I started collecting swords about 15 years ago. I wanted swords before that, but price and parental concern prohibited me from having them. The first sword I bought was the CAS Iberia Lord of the Rings. It didn't take long for me to figure out that it was not "realistic" or high quality. It did, however, prompt me to start researching historical arms and armour.
At first, my research was mostly online. I found forums and began reading as much as was available; using interlibrary loan through the university my wife taught at to get the books of interest. Luckily, Notre Dame University, located here in South Bend, has a large collection of rare and hard to find books of interest available for me to check out. Thier collection has given me access to a great deal of research.
Shortly after moving to South Bend, I met up with Rick Barrett at his shop in Goshen, Indiana. At the time I knew very little about Japanese swords. Working out of RIck's shop introduced me to the Japanese arms. I worked out of Rick's shop for about two years and have since set up my own shop - at first only in the basement doing cultery work, but now in an actual workshop.
Another side effect of working in Rick's shop was that I met Mark Gryzbowski, now at Ollin Sword Design. Mark was able to produce many blades for me when I was not in a position to myself. He continues to make blades for me when my equiptment does not lend itself to the fullering or hollow grinding that he is easily able to do.