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Steven511

When to start knifemaking?

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I've been getting a friend into blacksmithing, and they seem really interested. I spent today with them showing them how things work, and they even forged a little leaf. They are really ancy to get into knifemaking, but I've been holding out for them to get at least the basics down before they start. My question is, what should I have them do? How many leaves, hooks, punches, tongs, etc should they make before they get to try a knife? How fast should they be able to forge these?

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I'm not sure there's a hard and fast answer, as so much depends on their ability, familiarity with the tools, willingness to learn from mistakes, and your ability as a teacher, among other things. Have they made any stock-removal knives? Made any knives from purchased components? Do they know how a pre-form influences the shape of the finished knife?

If they really want to be a bladesmith, at a minimum they should be familiar with the basics: tapering, drawing out, bending, twisting, punching, cutting, filing, grinding, etc. A basic understanding of metallurgy for blade steels is necessary. They should definitely understand that forging is only a small part of what it takes to make a knife. Grinding and polishing aren't nearly so much fun (for most of us) as forging, but just as necessary for the finished product.

The bladesmith sub-forum on this site may have more-informed opinions. You might consider asking a moderator to move this thread for you.

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The very first time I swang a forging hammer, I randomly banged on steel, and it turned out a knife. And a good one, I still use. No permanent damage done.

I say - Let them scratch that itch. They can make a blacksmith knife or some other simple project. It's as good a practice as any, and more satisfiying than another per of tongs.

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It all depends on the person, some pick up the basics a lot faster than others and some will always struggle.

Besides just being able to make a taper, etc I would be looking at how accurate they are with the hammer and how smooth of a surface finish they can achieve.

Tool steel also moves differently than mild does. What are you using now.

Some of my first projects were forged file knives

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There is no basic progression to follow and no need to start with blcaksmithing before forging blades. They are just different similar things and both take time to learn.

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When someone is in a hurry to jump into knifemaking I generally let them.  After burning up several pieces learning about forging temps for High C materials, they then usually learn about hammer control as I have them drawfile their first one---6 hours with a file because they can't hit flat can be a good teacher about the need to learn the skills before applying them to a more persnickety area!    (Actually the more they aggravate me about it the sooner I let them try and so the more filing/destroyed attempts they do...)

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7 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

6 hours with a file because they can't hit flat can be a good teacher about the need to learn the skills before applying them to a more persnickety area! 

I like how you think Thomas, but my friend knows they need some practice before making a knife. But they want to know just how good their forge finish, their hammer control, their tapers, etc should be before they can actually start making half-decent knives, and I don't have an answer for them. I was wondering if anyone had a rule of thumb for how fast or how well they need to be able to make so and so things before they can make real knives.

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For me at least, the time spent forging when making a knife is typically something like 10 to 20% of the total time spent on the knife.  There's always follow up grinding to be done, heat treating, fit and finish of handle components, etc.  What I'm saying is if they want to *make* a knife then stock removal is a good way to learn a lot of the skills needed for knife making.  If they really want to *forge* a knife with little to no experience at the anvil they should be prepared to fail a few times (especially if using solid fuel) before succeeding and they will still possibly spend even more time at the grinder than they would if they had gone with stock removal. 

Basher has a good video on forging a blacksmith knife if forging is the main area of interest.  He explains it very well and makes it look a bit easier than it really is for most of us.  It's not really beginner level, but there are a lot of forging techniques involved in that project.

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I don't know any strict rules, but It might be a good idea to begin with a hidden tang knife. 

Much easier to make than a full tang knife with scales and fitting etc. and more likely to yield a satisfactory knife.  

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BZZK,

wrote (above)

"Basher has a good video on forging a blacksmith knife ….,"

I would like to view that video. Would you please cite a reference to it?

Thank you,

SLAG.

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BZZK,

Thank you for the reference.

SLAG.

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Well it's hard to tell from here how a particular student deals with frustration and adversity. If they are the type that thrive on it and re willing to spend hours working on something only to test it to destruction then they will be ready to advance sooner than if it distresses them to get things wrong.

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