What are the best handmade blades, American or Japanese?
...It's a Thai!
BLACKSMITHING IN THAILAND
Thailand has been coal forging blades for centuries. The Burmese term, Dha, which translates to the generic term for knife or sword, has it's origins in pre-19th century Burma and the surrounding area. Thailand calls their traditional swords, Daab or Darb. They have long been used in ceremonial positions within the King's Guard and other Military positions, and during ancient times of war. An abundance of Buddhist Temples, artwork and sculptures all depict the Daab. Thai Blacksmiths have been coal forging blades for hundreds of years, and the craft has since been passed down to each future generation.
Before the internet, Thai blacksmiths were left to their own devices. Being taught from their fathers and grandfathers, generations of which had learned from their fathers before them. This ancient craft has had deep roots in rural Thailand, from the countryside of small villages to the outskirts of busy developing cities. A lot of the early craft has been trial and error, hand carving techniques and hand crafted with primitive tools.
One Thai Blacksmith, Pum Wana, tells the story of reading a Mastersmith's Book from America, and starting to use the techniques described to craft the perfect blade. Unable to quickly search for the answers online, the smith had to mail a letter, asking the Mastersmith for answers and clarification. The letter would take 1-2 months to travel thousands of miles. The response would take an equal amount of time to return to Thailand. Weeks and months pass by without an answer, before being able to move onto the next step. Imagine the patience waiting for that letter with a knife cooling in the forge!
Since then, The internet has become a valuable tool for Thai Blacksmiths. They have been able to finely hone their craft and use skills accessible to the entire world. They can communicate with the blacksmithing community, for feedback and to share their works of arts. This has become a valuable resource, as it also opens up the doors to importing much sought after materials, from Micarta to High Carbon Steels. They have also been able to export and use rare exotic woods & rare animal parts.
While the older generation of Blacksmiths keep the knowledge and the craft alive, it's the younger generation that are picking up the torch and and lighting up their forges. The old teach the young, passing the craft to a new generation. In turn, the youth of Thailand are also teaching their elders new tricks and techniques. The entire process has opened the door for Thai Blacksmiths to become world renowned for their craft.
Thai Blacksmiths labour extensively in the humid, hot Thai weather, often shirtless and shoeless. Molten sparks flick off their skin without flinching, and they barely break a sweat in the intense jungle heat. Some still use primitive tools, hammers made with bamboo, anvils set into a fallen tree. They still use files to profile their blades and hand drills to make holes in the handles. The talent, and hard work behind these blades goes unmatched in the age of machines and power tools.
Even still, a new generation is learning from the vast amount of resources online. Crafting KMG belt grinders from reclaimed power tools, to building hydraulic presses from online blueprints. Setting up digital temperature gauges for forges and heat treat ovens, helps put these smiths on level a playing field with the rest of the world. Combined with primitive techniques and newly learned methods, Thailand is emerging as a power house of strong, functional tools.
An authentic Thai Blade is one that is built for deep bush whacking and every day harvesting. Used by grandmothers in rice fields, to sons and daughters collecting fresh vegetation for consumption. Thai blades are built to last hard abuse. They are built out of necessity, not for hobby or for show. Thai Blacksmiths know how much their culture and lifestyle rely on a strong, solid tool to perform every day tasks. Rest assure, a Thai blade is one that will perform to a high degree of functionality.
This website is designed to connect the consumer, with the maker, a talented craftsman and blacksmith. Each blade tells a story, one that is told through the blacksmiths hand and through the eyes of an ancient craft. The rich Thai culture is displayed in the shape of the blade, in the grain of the wood and in the sharpness of the edge.