The Process of Blademaking

Hi-zukuri (forging the blade to shape)

The blade is forged to shape by heating in an open charcoal forge and then hammering to shape with a handheld hammer.


The Forge

James forging the blade


Shiage (rough grinding and filing)

Although the blade is basically shaped in the forging, James uses a belt grinder and rough stone to remove scale, clean and true up the blade in preparation for applying the clay.

Using the belt grinder


Tsuchi-oki (placing the clay)

James uses a clay mixed with carbon powder, iron filings and a small amount of ash taken from Asama Yama volcano in Japan.

A thin layer of clay is applied to the entire blade, then a thicker layer is applied to the spine of the blade, and a network of clay lines perpendicular to the edge create ashi.

Different patterns of clay create differing hamon and James has schooled himself in various hamon styles and is always working on new and more complex hamon patterns.

Placing the clay lines

Thick Clay on Spine

Blade with Clay On


Yaki-ire (quenching to harden the edge and create hamon)

The blade, coated in clay, is heated in a charcoal forge and the plunged into water. The only guide here is experience and intuition!

This is the most dramatic moment in creating a blade, is the time when the steel is transformed and a blade is born. It goes without saying that this is also the time when most blades are ruined.

Heating the Blade

Quenching the Blade

Blade after Quenching


Sorinaoshi (adjusting the curvature)

During yaki-ire the blade curvature reverses and then returns, often changing the curvature of the blade.If the blade has too much curvature, then it can be released by hammering along the spine of the blade.

Releasing the Curvature of the Blade


Karji togi (rough polishing)

The size and main outlines of the blade are determined in the forging process, the final shaping is done using a belt grinder.

Grinding the Blade

James polishes his blades using a belt grinder and fine stones. Although his polish brings out hamon very clearly, it is a smith’s polish and nothing more.

Polishing on Belt Grinder



James is now polishing his blades in the traditional way, using a series of stones to hand polish. This trues up the blade, sharpens the lines and brings out the hamon and activity in the blade.

Rough Stone Polishing

Polishing Area

Fine Stone Polishing


Mei-kiri (carving the signature)

The blade is now signed in Japanese kanji. Using a small chisel and hammer, James places his signature on the public side and the date on the private side. Other information is sometimes added on the private side.

Signed Tang

Signed Tang