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Louie Mills (1944-2018) - Yasutomo 康友

Discussion in 'Custom & Handmade Knives' started by islandblacksmith, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. islandblacksmith


    Jan 2, 2014
    Louie Mills (Yasutomo – 康友) has moved on to the next stage of life, passing peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning. A friend to many and generous with his knowledge and craft. He will be missed on this side but we hope to see him again soon under far better circumstances.


    One of the best-kept secrets in North American bladesmithing and the closest thing we had to a living (inter)national treasure, Louie Mills began creating traditional Japanese swords in the early 1980’s. Working with top Japanese swordsmiths to refine his techniques, he became known for the finest traditional Japanese swords made in North America.

    Louie has continued to be an inspiration and role model to me right from my very early years of bladesmithing in the early 1990’s as I began to learn the secrets of making hamon. I was honoured when Tony Mann invited me to be part of a project to bring his video footage to the world a couple years ago and enjoyed communicating with Louie as we worked out the editing process. The 2013 forging project was a major milestone as it was the first after Louie’s recovery from a heart attack three years earlier.

    Louie was featured in an episode of Steel: The Works on The History Channel, his steel making process on Don Fogg’s website, and more information about Louie and a few remaining available works can be found at togiarts.com.

    Thanks to Tony for inviting me to be part of the project, and to Louie for allowing us to publish the footage and for being one of the pioneers of traditional Japanese swordsmithing in North America. Louie will be missed but his contribution to the bladesmithing world continues.

    ありがとう、康友 さん!

    more: islandblacksmith.ca/2018/07/passing-of-louie-mills-yasutomo-康友
  2. spyken

    spyken Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 29, 2002
    RIP. I wish I'd kept my tanto forged by Louis.

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
    mb> likes this.
  3. Lapedog

    Lapedog Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 7, 2016

    Treasures like this are always too rare in the world...
  4. JParanee

    JParanee Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2006

    Thank you for posting this

    I have a piece he collaborated on

    It’s a fantastic piece



    And some of the original iron ore sand

    VashHash, Mongo, d762nato and 5 others like this.
  5. Dawkind

    Dawkind Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Apr 3, 2000
    We are diminished...... :(
  6. islandblacksmith


    Jan 2, 2014
    @JParanee that blade is an excellent example of Louie's steel making style and shows it well! very cool to have some of the raw material too!

    Jim Kelso (another long-time inspiration and frequent collaborator with Louie) emailed a vintage photo this am:

    Louie Mills (left) & Jim Kelso with ocean motif wakizashi on the way to Higgins Armoury, 1985

    “Working with Louis was a major milestone in my career, and I am honored to have done so. I greatly admired his dedication to Japanese swordsmithing. When we met he was one of two smiths that I know of in this country taking up that extremely demanding craft. He had studied in workshops with the Yoshihara brothers. It’s easy these days, with so much information available, to perhaps not appreciate how difficult it was back then to figure stuff out to a point where you could make progress. Louis’s accomplishments in that context are really impressive.” — Jim Kelso
    Lorien and Mecha like this.
  7. Matthew Gregory

    Matthew Gregory Chief Executive in charge of Entertainment Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 12, 2005
    Awful to hear.
  8. i4Marc


    Oct 19, 2011
    Sad news indeed.
  9. john april

    john april KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 27, 2006
    rest in peace louie.
  10. peleton blade

    peleton blade

    Oct 4, 2016
    Life is short. Seize the day my friend.
  11. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Thanks for posting Dave. Inspiring, informative, and bitter sweet. There is no death in the universe only change - as you write - "better circumstances" to come. A life well lived, work done with heart, enhances us all.

  12. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Thank you Dave. The vids are compelling.

    In a modern cutlery world of precision and order, his dirty shop and eyeball methods are a testament to Masterful skill.

    I enjoyed a dinner with him, Jim Kelso, Don Fogg and other luminaries at a hammer-in in NY back in 2002. I had no idea of his prowess then. Great memories.

    He lives on..... :thumbsup: :)
  13. CAB


    Oct 17, 2006
    Way back in the day, I had a number of lengthy and involved conversations with Louis, his understanding of Nihonto was infectious to those he came in contact with.

    He will be sorely missed.


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