some carbs to get him through the rest of the night.

Still cold, a few more days at least likely, but the tank is full, house is warm more-or-less, and my heart isn't pounding today. It's a drag though, how something as silly as a sticky guage can really turn something from being a minor inconvienience into something pretty major, and extremely stressful. Blew the whole weekend for me, can't sleep, and it feels like being backed into a corner, which I definately don't like.
Got no work done this weekend either, which is a drag. REal-life got in the way big-time.

Well, manager and I at the propane place are gonna have to have a talk this week. I figure it's not likely going to be all good. But after two years, and this being the second time I got burned by this old propane tank, which belongs to THEM, not me, guess I'm going to have to transfer some of the stress his way. Hey, guages on MY tanks all work fine.

So I guess I still like winter. Propane company, not so much.

Friday, February 2, 2007

I like Winter sometimes

It finally got cold and snowy in my area, and the last few days shifted to that dry harsh cold of deep winter. I really kinda like it when it gets like this, there's something about it that really fits in well with the bladesmithing thing. The forge seems to run a little better, the air seems cleaner too. And it's quiet in the evenings, moreso than other times of the year. It's just nice to run the forge when it's cold, getting some hammering done can chase the chills and aches away.

It's the time of year my interest in history and it's place in my craft seem to be at the strongest also. Maybe it's simply because the long days of summer bring so much distraction. I always get lots of interesting ideas for projects in the winter that revolve more around the swordwork than at other times of the year. I noticed I get excited about knives in the fall, perhaps the whole hunting-season influence has something to do with that. I'll have to pay attention this spring and summer and see if I do the same at those times of the year.

This craft has quite a few different areas that seem cyclical to me.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

General Update

Working on the final etch an polish for the group of three Katana, then the final oiling of the shira-saya, and they should be gone next week. Going well, but slow, but they should be done shortly, just have to baby my hands though.
Also finishing a re-polish on a previous customer's sword and it will come up complete along the same timeline as the "three".

I've got a bunch of knives on the bench also, in various stages of being finished, and I expect some of those to start showing up on the Available page over the weekend, and into next week.
Some prototype knives will also be heading out to Sunny California next week as well, and it's an exciting development for me which I'll update about here as things get figured out.

Then, two mounted Japanese style pieces to finish for customers, which will mark the end of my work in traditional Japanese-style work for the most part, so I'm planning to go "out with a Bang" on those pieces, and I'm looking forward to getting back onto those in the next week as well.

The final backordered piece is also finding it's way back into the mix, and will coincide with my return to Western swords as the focus of my swordwork, and it'll be a dandy. So February is shaping up to be an important transitional month.

Finally, I turned off the forum this morning, and that definately marks the start of a new part of the journey. I'm saddened somewhat, but also ready to get on with new things and spending more time in the shop. Hopefully with the forge running, cause it finally got COLD here. Fire is good.

So that's the news for the morning, catch up with you all later.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Learning to say No

I think this is one of the hardest things to resolve for ANYBODY, let alone an artist or craftsman. It's a tough deal.

For me there has always been a strong personal component to the issue. I sell things directly to individuals, I create something with my hands and put it directly in the customer's hands, and this is a very intimate transaction at times. And I LIKE my customers, I become at least "friendly" with them, if not outright friends. So it's very hard for me to say "no" to something at times.

It's become something that I've decided to take on and work on very seriously though, because it's something I need to be able to do, both for myself, and prospective patrons. It's about protecting myself, but also about the best interests of the customers also.

In the past I've been asked, and maybe pressured a little, to occasionally add something or change some design of a project that I knew were likely not good changes.
But it's what the customer wanted, and they were paying, so I went with it. In a couple of cases in particular, it really came back to bite me, and the customers also. In one example, I added a feature to a sword, that I explained wasn't really the way "it should be", but the customer was on a budget, and was trying to get a little more "bang for the buck". Which I can understand, completely. But later on, this sword showed up on the internet being "reviewed" by another person, who was more expierienced and knowledgeable than the customer, and this person wasn't very kind in the review, especially with regards to the features added I mentioned.
And, unfortunately, he was right really.
But what was not mentioned, is that these changes were not of my doing or design, that they were requested by the customer, and I had merely attempted to provide the customer what he had asked for.
The result was that my work became in question for some time, I lost business, and the customer also ended up feeling "less than" because now he had a sword that had problems.

In another instance, again from a great deal of pressure from a customer, I made a sword pretty much entirely to his design, and where there were very serious concerns, I raised them very clearly, but, I was younger, he was "more knowledgeable", and I ended up just doing it the way he wanted. At a Western Martial Arts seminar perhaps a year later, the sword was examined by a number of respected practicioners, who found some flaws in the design and it's structure. And again, this went out far and wide as being an issue with my abilities, without mention of the fact it wasn't really "my" sword, it was somebody else's vision of a sword that I had merely made for them.

These things, I guess they sound somewhat petty and tied with ego. And they are to an extent. But these events also did a great deal of damage to my business also, and like any other business, you have to make an effort to avoid issues like this, it can do a great deal of harm that can take a long time to remedy.

So, now, I have to resign myself to the fact that I must work harder at saying "no" when it's appropriate to do so, both for myself, and the customer. I may lose one job or commission, but if I give in and do something I know I shouldn't, I may lose ten.
Outside all of the personal reasons I perform this craft, and love it, I still have to pay a mortgage and bills like everybody else. This is hard to remember sometimes.

There's another part of it that stands out to me. I have to stop taking on work I know I may not enjoy doing. When a craftsman is doing something that he doesn't like, I don't think he is going to do his best work. There are parts about any of it I don't really dig that much of course; I don't like the grinding very much, because of the noise and dust, but that's different in a way, it's a nessecary evil and I simply deal with that, that doesn't really have anything to do with the project, it's just a means to an end. But making something I don't really want to make, just for the money, that just doesn't do me any good, nor does it provide a customer with the best work I can produce, so again, in the end, It's just not doing anything positive for me when I look at the big picture.

I love making beautiful and useful things for people, to a large extent it's what drives me. But to preserve that, then "no" is a word that I need to embrace and make use of, when i know there is a need.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Or "Rythym", I more commonly call it.

It's important, it's the underlying component of many of the things I do. It's important for efficiency and accuracy, and for a pace that's sustainable.

One of the standard anecdotes, in various forms, goes something like;

There are two men in the smithy, a young man, and the Old Master. Both are forging, the young man hammers away quickly, almost desperately, with a hurried pace and always an eye on keeping up with the Old Man.
The old man, brings down the hammer almost slowly, but always at the same tempo, always hard, and sure, and in place.
At the end of the day, the young man is tired, and his pile of goods is smaller than the Old Man's, and even still, some of the goods are not made as well as they could be.
He's convinced the Old Man knows some trick or secret of the method he's not sharing, and his ego makes him resentful.
The young man sees his hammering and his work as a single large element that encompasses the entire day, and measures it that way, simply by how much he's made.
The Old Man, measures each single blow, one at a time. Each strike of the hammer is a single action and the effort, and his mind, is focused on that one moment. Every blow is powerful, accurate, and complete. Every blow is efficient, and propelled by a tempo that The Old man knows, from expierience, will serve him the whole day without getting tired, without the last of his blows being less than the first. One sure, measured blow, surpasses 10 of the unmeasured ones.

And so it is with many things in the shop really. Like draw-filing the faces of a sword-blade flat, for instance. It's a huge undertaking, and depending on just how flat you want it to be, how accurate you want it to turn out, it can be a challenging technical exercise also. The file doesn't just do it's work by its-self, it has to be guided in it's task. To do accurate work with hand tools is really all about "playing the averages". To wail away with the file in one spot without an eye to the whole, just makes a depression in that one spot, and it won't relate, or blend in with, the next spot. Tempo is what can overcome that. Solid, steady, purposeful strokes, one after the other, each one the same as the last, with also a movement down the blade in each stroke, the same distance of off-set each time, is almost easy with tempo. If your tempo is sure, if you let yourself really go deeply into the tempo, then amazing things can take place with the file, flatness and straightness that rival what machines produce can be had with the human machine very often.
It also makes it possible to accomplish extremely large sections of work that otherwise seem impossibly huge. The tempo brings a steady efficiency that'll help you get through a large work.

Many times, it's very much like making music with the tools. Again, drawfiling steel, that has a distinct sound, and it can say alot as you work. The tempo turns it into work that involves all the senses at once, you see it, you feel it in your hands, but you can hear it too, and it connects you to the tool, and the work, very closely. Ultimately, when the day is truly going good, you disappear into it, you get lost in the tempo, and the sound, the feel, and that's all there is, and that's when some truly amazing work can take place.

I've started to be convinced that everybody has an internal tempo, a rythym inside, that can be tuned-into. Bicylists and runners know what I'm talking about. It propels them to distances and speeds, and over obstacles that would otherwise be impossible to defeat, just by wailing away at it without order, structure, and tempo. You can perform the whole by making each moment, each beat of the tempo, individually perfect. The tempo is the framework that allows it to happen in succession. It allows the mind to be free of complicated words and thoughts about each stroke, or step, or movement, but at the same time makes each movement it's own.
Sometimes it's a shock, a suprise, when you reach the end of the task. That's how I know my tempo was a good one that day.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Question

The favorite question I get from folks is still; "why do you make swords?"
And, after many years, I still don't have any "set" answer to that one, since I'm not sure I really know why myself. It just kinda happened.

It's gotten a lot more interesting to answer the last few years though. Now it's not just the swords, now I can say, "yeah, and sometimes from DIRT...". And then I can go into the whole discussion about smelting and who did what what way in antiquity, how fire has been made a tool and all the wonderous things we've done with it. Like this computer, for example. It's roots are in fire too. Like the electricity in the wires, the car you drive, the cell phone. They all have common ancestry in fire.

So that points to one of the "answers". Deep down, every smith, potter, and glass-worker I know have a bit of pyromaniac inside. There is something special about harnessing something as primal as fire and making it perform useful work for us. There's a real feeling of power that comes from that.

There's a historical interest that's definately part of it for me also. I particularly like items from Western Europe, during the so-called "dark-age", and the "Viking age". I've concentrated a lot of my re-creation work in that area pretty regularly over the last 15 years, and more. That's where my ancestry tracks to, so it's like I'm exploring my heritage to an extent. And also, simply as a craftsman, it's interesting in the extreme to explore how things must have been made in those times, what tools were used, what techniques were developed. AND how culture ties into it as well.

Then there is a really base-level attraction, especially when the re-creation work takes you to smelting and refining ore to useful material, steel. Steel from dirt. Especially when it's using original technology, building a smelter from mud essentially, making charcoal, the hours and hours of running the thing... it's a MASSIVE amount of work at times. But to see it through, to go through all the labour and time, at at the end, to have a useful tool in your hand, well, wow... I'm not sure how to explain the total kick that is. It's truly what the saying "sword from the stone" was really referring too.

Those are some of the reasons I make swords, a few of many I can think of. But in the end, I still can't really say for sure, what it is particularly. Maybe it's more accurate to say that these are some of the things I *enjoy* about making swords. But I still can't say *why*. I guess I just have to.

That'll just have to do.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

New Available Page

I thought maybe I'd give this format a shot for my available page as well, and see how that works out for awhile.
I must say I like the ease of this system, so, kudos to the Blogger folks.

Nothing on there yet, be a few days to finish up the page and some items for it, but I'll announce them here on the Journal as they come up in any case.