BACK TO BLADESIGN


A REVIEW

INTRODUCTION

FOR me a sword or a knife is not primarily a weapon, but very much a work of art that can be achieved by various means: traditional and non traditional. To me, as a creative person, tradition has its merits, mainly in terms of steel treatment, but under a contemporary perspective that I very much subscribe, I prefer to dwell in the realms of other vocabularies, and tune in to what, at a certain moment, a smith produced that has impressed me.
To design is not always necessarily to make an affirmative egotist attitude, but rather to read what is there, and from there evolve into different areas.
My earlier collaboration with Joe Walters has originated some works that I would like to show here as a more understandable way to present this final project, since nothing happens or evolves out of nothing.


THE EARLY CONTACTS

THE conceptualization of anything and the journey until its final materialization is indeed a time of great challenge.
Joe Walters
took up this collaborative order and challenge of making a tanto from a single piece of 1080 steel rod with just stock removal and pitting techniques. In other words it is a tanto entirely made of one single piece of steel, tempered, edge hardened, and  textured without any welding of any of the tanto parts.
The fact that it is a tanto can be seen as a pretext. But it is not only just a pretext. It embodies an exhaustive amount of work that is required to achieve the final result. The fact that it incorporates a tsuba, a habaki, all carved out from the same piece shows the mastery of the bladesmith.
As you travel through the design concept until the different steps of the making, I am sure you will be able to enjoy the mastery of Joe Walter's art in steel and appreciate his great control of texturing steel in a way that I have never seen done in such a consistent way.
The first section of this review shows the interactive relationship of this partnership work. My aim was to push Joe Walter's immense natural talent to wider limits so as to prove my conviction that he is just surfacing as an immensely talented bladesmith with plenty to show in the coming years.
I don't think Joe seeks recognition. He mainly enjoys taking the most unexpected challenges. However I believe he should deserve all merit and recognition for plenty of his work, and most specially for this piece, where the utilitarian gave way to pure art form, without any loss of the former. It is no novelty to me his profound but unprocclaimed knowledge on metallurgy. Joe has previously done for me another tanto, that I called a textured skinner.
Antonio Cejunior - BLADESIGN


THE CONCEPTUAL PHASE

The textured tsuka, apart from being organized as the illustration below (texture growing and becoming large and bolder on the second half of the tsuka) as in the letter opener, should have a compatible gray color corresponding to the buffalo horn with dark color in the interstices and much lighter color on the extruding areas of the texture.
Hamon : hoping for a whitish hamon (frosted) as in the rendition below.

Click for larger image. It would be a 7 inches hira-zukuri blade and a 4.5 inches tsuka, all made out of one piece of steel. In other words, a hymn to virtuosity.

Click for larger image. Just a view on the sections. O Kissaki can be noticed.

Click for larger image. The saya is made of black buffalo horn lined inside. However, due to the fact that the horn's length is 5 inches I inserted a decorative ring in mild polished steel with the same thickness of the tsuba ( 6mm) at a distance of 1 3/4 inches from the saya's mouth, so that a horn addition can be placed gaining the 1 3/4 inches plus 6 mm. This makes almost 2 inches plus about 4.5 inches of usable horn length discounting the insertions grooves. The rest would be achieved by the same mild steel kojiri. This would then allow for the maximization of the horn. This is just a solution that will be in tune with the entire piece's spirit.
Tsuba and metallic saya parts in a satin finish would look great.


THE MAKING

A piece of a 1080 steel rod in its original state. Should measure about 12 to 13 inches

The steel rod and the first cut on it while immobilized at the press.

The tanto at sunobe stage. The presence of the heat treatment is visible.

At this stage the tanto section and kissaki, as well as the fixed habaki are already visible.

A further clean up of the blade area

A picture of the tanto with refractory cement applied for edge hardening.

Now the heat treatment and quench shows a visible hamon, while the tsuka is being prepared for further work. Tsuba has also been cleared to its final shape before texturing is applied.

Here the almost finished tanto is visible. Texture has been laid, a beautiful texture in the habaki has been placed, as if bearing a habuchi and there are final steps such as polishing the bade and finishing the tsuka.
As I see it, this piece was originated on a permanent interactive dialogue between me and Joe Walters.

 However it is even a greater show of skill and talent when a bladesmith can make two pieces of the same design, satisfying the desire of two customers. One piece could be considered a one time adventure, but two pieces are just the consecration of the smith's ability to create differently and the same all in a go.


THE FINISHED WORK

As the receiving end I was a little bit puzzled by the quick pictures that I knew Joe took to satisfy my request for a review. However I was amazed by the view of the real tanto in my hands. It was amazing to see how much it matched what I have asked Joe Walters to do, plus the textured habaki that he incorporated.

I can say that this is one of those cases in which reality transcends the fiction of a concept. In every aspect care and love can be felt in the way the piece is built. In this case, as can be read on the conceptual phase, the saya is horn and it is entirely lined inside for safe keeping of the blade while the fit of the habaki is superb.

A full view of the saya and the tanto in all it's one piece sculptured steel glory is indeed a joy to see. This is the realm of pure art, something that interests me as I see that the only way for swords in the present to be accepted by the non initiated, is to be as art pieces that can bear both a contemporary identity as well as functionality in a hibernation state, that is to say, making the weapon threat be dissolved by the artistic qualities.

This picture shows all that I wanted to show. Being a hira-zukuri, this sculptured piece displays a hamon with a nice habuchi a harmonious round boshi  and a full polished ji. Then the habaki is polished to a satin finish and decorated with a very fine and detailed very small pitting texture only to meet the tsuba in a in a satin finish again to then embark on a symphony of steel mastery, from small incised steel into larger chunks of beautiful texture.

A view of the tsuka in all its textured detail with the satin finished tsuba.

An opposite view of the tsuba and the pause that it represents on the busy surface.

Another detail of the habaki, tsuba and tsuka. A non conformist sculpture.
Joe Walters is a man to be watched and I am very glad to have worked in many projects, among which this one comes as a culmination.

Copyright Antonio Cejunior & Joe Walters 2003

TO GUESTBOOK
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