bill duckworth

power tools for knifemaking, yes or no?

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Just curious how many smiths use power tools or electric fans on blower? I personally use a 4.5 inch grinder', belt grinder sometimes a band saw and a drill press. My goal sometimes is to use no power tools what so ever. I have done a few stock removal knives, but mostly forged. Of both methods I've done with and without power tools. So let's hear what you use power tool wise( or refrain from there use at all ),thanks!

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Yes and no.  For some blades I use all I have and for other's nothing; not even modern abrasives.  Of course I really miss having a historical shop as to be true to most periods I'd need another 5 guys working in it. Doing it all by myself is totally Modern! (IIRC making a sword crossed 5 separate guilds in Medieval times, having tools of another guild was grounds to have your shop torn down...)

Earliest powerhammer I've seen good documentation on was at a Medieval Technology Conference at Penn State, the powerhammer dated to the 900's CE! Lots of great examples of them in De Re Metallica in the mid 1500's and Goya's "The Forge" show how you did it when you didn't have water power around.

So what are your reasons for "no power tools"?

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Just prefer the basics forge, anvil, hammer, tongs,hardy tools etc.. Just a hobby , strong passion.. I could see time is money in business , not any means knocking that at all, just curious what others use and prefer' just making 100 percent by hand .I know it takes much longer. I don't care to have super fine finishes, mirror buffs...factory looking . I do believe in using good steel ,edge geometry, and  proper heat treating...and testing knife.. But the finish is secondary to a good knife.

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Your desired finish -- or any other -- can be achieved by either machine or hand work. There is no intrinsic mystical quality to handmade exclusively. 

For your own work, use as much or as little machinery as you like. If part of your goal is to derive satisfaction from working exclusively by hand, go for it. If you find you can work more efficiently and effectively by incorporating machines, go for it. 

I'm a hobbyist, too. My blower is mechanical, I use electric drills and angle grinder, and I would love to have a power hammer. I used to be a 100%-hand-work-or-nothing guy, but that was a looooong time ago. 

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You may want to search out the old neo-tribal forums; Neotribal was a craft movement trying to get back to the basics and the goal was to do less than 10% stock removal on the blades.  Usinging home build charcoal forges, Tim Lively's washtub forge is a great example.  If you dig them out, I was known as Bogiron...

In recent  times may I commend the work of Stormcrow to you; he posts here and does very nice blades indeed!

How are you at drawfiling?

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One thing the old ways teaches you is that there was a good reason for all those apprentices and journeymen in a shop!

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This is one of those hot ticket topic that frequently turns ugly.  Kudos for not letting it do so.  Since it's being civil, I'll throw in my personal motivations.

I use whatever tool I have available to get the best possible outcome.

For me, knifemaking is sometimes about the journey and sometimes it is about the destination.  For example, I really enjoy using a good file.  I find it relaxing and zen-like to slowly shape an intricate piece of metal using well maintained files.  It's sort of like cruising around country roads in a convertible on a sunny afternoon.  However, I have zero interest in draw-filing the rough grind in on a blade.  That is more like driving past an Iowa corn field in a Yugo on a rainy Monday morning.  I detest the noise and dirt of grinding, but I'm sure as heck going to turn to the grinder to get me past that Iowa cornfield as quickly as possible.

Everyone has to find their own happy balance with this.  Some folks dig out their own ore, and smelt the steel before they start on the blade.  That is pretty hardcore (and awesome), but I bet most of them drive a car/truck to the site where they got the ore, and wore modern shoes when they did the smelt.  Does that mean they are cheating?  Not in my opinion, and they are about 1000% more "Manual" than me when I order my steel online.

It takes all kinds to make a world, and you have to do whatever floats your boat.  The problems come up when somebody decides to take a wiz in the next guy's boat.

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Yes civil not ugly not trying to say stock removal vs forging, draw filing vs belt grinder etc.. is better, just asking what others do and use.... yes hardcore is taking ore ..smelting etc to be a purist is extreme... yes ive traveled through lowa twice to sturgis but it was not in a yugo and yes theres plenty of corn out there. Remember not a argument of whats better . but i will say power makes the boring stuff faster, forging and heat treating is the fun stuff for me

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I dislike power tools.. Just about all power tools.. While I am good at using them and they speed up production and in my normal run of the mill fabrication and welding business as well as the machinist side of it I still like hand tools.. For me I prefer hand work all the way.. (I consider a power hammer a hand tool)

Mind you I have been at it a really long time so the use of files, and water stones for finished and the use of sand papers and such are pretty much ingrained.. I almost don't even think about what I am doing..  

Power tools on the other hand I have to always be careful about removing to much material.. 

As I have gotten older it has gotten to the point where I can't stand in one position as I polish a 48" sword blade with water stones the way I used to and the elbows certainly don't like that pressure stroke or the 500th pressure stroke.. 

Here are a few blades I dragged out, (sword and kitchen knife were made in 1990)all hand done and I'm not a finish to the 9's kind of person as I like good usable items the sword used to have a high polish (2000grit) on it but its a reject.(the proportions of off slightly).. Just have to be durable and keep a good edge kind of thing.. 

The knife in image 2 was just ready to go for heat treatment.. Blade is 12.5" long.. 1hr 30minutes forge time and 1hr to get to this point.. 

Anyhow. I prefer doing everything by hand.. Sadly if it's my own stuff I get to lavish time on it. but for sales items everything has to be finished ASAP.. 

 

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Oh, one other thing dawned on me today while i was finishing the most recent knife.. When hand finishing, forging to just about the correct shape is a must if time is important unless you like to run files..  Also when finishing by hand leaving the blade an even thickness of about 0.030 or 0.025 at the cutting edge before hardening.. On swords I leave it a little thicker at maybe 0.035..  

A pic of todays knife.. One side is just about done and the other side needs more file work.. From forged to this point was 1.5hrs

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I try and do as much as I can with power tools and I have a lot of them, multiple power hammers, multiple grinders, lathe , milling machine etc. I will turn to hand tools if the job is specific to them or if the power tools lack the precision . However I am quite good at making the power tools work beyond where other people turn to hand tools.

 I love hand forging but always bulk the work out under the power hammer (I love power hammers!)....I hate hand sanding and now do almost none just a blending 3 or 4 minutes after sharpening and before the etch!

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One thing to keep in mind when comparing smiths of today as compared to yesteryear is the apprentices.  Most accomplished smiths had one or two apprentices who would yield sledge hammers at the anvil under the direction of the older  smith.  With that era gone, the necessity of power hammers increased.

I love forging a blade by hand, but with an aging back, and raw stock like 1 1/8" round Cruforge V steel to work with, I don't know where I'd be without my air hammer.

Same thing with welding up a damascus bilet. I wouldn't even attempt doing that without my hydraulic press.  Unless of course I had a couple of apprentices yielding sledge hammers!

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