The Unbroken Blade

Walter Sorrells pounds his point home.

Researching details for a historical novel is usually considered a form of drudgery, but it turned one-time wordsmith Walter Sorrells into a world-star bladesmith. “I started my career, and in the course of researching a character in a novel I was working on, I started making a sword, got the bug, and have been making knives and swords every since,” he tells Bold Life. 

Sorrells began recording videos about the art of sword and knife crafting around 15 years ago. With the advent of YouTube, he experienced a surge in notoriety: has some 200,000 subscribers. Not bad for an ancient niche art.

Sorrells specializes in Japanese swords, “which are generally considered to be the apex of the sword maker’s art,” he explains. More than a thousand years ago, Japanese swordsmiths “developed a unique approach” to the process, says Sorrells, “and that tradition has continued unbroken” (likewise the blades themselves, which remain pretty much indestructible despite having razor-sharp points).

In a week-long, nine-hours-a-day immersive workshop this month at Tryon Arts and Crafts School, Sorrells will show students how to make either a tango or wakizashi, two types of Japanese short swords. Even total beginners can forge these blades, but those with a little experience can also “take on the challenge of forging a katana — the famous Japanese long sword,” the artist promises.

Collectors value Japanese swords for their beauty, but Sorrells notes that all swords made in class will be “fully functional.” (Well, that YouTube competition can be fierce.)

— M.J. MacAodh

Make a Japanese Sword Workshop with Walter Sorrells happens Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 8, 8am-5pm, at Tryon Arts and Crafts School (373 Harmon Field Road). For pricing and other details, call 828-859-8323 or see tryonartsandcrafts.org.

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