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Jim Kelso

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Everything posted by Jim Kelso

  1. 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
  2. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    Many thanks James.
  3. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    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.
  4. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    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.
  5. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    Thanks very much Joshua and John. All your feedback is very helpful.
  6. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    And a top view
  7. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    Thanks Brian. Much appreciated... Here are a couple more shots:
  8. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    Thanks very much Charles.
  9. Jim Kelso

    温故知新 (classical tanto project)

    Very nice production Dave, as always.
  10. Jim Kelso

    Wood Cha-to (tea-sword)

    Thanks so much guys! Alan, it is one of the most meaningful for me too. Much appreciated. Jim
  11. Jim Kelso

    Louis Mills(Yasutomo) - Rest In Peace

    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.
  12. Jim Kelso

    Louis Mills(Yasutomo) - Rest In Peace

    A photo of Louie and me 1985, with wakizashi we made, on our way to the Higgins Armory.
  13. Jim Kelso

    Louis Mills(Yasutomo) - Rest In Peace

    Thanks for that Tony. Dave has a lot of good material on Louie.
  14. Jim Kelso

    Louis Mills(Yasutomo) - Rest In Peace

    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
  15. Jim Kelso

    Shameless promotion of new website

    Thanks Dave!
  16. My apologies for not being active here for a while. After Ashokan a lot came down the chute fast, including feeling the need to update my website. It is now quite nicely responsive to various devices and I invite a look. It will take me a while to update some pages, especially the tutorials, but I'm keeping links open to the old pages until they're replaced. http://www.jimkelso.com I recommend the Recent Work page under Portfolio. Click the thumbnails to go to slideshows. Some pieces are not on my old site. http://www.jimkelso.com/recentwork/ Thanks for looking...
  17. Jim Kelso

    Shameless promotion of new website

    Thanks very much guys! Yes Wes, and there's full-screen mode in the slide-shows.
  18. Jim Kelso

    Bog Oak and Copper Gralloching Knife

    Lovely ensemble Jake...
  19. Jim Kelso

    Ashokan 2017

    Kevin! Bother! Stop it! There were so many recognizable faces that I couldn't put names to. We'll catch up somewhere. I had a more stressful event than I had hoped for. Saturday was intense making sure everything was ready for my talks. I did see Justin's talk as well as Kevin's and Sam's demo. Justin made so much clear about that particular process and the way toward deducing how stuff is done in general. Kevin was right-on which reinforces the Ashokan "No toadies" standard. Sam in action, on the anvil and otherwise, was peerless. (Jean said he was sweet!) Sunday I got wicked sick, had to leave Tim Wright's talk and was sick into the night. Sadly I missed the open display and the opportunity to visit with everyone. Bummer! The Ashokan folks were awesome as always and let us stay Sunday night and we stumbled home Monday.
  20. Jim Kelso

    Ashokan 2017

    Sept. 29 - Oct.1 Looks like I'll be reloading my program from last year which I had to cancel because of the dreaded wild parsnip (seriously) Wild Parsnip Caution So I'll give a slide-talk : Opening to the Far-Green: Imagination and the creative process and a demo: Cold Forming Copper Fittings Using Uchidashi Tim should be announcing the rest of the program soon, but I wanted to get the dates up here ASAP. Hope a lot of you can make it. Always a good time.
  21. Jim Kelso

    Ashokan 2017

    A slide from my talk:
  22. Jim Kelso

    Turtle carving

    Many thanks guys. Much appreciated.
  23. Jim Kelso

    Turtle carving

    If this has anything to do with knives it's that I stole the design from a Kano Natsuo kozuka! The wood did oblige with landscape coloration. The inlaid shell is a super unusual wee bit of Brazilian Ebony. The Head and leg are inlaid horn. I put up some process shots and video on Instagram.
  24. Jim Kelso

    Princess knife for my niece.

    What a sweet gift!
  25. Jim Kelso

    Ashokan 2017

    I'll post a link to the registration asap: Schedule: Friday, September 29 After 2:00 PM! Arrive at Ashokan, registration, unload gear. 4:00-5:00 Set-up forging areas Pavilion and Tent 5:00-6:00 Happy Hour Open Bar Lobby 6:00-7:00 Buffet Dinner 7:00-7:15 Introduction Lecture 7:15 – 8:30 Viking Spears and Construction – Justin Mercier Lecture 8:30– 12:00 Open Forge Pavilion Saturday, September 30 8:00 - 9:00 Breakfast 9:00 - 10:00 How to Make a Living as a Knife Maker Without Becoming a Weasel II – Kevin Cashen Lecture 10:00 - 11:00 Blade Forging – Sam Salvati Tent 11:00 - 12:00 Forge Welding – Justin Mercier Tent 12:00 - 1:00 Opening to the Far-Green: Imagination and the Creative Process – Jim Kelso Lecture 1:00 - 2:00 Lunch 2:00 - 3:00 Fundamentals of Mechanical Accuracy – Tim Wright Lecture 3:00 - 4:00 Hands On Class in Comparing Combat Knife Design – Bill McGrath Tent Learn knife katas to see how form follows function. Tent 4:00 - 5:00 How to Grind Forged Blades Like a Stock Remover – Kevin Cashen Tent 5:00 - 6:00 Cold Forming Copper Fittings Using Uchidashi – Jim Kelso Lecture 6:00 - 7:00 Dinner 7:00 - 8:00 Kitchen Knife Theory – Nick Rossi Lecture 8:00 - 9:00 Salt Bath Heat Treatment – Tim Zowada Pavilion 9:00 – 12:00 Open Forge Pavilion Sunday, October 1 Check out of bunk areas before 9:00 AM! 8:00 - 9:00 Breakfast 9:00 - 10:00 Fitting Guards and Handles – Nick Rossi Lecture 10:00 – 12:00 Knife Display and Show Dining Hall 12:00-1:00 Lunch 1:00-2:00 Pack-up and clean-up forging areas 2:00 Departure
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