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Ben A.

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Ben A. last won the day on December 24 2016

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  1. I now have an interview victim (subject). He is a person that many of you might know from personal experience, may have heard about from others, or could have seen on TV. Please welcome Towanda's hometown hero, J. Neilson!!! J., would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to the forum? -More to come.
  2. Thanks Salem! Coming from a gifted artist like yourself, that's high praise! I wish not burning out was something that I could just will myself into! When I feel like it's coming on, I stop and clean my shop. When my shop is clean (which is very seldom, by the way), I tend to stress out less, and I can keep on going. This was a fun process, no thanking needed. Next for me is slogging through the order list, and separating the wheat from the chaff on the list. Just because someone hits you up for a katana, doesn't mean they still want to buy it after you give them an honest price estimate. One other thing I'm thinking about is to go for my JS stamp. I think it would be a good process for me. My grail piece is one that I've been thinking about for a long time. I want to do a replica of the Sutton Hoo sword. I think it would be quite a thing to make. If I ever get to move to the farm, I would really like to set up a school. I enjoy teaching, and it can be kinda lucrative, if done well. I will think about the next victim. I have one guy in mind, but I need to cogitate for a tick before I send the request. thank you for a great interview. I hope to see you again sometime soon. Until then, please give my love to your family. -Ben
  3. Joshua, To be honest, my assertion is kinda wooly, in as much as I don't have good evidence from before the medieval period (where the bladesmith, cutler, and sheathmaker were all different people) but, similarly, in the Japanese tradition where there is one person who is the bladesmith, then another who is the sword polisher, and yet another who is the sayashi (Sheath maker and/or fittings-maker). I laso see some 3rd world videos on YouTube where the blademaker, handle fitter, and sheath maker are all different people. I don't do much research into other cultures, but I would be quite surprised to find that the person fitting rubies into a jade handle on a mughal dagger, or Indian Jambiya was the same guy that was in the back making the wootz blades. Not to say one person couldn't do it, I'd just be surprised that it was done that way in the 17th century. -Ben
  4. More to come on that one. Meanwhile, here's the progression of the spear that was made from the cutoff piece, and a closeup of the pattern:
  5. And lastly, here's a peek at the pattern near the tip:
  6. Here's the blade final forged, with its brand new tang, and everything:
  7. Once I cut it off, I forge welded some wrought iron onto the stubby tang, so I'd have something to peen later that wasn't as hard as the blade.
  8. Here's the initial rough forging before I cut it off the parent bar:
  9. Salem, I am currently rather swamped with stuff I'm making. I'm having trouble keeping on target with a number of projects. One that sticks out, however, is a pattern-welded gladius that I'm making for an old friend. It has a 200 layer core, with the welds being set by hitting from edge-to-edge, instead of the normal way of welding flat-to-flat. This creates a pattern seen in Celtic swords that is often referred to as "streaky". I wrapped the core with a bar of 1084, and welded the whole thing up. stretching it wide was some work, and I'm currently finished with the heat-treat, and rough grind. Making a flat-grind sword with a crisp and straight center ridge is not something I normally do, and it's taking me longer than it probably should. Once the blade is done, I plan to make the handle grip from boxwood, and the pommel and guard from yew. I think the color combination will be neat. One other cool thing that I got from this project, is that I had a piece of the billet left over, so I did a bird's mouth weld to bring the edge steel around to the tip, and welded on a wrought iron socket, and made a spear head. It came out pretty trick.
  10. Salem, I started to write a response to this several times, and actually had to stop and write an outline to get my thoughts straight! I think that the reason that this discussion remains active is that the answer really depends on your level of romanticism. Is the thing a thing, or is it a culmination of human knowledge, artistry, style (personal, traditional, or cultural), etc? If someone were to 3d print a gorgeous tsuba, would it be worth less than a hand carved one by a traditional master? I say yes, I think all of us makers would say yes, but there are likely those that think they're equal. Or at very least that the traditional one is overpriced, seeing that you can get the "same" thing for $5.25. I'm not equating 3D printing to a hydraulic forging press, for example, but it's the furthest extension of the point that I could imagine. If I were to make a tsuba from wrought iron that I heated in my propane forge, forged it out with my power hammer, carved it with my pneumatic engraving tool, buffed it on a buffer, and then went back to traditional patination techniques for the final look, I'd personally be proud of the outcome (if it looked good). Some purists might say that I cheated, and I understand their point of view. For me, and this speaks to our modern times, I don't have the time to learn the correct techniques, let alone the time to use those techniques to make the tsuba. I'll use the processes that I already understand to make an item as museum quality as the client is willing to pay for. I think there are benefits to both times that make each of them interesting: In modern, post industrial times we have some undeniable advantages: We have an inexhaustible access to information. We can go on the internet and watch a master craftsman perform a technique that we can practice until we get it. We have books, videos, classes, schools, etc. that weren't available to people of the past. We have better tools and raw materials that make our lives easier. We have a better, more scientific understanding of the "why" of things. We can custom make knifemaking alloys, and free-flowing gold alloys that are a dream to work with, and they'll be the exact same next year as they were last year. We have a better general education, and a much longer lifespan that allows us to keep learning for longer. The advantages of older times may seem strange to us, but they're there: They started their craft at a much younger age than we generally do. All the while, they generally had a master teacher that was continually with them as they learned. They had, at least in the museum examples that we drool over, rich patrons that would pay for the highest quality. And the biggest advantage that they had, as far as I'm concerned, is that they were generally specialists. The 8 year old would study until they were 25 to be a master bladesmith. They might give the thing a foundational grind when they were done but then they gave the sword away to the rest of the artisans. There were scabbard makers, people that made the handles and guards, other people that did the final polish on the blades, a jeweler that might engrave or set stones, or whatever. Each of these artisans did this stuff every day, of course they're good at it! I feel like we get to do more of the processes ourselves because of our modern advantages, but I still think that we can't be masters of everything. Some can, I'll grant you but they're super rare. But even now you'll see a master knifemaker make a gorgeous blade and handle, then give it to a professional engraver to finish that part. That feels like a bit of an outlier, however. In terms of "what's better", again it depends. What's the best car? You might say Ferrari. I'd say that is an awful car to take off road. Okay then Range Rover. I'd say that wouldn't haul 3 tons of cinder blocks, etc. What's the best knife? I agree that a wootz mughal jade-handled gold-inlayed dagger is damn gorgeous, but I'd trust the heat treat on an L6 camp knife more to split firewood. All that being said, I personally am most impressed by the past masters for literally making up their art form, innovating their craft, and being the giants upon whose shoulders we now stand. I'm sure that we can do the same, and we already are innovating and making so mush new cool stuff up, but I'd personally give it another 20 years before I'd rate modern smiths equal to our giant forefathers.
  11. As you insinuated, I do use the skills that I learned from blacksmithing in my bladesmithing. It opens up a whole other area of opportunity and creativity when designing blades. If you don't know how to forge a square corner, for example, you either grind one in, or just never think of incorporating that element in your work. Just the idea that you can stop and make a jig/fixture to help with a tough operation is liberating. In the FIF claymore, I could have fabricated that guard by tig-welding mild steel, and it would have performed just fine. Instead, I forge-welded it from wrought iron because I wanted to etch it, and see the uninterrupted grain pattern. For anyone who's interested, here are some pictures of the guard build:
  12. Fort me, one of the hardest parts was the two blown-over scrolls. Getting the negative space right was a real pain. I tried many times to get it right!
  13. Even the center collar needed to be home made stock. A bottom hardy needs to be made in several steps, then used to make the stock:
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