Walter Sorrells has been making knives and swords for well over a decade. His primary interest is in making blades that draw from the Japanese tradition.
Walter’s interest in making blades grew out of a long-time interest in martial arts. As a martial artist for over two decades, including extensive experience in a number of Japanese sword arts, Walter approaches every blade from the standpoint of a practical user. Walter doesn’t claim to make “Japanese swords.” Rather he make modern swords which are inspired by the Japanese martial arts, and by the Japanese sword-making tradition.
In recent years Walter has begun smelting his own raw steel (tamahagane) using techniques similar to those that would have been employed to make steel in Japan seven or eight hundred years ago. This extremely laborious process requires first that the steel is smelted in a furnace from raw ore and charcoal. The resulting rough steel is then repeatedly folded and forge-welded, producing a blade composed of thousands and thousands of layers of steel. This folding process leaves a visual record in the form of a “grain pattern” – so-called because it vaguely resembles the grain of wood – in the surface of the steel. As a result much of his recent work has been on blades that are functionally equivalent in construction to nihonto, or traditionally-made Japanese swords.
Walter also takes a strong interest in education. Over the past few years he has produced a line of DVDs which show the major sub-crafts involved in the making of Japanese swords. Walter started on the first video in order to answer frequent questions addressed to him about several narrow technical aspects of heat-treating his blades. The process soon mushroomed into something much more complex and ambitious, as he set out to distill all the information he wished had been available in one place when he was first starting to learn bladesmithing.
In addition to being a swordsmith, Walter is a well-known writer, having published around 30 novels, both under his own name and under a variety of pseudonyms.
For a video view of Walter, check out this short documentary: