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Carter Cutlery News

January 2009

Info Column

Murray, how did you get started in bladesmithing?

Well, it all started with a single knife style. See below for my story.

Do you have questions about steels, knifemaking, or just cutlery in general? Send us an email and Murray will be happy to answer them for you.

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I want to heartily wish you a Happy New Year for 2009 and I pray this year will be full of Peace and Joy for you and your family. Last year was an exciting year and this year looks like it might be even more thrilling! Whatever this New Year brings you, I hope that you are able to meet it with good health, vigor and a renewed supply of optimism.

December Promotions Report

The various sales campaigns that we held in December were a smashing success. Especially popular was the "Buy Two Knives, Get One Free" offer, followed by the "Two For One Bladesmithing School Tuition" offer. The revenue generated from these sales put Carter Cutlery in a very strong position to end the fiscal year and to position us for a strong start in 2009. As Carter Cutlery continues to grow and prosper, we look forward to more opportunities where we can "Exchange In Abundance" with you. I want to sincerely congratulate those of you who took advantage of the offers, and thank all of you for your continued patronage and support.

Bladesmithing School News

On December 10th, I conducted the last Traditional Japanese Bladesmithing Class of 2008. The class was very special for three reasons: 1) The class was about my absolute favorite type of blade, the Kuro-uchi Series; 2) the students were a family consisting of a father and his two oldest sons; and finally, 3) they are all dear friends of mine.

Patrick Knife Class

The two-day class was fast paced and smooth-flowing. At the end of the second day, the students had a fine 5.5-sun Kuro-uchi Wabocho, perfectly forged, heat-treated and sharpened to take home with them. Here is what they had to say:

"Thank you so much for the knife class. Those two days were a dream come true. Ever since I was small, I have had a fascination with knives, swords and the process of making them. The value of the class was enormous -- not only did you show me exactly how the Japanese have made knives for hundreds of years, you gave me the confidence that with time, devotion and hard work, I can make a good quality knife. You filled the days with your passion for teaching -- history, practical skills, and survival skills. I really can't thank you enough. I'll keep the lessons I learned about knife making with me for the rest of my life. I really appreciated your passion as well. Thanks again!"
Joseph Patrick
Property Manager

"I want to thank you so much for the opportunity to come and learn and watch you at your forge. It was amazing the gifts that God has given you. I was blessed from the first moment we walked in. Your teaching was excellent. I knew you to be a craftsman by your knives, but few true craftsmen have the ability to communicate their passion like you do. God has truly gifted you. I appreciated the way in which you explained the concepts behind what you were doing with the metal... it truly made it the experience of a lifetime. Wow, I could never have imagined the care and forethought that goes into every knife. The fellowship with you and your family completed the experience. I appreciated the way you spent the time on purpose, teaching us and I really appreciate your giving heart."
David Patrick
Essential Home Services, LLC

"I just wanted to write to you and THANK YOU for the wonderful bladesmithing class that you taught for my sons and I last week. I have known what a great craftsman you are for some time now, but until last week I never realized what a gifted teacher you are.

"Your enthusiasm, your patience (with an old man who could barely flatten a piece of wood, and two eager boys who were ready to learn as much as possible), your thoroughness, your safety precautions, and your sincere dedication, all combined to produce one of the best experiences that my sons and I have ever had together. The fine knives that we completed at the culmination of the class were a bonus that capped the class off with a crown of excellence."
John Patrick
The Patrick Group

We have finalized the New 2009 Japanese Bladesmithing School Schedule and the classes are beginning to fill up. Please check the schedule, select your course of choice and register to attend what will be your best experience of 2009!

Carter Cutlery Shop exterior
Carter Cutlery Shop

The Mystique of Kuro-uchi Blades

I have often wondered when the exact moment was that I decided to be a professional Japanese Bladesmith. It all happened so naturally that I honestly can't put my finger on it. I suspect it was sometime around my first visit to a rural Japanese village bladesmith's shop.

I remember stepping into the shop, and then into the semi-darkness of the forge area, which seemed much darker than it was, having come from the bright sunlight outdoors. Looking back, I can almost taste the unique smells of sulfur and phosphorus in the smoke that was emanating from the forge fire, and recall being fascinated by the dancing sparks that jumped from the fire and disappeared up into the chimney. I distinctly remember an utter sense of timelessness as the scene at the forge revealed to me no clues as to what time of day it was, or, for that matter, what year it was, or even what century it was. Looking at paintings from the 1500's of Japanese Bladesmiths at work will prove that the scenario has virtually remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Hot billet

My attention was drawn to the slender bar of carbon steel that was buried in the burning pile of pine charcoal embers. When the bar was a dull orange color, the smith deftly removed the glowing bar from the fire and hammered the end section rectangular. He then cut off about an inch of it and left it smoldering on the anvil.

I must have been really mesmerized by the shimmering heat waves coming from the steel section because before I knew it, the smith had heated a larger section of mild steel and was busy hammering away at that, creating a void with a hot chisel in which the carbon steel section was to be inserted. I watched in awe, thinking "How can he split the steel so perfectly like that completely free-handed?!" When he grabbed the still-smoldering steel core with his bare fingers, I was about to yell out a warning, but he flicked it in the void and was done before I could utter a word.

The billet disappeared into the pile of embers again, and as more air was blown into the fire to make it hotter, a frenzy of sparks exploded from the flames. When the billet was swiftly removed from the blazing fire, my eyes hurt to look at the center of the fire where the steel had just been. I later learned that the intense white flames in the center of the fire reached over 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit, more than half the temperature of the sun. The billet of steel was brightly glowing yellow, with the occasional tiny spark jumping from the billet and bursting violently like miniature fireworks. I think I remember a very faint hissing sound coming from the steel, but I could be mistaken. The smith's hammer became a blur as he busied himself welding the two dissimilar metals together. Not a minute had passed before the two had become one.

Forge fire

The billet was reheated to a dull orange color and forged repeatedly until the steel was shaped into a beautiful blade -- straight, thin and wide, masterfully tapered from the back of the spine to the tip. The smith, satisfied with the final shape, stamped his mark on the blade and then put it back in the fire again. Now the fire was burning softly, void of dancing sparks, but instead, the most beautiful flames I have ever seen, purple and green in color, were waving back and forth between the pieces of pine charcoal. The gentle flames reminded me of tall seaweed moving with the water in the ocean.

The evenly-heated blade was carefully removed from the gentle flames and then thrust forcefully into the trough of water used for quenching blades. As the blade first entered the water the smith let out a fierce battle cry that took me by complete surprise and made my heart skip a few beats. As the blade gave up its heat to the water, it hissed and spattered and made the water steam. It was a violent transition. Finally, the soul of the blade was born.

The smith then examined the blade for failure. Discovering none, he proceeded to grind an edge on the blade using natural wet stones. Minutes later, the edge was gleaming, contrasting exquisitely with the rough black surface of the blade. After final light passes on the finest sharpening stone, the blade was finished. Even I could see that the blade was sharp enough to shave the most sensitive hairs on the face, let alone slice vegetables, fruits and meats.

All of this took place before my very eyes, in one single afternoon. Having started with two pieces of useless material, the smith had created a blade of heirloom quality and ultimate utility that would serve a family for many generations. I think from this point I was hooked on The Riddle of Steel.


I personally look forward to hearing from you again this year.

Until our next email news,

Stay Sharp and may God richly bless you!

Carter Cutlery

P.O.Box 307
Vernonia, OR 97064
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