DVD CD set detail J.D. Smith

Advanced Damascus Patterning

Video and Personal Computer Learning System

$127 (2) disk set, DVD video and CD-ROM training.
* Includes forum membership and private consultation time.
REVIEW  by Jock Dempsey

This two disk DVD, CD-ROM set probably has the highest production values of any similar work today and is far better than any of the other blacksmithing works to date. Multimillion dollar productions do no better. The video is well filmed, edited and has clear understandable voice overs. The DVD has a beautiful Menu Syetem and the CD matches it. An amazing range of pattern welding techniques is displayed step-by-step including patterns only the top bladesmiths know.

At first I was awed at the quality of the production and the excellent work displayed. But there was always some undefinable thing missing. At the beginning J.D. Smith makes the rather broad statement,
".. plus my unique explanation of the theory end of this (pattern welding). You will come to understand why these patterns behave as they do and why they look as they do.
I studied both the DVD and CD-ROM for theory (which should help predict patterns) but there is none. There are many demonstrations that show HOW it is done and the results. Neither is there any discussion or explanation of using the modeling clay method of exploring patterns displayed on the CD-ROM. I had heard of the modeling clay method and it is certainly obvious once you have seen it, but there are bound to be some tricks or observations to be learned from someone that has done it.

There is a wonderful amount of information in this production but the explanations are a little terse and occasionally details are glossed over. I would like to see the "Foundation" section redone to include more details and not leave hanging questions. Terms like "crushed w" and "bias forged" were tossed about without explanation. They should be carefully explained in detail as were other steps in creating patterns. I also want to know why his "anhydrous borax" flux which is normally pure white is a rust red (some additive? a commercial flux?). In any case, I was left with questions where I do not believe there should have been any.

The set is sub titled "Part 1" while appearing to be fairly complete in itself. No Part 2 is yet available. Although many patterns are covered the popular "Mosaic Damascus" technique is not mentioned. While this could be the subject by itself I would have at least liked to have seen the basics of Mosaic Damascus mentioned.

The DVD Video Is well filmed and has all the DVD features you expect of a modern production. There is an index of every segment covering each pattern separately. It is easy to navigate and understand. J.D. Smith speaks clearly, succinctly, is easy to understand and has a voice that is easy to listen to. It covers the starting point "foundation", then numerous patterns including, ladder, raindrop, simple twist, radial, bias forged ladder, Turkish twist, jelly rolling, firestorm and explosion. Each step in the process is shown as well as the necessary equipment to produce these patterns efficiently. J.D. Smith uses a large leg vise to start the welds, a hydraulic press to continue the welds and start drawing, an air power hammer to draw out the billets, a chop saw to notch the billets for folding, a Bridgeport type milling machine for stock removal pattern development, arc welder, oxy-acetylene equipment, and an angle grinder to clean up billets between folds. In the background and clips you can see there is no shortage of machinery in J.D.'s shop.

There is also the obligatory music and video effects.

Click for enlargement THE Interactive CD-ROM
Using Macromedia Flash
is also beautifully produced. The bulk of the CD is the same information from the DVD in text with slightly more information as well as video clips from the DVD. The difference in the CD is the muli-color clay models used to show layering and manipulation clearly. It also includes a 30 term glossary, FAQs link to the web site, a short links list with anvilfire.com on it (thank you).

Again, there is room for improvement. The CD does not add enough to the DVD to make it a greater resource. The glossary is too terse as is much of the explanatory text. Much of the information that should go on the CD-ROM is on the web site and you are repeatedly suggested to go there.

I am not a big fan of Flash productions. They add a layer of technology that is complicated and often buggy. In this CD the main navigation buttons are multi purpose and get confused. With the exception of fancy animations and full page scalability there is almost nothing on this CD-ROM that could not be done in HTML and Javascript. These are both languages that are most likely to be backwards compatible on desktop computers for a very long time.

Click for enlargement J.D. Smith Click for enlargement Billet Welding with Vice Click for enlargement Crush W Pattern Sample
Ladder Bias Pattern - Click for enlargement Ladder Bias Pattern Photo Click for enlargement Hydraulic Press Welding/Forming Radial Pattern in Clay - Click for enlargement Radial Laminations in Clay

In the end I felt like the production while technically perfect, had been rushed. I felt like Mr. Smith could have taught me a lot more but held back. However, I know there is always a point on these things where you run out of time, money or both and are forced to call it a wrap. I think this production was a little short. Unlike a book you cannot point at X number of pages and Y number of illustrations.

To offset these gaps the HammerSmith Knives web site is offered (no longer on-line) The package includes access to a private bladesmithing forum, newsletters and limited consultation time with Mr. Smith. The sales page offers samples of the video and news letters.

Although I am not a bladesmith I have studied a lot of the available litterature in this area and still learned a lot from Advanced Damascus Patterning. For anyone seriously interested in highly technical laminated steels there is a great deal to be learned from J.D. Smith's production.


Published by:
HammerSmith Knives
516 E. 2nd street #38
South Boston, MA 02127

NOTE: We have had several complaints about business dealings with this publisher. They have included, slow or no delivery and delay on refunds (order cancelled) after many months. Due to these problems I would have doubt's about the promised support. As always, Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). - guru

NOW available from ArtisanIdeas.com

Price $ 127 US

Copyright © 2006 by Jock Dempsey, DEMPSEY'S FORGE
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