Recreating a 19th century Japanese Tsuba

Craft & Design Workshop
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One of our readers, Jimy Soprano, sent us the links to this incredibly inspiring short documentary of classical Japanese metal artist Ford Hallam recreating a lost masterpiece by the 19th century Mito tsuba artist Hagia Katsuhira. Years ago, I went off on a Samurai sword/Iaido kick and obsessed over every detail of Japanese sword construction, maintenance, and the “moving Zen” of the Iaido form. This video touched that obsession again.

The “tsuba” is the decorative sword guard, and like every other piece of a samurai sword, it’s work of art in and of itself. This video documents Ford Hallam being commissioned to create a tsuba for a Katana (long) sword to match an existing tsuba created by Hagia Katsuhira for a wakazashi (short sword). The painstaking, precise nature of the work is dizzying. [Thanks, Jimy!]

More about Ford Hallam can be found on his blog Postcards from the Path

20 thoughts on “Recreating a 19th century Japanese Tsuba

  1. SomeWhiteGuy says:

    Awesome work. The fact that he keeps to the old style and not defecting to some power tools makes it all that more impressive. I can see how you can be obsessed with this.

  2. Halfvast Conspirator says:

    That is about the most incredible thing I have ever seen.

  3. Mason Lev says:

    You never think about how much work goes into something like that until you see it with your own eyes! Absolutly awe-inspiring! Great work!!!

  4. KR says:

    Having done a bit of silver work using files, scrapers and small chisels, I can identify with this master craftsman – how much skill and patience he has. His steady hand, a philosophical mind allows him to absorb the lessons from an ancient artist. Wonderfully filmed with good editing and commentary – I just had to send this on to friends. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am at once both shattered and inspired by this. Destroyed and rebuilt.
    Each step one takes down the path makes the path ahead one step longer. This added a mile to mine.
    Thank you for posting it.

  6. Math Campbell says:

    This video is incredible. Words cannot describe how amazing this Master is at his artwork. I could watch this all day, more plz.

  7. Math Campbell says:

    I think what makes this video is the sheer minuscule scale he;s working at. He’s insetting shards of gold that are almost too small to see with the naked eye! I wish I was 1/1000th as amazing as he…

  8. Tim Harris says:

    Amazing. More videos like this please!

  9. Anonymous says:

    My jaw started dropping about two minutes in and by the end I was just staring with my mouth hanging open.

    I just finished making a key out of brass using files and sandpaper. I was so proud of what I’d done. After seeing this, I’m about to throw it in a drawer and forget about it. Or maybe I’ll get some engraving tools and see what else I can do to it.

  10. feyt talu says:

    thanks for great video

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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