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Thread: forging katanas

  1. #1
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    Question forging katanas

    I want to know how to forge a katana, because me and a couple of my friends were thinking on going into a forging bussiness and first we need to know how to make katanas, so can anyone help me out here.

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the forum,

    I think others will agree when I say, its best to start reading some books before doing anything else.
    you want to forge a katana, mono steel, folded, tamahagane??
    Things are not as easy as they look.
    Amazon has plenty of books.
    good luck
    More Sweat In Training Less Blood In Combat
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  3. #3
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    i am a total noob at forging but i dont recomend forging a katana as a first option . start with something small like a tanto and gain some experience and go bigger . get the book "the craft of the japanese sword" and read the posts


    Thomas.D

  4. #4
    I do not know how to say this without sounding condescending and be assured that is not my intention.

    I have been forging blades since 1979 and making knives for several years prior to that through stock removal. Your goal is worthy and hopefully with perseverance and hard work you will get there. However, let me say that it is not as easy as your question suggests. I think it is the business part that implies a larger scale operation rather than just making a single katana that made me even hesitate in responding. Just to make one forged katana of mono steel would be a challenge and a serious investment in equipment and time. It is not as simple as just beating out a piece of steel as I am sure you know.

    Quality sells and that takes time, knowledge and skill. To make one single katana you will have to become proficient at forging, grinding, heat treating, and more. A tsuba, the guard on the sword, is a difficult process to get the right geometry and look. Would you buy these? What about cord wrapping (tsuka-ito)? What about fuchi, menuki, kashira, saya, etc.? All these were special crafts. If you buy them, will they be mass produced? or do you intend to produce high end quality or inexpensive questionable wall hangers?

    If you want to make this a business, buy all the parts including the blades and assemble them for sale. However, the quality issue will stand out as a problem.

    However, if you are serious about quality then design is critical. Study the symmetry and line of the traditional blades. That will mean getting the opportunity to study and handle some quality blades. Look at the curvatures of the blades. Notice not just their dimensions but the subtlety of how lines converge and where they are parallel. Design, in my opinion, is where most bladesmiths fall short. I can teach heat treating, grinding, forging, etc., but design is subtle and often separates the great from the mediocre.

    My suggestion is to make one sword after following the advice above given by others. Go find a smith and see if he/she will show you how to forge. I think you will be surprised as to how long it takes to make one blade.

    I have spent the last six months studying cochlichemarde small swords. I bought books, traveled to a couple of museums, I read, handled, made numerous attempts on handle parts that were not quite right and now I am just about to finish one complete sword. After twenty five years of forging with lots of equipment, the making of the blade was not the most difficult part. To make a sword that balanced and was accurate in construction, size, feel, and detail was the challenge. I have to say that I loved every frustrating minute of it.

    If you make a sword and find you have the passion for it, maybe you will do well. I wish you luck on this journey.

    Dan
    "I have come from far enough
    from where I was not before
    to have seen things
    looking at me through the open door"

  5. #5
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    1: learn to forge; get good at it
    2: learn bladesmithing; get good at it
    3: work on smithing Japanese blades; get good at it

    With a knack for it and good teaching and a lot of work you should have a chance of doing "business" quality work in a decade or so. (As a business you not only need to do "good" you also have to do "fast" enough to run a business off them---especially starting off. Much easier doing a high quality blade when your meals and housing don't depending on making and selling several a month.)

    As has been mentioned the forging and the grinding and mounting of japanese blades was traditionally covered by a number of experts in very different crafts. You will have to decide if you plan to learn some or all of them as well as the smithing.

    Taking classes at the American Bladesmiths Society school can jumpstart your learning curve

    Thomas "Don't quit your day job yet!"
    Last edited by Thomas Powers; 07-26-2007 at 10:13 AM.

  6. #6
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    Katana forging

    Don Fogg gives a class on forging a katana at the Sierra forge and fire school in Exciter Ca. Take it!
    Tony G

  7. #7
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    Any ways you also have to put this to mind, I am only 15 I can't go to college, get a good paying job, and I also would need start up money so I can buy the steel necesary to forge and/or smith my own steel, so any ways it would take more than 10 years.

  8. #8
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    *smacks head and falls over.
    I dunno. Iron is sort-of the Paris Hilton of metals, and carbon, nickel, chromium silicon, etc. are a bunch of good looking guys she just met at a party. - Al Massey

  9. #9
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    Andrew, it is doable, but patience is a deep and unavoidable requirement. Most any 15 year old in the US can assemble the stuff to make a simple forge, and get started. Look online for blacksmithing sites, read, study, and start putting a smithy together. Enlisting your parents is a must, as well. If you can convince them that this is something that you are not going to abandon any time soon, they can be a great resource.

    Get a chunk of rebar a couple of feet long, build a charcoal fire, and take a small sledge hammer and a chunk of steel for an anvil. Heat the rebar red hot in the charcoal, and flatten the end of it. Repeat this until you have a flat bar of steel. This excercise will let you decide if you really want to learn the skills of bladesmithing, because you will be doing this basic operation over and over again.

    My advice: start small, and see if this is something you really want to continue to pursue.
    "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art."
    Leonardo da Vinci

    "A little science estranges men from God, but much science leads them back to Him."
    Louis Pasteur

  10. #10
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    This may sound strange but your highschool years can be some of the best times to build up tooling and take classes during summers; however it involves being disciplined enough to work and save what you make.

    Once you get older there will be expectations that you use your earnings to defray your expenses so go whole hog *NOW*!

    I was lucky in that my parents gave me tools for birthdays and christmas 30-40 years later I still have most of them that I didn't wear out! (and BTW my father had a couple of college degrees as do I; he just believed that an educated person should be able to do a *lot* of different things including working with their hands.)

    So would your parents allow you to go to a summer camp? If so why not to the ABS school next summer; especially if you paid for it yourself! I've ridden a bus from the Port Authority terminal in NYC to Arkansas before when I was a teenager...

    Check into your local ABANA group and go to *free* meetings and start learning basic smithing. Start reading "The Complete Bladesmith" for one; see if your local library will ILL it for you if they do not have it. (Inter Library Loan)

    The only thing stopping you is *YOU*.

    Thomas

  11. #11
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    Thanks

    Thanks for the great advice this should help me decide if i want to forge katanas or not. Thanks again, also I want to know where can you buy rebar.
    Last edited by Andrew Clarke; 07-28-2007 at 10:56 AM.

  12. #12
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    *WHY*? Rebar can be a terrible thing to learn to forge on!

    You usually buy it at a lumber yard or masonry supply store.

    The lower grades can have extremely variable carbon/tramp element content.

    The higher grades you will need to search harder for as they are generally used for high dollar critical applications like bridges, skyscrapers and interstates and by the tonn and so directly ordered from the manufacturer.

    Thomas

  13. #13
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    *WHY*? Rebar can be a terrible thing to learn to forge on!
    Very true, but if you only use it as an inexpensive source of steel to see if you even enjoy the craft, it's OK. Home Depot has it on hand, along with 'mild steel', which is usually a good training steel as well, although quite a bit pricier than re-bar.

    Blaksmithing and bladesmithing are art forms, as well as technical disciplines. That means that you can approach them from whatever point of view you like, from barnyard smithing to aerospace nitpicking. (Not to point any fingers hereabouts. )

    Experience, tempered with plenty of safety practices, will lead you a lot farther than any amount of surfing on the web.

    (edit) My nephew and I had a great afternoon yesterday at the forge. He banged out a weed knife out of a hunk of rebar, and we did a sealed canister weld to make a billet of 1095, L6, and silicon transformer steel. What a cool way to spend an afternoon! His weed knife cleanly sliced a gallon jug full of water in two, with barely a splash. Yeehaw!
    Last edited by jim frank; 07-30-2007 at 03:16 PM.
    "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art."
    Leonardo da Vinci

    "A little science estranges men from God, but much science leads them back to Him."
    Louis Pasteur

  14. #14
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    forging huh

    this looks too be about my spot on the sword forum. hello, i am sal, and as we speak, i am getting ready to forge....my friend andrew lives not too far from me, we both have an interest, i have been studying for 3 years about forging, and wish for this too be my career....i am also 14 years of age....

  15. #15
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    Would that be the Andrew that posted over at anvilfire.com recently?
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  16. #16
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    well thomas the andrew you are talking about is different andrew, the andrew sal is talking about started this forum, yes thats me and no i didn't post on anvilfire.com thats a different andrew. also jim since you forge "stuff" and know alot about forging i am going to call you sensei from now on if its alright with you?
    Last edited by Andrew Clarke; 08-03-2007 at 10:15 PM.

  17. #17
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    yeah

    i see,well now i just want too make a blade....tamahagane when i get really good, but for the most part, i like the monsteel, but you have too treat it in a way, where it will not be brittle, it is not like differential steel at all, cannot absorb much shock.san mai is not what i like, for it has a high faliure rate, and when folding steel,you do no want too fold it too many times, due too the loss of carbon content while forging....SO MUCH INVOLVED!!!!! i will get it eventually, my friend forged 2 ko-dachi
    and he is only 17......
    Last edited by sal v.; 08-04-2007 at 10:16 PM.

  18. #18
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    Andrew,
    I suggest that you ask your parents to take you to the Ashokan, NY seminar in September: 90 East to 87 South
    http://www.cashenblades.com/Ashokan.html
    Looks like a 350 mile trip for you if I read the map correctly, but your in luck as the demonstrators this year know quite a bit about swords....and will answer your questions.
    If you come I will be glad to work with you and one of your parents one on one (well, I guess that would be one on two wouldn't it?) and show you the basics as time permits. The caveat being that I am there for a specific demo and need to attend to that above all else.

    More than that I can not do.
    General warning...in college I studied to be a high school history teacher.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

  19. #19
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    hey

    what about me richard? heh, i am his friend too....lol...i was going too go too college for metallurgy, any places you know of?
    Last edited by sal v.; 08-04-2007 at 10:16 PM.

  20. #20
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    hmm...

    yes well, now it is lonely on this forum page haha...
    Last edited by sal v.; 08-04-2007 at 10:14 PM.

  21. #21
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    If I may.. another important, if not as important, thing is the handeling of swords, if you are gonna make swords, you have to know how to use them properly... alot of the blademakers around makes great looking and well designed swords, that works ok, but they feel dead in your hand, because something is wrong with the cop or weight distribution or weight or whatever, and it is a shame when you pay good money for a sword, and you have to put it on a wall or modify it before use...
    of course personal style has alot to say about this, but still... learn how to handle swords, so that you know what you sell... take classes
    You be nice to me, I'll be nice to you, easy as that...

  22. #22
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    well, i am well aware, the circumstances in which a sword is balanced incorrectly results in that blade being hard to handle, and very heavy(or at least it seems that way) i am also studying the art of katana, so i am ready for it, i will burn that bridge when i come too it!!! haha

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sal v. View Post
    what about me richard? heh, i am his friend too....lol...i was going too go too college for metallurgy, any places you know of?
    Sal,
    I extend the same offer to you and a parent.
    It has been said that 80% of life is showing up...so the rest is up to the two (well, four) of you.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

  24. #24
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    wow, cool.....i have always wanted too meet some experienced sword smiths....but i need too know mostly, on how too temper, no one gives me a good response.......

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by sal v. View Post
    wow, cool.....i have always wanted too meet some experienced sword smiths....but i need too know mostly, on how too temper, no one gives me a good response.......
    Most Japanese blades were not tempered.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

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