The Iaido Journal  May 2005
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Swordsmith Fusataro

copyright © 2005 EJMAS, all rights reserved

The Japanese blade is one of the more fascinating weapons in the history of mankind. How does one take iron sand and charcoal, combine them and make one of the finest swords in mankind's history? This really is a matter of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

For any martial artist or Japanophile, we recommend looking toward the Guelph School of Japanese Sword Arts this summer when Taro Asano (sword name Fusataro) will be presenting a seminar in the art of Japanese swordsmithing from June 27 to July 2. This is a six day lecture/demonstration course taught by a licensed Japanese smith from Seki City in Gifu, Japan, who works in a strict traditional lineage. Students will have ample opportunity to watch and learn during the course.

Fusataro studied under Fujiwara Kanefusa 24 and 25 (the 24th and 25th generation Kanefusa in a line of smiths that goes back to the 1400s). He will be assisted by Sebastien Cyr who will translate into English and French if desired. No previous experience in smithing is required for this course which runs from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday.

Instructors: Taro Asano (smith name Fusataro), with Sebastien Cyr as translator. The cost: $529 Canadian (includes $35 GST)

Go to for more information and a registration form. The course is not scheduled to be repeated next year so please take advantage of the opportunity this year.

Below we present a few photos of Fusataro at work in his forge.

Building the fire, note the charcoal between the bricks.

Here translator Sebastien Cyr pumps the bellows and rakes the charcoal.

Notice the square wooden bellows to the left of the forge. The Japanese bellows blows air on the push and the pull stroke, this blows through the bricks onto the charcoal, increasing the temperature.

What, you thought there would be apprentices with hammers to pound the steel? The power hammer costs a lot less than feeding apprentices.

A delicate tap to notch the steel so it can be folded.

Knocking over the block in preparation for the next forge-welded lamination.

Scraping off some slag to avoid inclusions in the folds.

Shaping the billet, keeping the edges neat.

Some adjustment with a smaller hammer.

Want to see the rest of the process? Learn how to select tamahagane? Find the secrets of clay hardening a blade? Check out

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TIN May 2005