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Jim Kelso

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Everything posted by Jim Kelso

  1. Thank you all for the kind comments! Much appreciated. Joshua, Nick made the blade from 15n20/1080. The term mokume is usually taken in the west to mean copper alloys or other non-ferrous. In fact it refers to the grain pattern, and could be applied to ferrous, non-ferrous and even clay.
  2. Thanks very much Don! Thanks very much Alan! It has been a while…
  3. Apologies for my spare participation here. The inspiration for the form of this knife is the Japanese kogatana/kozuka. I have long admired the simple form of these knives and the often sublimely beautiful art found on the kozuka handle. My desire to work in iron on the handle led to the idea of forging the iron to the blade, resulting in a one-piece knife with integral handle. Having recently begun collaborating with Nick Anger, I asked him about making a wood-grain (mokume) patterned blade and strategically forging iron to the back in the handle area. Nick’s highly skilled merging of the iron with the steel was impeccable and just what I had hoped for as a canvas for my engraving/inlay. The wrought iron has a lovely natural, earthy grain. The subject of my engraving is a pairing of pine and plum design. The style of engraving for the plum branch and blossoms is called kosuki-bori, practiced by Goto Ichijo (1791-1876) and passed to his student Funada Ikkin (1812-1863). It was mostly used to portray plum branch design. The plum blossoms are inlayed pure silver with rose-gold centers, which have engraved details and punched raised dot stamen-tips. The pine design served as a transition from the patterned blade steel to the iron handle with one small pine branch on the iron and another forward on the steel. The steel and iron both needed specific etch and patina, which were done after all shaping, engraving and polishing was completed. The blade etch was done by Nick with ferric chloride. I did the iron patina with the technique given to me by Toshimasa-sensei as outlined on my website. The shibuichi throat piece was carved in a wood-grain pattern and has 24k gold inlaid lichen. It was patinated with the traditional Japanese niage process. The saya/sheath is made from Wenge wood and was chosen for its pattern and colors harmonious to the iron patina.
  4. That's so amazing and touching Dave! What a fine tribute... Jim
  5. Thanks Steve! Thanks very much Luke. If there is an effortless look, it's deceptive! It seems these days that most of my work requires long periods of gestation, especially working out the various design elements and how they work together(or not). Lots of gazing, then leaving it alone for a while.
  6. Thanks very much Chris! Very nice to hear that Doug...
  7. Thanks very much Jeremy! Much appreciated...
  8. A couple others saw the bark as stones, which I can totally see now. It's all good... Thanks Dave! I'll pass that on to Don.
  9. Thanks very much Joshua, Wes and Gerhard. The lyrical content means ever much more to me. Gerhard, yes end-grain with bark on the sides. It's one of my favorite bits too! I did the bark first and puzzled over what to do on the top, and the light-bulb went off...
  10. Many thanks for your comments guys. Much appreciated. Alan, we met last week and he liked it!
  11. Don gave me this blade five or six years ago and said, "Make something beautiful with it". Hmm, ok, so it rumbled around in my mind until last fall. It was a slow process figuring out the transition, theme and all the details, but I think it came good in the end. I didn't find out until it was almost finished that it was Don's last patterned blade. I knew it had to be one of the last, but THE last. I'm glad I didn't know as I was working on it. Below is a little of what I've written. More to be read here: Kelso Journal And a slide show with more photos here: Fogg/Kelso In keeping with the persona of a hunting knife, I chose to represent features of the Vermont woodlands that would be familiar to a skilled, observant woodsman. These include tracks of the Red Fox, leaves of Red Maple, Beech, and Red and White Oaks, and a feather. The feather was modeled from the Ruffed Grouse, but altered in shape and color to fit the surroundings. I chose a feather as a sign of passage, which in the case of birds, could be molting, conflict, flight or death. Feathers have such deep and subtle beauty. My wife Jean and I have a collection and I always wonder, when finding a single feather, what the story was. The tracks, leaves and feather are all signs, marking activity and transition, the meaning of which is read by the skilled woodsman. This project has been very satisfying for a number of reasons. I was touched and honored when Don gave me the blade to finish. I did not realize until the piece was nearly finished that it was his last patterned blade, which greatly enhances the meaning for me. Don is a legend in the smithing world, and rightly so. Apart from his technical innovations, he has an artistic eye, both for pattern and form, which is rarely, if ever matched. In addition, his Bladesmith’s Forum stands as an unparalleled online resource for beginning and accomplished knifemakers.
  12. Daniel I have been sadly distracted this year and missed this. I love the Swedish flavor of your engraving and how it complements Roger's work. Jim
  13. Thanks Prof. Actually a kind of weird thing happened. As I was taking material off I would run into the occasional termite carcass released from their woody tombs. As I made the final shape, one sort of stuck in the hole, and stayed there through some vigorous handling, so I decided to lacquer over him as he was not very visible. I took a look last week and some other insect was in the same hole trying to back out! I tried to help it but gutted it in the attempt. I thought it was extraordinary that it was in the same hole. Maybe after some tasty dried termite... Thanks so much Steve.
  14. Thanks very much Joshua and John. All your feedback is very helpful.
  15. Thanks Brian. Much appreciated... Here are a couple more shots:
  16. Thanks so much guys! Alan, it is one of the most meaningful for me too. Much appreciated. Jim
  17. So this is as close to a sword as I've gotten for a while. This is what I've written about it: This work represents hope and faith in the regenerative force of nature in both symbolic and tangible ways. In a time of unusually prevalent dark forces, I believe it is incumbent upon me as an artist to not become overwhelmed and loose sight of the enduring beauty reflected, not only in full-flowering nature, but also in that which is aged and decaying. My countermeasure to debasement is to seek truth and beauty and reflect that in my work. In Japan there is a history of the decorative bokuto/cha-to sword, apart from the kendo version, sometimes called doctors’ swords or tea swords. I’ve thought for some time this would be an interesting format for my work using both wood and metal. Discovering the piece of termite-eaten American Persimmon wood was key both in provoking me to make a cha-to and also in suggesting the theme of the cycles of life, death, decay and regeneration. Initially I thought to make some quite dramatic metal fittings, but my thinking evolved to a simpler approach. The form of the Japanese sword is so primally elegant; my aim was to distill that to a single somewhat Platonic form with the termites providing interest within the form. I find the termite carved galleries stunningly beautiful and decided that my metal fittings should balance rather than intrude into that. I also decided to not make any delineation between the tsuka and saya of the tanto form, relying instead on subtle variations of line, and the placement of the menuki to imply the hilt and scabbard. I have long admired the combination of rustic iron and refined gold in the work of Kano Natsuo and others. The poetic dialogue between the two seemingly disparate materials has always struck a chord in me, and seemed entirely in keeping with the overall feeling I was aiming for. Expressing a contrast to decay, I chose a butterfly and the butterfly’s food, a perennial kind of hopeful symbol. The flower is Chicory (Cichorium intybus) and includes a small, unopened bud in silver. My friend mentioned that in Switzerland the roadside Chicory flowers are seen as symbols of women waiting for their soldier men to return; another poignant layer. In addition to the simple fan-shaped menuki I chose to add a single visual balancing addition of mini-chasaji (tea-scoop) on the saya end. The symbolism of this is an allusion to tea as refreshment from the dusty, quotidian world. The engraved Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed furthers the hope for new life as well as referring to the butterfly as the milkweed plant being the primary food for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar. The Persimmon wood presented a few challenges because of its condition. It was, in areas, difficult to maintain the lines of intersecting surfaces, as the termite galleries erased those lines. Much time was spent in careful sighting lengthwise to check the various lines’ integrity. Also, although the form is simple, it required three stages of thinning to achieve the final dimensions, as I was not working from any established model. When the final form was achieved, I used a Japanese brush (uzukuri) to brush out the debris left in the termite galleries to an appealing depth. The wood finish is a satin-polished lacquer. I chose this to strike a balance between containing the softer gallery debris and creating a soft glow on the sound wood. The historical wrought iron for the menuki came from my friend Ric Furrer who thinks it came from old anchor chain from the Florida Keys. This iron is especially grainy and full of character and took what I consider a beautiful sabitsuke or controlled rust patina. I created most of the surface texture with carving and punching, but there is an underlying earthiness visible in rolling light. The butterfly and Chicory flower are inlayed 18k gold and the flower bud is pure silver. The miniature chasaji (tea-scoop) found toward the front is made of shibuichi alloyed by my friend Phillip Baldwin. It is an alloy of 98%copper and 2% silver and is patinated in traditional Japanese irotsuke using rokusho to achieve a rich nutty brown. The seed is inlayed 18k gold. Previous to patination it was slightly textured with ishi-arashi or light dropping of tiny stones.
  18. A photo of Louie and me 1985, with wakizashi we made, on our way to the Higgins Armory.
  19. Thanks for that Tony. Dave has a lot of good material on Louie.
  20. Thanks Alan. I think it's easy these days, with so much information available, to perhaps not appreciate how difficult it was back when to figure stuff out to a point where you can make progress. Louis's accomplishments in that context is really impressive. Here is an o-tanto we made with a really lovely blade by him: (photo credit Francesco Pachi) Thanks to Dan Favano for the photo use
  21. I just heard this morning that Louis Mills passed quietly in his sleep early this morning. Working with Louis was a major milestone in my career, and I am honored to have done so. I greatly admired his dedication to Japanese swordsmithing. When we met he was one of two smiths that I know of in this country taking up that extremely demanding craft. He had studied in workshops with the Yoshihara brothers. As my work expanded to other types of work we fell somewhat out of touch, but had made contact in the last few years. I'm very glad we had the opportunity to do some catching up. My sympathies go to his wife Marge.
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