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I Forge Iron

First knife made and now a couple of questions...


burninghXcsoul

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So in a local hunting forum a couple of guys did a knife in the hat swap thing and I joined in.  The parameters were to use a file and make a knife.  Mine turned out ok.  I did a lot of research here and other places before I made one as I had never used an old file before or made a knife.  Now I have a couple of questions based on what I encountered while making this.

1.  I used an old nicholsen file, well two actually, the first one developed cracks while I was forging the tip.  I knew I had to anneal it so I heated it up to non magnetic, and then I let it air cool.  Then I tried to forge it and I got some cracks in it.  Then I read that you need to let it cool down slowly so I brought the second up to non magnetic and then I put it into a bucket of sand.  (I dont have any ashes or vermiculite laying around)  I had read that sand would work and most of the knife was annealed but there were still some hard spots (of course where I drilled the hole for the pin).  Will the bucket of sand work or should work?  I brought the whole knife up to an orange color so I know the knife was hot enough.  Not sure what happened.

2.  After annealing and forging in the tip and bevels on my anvil, I normalized it twice by orange heat and then air cooling.  I then ground the bevels in on my 1x30 HF belt grinder I bought for this.  When I brought it up to quenching temp I quenched at an orange heat.  Is this too hot?  I've read that you want a dull red color but in my coal forge it was hard to get that in an even heat as in some of the knife would be red and some would be black, and then when all of it was red, some would be orange so I just quenched it at orange.  Is there anything bad about quenching at orange heat?

3. In bringing it to orange heat, I was successful at melting the tip in because I had ground the bevels in before that.  Do you guys normally leave a little bit of meat in the blade before quenching to avoid this?  I had left about 1/32 of the edge flat to avoid this but I'm guessing the tip was just to thin and it gave way.

4.  After making this I read that you should grind the file teeth off of the file before forging because that can cause cold shuts.  Is this advisable?  I didn't do it on my second file but I also didnt take alot of full power swings at it either.

After quench, it passed the file test and I tempered it in a junk toaster oven I use to bake my powder coated cast boolits that I make for my guns.  I use an oven thermometer in it because you can easily droop lead boolits in it if your not careful.  I noticed that the temps would swing from 390 to 450 with the normal temp being about 425 for most of the time. It seemed to work ok and the whole blade had the deep straw color to it, so I'm guessing that it worked.  

5.  How do you keep wood from tearing out around your pins?  I used some oak pieces I had laying around my woodshop that I planed down to use for the scales.  While grinding the 3/16 pins down on the one pin, I kept getting tear out around the pin.  I was using an 80 grit belt on the HF 1x30 belt grinder but when I would switch to the 120 all I would do is burn the wood.  I'm guessing its a speed problem.  This was fun and a learning experience and I have a couple of treadmill motors laying around I use for other stuff so I might build a 2x72 grinder with one at some point and they're DC so you can easily slow them down.

6.  How do you keep epoxy from getting on the blade?  I put blue painters tape on the blade but the epoxy went underneath of it.  I'm assuming that this was due to the teeth still being on the file but does this happen even on a smooth blade and how do you redo it?  Do you do your final polish after you put the handle on?  I worked my way up to 2500 hand polishing the bevel and I would hate to have to redo that after you put the handle on it to take excess epoxy off.  I let the epoxy dry and set for 24 hours in clamps before doing this so the excess was already dried at this point.

7.  When grinding down the scales, you hit the blade, this seemed unavoidable to me so I planed to sand the tang part of the knife after I had ground the handle to the shape I wanted but while hand sanding the scales, I found that while trying to sand the metal tang along side the wood, it would create this huge mess of metal dust, epoxy dust, and wood dust and it looked like crap.  So I tried to sand the metal as best I could and then only sand the wood part after that to avoid that mess.  This was pretty time consuming so how do you guys get around this?

After that I put some coats of BLO on it and called it done.  Any advice or critiques are welcome, it was a fun project and I look forward to making more in the future but would like to do a better job and avoid some of my earlier mistakes.

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Run down to your local public library and ask them to ILL "The Complete Bladesmith", "The Master Bladesmith", "The $50 knife shop"  I think you will find that over 500 pages written by experts will be a much better source of information that a couple of pages on a website written by who knows who.  I will say that most of your process will result in a poor blade and there are cheap and easy fixes for it.  Like using a chunk of pipe in your coal forge as a muffle furnace to get an even heat when heat treating.  Sand is not a good annealing medium---you have a forge but can't produce wood ashes???  And yes you don't grind sharp before heat treating---leave at least the thickness of a dime at the edge.

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For a first one, I like it.  Its better than my first effort.  I'm only a few months in to my knife making adventure, so can't offer a ton of advice, never having worked with old files, but on the finishing side... I do 95%, or more, of the finishing work of the blade, before I ever epoxy the scales on.  About the only thing that isn't done, is the final sharpening.  That way, you don't have to worry about messing up your scales, or getting odd sanding lines up close to the wood.

As for the epoxy, after you get your scales glued on and clamped, take some Q-tips, dipped in acetone, and clean up the edge of the scales and any epoxy that might have gotten on the blade before it sets.  Do it before it sets, and you won't have any issues.

There's already a ton of knowledge on this forum about heat treat and tempering.  I went through a lot of steel, learning how to HT my blades with my set up.  I'm to new, and there are to many variables, especially when using a coal forge, for me to offer good advice on that... suffice it to say, it sounds like you should do a little more reading, and to get it right, be prepared to sacrifice a lot of steel.  If you truly want to see how good or bad your particular process is, you'll be breaking coupons to check grain pattern, bending/snapping blades to check tempering, and putting your knives through enough paces that you have sore arms and blister on your hands to make sure it will hold up to some real world use.

Its a good start, so keep learning and enjoy the journey.

 

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Nice first

I am somewhat of a beginner also and i just finished my first file knife too and made some of the same mistakes. I see you got most of the answers to your questions in the previous posts. Only thing i will add is that i annealed mine in ashes beforehand to make it easier to grind the file pattern off, seemed to work well.

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Steve:  I was forging at a bright orange yellow heat.  I definitely didn't forge it at anything under a red color.  I knew that much haha and I was surprised at the two cracks. Maybe it was something else I did or the file was broken in half so who knows what had been done to it in its previous life.  

One of the guys who participated in the knife swap wrote a tutorial on how to make a knife from a file.  He wrote it basically geared towards if you were doing stock removal so he had the first step as annealing the file.  I figured annealing it would de-stress the metal but I wasn't sure if that was required for forging or not so I just did it just in case and apparently out of ignorance haha.

Thomas:  I'll have to look those books up and add them to my collection.  Out of the three which one would you recommend I get first?

Thanks for the pipe idea, I'll have to play around with that.

I guess I could make a 5 gallon bucket full of wood ashes but that would take forever and there was only 3 weeks to make the knife for the swap and between my job, just starting my doctorate, and a 6 month old, my free time to myself is pretty limited.  I'll have to hunt down some vermiculite.

Heap:  Thanks I'll have to do that acetone thing next time.

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Is that picture where you forge or was that just wher you put your anvit for the picture. Not worried about starting a fire. My blacksmithing stuff is in my wood shop and i am constantly cleaning to avoid that.

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I suggest you ILL all three and then select the one that will do the most for you to buy first. I know the time bind; I well remember when I was working on another degree, working 50 hour weeks at Bell Labs, had a 100 year old house in constant need of repair and had two young kids.  Blacksmithing ran a low 5th.  What's your phd in?  (My eldest Daughter graduates with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine next month---how the years have flown!)

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I was told my the materials guy at Nicholson to treat the machinist files like W-1 tool steel. They use a different alloy for the machinist files since wood and hooves are not as hard as steel. They have used the same alloys as long as he has been there - 45+ years.

One problem I have with file knives is when the teeth are left on, since every one of them is a stress riser, and a crack waiting to happen.

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1 hour ago, BIGGUNDOCTOR said:

I was told my the materials guy at Nicholson to treat the machinist files like W-1 tool steel. They use a different alloy for the machinist files since wood and hooves are not as hard as steel. They have used the same alloys as long as he has been there - 45+ years.

One problem I have with file knives is when the teeth are left on, since every one of them is a stress riser, and a crack waiting to happen.

1st rule having to do with working with files, and I have made a bunch, I never forge on a file with teeth intact.  Rarely do I ever find it necessary to forge a file to shape anyway.  Every one of those knives pictured could have been done by stock removal.  That would have saved a lot of time, energy and effort.  ;)

 

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You're right Steve; I just don't have that one pounded into my brain yet like the others---shoot I can even spell Hrisoulas without looking it up after so many years of typing it. (and if you knew how much trouble I have with spelling that would probably be considered either a miracle or a forewarning of the apocalypse!)

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I never know, you will have to ask if anyone is going to have any electrical trouble around then, work issues allowed me to go last year.  Thank God for Wayne Coe he even had a space set up for us to share.  I got to see his forge design, and fell in love with his air curtain feature too.

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36 minutes ago, Steve Sells said:

I got to see his forge design, and fell in love with his air curtain feature too.

I just went through Wayne's site and saw no mention of an air curtain feature.  Is there info about this somewhere.  I'm intrigued.  It sounds out of my league right now but intrigued none the less.

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