Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Smithing Freshman Makes a RR Spike Knife


Recommended Posts

I just joined the forum today, and am open to lots of advice. I am a beginning smith, and am making a RR spike knife as my first real project. I have read the first few chapters of New Edge of the Anvil, those regarding forging processes. I feel confident that I can manage to form the knife itself, but know nothing of the metallurgical aspects. So I'm looking for feedback.

What do I need to do in the following areas:
1.) Selecting material. I have a number of RR spikes, but have no idea of their carbon content. Is there a way to determine if I have good ones or not?
2.) Quenching. I would assume it to be necessary on a knife, right? I have heard of smiths using water, oil (of some sort), tranny fluid, etc. and don't know which one to use and when, and for what purpose.
3.) Tempering and annealing. I would assume that I need to temper the blade. One smith on YouTube mentioned tempering the blade and hammer pommel only, and leaving the grip somewhat softer. Why would one do that, and how?

Those are probably my three biggest questions. I want to knock out a half dozen knives before Christmas as presents for family, so I'm getting started early in case I bungle my first few. I welcome all advice. If it's easier for you to talk than type out a book, feel free to call me at my cell 712.830.8787.

Thanks in advance for the help!

-Ronin, the Danish Hammer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RR spikes are something around 1030.

What I do is quench at nonmagnetic, no temper. The spikes don't have the carbon content to get very hard.

The spikes have a lota KEWL factor but not much in edge holding.

Good project,ever body I know likes em. Google it for some more ideas

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look for spikes that have HC stamped on the top. Quench them in "super quench", Don't expect very much out of them. No temper or a low one---say 275 degF.

OTOH the "rr clips" that look sort of like an open ampersand start out with a higher carbon content than the best of the spikes and may actually be twice the carbon content of a HC spike depending on manufacturer and quality level. You'll notice how much harder they are under the hammer!

Hardening = brittling so as the tang of a blade does not need to be hardened, (some medieval swords even had a no carbon wrought iron tang welded on) why make it more brittle as well?

As a pommel will not be getting much use as a "hammer" I would not harden it either myself.

As has been alluded to *starting* with knives is sort of like wheeling your car onto the Indy 500 track and asking folks how to win the race when you don't know how to drive yet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the site........
My suggestion is to join the ABANA chapter in your area. Most (all?) hold conferences, or hammer-ins to share info and put on demo's, workshops, etc. It gives you someone to talk to, and share ideas with.
As far as RR spike knives, it is as good a place as any to start. Blacksmithing is a skill. The only way to develop the skill is by practice. You may be able to find someone local that has a shop, either professional, or hobbyist, will give you some pointers. Have fun.......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I'll just form a couple of the knives, then get back to you on the tempering. I know these won't have much of an edge to them. My interest is in the process, not so much with having a super sharp knife in the end.

OTOH, what's a good project that doesn't need much for equipment? I don't have a lot of jigs, etc. yet, so I'm keeping things simple. That's one of the reasons I am starting with RRs. heat + hammer + spike = good practice

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well making hamburgers doesn't teach you much about pastry cooking.

I'd suggest learning on a medium to high carbon material like auto coil spring as it does work differently and has different needs than lower carbon steels. If you do all your practicing on lower carbon steels you will have to retrain on higher ones and still be prone to make mistakes through "habit". *AND* if you do get a good one you can practice your heat treating (of which tempering is only 1 step) *AND* if that works out then you have a knife not a mild steel display piece.

However it will help you a lot to learn hammer control first and there are lots of projects in the Blue Prints section here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I should change gears. Anvilfire.com listed RR spike tomohawk head as a beginning project, whereas the RR knife was considered more advanced. Would it be wise to change over to the hawk instead?
Also, I lack a splitter and drift for the hawk. Can I use a hand held cold chisel to split the spike, or will I damage the chisel? BTW, how do you secure the hot metal while splitting? If it's compressed in a vice, will the splitter/punch be able to do its work?
And could I use a large round punch instead of a proper drift once the split is made? Rudimentary questions, but that's why I'm here!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes you will draw the temper on the cold chisel, not a problem if it's then reserved only for hot steel, shoot if you can pick up and old unplated one at the fleamarket for a dollar or less you may want to forge it down thinner so it will slit better and just normalize it after forging.

To use a put a cutting plate on my anvil, lay the hot metal on top of it and stick the chisel on it and HIT taking the chisel off every couple of blows to cool in a can of water.

Sometimes I will use a hold down to hold the piece, or have a student hold it with tongs while I slit.

The cutting plate makes sure I can goof up and damage the anvil face. It does make the process louder so wear hearing protectors.

A round punch is a "proper drift" but not a hammer handle drift or hawk drift. (I like to use hammer handle drifts as those handles are easier and cheaper to come by out here) However if you drift it out round you can generally hammer in on the sides and get pretty close to one type of a hammer handle eye

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tried to make the knife yesterday. Moderately success, as anticipated. Here are my new questions:

Let's say that I want to keep the back edge perfectly flat and lined up with the handle. During the initial hammering/flattening process, both edges will flow out somewhat. Once that back edge starts running, how do I return it to straight? If I flip the knife up and try to straighten it, I'm hammering on the cutting edge. That doesn't sound right.

Also, do you recommend twisting the handle first, or forming the blade first?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

bring the curve back down with a wood mallet. or piece of 2x4, is what I use. the wood won't deform your edge.

Keep your blows even side to side of the blade and straighten as you.

as you draw down the blade edge it will continue to curve the spine of the blade, precurving the blade can help.

primitivepoint ~tribal smithing~: How to Forge a Bowie by Tai Goo

I'm still with ya bro :)

Edited by Sweany
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't be discouraged by making a knife man! I started with RR Spike knives and have been making them for a couple months now, it is a lot easier then it looks! My knives are not as good quality as more experienced smiths, but they still come out pretty good in my mind and I have been able to sell a lot of them. I tried a RR Spike Tomahawk from anvilfire.com I found knives much easier!

Also towards your question about keeping the blade straight, I have found that if I keep the spine and edge the same thickness until my final pass or two over the edge it doesn't bend up. Also work both sides as even a possible. If it does start to bend upwards I haven't found any problem in flipping it on it spine and tapping gently on the edge to straighten it. Once you do that all you have to do is hammer the edge a little bit and its back to where it was, except your blade is now straight. ; )

Edited by Drako11
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can also do some practicing with a clay billet the same size as a spike. If you don't get it right, form it back into a spike shape and try again. Remember , you are essentially hitting it with two hammers-the one you are swinging and a stationary one, the anvil.

Thin the blade down on the side first, then flip 90 and work it down some more till it is straight again. Keep doing this until you have the thickness that you want, and keeping the blade centered on the handle. Excess length can be trimmed off. Then start thinning the edge down into a taper. keep the spine cooler and it shouldn't move too much, but don't worry about the spine moving, as that can be reshaped later by filing, or grinding. I would go with a pointer tip, so that it could be used as a letter opener.

Also before going at this too fast take some time and read, read, read. Go to the library, Google your fingers off, but read a lot. Then get to swinging.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...