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I Forge Iron

Wakizashi Collaboration WIP


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Last weekend a friend brought me replica ( junk/toy ) sword and asked if I could use it as a pattern and forge one for him. My buddy is into eastern martial arts and owns some nice Japanese swords so he does know that however this turns out it won't be "the real thing". I like a project as much as the next blacksmith so I said I would give it a go.

   For those of you who forge swords please keep the following in mind. I consider myself to be a blacksmith first, a knife maker second, and before today the largest blade I had ever forged was a 13" seax. I've made some Bowie's in the 12" range but no eastern style blades. Also, I have a great sense of humor and thick skin so feel free to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

  I ripped a 1" strip from the side of a 3/8" thick leaf spring 26" long and started forging from there. The edge bevel was ground using a 13° bevel block as a guide. I started with 36 grit, dropped to 150 grit and got to what a lot of manufacturers call a "satin" finish. The holes in the tang are pierced and the shoulders between blade and tang are in line, not offset like the toy blade I'm copying. My friend will be doing all the fitting and finishing on the handle so I'm not sure if that will matter to him.

  I'm going back to the shop after I post these pics to harden and temper. It will either shatter, warp, or turn out OK. Either way I'll post new pics and follow up info tomorrow.





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This is what I ended up with. I went edge down into the fire and worked it back and forth till it was holding a dull red through the length of the grind. Quenched in plain water. I was shooting for a one step quench with no additional tempering, as I stated earlier this is not an attempt to make something worthy of fighting a pack of wild ninjas. The blade turned out quite springy. I haven't flexed it past 20° but I chopped enough southern yellow pine last night to assure myself there are no stress fractures. The spine thickness is .217" length is 19" blade' 5.5" tang. Weight is 1.247 lbs.

     I don't know how long Brian will take with his part but I'll post new pictures as soon as he shows me some progress on his end.Thanks for looking.



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57 minutes ago, Steve Sells said:

A water quench with no tempering? then you are lucky it didnt harden much if at all when you went chopping.    Be careful

This is new to me and totally experimental Steve. I could have gone much hotter and drawn it back to spring temper but I wanted to see if I could hit a spring temper with a lower temp quench. I'm using plenty of p p e and "testing" in a safe area. I know I wont end up with good edge retention but I'm more interested in making something that won't break on impact. I may be going about it wrong but honestly, so far so good. The man I'm working on this project with is a responsible adult who will be cautious as well. I have plenty of annealed 1075 1/4 x 2 x 36 on the rack but I like repurposing junk metal. I'm not looking to sell these kinds of blades or even put them into circulation, I'll let companies with deeper pockets than mine worry about the liability, but this was a lot of fun and I will be trying it again. 

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i did some temper testing with the coil spring stuff i've been working with. sounds like the same stuff you're working with most likely. made about 1/8th inch thick 1'' wide unfinished blade points to test with. i didnt see much difference between the zero temper and 30 minute @ 400F temper with water quench. both snapped like glass without flexing much. vegetable oil and a 1hr temper @ 400F had great flex but still broke before bending. water or vegetable quench with 2hr temper @ 400F resulted in great flex and very small bend prior to the breaking point.  

i used a big catfish scale i had to pull on the tips, the breaking points of water quench without temper didnt take much at all, the 30 minute temper i couldnt see a difference in the weight of the pull. the veg and 2hr temper was WAY higher weight on the breaking point. i made a couple graphs (this was about a year ago) of my testing i might be able to find. i was trying to pinpoint where the break/bend graphs intersect to get the most out of the blade. one graph for water one for vegetable oil. x axis i used weight and y axis temper time at 400F. i formed the opinion that i would like my blades to have good flex, bend before breaking, but never bend continuously without breaking. 

peanut oil will smoke and burn at 440F making it easy to manage temperature wise. just heat the vat of oil up till it smokes and soak a blade in it for a couple hours. 

i found this page to be a good tool for picking tempering mediums. 



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bend continuously - I mean bend it to any extreme and it wont break. for example i bought a few super cheap china katanas  (like 20 bucks) for gag gifts bout 5 years ago. you could wrap the blades completely around a flag pole several times and they wouldn't break. like wrapping wire around a fence post. no strength, no hardness. 

if i pulled a sword to 65 degrees released and had a 10 degree bend set in the blade but 120 degrees snapped it that would be not a continuous bend. so like if i could take a blade and bend it into a circle that would be baaaad.

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