DIY Tanto
February 21, 2011 3:35 PM   Subscribe

The Tatara Project: Learn how to make your own Japanese tanto knives from homemade steel; just follow these explicit directions and 125 photos.
posted by bwg (19 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I brew my own beer. One day I thought it might be cool to brew my own sake. I managed to find instructions somewhere on the web. It was only slightly less complicated than this.

Some things are best purchased from a store.
posted by tommasz at 3:40 PM on February 21, 2011

People are awesome.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:48 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some things are best purchased from a store.

Your thinking is short sighted. A few years after the zombie apocalypse begins your knives will begin wearing out. You will wish you had printed this off so you could forge your own knives. The survivors from the nearby encampment already had the guide. They are arming themselves now to steal your food and women. What are you gonna do now? Good luck beating them with your rusty leftovers from early 2012.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:53 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

He buys coal from a store? Pfff. You have to start by punching trees.
posted by DU at 3:59 PM on February 21, 2011 [16 favorites]

Which creates... wood?
posted by _Lasar at 4:06 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to go through the trouble of building a stove, and happen to have a spare microwave oven laying around, you, too, can smelt!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:15 PM on February 21, 2011

People who do things like this make me feel so lazy.

But I love to read about them anyway...thanks for posting.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:19 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you fail? Seppuku.

If you succeed? Less painful seppuku.
posted by Panjandrum at 4:39 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, today I -uh- baked some bread.

THIS IS COMPLETELY COOL! Thanks for the post!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:58 PM on February 21, 2011

I was just starting to get a bit of a strut about making my own bacon, smoked salmon, and sausages... I think I'll go lie down for a while in my fortress of despair.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2011

Nice documentation. As a knifemaker who has played around with homemade iron and steel, tanto and longer Japanese-style blades, don't forget to expect lots of trial and error. Cold shuts in the pattern welding of the blade, blades shattering during quenching, warping, etc. result, even for professional Japanese smiths, about a 1/4 failure rate. Still, there's nothing like it, and while it'll take you a few years, it's a hobby worth pursuing -- if nothing else, you'll never look at a knife the same way again after you've made a few the hard way.

In my less sane mental meanderings, I've thought about running a group effort, using my shop and skills, to make knives/swords from raw ore to final product. Then I remember that I like not being driven to insanity, and just keep doing my own thing.
posted by Blackanvil at 6:11 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

griphus (who is currently account-less) says this site is the work of a content stealer. The original site is at
posted by JHarris at 6:26 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I didn't stand a bit of that but I read the entire thing. Absolutely fascinating.
posted by Nedroid at 6:29 PM on February 21, 2011

I meant to say I didn't understand a bit of it. I found it to be very tolerable.
posted by Nedroid at 6:30 PM on February 21, 2011

One of my best friends here in town is a jeweler, has a teaching studio, been at it for decades. He's also into cars, and trucks, old hot rods of every description -- this crazy, crazy guy puts all the love into them, and all the detail, too, that he puts into the finest piece of jewelry. He knows more about metal than anyone I know, he's absolutely insane, so particular about things that it boggles my mind, I've known this guy for fifteen years and it's still just amazing to watch him be him, it's almost comical.

I'm going to forward this link to him, then sit back, see what happens; should this happen to 'catch' him -- and it very well could -- he'll be building furnaces and smelters and god only knows what else, he'll build the most beautiful knives ever made in Austin, and polish them up like glass...

This is gonna be fun...
posted by dancestoblue at 6:55 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blackanvil - so you started off with general blacksmithing skills?

Any suggestions on how to start getting the skills and equipment for turning ore/raw-iron into something useful?

I'm always been interested in forging; got a little bit in highschool, and learned a little but from talking to people when I was in college, but then the 10 years since, I haven't really *known* anyone who knows anything about metalsmithing. Some who cut metal and some who know how to shape metal, but no actual blacksmiths or metallurgists.
posted by porpoise at 8:48 PM on February 21, 2011

As much as I love Japanese steel, Pattern welded steel is some intense stuff too, be it Viking or just for art's sake.
posted by Redhush at 4:19 AM on February 22, 2011

Mod note: Swapped the link to the apparent author's actual site. Thanks for the heads up, griphus and JHarris.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:02 AM on February 22, 2011


I'm self taught, mostly, in general blacksmithing with a strong focus on knifemaking. I got into making my own steel years ago when I realized that the stuff I could buy was nothing like what people used to use.

If you want to learn blacksmithing, there are a lot of places offering classes, online resources, and local ABANA chapters. Knifemaking and smelting are more specialized, but a good place to start is -- it's mostly a knifemaking forum, but there are boards for smelters, events of interest, and getting started.
posted by Blackanvil at 11:58 AM on February 23, 2011

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