with this post im bouncing around a little chronologically but its too exciting to resist sharing with you the backyard blacksmithing course
this is a home made blacksmithing forge. its basic components are a galvanized washtub, a steel pipe, a bellows and a whole crap load of charcoal. in the set up you see in the picture the bellows is a hand turned air blower which gives the set up a nice rustic look which i am a big fan of but you can also use a hair dryer. if you play your cards right everything seen you can put together for about 60 bucks. all the other tools and equipment for operation will bring you up to about 100 plus or minus 20 bucks. in the next few weeks i think you may see a posting on my attempt at duct tapping one of these together...
blacksmith party at my house. on the outside chance that anyone comes across one of those old hand cranked air blowers please let me know. im also taking donations of any worn down wood or metal files you have. more on that in a bit.
these are some examples from the personal collection of our instructor, earthwalks outside expert Howard Schwartz. from sheaths to handles, all these knives and tools were hand made by Howard using the forge pictured above.
the project: turn one old, rusty file into one elk horn handled bush knife.
the forge is filled with charcoal and the charcoal fired. here Mark cranks the blower while Howard uses a propane torch to start the coals burning. i suppose one of these would work to and would save the cost of a new propane torch when the old ones run out.
the forge is ready!
the very first step is to break the end of the file off to size the blade. as a general rule a good blade length for an all purpose bush knife is something about as long as your palm is wide.
"but my palm is so narrow"
well, if you have small hands, something proportionate is best.
hold the file up next to your hand and mark the length. sink the file into a vise and cinch it right up along that mark and then WHAM. a solid whack from the forge hammer and you have your knife blank.
after breaking the end off the file, the metal needs to be annealed. as is, the metal is too hard to be worked into shape and it needs to be softened.
after a while i had something i felt looked vaguely like a knife blade. or at least close enough to rationalize not doing anymore filing and giving my back and arm a break.
the grind of a knife blade is the point where the flat of the blade slopes into the edge. there are few different kinds of grinds:hollow, flat, sabre, convex, compound bevel and chisel grind. since this was going to be a small knife, probably for delicate work and because i love to over-challenge myself i decided to try and put a full flat grind on my blade. when you are doing this type of grind you are taking off a lot more metal than with the other types and the transition has to be very smooth from the spine of the blade to the edge. all things considered, for my first time i think i got a pretty nice finish on mine.
this is some examples of the other students' work:
when the blade is as smooth it is going to get (or as smooth as you feel like getting it after your fingers start feeling like they're falling off) it is heated again for the hardening phase.
the blade edge should be the hardest part of the knife with the metal getting gradually softer toward the spine. to do this the metal is re heated to cherry red/non-magnetic tempurature and then squelched in an oil bath. it is not submerged all at once. first the blade is held in the oil from the tip to the back of the blade about halfway up the width of the metal. after a few seconds the rest of the blade is then submerged entirely for a complete cooling. make sure your oil pan is aligned north to south and when squelching, the blade point should point north. thats just good juju.
the oil is washed off and the blade is almost done!!! the black finish you see is called scalling. this is oil that has bonded to the metal and is nice for rust resistance or it can be polished off.
at this point the metal is once again hard and brittle and must be tempered. this is a slow heating to a relatively low temperature to soften the metal just enough so that it is functional as a tool but not soft enough to bend of dent easily. for these blades that meant about an hour in the oven at 425.
this is my blade with elk handle. it still isnt quite finished though. it needs to be sharpened of course but i also want to do some work on the handle. the handle was shaped by cutting points off the horn and this has left some hard angles and lumps that i want to sand down. after a varnishing this will leave a very nice, smooth finish on the handle. the only bummer is that i have to wait at least a month for the bone to fully set and seal around the blade end befor i can fuss with it.
the count down begins.
when fully dry the seem of the sheath is glued and drilled for sewing.
unfortunately, as of this writting none of the sheaths have been finished yet but as that process continues and more knives get the finishing touches we should see some really beautiful pieces of functional art.
Howard says he gets asked "whats so primitive about blacksmithing?"
to which he replies "blacksmithing is more than 4000 years old. how primitive do you want?"