Building and operating a traditional tatara

In the summer of 2010, Achim Wirtz (check some of his work here)  & Pavel Rihacek did build and operate a low-furnace tatara (kera-oshi tatara) with the help of their wifes Katerina & Alexandra and the folks from Lohmann Stahl. They started to build the tatara on Saturday the 12th and finished it by Wednesday the 16th (so you thought you could build that in a single afternoon ;) ). The original tatara, as you can find them in Japan are 3m long and 1m wide but since they only had 1

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What would you like to ask to Pierre ?

Through a couple of friends, I was able to get in touch with Pierre and was very , very excited about that. To keep things very short, Pierre is a “Western guy” who traveled for the first time to Japan in 2002 and was amazed by the fact that there were still real traditional swordsmiths living and working in Japan. The very idea of working alone, at peace, retired in a workshop set in the countryside, nearby a fire, with steel only for raw material, doing a work that never ceases to bring renewal

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Tamahagane, the original steel used by the Japanese swordsmiths

Steel is iron that contains carbon, so the more carbon a steel has , the harder it is. Most of the Japanese sword smiths are working with the traditional steel that is better known as tamahagane. In Japan there’s only 1 official smelter left. This Japanese style smelter is called a tatara. The tatara relies on the propensity of very hot iron to combine with carbon in its vicinity to produce steel. In the tatara, it is the burning charcoal that supplies the carbon. These typical Japanese smelter

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Hardening process of a japanese sword – part 2

When the clay coating process is done, the blade is heated again until it reach it’s critical temperature, which depends on the kind of steel that is used but will have an average of 750 - 800°C. Once the blade reached the 750-800°C, the structure of steel changes to austenite. Now, when the blade is quickly cooled by quenching (in water), austenite changes to martensite, the hardest type of steel. However, because of the clay application, the blade will cool more slowly where the clay is thick

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Hardening process of a sword – part 1

Lately I was involved in a discussion about the hardening process of a Japanese sword and I did found it very inspiring to write a small piece about that just to give you a better understanding of that part of the forging process. The hardening process of the blade is in one of the most important and perhaps the most difficult part of the  sword making process. It is the correct hardening of the Japanese sword that gives the blade its ability to take and retain an amazing sharpness. After the

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