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I Forge Iron

Patch Knife / Flint Striker


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A buddy was talking about a patch knife for his flint lock musket. First he had to explain what it was then I got the picture. He was going to make his own and he may have but it gave me an excuse to try a couple of techniques I've been wanting to mess with. He doesn't know he's getting it or even that I'm trying to make one. Anyway, the entire knife is from a piece of 1/2in rebar. Not good knife material but it is supposed to be decorative and only a little functional. It will cut off the excess cloth of the wadding when loading the ball. The recipient is left handed so I made the blade orientation for a lefty.
The blade is only tapered on one side, like an old straight razor. The flat or bottom side will lay on the muzzle and create a scissor like cut between the steel of the barrel and the blade. When held in the left hand, the taper is correct for cutting. The twisted handle doubles as a flint striker. It may be too soft to work well but it's mainly for looks.
I hardened the entire knife as hard as I could with a water quench. I don't think I need to temper any because it is still fairly easy to file and sharpen. I figure it's better than a prison shank and maybe as good as most frontier steel but nothing like a good 1095 blank, etc.
Thanks for looking.

Oh yea, the finish is left somewhat rough for period appearance and the finish is straight bee's wax applied while black hot. The wax is from my own bees too. A real homemade project.



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It's hard to tell from your pictures, but it does appear that you have some decent technique, but your application lacks a lot to be desired.

Now, I mean this as constructive criticism, so I'm not telling you anything that I haven't been told over the years.

First of all, rebar is OK for hammer practice or to make hooks for a garden shed, but it is of little worth for anything that is going to be seen or used in a historical context. Get some good steel.

I'm not sure what you mean by "frontier steel", but you can find evidence of fine steel and fine blades before 1000AD. "Old" doesn’t imply "crappy". If a long hunter or trapper had invested the equivalent of a year’s wages in a musket or a rifle, I doubt he would have carried a blade that would be classified as slightly better than a prison shank.

The flintlock gun began to fade from use around 1820 with the advent of the percussion cap. It is from this period forward, through the Civil War and into the early 20th century that more of the "home-spun" knives and implements begin to appear. So yes, you can find some rough and cobbled stuff from the "frontier" period, but that was usually of necessity.

If you are truly interested in this type of stuff, do your homework. Learn to forge and learn your history. If you're not 100% proud of what you've just finished, throw it in the do-over bucket and start over. Be your own harshest critic, and work until you can satisfy yourself.

I often steal this from a source I have long since forgotten: "pursue perfection; settle for excellence".

Don... still in pursuit; still haven't settled

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I'm afraid I must agree with Don; Frontier steel would be *steel* and probably reused from another item like a file or rasp. It would most likely be either blister or shear steel (and very seldom cast steel) and I would expect it to be at least around 70 points carbon.

You have done a fine job on shaping and finishing that blade; I'm just sad the work wasn't done on a more appropriate alloy.

I picked up an old ATHA drilling hammer last weekend, 4 pounds of old style cast steel for US$4---if it wasn't in such good shape I might think of converting it to blades. However I have a drawer full of old "cast steel" items that are not in such good shape just for such commissions...(Ohio was rich pickings for old tools!)

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Thanks for the comments and I must agree you are both quite correct. I appreciate the constructive criticism. I obviously need to do more research about type and quality of iron / steel available during specific time periods.
I like the byline "pursue perfection; settle for excellence".
I did make some modifications in the shape of the handle by fairing the curves and adding some roll to the front scroll. I re heat treated the blade. Much harder treatment the second time. I like the shape and opening in the second try on the handle.
Thomas: I agree, the steel should have been a good alloy but a practice session turned into a project. Since it is a surprise to be a decoration on a reenactment costume it will hold enough edge to be looked at. It does a fair job of cutting cloth and leaves a pretty clean line cutting paper.

I would add an updated photo but I can't seem to add it to this post.

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BTKS---this is not directed at you; but just in general:

I have heard "it's just for practice" *many* times when people have forged blades from mild steel. I have also seen what happened when some of them moved on to high carbon steel and found that their practice trained them how to forge mild steel well but resulted in burnt and cracked high carbon steel as it's forging range is quite restricted compared to mild steel. As finding an automotive coil spring is usually free or cheap; I *give* my students decent steel to practice on so they learn what it takes to forge it---and if they have beginner's luck they end up with a blade and not a practice piece.

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Thomas: I understand and the point of mild vs carbon is an excellent point. I have learned that hard lesson on leaf spring. I let my attention drift and I had a froe with a burned off edge in just a few seconds!!! Just before that, same froe, I hammered too cold and broke off the eye. That was about a year and a half ago and I've been somewhat reluctant to jump back into carbon spring steel. I do have a piece laid out to make another froe. It's the project right after the on going project. Now I have a pair of drifts I like and shouldn't have so much beating to do. Hope I can stay in the heat range this time!
Thanks for the input, I learn a lot at this site. That wouldn't be possible if you guys didn't speak your minds and impart your experience to us beginners. I sincerely appreciate it.

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