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kotajurmi

Reviving sword and knife maker in Bhutan

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Hi,

I am not sure if this is the right forum for my queries. If not pardon me.

Well, first of, I am not a blacksmith/blade smith. However I have been entrusted with a project to revive the dying art of traditional sword and knife making in Bhutan (a small himalayan kingdom). It is not just preserving the art but also to promote as a viable livelihood. The last of the master craftsman is in his 80s. The attempt is being made to train some younger folks to take up the craft. However, to do it in a traditional way, the younger folks are not interested. It is considered dirty, physically exhaustive. Therefore, to make it appealing to younger folks, we would like to mechanize certain processes of production.

1. Require technical advice in adopting and using efficient forge. Traditionally and currently we use charcoal forge.

2. Advice in using mechanical/ pneumatic forge hammer. Currently it is manually done, engaging two persons for forge hammering.

3. The art of making sword with laminated still is sort of lost now. I would like to seek your technical expertise to revive this as well.

We have initiated the project in a modest way with 5 learners through sort of apprenticeship under the only existing master artisan in a 4 X 6 mtrs workshop. We are also thinking about possibility of engaging an expert to help us in mechanizing the essential processes and train the user in proper handling of the tools. That way, we may also require expert advice in designing a proper production house subsequently.

I am the project manager acting as the defacto expert, in absence of any, in the field of managing a iron craft project.

Any kind of expert advice and opinion will be helpful and to initiate further collaboration.

Help.

Karma

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about_sword.pdf

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Edited by kotajurmi
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Hello and welcome.

This is a very noble undertaking. I am not experienced enough yet to be of much help but I am certain that you have come to right place.

Best wishes.

Charles

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Welcome!  That is indeed a worthwhile undertaking.  I hope someone here can step forward to assist, because we have many people who have the knowledge you ask about.  It's just a matter of getting it to you.  

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I have a couple of questions that might get things started.

1)  Do you have access to gas fuels like propane?

2)  Can we see a picture of the forge you are using?

3)  What kind of access do you have to electricity?

4)  Smiths world wide have built mechanical powerhammers, have you looked at those designs?  Or, are you aware of them at all?

I agree with Alan, this is an important and worthwhile project.  My first impulse is to pack a bag and get on a plane.  A more reasoned thought is that perhaps as you get some momentum on the project, bringing one (or more) of you here might give better results.  I'm sure seeing what smiths have already been able to accomplish and having a better understanding of the limitations of your own environment, you could adapt some of our tools to your shop.

As a quick thought (and be advised, I have not had my morning coffee yet)

Treadle hammer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_PQSxM82cU

Shop built power hammer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tPTLwmxsWc

This thread about small jack presses  https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?/topic/9932-my-mini-hydraulic-press/

Waste oil forges, burning used motor oil

I think you've come to the right place, I really hope we can help you, and not just for the opportunity to teach, but also for the treasure trove of knowledge your master smith represents.

Good Luck

 

Geoff 

 

 

Edited by Geoff Keyes
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Mr. Keyes is quite correct and much better versed on the threads available than I since I am also quite new to this forum. His questions, suggestions and references are what I was preparing to labor on today.

Since he has done such a fine job covering that end of what I can see as the start of the technical end please allow me to contribute from my experience in teaching and in stimulating local, craft-based, "cottage industries".

I hope that you have a background in business because that is going to be the core of a "revival" of craft industries. In most places nothing attracts the interests of potential participants like seeing the financial success of others. This is also essential to keeping those already involved on board. A good business model and plan will be essential. Without going too far into it I would suggest looking at how the Nepalese have done it with regards to their "kamis" or bladesmiths and the khukuri. They have taken a tool/weapon from their cultural history that is small enough to be cheaper to produce, ship etc, and built on its legend. People in the large U.S. market buy using, working, historic, unique and collectable versions. They debate the benefits of each on the internet. This certainly leads to sales of traditional Nepalese swords but they sell a truck load of khukuris for every sword they sell. I would suggest finding such an edged weapon that has a history and ties to the culture that is unique and begin creating the legend.

Make it something, if possible, that is simple for the students to produce in a semi-uniform manner as a first full project and still be the "Flagship" of the industry so that, when on their own, the smiths can create their own variations to keep everyone's interest.

Good luck with this project. If I were younger .......

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Kotajurmi,sir,hi.

If i may,i'd like to isolate this quote from your letter,and base an answer on that,namely," It is not just preserving the art but also to promote as a viable livelihood ",and even further,to focus my reply to the word "VIABLE".

That term,"viability",may be interpreted in it's literal sense.If you do indeed mean it that way,then i'll humbly fade from any discussion,but i have the feeling that you mean that in a broader,let's say Cultural,sense...

(if only because you (most wisely,in my opinion) chose to ask your questions here,this place where so many participate and exchange knowledge for reasons of Inspiration,the genuine Interest in the Craft,the Magic even,to put it archly,delving deeply into the great validity and Importance of metalwork...).

For the true,grittty "viability" of a crass,"The Principles of Scientific Efficiency" kind,is practiced par excellence to your Huge neighbor to the N.E.,as well as to your (nearly as huge)neighbor and trade-partner to the south... 

It so happens that a couple of friends of mine have recently come back from Bhutan.They've attended a scientific conference there(complex,but mycology being the main thrust),had an Absolute wonderful,fascinating time meeting people and discussing assorted things with them.One of which just happened to be ironwork.It seems that the percieved "dirt/difficulty/et c." were not the only(maybe not even the main)objection that the young had against it,but it's mundane,prosaic,Strictly Practical,BORING nature....

Such is life....People NEED Poetry,Magic,Hope in their lives...It's no joke(and i don't care how difficult it is to quantify...let that be the Quantifiers' problem:)...and,as a matter of fact,Bhutan is uniquely the very place where such challenges are very bravely picked up by the King and the government,my hat's off to the Kingdom for even that alone....).

So to me That is the Viability,rediscovering the richness of traditional craft,putting the Magic back into it,and everything else Will follow.

Which all will indeed need Some technological advancement,but it's the easiest part....(buy a 50 kg(or bigger) Anyang,and stick with charcoal,everything else can be learned,and will fall into place).

The challenge will be in education,in Demonstrating people that it is,indeed,Worthwhile.

I'd recommend reading anything that any number of European countries have been working on regarding Heritage Crafts concept....Also,a very good book that contains Much valid data is; https://www.dukeupress.edu/surviving-against-the-odds

And just as a loose thought,for the success of this project  Cultural Anthropology is your friend...(and this forum:)....

William Morris...NOT Henry Ford!:)

Much respect.

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Hello Karma,

A few years before your King abdicated his thrown He had wished to revive Sword Making in Bhutan. I was contacted to help with this craft revival and began a study of Bhutanese and Himalayan swords and Knives.  An American in Illinois (lets call him Mr. A) was involved with logistics on this matter and corresponded with smiths in the US and your consolate here in the US. He traveled to Bhutan to work out some concepts and to study (and buy I think) some old swords from temples and old families.

I enlisted the aid of Don Fogg, Larry Harley and Kevin Cashen to plan the initial focus of the revival and eventually teach smiths in Bhutan how to make the traditional blades and to sell them on the world market. This went on for about a year with talks between the Bhutanese government and we in the US. It is my understanding that what began as a revival of traditional craft and by the end it became a "factory" mentality where the "school" would be located in a central area with Hydro power and induction forges and air hammers in an attempt to compete with Pakistan and India for knife production. At this point Mr. A became more distant in my talks with him and unreasonable in his demands and it soon fell apart.

I would be happy to assist in the revival of traditional craft sword making in Bhutan, but if you wish to make a somewhat modern factory to compete with other countries in your region then I am not interested. 

 

Yours,

Ric Furrer

 

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Good Sir:

If I understand your situation correctly, you are involved with a project to revive a traditional occupation using modern tools and methods. This can be tricky because the basic skills are best learned (my opinion) using traditional tools. As for the side subject of making it financially viable, possibly even a new industry, this will be very difficult to do rapidly using the traditional methods because the learning curve is so steep and the time investment so large.

I think the first thing for your group to do is to prioritize the desired outcomes. Is keeping the traditional craft and skills of the master alive the top priority or is the financial success? Is the continuation of cultural identity through the tools (blade forms) the highest priority? Which ones can be considered secondary or even incidental? Are there other goals that have not been mentioned? Where do they fall in the priority list?

Once the goals have been prioritized, the most efficient means of achieving them can be outlined and a plan to develop the program can be instigated.

For instance, if the priorities  (in order of importance) are listed this way:

1. Keep the Bhutanese cultural identity alive in the traditional blades of our people.

2. Create a viable industry and occupation for our younger generation.

3. Revive the traditional methods of ironwork and foster a resurgence of metal-smithing in Bhutan.

Then I would suggest focus on investing in the equipment needed in the order of importance listed. Making the blades and handles need not be accomplished through forging the blades. It could be done mass-production style through stock removal methods. This would teach the basic grinding and shaping skills to students and put product on the market in a relatively short time frame. Thus exposing the world to the cultural identity and creating the demand.

The forging and steel working can be a side subject reserved for those so inclined to pursue the true craft. Invest in the traditional forge, hammers, anvils, and associated equipment on a small scale and take a couple of interested students who have the "fire in the belly" to learn how to do it.

This is a very complex subject and it requires a very detailed and well defined list of objectives.

 

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This a thoroughly facinating subject and I wish every succes to those involved.

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On 9/30/2017 at 10:25 PM, Geoff Keyes said:

I have a couple of questions that might get things started.

1)  Do you have access to gas fuels like propane?

2)  Can we see a picture of the forge you are using?

3)  What kind of access do you have to electricity?

4)  Smiths world wide have built mechanical powerhammers, have you looked at those designs?  Or, are you aware of them at all?

I agree with Alan, this is an important and worthwhile project.  My first impulse is to pack a bag and get on a plane.  A more reasoned thought is that perhaps as you get some momentum on the project, bringing one (or more) of you here might give better results.  I'm sure seeing what smiths have already been able to accomplish and having a better understanding of the limitations of your own environment, you could adapt some of our tools to your shop.

As a quick thought (and be advised, I have not had my morning coffee yet)

Treadle hammer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_PQSxM82cU

Shop built power hammer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tPTLwmxsWc

This thread about small jack presses  https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?/topic/9932-my-mini-hydraulic-press/

Waste oil forges, burning used motor oil

I think you've come to the right place, I really hope we can help you, and not just for the opportunity to teach, but also for the treasure trove of knowledge your master smith represents.

Good Luck

 

Geoff 

 

 

Thank you Geoff. That was very insightful. Answer for some of your questions...

1.  As of now we haven't explored the use and availability of propane fuel. If need be, I am sure we can source it from neighbouring town of India.

2. I have attached a video file of the traditional forge being used. However the background noise is not from the forge.

3. Electricity is not an issue. Supply and connection is stable. (230 volts and 50 hertz).

4. Yes, I have been exploring videos on you tube on various forging hammers and personally I am more for fabricating and building one than buying some 25-30 kg Anyang pneumatic forging hammer. In which case, a help in the design and specification for the build will have to be sought.

An indeed,  for sure I have landed in the right forum, gauging by the overwhelming responses and recommendations for the thread.

Thank you everyone. 

Karma

 

forge.mp4

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