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Emiliano Carrillo

Japanese Style Work/not a one trick pony

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Hey everyone! I was looking at a piece I had made a few months ago today and realized I don't think I've ever shared any of my Japanese style work on the forum before. My fascination with swords and smithing started when I was young just like most of us here. I started doing research on our ancient computer and learned about clay heat treating and 'natural hamon' and the proper ways to take care of a sword. I then convinced my parents to let me buy a $200 katana at some nearby martial arts/fantasy weapons sort of store, and cared for that thing for years before I even thought about the possibility of putting hammer to anvil. I began making almost exactly five years ago now and knew right away that the Japanese style work was too advanced for my skill level, and I should leave it for a later time if at all. I had a ww2 blade that I got from a friend that I had polished up and made a habaki for that gave me an idea of what this sort of work could entail. 

 

I made the mune/spine fit incorrectly and the habaki is too thick near the front, otherwise this was a good start!

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Meeting an extremely knowledgeable collector of Nihonto and starting to practice Iaido made me take another look, this time more seriously into the Japanese work. He was extremely generous in letting me bring home pieces from his collection to study every time I went over to see him, and little by little I began to seriously entertain the idea of moving into that style of work. He asked me to make a habaki for a 500 year old tachi he owns, which certainly made the stakes higher.

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After that project was under my belt I began to think seriously about using an antique blade for Iaido, instead of the aluminum bladed Iaito that I had been using previously. With some help on the saya from our own Matt Venier I made a mounting for a sword from the early 1500's to use in practice. This was the first real attempt at tsukamaki after my cursory practice with shoe string to re tie my old crappy katana when the wrap came apart when I was young. I used old tosogu to create the koshirae, using a rather wide tsuba and shishi dog menuki with grass and butterfly fuchi and kashira.  

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I started getting a little more into the mounting work after that first success and did some collaborations with Matt which were a lot of fun (and less stressful than working on old blades!)

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Aikuchi style koshirae for an osoraku-zukuri tanto Matt forged.

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A mounting job I did for my collector friend who wanted a beautiful tanto he has mounted in these excellent mino-goto fittings.

 

Later I took a more recent (maybe 250 year old) Sukesada that I took a real liking to and gave it the full treatment, with a really beautifully matched set of peony fittings. The tsukamaki work in this photo is still unfinished, it is in place but not adjusted and tightened yet. 

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I played around with some modern steel here and there but didn't really see the point. The stuff I am captivated by was all made from tamahagane, so I knew one day the journey would lead me there. I think I have done two blades I am happy with in modern steel with hamon. This is the first! Some mystery high carbon steel forge welded to some iron that I quenched in water.

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Next I made a few more habaki for various projects, playing with styles and finish a little, but sticking to copper. 

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I went and visited Mark Green and we made some oroshigane which became the starting stock for these two knives I sent to a gallery last year or the year before for an exhibition. Both are from the same bar, folded 11 times and quenched in water. 

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It was around this time I decided to get off my ass and start using the hearth steel/oroshigane I had been making for my Viking work and use it for Japanese style work as well. In the past few months I have moved almost exclusively to using it for Japanese work. 

 

I chose the name Ame Mistu 天光, which translates roughly to Heaven's Light, which sounds awfully lofty, but is the closest I could get to Sun and Stars, which is my regular smithing handle. Swordmiths art names were generally not even directly related to their own names, but often taking a kanji from their teacher and adding one they liked. So I decided using the moniker I have been going under and porting over to the Japanese tradition made the most sense! I also did my due diligence and throughly researched, it appears no smith ever signed this particular way before. 

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A yanone made from oroshigane as a test of the form and also to see how small I can do my signature! 

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Here's where things start to get a little more interesting/complicated! I began to make blades from the oroshigane to see how far I could take it and how close I could get to traditional Japanese work. By rough estimation maybe 20% of the blades have been successes. The rest have been lacking in carbon, because of the high levels of phosphorous in the material I was using for the melts. That coupled with the repeated folding and decarb left me with very little usable material. 

 

There were several blades like this one, that had excellent hada but very low hamon, that took some diligence to bring out in the polish.

 

I started experimenting with different ways of folding and refining the material to achieve different hada, mine is on the left, and an antique on the right.

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Some of the hamon were rather weak, indicative of perhaps .4% carbon or even lower, though still high enough to create a delineation between hard and soft steel.

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I experimented with making a two piece habaki, which is great because it is all of the work of a one piece habaki, that you then have to cut into and mess with, loads of fun! 

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A few of them came out pretty well, in shape and in terms of the hamon. While I was frustrated when I found the root of the troubles, it was nice to build the practice folding and working the steel. Each blade was folded roughly between 11-18 times to achieve the final hada. 

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I forged a particularly nice piece of steel and while it was cooling and the clay drying, I used some old 1075 from Aldo and water quenched it to see what it could do, and ended up with a beautiful extremely wispy hamon. This is the second modern steel piece I've been happy with to date!

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I then did another experiment, this time a little longer. I am aiming to one day make katana or even tachi, but that is a long way off! This tanto has a beautiful open hada with an active hamon. I did a slow motion shot of it going into the water. 

 

A video as polished

 

And a still shot

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A tiny beautiful kogatana made from steel folded 18 times. The chunk next to it in the video is some of the raw oroshigane it came from.

 

And the crowning achievement thus far for me is this next blade. While the look of the kogatana is almost indistinguishable from traditionally made blades I have seen, this tanto is my personal favorite. It also astonished me by reaching over 64 RC during hardening. The hada is a tight mokume mixed with itame with a powerful habuchi and wonderfully wispy hamon. Right at the kaeri there are sprays of nie, which are crystals of martensite you can see scattered throughout the hamon. 

 

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Anyway! Hope you guys like what I've been up to for the last while!

 

-Emiliano

Edited by Emiliano Carrillo
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Wow.....beautiful blades and very skilled work.

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Great work Emiliano!, I love seeing your japanese work.

I think there is a lot of similarities in doing japanese and early medieval blades, seeing as the japanese blades are of somewhat archaic design themselves.

I would get quite nervous working on a 500 year old blade, one small mistake would be terrible, but it looks like you pulled it of nicely.

Your homemade steel looks great, very nice grain patterns and very brave water quenching something so much work has gone into.

Every time I see your work I get inspired to get to the forge, as you do the kind of work I want to do,  I think you got a few years of head-start on me however.;)

 

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I don't have time for a proper reply, but awesome stuff as always man! 

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What Zeb said, but remember, this forum was founded on Japanese-style work by Don Fogg and others!  We fiery-bearded seax-punks took it off the rails about ten years ago. :lol:  Keep on posting, that is excellent work!

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What I was wanting to say earlier is how I'd love to be a fly on the wall of your shop! I think you are a year older than me IIRC, but you're already a master at what you do, working at the level of smiths 3x your age! I look forward to seeing you get even better. And the cods you must have for working on antiques like that! Good incentive not to mess it up I guess! 

By the way, I tried your water quench method on a 1075 blade the other day. I thought I undershot it like you said, but still ended up with a crack. 

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Wow, as if you weren't already ego-bustingly inspiring before.

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16 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Wow, as if you weren't already ego-bustingly inspiring before.

The first time I met Emiliano was at Ashokan a couple of years ago.  It was late on the first evening, I was tired from the drive, and there was alcohol involved.  I was sitting around with Owen and Jake and Jul, and suddenly this freakin' awesome silver-mounted seax complete with belt and fittings appeared on the table.  I looked up at the bushy-headed kid who was holding it, and said "This is damn fine work, who the hell are you?  I need to know."  When he smiled and said "Emiliano from the forum, don't I look like my pictures?" I had to laugh.  Then he brought out his swords... :o  Yeah, he's a force of nature.  B)

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Great story and I can see why you are proud of that last tanto, absolutely magnificent activity in the hamon. You continue to inspire and educate, can't wait to see what you make next!

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All I can say is WOW!!! This is amazing stuff!!! Its makes my brain spin.

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Ame Mistu shines upon you.   Beautiful work.

Edited by Doug Webster

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That is some very fine work Emiliano. The hada (if I’m using the term correctly*) you’re achieving is superb.

(*grain/watering)

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On 2/5/2019 at 3:21 AM, Gerhard Gerber said:

Wow.....beautiful blades and very skilled work.

Thanks Gerhard! 

On 2/5/2019 at 4:16 AM, Pieter-Paul Derks said:

Great work Emiliano!, I love seeing your japanese work.

I think there is a lot of similarities in doing japanese and early medieval blades, seeing as the japanese blades are of somewhat archaic design themselves.

I would get quite nervous working on a 500 year old blade, one small mistake would be terrible, but it looks like you pulled it of nicely.

Your homemade steel looks great, very nice grain patterns and very brave water quenching something so much work has gone into.

Every time I see your work I get inspired to get to the forge, as you do the kind of work I want to do,  I think you got a few years of head-start on me however.;)

 

Thanks so much Pieter! Yes I certainly agree, they are both stuck in time as it were but I believe the way the Japanese pieces are finished may not have been far off from some of the higher end Medieval pieces! I have done my faux Japanese style polish on some of my Viking Age pattern welded pieces and they look fantastic with that treatment. 

The tachi was definitely stressful, but it worked well and nothing was damaged! It was a good sign to continue work in this tradition! As for water quenching, I water quench anything made from oroshigane, it just is the only way! Some of the pieces I have made get quite hard, and may possibly harden well in oil, but some of the hataraki (activities) in the hamon just don't look the same if hardened in water, so it is the only way! I am not scared of it, and have not had any cracked blades yet! 

Thank you for the kind words, they mean quite a lot and I am happy to be able to provide some inspiration! It is all practice after all! The last five years have taught me that only you stand in the way of your own progress! 

On 2/5/2019 at 2:15 PM, Alan Longmire said:

What Zeb said, but remember, this forum was founded on Japanese-style work by Don Fogg and others!  We fiery-bearded seax-punks took it off the rails about ten years ago. :lol:  Keep on posting, that is excellent work!

Jesus especially is a big reason why I am down this rabbit hole! Mark Green introduced me to the process of hearth melting almost five years ago now and while I didn't do it right away I knew that some day my path would lead me here! 

On 2/5/2019 at 6:18 PM, Zeb Camper said:

What I was wanting to say earlier is how I'd love to be a fly on the wall of your shop! I think you are a year older than me IIRC, but you're already a master at what you do, working at the level of smiths 3x your age! I look forward to seeing you get even better. And the cods you must have for working on antiques like that! Good incentive not to mess it up I guess! 

By the way, I tried your water quench method on a 1075 blade the other day. I thought I undershot it like you said, but still ended up with a crack. 

I'm 24 now! I feel like an old man, or at least my body does sometimes! And thank you, I really appreciate that! While I'm certainly not a master yet, it is humbling to progress at the rate I have because it shows me just how much further there is to go! The antique work is fun now! Not as stressful as the first time :) It is nice to care for something old and give it some new duds, be it habaki or the whole nine yards. 

As for the quenching is it low manganese 1075? I have had some very odd pieces recently that have reacted in all sorts of weird ways to oil and water quenches. I would try again and undershoot the temp while making sure the spine isn't as hot if possible! the 1075 blade up above is the one I was referring to last time btw 

On 2/5/2019 at 9:09 PM, Brian Dougherty said:

Wow, as if you weren't already ego-bustingly inspiring before.

Thank you Brian! 

On 2/6/2019 at 1:49 PM, Alan Longmire said:

The first time I met Emiliano was at Ashokan a couple of years ago.  It was late on the first evening, I was tired from the drive, and there was alcohol involved.  I was sitting around with Owen and Jake and Jul, and suddenly this freakin' awesome silver-mounted seax complete with belt and fittings appeared on the table.  I looked up at the bushy-headed kid who was holding it, and said "This is damn fine work, who the hell are you?  I need to know."  When he smiled and said "Emiliano from the forum, don't I look like my pictures?" I had to laugh.  Then he brought out his swords... :o  Yeah, he's a force of nature.  B)

 I was just telling someone the other day about the indecent with the moonshine and the taser spear! That was a fantastic Ashokan, I can't wait for the next sword year, maybe I'll have to make something special for it :) That was a great one, I met Owen and Jake and Peter for the first time there! That was a whirlwind for sure, but I got great feedback and managed to meet a lot of the people I have wanted to for a long time, yourself included! Thanks Alan, I appreciate it!

On 2/6/2019 at 5:26 PM, James Higson said:

Great story and I can see why you are proud of that last tanto, absolutely magnificent activity in the hamon. You continue to inspire and educate, can't wait to see what you make next!

Thanks James! That one is special to me, gonna get mounted up some day when I am good enough for it! Thanks brother :)

On 2/7/2019 at 8:42 PM, JASON VOLKERT said:

All I can say is WOW!!! This is amazing stuff!!! Its makes my brain spin.

Thank you! I appreciate it! 

On 2/8/2019 at 9:26 AM, Doug Webster said:

Ame Mistu shines upon you.   Beautiful work.

Thank you Doug! I was kind of nervous choosing the name at first, but as I keep working in this style it feels more and more like it fits! 

On 2/8/2019 at 3:08 PM, larsjacobsen said:

Very nice work .....

 

Thank you Lars! 

On 2/9/2019 at 4:55 AM, Charles du Preez said:

That is some very fine work Emiliano. The hada (if I’m using the term correctly*) you’re achieving is superb.

(*grain/watering)

Thats exactly the term! Thanks Charles! The folding has been the most interesting part for me, I alternate the folding direction every three folds until the very end which is were some of the experimentation happens. Depends on the number of folds! I've done up to 18 folds so far and ended up with this fantastic super fine grain, and also done 11 folds and ended up with a very lazy wide woodgrain pattern, so it's nice to know I can more or less shoot for whatever complexity of pattern I want to achieve! 

 

 

 

Here's one of the pieces from this evenings polishing session:

 

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17 hours ago, Emiliano Carrillo said:

 

"I'm 24 now! I feel like an old man, or at least my body does sometimes!  I'm certainly not a master yet, it is humbling to progress at the rate I have because it shows me just how much further there is to go!"

I know exactly what you mean! It really hit me this year. I'm only 22, but also feel like an old man. I think I tore my body up in my teenage years and got into enough stuff that I'd really just rather not anymore. You ever see that meme thats like "my fondest childhood memories are not having back pain"? :lol: I also know what you mean about the "the more you know; the more you realize you don't know" contradiction. 

"As for the quenching is it low manganese 1075? I have had some very odd pieces recently that have reacted in all sorts of weird ways to oil and water quenches. I would try again and undershoot the temp while making sure the spine isn't as hot if possible! the 1075 blade up above is the one I was referring to last time btw"

Yeah, it's from Aldo. Same stuff my seax was made of and it got an auto hamon in it with an oil quench, so I think it's low Mn. I did heat the whole blade. I wasnt going for a hamon though. Just did it to see if I could. I'll give it another try. Thanks! 

 

 

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Well, Emiliano, thank you for the lavish display. Thank you for the inspiration and the desire to overcome my inertia and get to work. Lastly, thanks for making me feel terribly old and inadequate. A man needs some humility.

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1 hour ago, Joshua States said:

Well, Emiliano, thank you for the lavish display. Thank you for the inspiration and the desire to overcome my inertia and get to work. Lastly, thanks for making me feel terribly old and inadequate. A man needs some humility.

What's worse is that I now suspect he may have been at the Oakland Axe-and-Seax-in in 2013 and I didn't remember it. :ph34r: I do remember John Page and Luke Shearer, and thinking at the time that was the first bunch of talented young guys to make me feel old and inadequate. :lol:  Well, the first was Jake Powning in 2003, but I'm only around eight years older than him. 

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3 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

What's worse is that I now suspect he may have been at the Oakland Axe-and-Seax-in in 2013 and I didn't remember it. :ph34r: I do remember John Page and Luke Shearer, and thinking at the time that was the first bunch of talented young guys to make me feel old and inadequate. :lol:  Well, the first was Jake Powning in 2003, but I'm only around eight years older than him. 

I wish! I started in January of 14! Otherwise I'm sure I would have been there. My only exposure to this world before then had been Jake Pownings website which I landed on by accident once in high school :)

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6 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Well, Emiliano, thank you for the lavish display. Thank you for the inspiration and the desire to overcome my inertia and get to work. Lastly, thanks for making me feel terribly old and inadequate. A man needs some humility.

Humility is the reason I think I've advanced quickly! I am always a student in any room I'm in, even if it's technically in the capacity of a teacher. There's so much inspiration to see in everyone's work, all you have to is be open to it and let that energy flow into new work! Thanks for the kind words :) I'm so happy to be able to give some inspiration! 

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1 hour ago, Emiliano Carrillo said:

I wish! I started in January of 14!

That's wonderful. In the honored words of Miracle Max:

Seriously though, I love your work. Keep it coming.  As Albert King told Stevie Ray Vaughn, "You good, but you gonna git better"

https://youtu.be/i1LzW-XijXE

Excellent Blues. Check it out.

 

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I think I follow your work in every possible venue that you post in, and you are one of the most talented people I know Emiliano.  I wish that I had been half the maker you were at your age.  Hell, I still wish that :D

That oroshigane tanto just plans smokes though.  That steel is captivating.

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