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I Forge Iron

bowie that bit me

kevin (the professor)

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Hello Everyone,

It has been a little longer than normal since my last knife. There are three good reasons for this. First - the work that is shown here is soooo far and away out of my league that it is a little daunting. But, I need the advice and encouragement, so here goes. I just have to keep telling myself that with 10-15 years of work...

Second, related to first, I am becoming more obsessive, and my definition of "finished" is receding into the distance.

Third - I accidentally let this knife hear that I was planning a trip to Austin without it. The thing jumped from vise and put a 7-stitch cut across the palm and heel of my left hand before I could subdue it. Jealous freak!

So, here it is.
7" blade
1.25" wide
1095 with clay ht
according to friend's test files (error inherent) - RC 57-59 edge, RC 52-54 middle of blade, and 54-56 spine

one more thing - I learned that when one uses a thick layer of clay, the differential hardening line (insert Japanese term here for ignorant Texan)is a couple of mm away from where the clay actually stops..

I decided to go with this because I read that the weapons that broke in a certain era of Japanese history were those that had more than 1/3 of the blade either hardened or in transition. That won't be a problem here :rolleyes: .

So, thanks for looking. Comments always welcomed.






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That is a really nice piece of work Kevin. Thanks for sharing it with us. Also, thanks for the story too. I will have to remember that the clay, when thicker, holds more heat and allows that heat to conduct a bit further than I would have though. I see exactly what you are talking about with your line that dips to the edge of the knife. I have yet to make a knife, but plan to when I get some experience under my belt. And thanks to you, I have learned something that makes sense but I would have had to learn on my own had you not shared this.

PS if you plan any more trips, please make sure to keep out of earshot of any pointy objects that may take offense that they were not invited. :)

Edited by Jayson
corrected a studder studder while typing.
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Yep, pretty. The thing to remember about clay hardening is the the clay slows *cooling*
of the steel under it (and thus near it because the steel under the clay keeps reheating the
nearby steel). Basically the pattern you place the clay is a pattern that influences the hamon
but doesn't draw it. Very much art, not science.

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Pretty nice knife Kevin, you're improving well.

Your next lesson if you choose to continue is:

Retrain your reflexes to jump clear of falling objects NOT catch them!

This lesson was one of the most valuable things Father taught me though it has lead to embarrassment like the time the gal fainted right next to me and I jumped clear of her falling body. Fortunately she wasn't hurt in the fall but boy did I get some LOOKS.


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Frosty - I love it! thanks for the info and laugh.

Yes - I am learning a little at a time about hamon, and I am getting the ability to fix or adjust more and more of the little things that often go wrong.

This may seem like a really stupid recurring problem to have, but here it is: every, EVERY blade I make that is longer than 4 inches, I get a twist in the xxxx thing as I am forging in the bevels.

any advice is welcomed on this issue. my ideas are that maybe I should start forging from the unforged section into the forged section? not sure, but it always happens.''

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Some of the videos I've seen of Japanese smiths appear to show the entire blade is coated with a very thin layer of clay and allowed to dry somewhat - then the spine is coated with additional layers to build up thickness and the pattern is drawn at the same time. The edge coating supposedly acts to help break up the steam envelope when quenching so the edge can actually get harder than if left bare.

With regard to twist, I find that flipping a piece frequently on the anvil will help keep things straight. I don't forge a lot of blades but do forge long flat railings which will also twist if not kept balanced while hammering.

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Frosty: That's good. I mean BAD!!! :D

Kevin: Your work just gets better with each piece. That is one lovely knife. I have yet to try clay coating. But I completely understand about warpage/twisting. I am working on a knife that has become quite an experimental piece for me. It will be finished with a bit of a kink in it. I'll keep following this thread to see if you get some good advice on it.
It is quite discouraging to get a piece close to finished, then drop it on a concrete carport floor, but it can be far more painful/deadly to try to catch one.
Hope the hand heals up quickly and well. Be careful and keep working and posting the results.

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Bear, that is a good suggestion.

I did not have the proper stuff to do the really thin layer all over followed by thick one on spine. I just used none on edge and thick on middle with clean area on spine.

wally hayes has a video about grinding a katana-like sword where he shows how to do this the proper way. I was just making good with what I had.

thanks for good idea,


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Keeping a blade from twisting during forging takes practice. Flipping the blade during forging is good advice. Also try to keep the number hits per side a close as you can. Try to keep the blade in full contact with the anvil. To forge the bevel, make sure not to twist the blade but change the angle of the hammer blow.
After the profile and bevels are to your liking, use a wood faced hammer to straighten the blade and remove any twists. Here's one I made for that purpose.


Kevin, nice knife!

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thanks for the advice - my problem comes with trying to get the bevels forged. I do all of the other things (or try to) that you mentioned. I also have a modified child's baseball bat for straightening. All wood.

Now, I am tipping the blade up slightly on anvil and striking with different angle. Then, I switch sides and forge from the area that is beveled back into the area that is not bevled. I do a short section of each side with each heat, and try to work up from the edge in successive courses. so, one heat I will forge from the tip back about 3 inches at the edge on each side. Next heat from the 3 inch spot to the ricasso on each side. Then, back to tip, but a little farther away from edge...

I don't know if the general approach is flawed of if I am just not maintaining the same angle on the anvil and with the hammer all of the time. (maybe I need to forge from the unbeveled section into the beveled section instead of other way around - I have heard that suggested, too).

Wayne Goddard mentioned the same problem in one of his books, but I can't find where he described his solution anymore.

Thanks for the input - I will pay close attention to angle of hammer to give your suggestion a chance.

Basically, I am going to try to eliminate all variables and manipulate one at a time until I find the cause - sort of like my day job.


Edited by kevin (the professor)
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