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The Sword Maker
November 23, 2011 2:09 PM   Subscribe


 
That was really cool. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 2:16 PM on November 23, 2011


I like how this video was on Etsy's video channel. Because when I think of "Etsy," I don't think of trademark-violating steampunk backpacks; I think of swords that are part of a centuries-long tradition.

(Lovely video, though. Watanabe strikes me as the sort of guy I could watch work for hours.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:17 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My friends and I have been on a How It's Mde kick and the "swords" sequence pissed me off so much. They were stamped out like cheap fucking kitchen knives. Why when you have the ability to show people how swords are made do you choose the company that makes mall store swords.
posted by griphus at 2:31 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lenore, "Mal. Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?"
posted by LoudMusic at 2:47 PM on November 23, 2011


People pursuing ancient and honorable arts like this blow my mind. Great post.

Even if I did kind of expect Uma Thurman to show up...
posted by kinnakeet at 3:03 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once when I was walking around Kamakura I got kinda lost and found a shop sorta like this. It was this old shop, and in the window it had knives and swords in various stages of being made. From the front you could see a big furnace or forge or whatever in the back, and the dude came out when I came in to look at his stuff. I don't know if he is one of the 30 people doing what this guy does, but I picked up a couple of his knives as a souvenir for my Dad who likes to cook. Quite expensive, and while I have my doubts he's on this guy's level or using the same techniques, they're damned fine knives and ludicrously sharp. It was kinda cool to see a little one-man knife-and-sword crafting operation.
posted by Hoopo at 3:36 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


My friends and I have been on a How It's Mde kick and the "swords" sequence pissed me off so much. They were stamped out like cheap fucking kitchen knives. Why when you have the ability to show people how swords are made do you choose the company that makes mall store swords.

Sentimentality of old methods aside, if a machine can make them better and faster, why wouldn't you look at the best available method for production?
posted by kafziel at 3:42 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because stamping is not equivalent to forging. It makes a weaker blade less able to withstand use.
posted by Richard Daly at 3:45 PM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Rob Miller, founder of crust punk band Amebix, has lived on the Isle of Skye since 1987 making ancient Viking swords. It's something I would love to see people keep alive for centuries to come. I myself would love to learn bladesmithing, if I had the resources where I am.
posted by starvingartist at 3:49 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Neat, thanks for posting. We've got a couple of Japanese hand-made knives, about steak knife size. Compared to normal hi-techy designer knives they look like something from a junk shop, but they are very sharp.
posted by carter at 4:22 PM on November 23, 2011


Very cool. There was an episode of Nova called Secrets of the Samurai Sword that I believe features the same craftsman and covers the entire process in some detail.
posted by Lorin at 4:27 PM on November 23, 2011


What Richard said. Even good quality kitchen knives are made in this manner instead of stamped.
posted by griphus at 4:31 PM on November 23, 2011


On a flight from Dallas to Tokyo, I sat next to someone who must be one of those thirty Watanabe is talking about. We talked (in broken Japanese and broken English) about his smithy, and he showed me pictures and everything. Looked much like this video. Can't remember his name; he gave me his business card, and that I need to dig up from my pile. Very nice and interesting guy .
posted by zardoz at 4:38 PM on November 23, 2011


Because stamping is not equivalent to forging. It makes a weaker blade less able to withstand use.

Not really. Stamping can certainly be used to make a weaker blade, but it can also be used to make a stronger blade. It depends on many things, including (obviously) your feedstock.

Many state-of-the-art alloys cannot be forged.

Different production techniques have pros and cons. News at eleven.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:48 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sentimentality of old methods aside, if a machine can make them better and faster, why wouldn't you look at the best available method for production?
posted by kafziel

To be sure; but the world needs a little more romance in it don't you think?
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 5:52 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because stamping is not equivalent to forging. It makes a weaker blade less able to withstand use.

A good blacksmith can also control the grain of the steel in a way that gives different parts of the item different qualities. If properly hammered and tempered the edge of a blade can be made very hard, so that it can cut without dulling. Then body can be tempered in a different way that gives the rest of the blade flexibility.

A drop-forge can only produce a knife with a homogenous crystal structure: spine to edge.
posted by clarknova at 6:06 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is my duty to build up a disciple better than me.
Lovely sentiment; lovely man; thank you, mahershalal.
posted by jet_silver at 7:09 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anybody got background on the word he mentioned, Koto? Wikipedia had nothing. What's the distinction, why does no one know how they were made? What exactly is it that can't be reproduced?
posted by rahnefan at 10:02 PM on November 23, 2011


Not about the original post, but I want to address the discussion about the How It's Made segment on making Medieval swords. The company that produces the swords in the segment is Albion Swords Ltd., probably one of the top, non-custom sword makers in the United States. Their swords are designed by Peter Johnsson (his own work is hand forged) based on his research and detailed measurement of historical examples for each particular type that the company produces. I can't talk about of stock removal vs. forging for their production, but Albion's are definitely not cheap mall swords.

I do think that How It's Made should've gone with something more like, "Medieval Sword re-creations." That's what Albion calls them.

Full disclosure: I badly want their I.33 trainer.
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:07 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This knocked down my old idea, which was that swordsmiths were wordsmiths who slurred their words.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:08 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much for the link to the Viking sword maker starvingartist! We were planning on heading up that way next year, so resident seven year old is already hyped now seeing this.

If Japanese swords are of interest, and you are in Tokyo, the Japanese Sword Museum, while small, is the place to visit, and the book shop will be your treasure box. (I wrote about it on my own blog here.)
posted by Megami at 12:52 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody got background on the word he mentioned, Koto?

It's 古刀 koto, which literally means "old sword", as distinguished from 新刀 shinto, lit. "new sword" (not to be confused with Shintō the religion, which is 神道). These are technical terms:
The long history of the Japanese sword is divided into an accepted series of periods called Jokoto, Koto, Shinto, Shinshinto, and gendaito. [...]

These sword periods correlate with historical events or changes which influenced the methods of combat and type of sword being made, as well as the methods of construction and styles of blades. [...]

Because much of the written historical record concerning Japanese swords dates from the Momoyama to early Edo periods, and because of the changes in styles of swords around the end of the sixteenth century (the junction between the Momoyama and Edo periods), writers at this time referred to "old swords," i.e., Koto, to describe swords which were being made contemporaneously. More specifically, the term Koto referred to blades made before approximately 1600, while Shinto referred to blades made from approximately 1600 onward, at the beginning of the Edo period (1600–1868).

Modern Japanese Swords and Swordsmiths: From 1868 to the Present (Kapp, Kapp, and Yoshihara, 2002), introduction.
This introduction doesn't say anything about lost techniques from that era. *shrug*
posted by stebulus at 9:22 AM on November 24, 2011


If you find yourself in central Japan (specifically Gifu prefecture, but Nagoya or even Tokyo are do-able) in April, I highly recommend the Seki sword/razor/scissor festival. Huge amount of information (and demonstration) of traditional forging techniques, along with swordsmanship demos (and really, really sharp razors).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:39 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a really literal translation of Beowulf which called swords "file-leavings" at one point.
posted by jamjam at 12:01 PM on November 24, 2011


Daaaaaang. Hand-forged niftyness vs cold steel's 'modern' materials and methods. How to choose?
posted by LD Feral at 1:14 PM on November 24, 2011


file-leavings
So that the file-leavings might not over fiercely,
Were they never so shower-hard, scathe the shield-bold,
— lines 1032 and 1033, Morris & Wyatt translation

þæt him fēla lāf        frēcne ne meahte
scūrheard sceþðan        þonne scyldfreca
original
posted by stebulus at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]




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