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No Secrets

Sid Wittman

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One great thing about the bladesmithing community - which has really been evident recently with Arctic Fire and the opening of the Video and Multimedia - is the openness of the people involved.


I know there is a need in industry for proprietary information and trade secrets, but I have always been of the opinion that if you are a true craftsman ( craftsperson ? ) then you will be confident enough about your own abilities not to need to hoard information.


The gunsmithing world I used to inhabit isn't too bad in this respect, but I would still regularly come across people who were being deliberately vague about how they performed certain tasks ( often pretty simple ones ). It didn't make me angry, I just thought it was silly. The successful guys get that way with a combination of good work and good customer service, not by making futile attempts to keep their techniques a secret.


Now I'm back on the bottom of the learning curve, with new stuff to learn, it's nice to have such free access to the accumulated knowledge of some of the most skilled people on the face of the planet.

And it's not just techniques, it's the philosophy and art aspects of bladesmithing as well. I have never been exposed to this airy-fairy ( ;) ) stuff before ( or rather I've consciously avoided it :) ) - but it's actually pretty interesting...


So thanks a lot :)

Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims

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For the most part I would agree, though there are a few people who are self promoters who claim special knowledge and claim that to become truly enlightened you need to come to their shop and study with them. I'm speaking of no one in particular with that comment. Fortunately, these people are few and far between. Also there are people who have spent time, effort, and money developing a specialized technique and they are a little reluctant to put the products of their labor out there for one and all, which I think is understandable. Most of us have been happy to share what they have learned in learning basic techniques and principles and solving common problems.



HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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I was speaking to Don Fogg about this a couple of days ago.


He told me that when the craft was just starting to gain momentum, the few bladesmiths out there were really "feeding" off each other's energy and ideas to fuel their growth. He said they agreed they wouldn't have secrets and if someone started to hoard information, they were cut off from the rest of the dialogue (which was so vital to the growth at that point).


This may be the reason that we find this very nice element of our culture in this craft.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Don is one of the most generous people I know. He freely offers his

expertise to all who ask. His artistic talent is immense as are his skills.


I am able to forge even with a busted up shoulder (motorcycle accident

almost 50 years ago) thanks to his teaching.


A true gentleman.



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I skimmed over a paper about trade secrets and all that. The conclusion was that there is more growth and more to go around if everyone is open with what they do and how they do it or to put it another way, you get more than you give when you freely share what you know.



Having watched government for some time, it has become obvious that our government is no longer for the people. If the current trend continues, it won't be long untill armed rebellion is required.

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I would be nowhere, and I mean absolutely nowhere, without all the generosity and wisdom of everyone here. I'm about as close to the bottom as it comes as far as technique and experience, but I hope that someday I will be able to help out the later generations as those before me have helped me and those around me. When I first thought about taking up smithing as a craft, I had no idea what the real mentality was like, or that there is so much more than just the hot steel and a hammer. Had it not been for the encouragement and advice and insight into the craft and its history from the ones who know it best, I do not think I would be where I am no, as a person.

Here's to all you out there who have made it that way, and to keeping the way alive.



Not all those who wander are lost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

-Shards of the Dark Age- my blog
-Nine Worlds Workshop-
-Last Apocalypse Forge-

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've been away for a while but I'm very pleased to say that very similar conversations have been had since I joined this forum a little while ago ;) It's inspiring and I hope that by this time next year I'll be done with grad school, and back to working hot metal. I may even have thought my way out of a corner or two and will be able to return the favor from so many here (too many to name for fear of accidentally leaving someone out!)

Kristopher Skelton, M.A.

"There was never a good knife made from bad steel"

A quiet person will perish ~ Basotho Proverb

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I suppose the counter-argument to full open-book style conversation, is that which was mentioned, regarding a large amount of personal sacrifice to understand a particular process or "secret" to how something works. Other people then just want a recipe to follow, and don't really own the knowledge that goes into what's happening, which cheapens it for the one who did the hard work. The worse cases are when it gets mis-represented by those who don't really understand it, and that makes public perception of good work even more important.


I've had occasions where I was frustrated with the lack of free-flowing information on a topic, until I was taught by my mentors that they could tell me everything, and I wouldn't understand it because I had no context in which to place it. There are dues, and they're not social or ego-based, but you have to do a certain amount of your own hard work to earn the knowledge you need to put those next steps into their proper place. Giving too much too fast just confuses the beginner, and wastes the teacher's time.




But for all that, I find the best learning happens not on a forum (though there's plenty here) but in person, at hammer-in's, and at shows, and on weekends with one smith visiting anothers shop to help and learn and explore the craft. Those personal moments, for me at least, were the most rewarding in both knowledge and fellowship.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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