Monday, March 23, 2009

How it all metal and hammers

Well, not really the real beginning, that was probably the big bang or something. The next beginning, was when someone figured out how to get iron hot enough to make a knife. My beginning was in August, 1973, and the beginning of my interest in knives was probably reading the hobbit, or the black cauldron, or the lion the witch and the wardrobe or something similar. But none of those is the beginning of me learning how to forge knives.

A few years back, in October 2005 - has it been that long already? I had a break in life, and took the opportunity to take an introductory bladesmithing class from the American Bladesmith Society in Old Washington, Arkansas. The two instructors of the class were Joe Flournoy (for the first week) and Mike Williams (for the second), both ABS mastersmiths. It was a two week class, with a little bit of theory and a lot of application. On the second day, driving in to class from the hotel, an approaching driver took a turn wide, clipped a semi, spun and totaled my 8 months new Honda Element. After missing half a day of class, I returned, jammed my hand into a glove and learned how to forge. With a sprained thumb.

We used gas forges, 2 kilo cross pein hammers, and really nice belt grinders, and started with 1095 high-carbon steel bar stock. The masters took us through the rough shaping, tapering the blade, drawing out the tang, working on the choil, and all sorts of technical words for banging on hot steel and turning it into a knife shaped object. Then we learned how to grind them into pretty knife shaped objects. Finally we learned how to normalize, quench, temper and differentially harden those knife shaped objects into knives. Without handles.

My first 9 blades were made in that class, although the handles came later.

Actually, I made 11, but one walked away. And one was tested.

The culmination of the class was testing a knife, the testers weren't pretty, but just designed to meet the test.

The 8-10" blade is sharpened to shaving sharpness, used to cut through a free hanging 1" manilla rope ( in one swipe, near the bottom), then chop through a 2x4, and should still shave. Then the edge is taken off on the belt sander, a third of the blade is put in a vice, and the blade is bent 90 degrees, if your blade doesn't crack more than a third, you pass. Mine didn't crack at all. And I passed the test. I'll post a picture when I dig that blade out of its box.

And that was how i learned how to forge.

My next forge was a little different, but that is a story for another post.

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