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Blacksmith quote? An edge keen...


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I took a class with Mark Aspery, and he quoted a traditional saying in the "British" English version, and I can't remember the wording exactly, and I like to be precise... But the quote is:

If a blacksmith would an edge make keen, then he must forge it thick, and file it lean/theene???

I just wanted the nice colloquial flavor, of a traditional saying, any help from across any of the ponds, or local for that matter?

Thank you

Shane

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"Mechanicks Exercises"  Moxon, published 1703, parts published earlier as a serial. (I have a copy of the Astragal Press' facsimile edition)

"He that will a good Edge win Must Forge thick and Grind thin"

Anyone have an earlier attribution?

This seems to indicate that they knew something about decarburization!

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I had to dig it out online; as my copy is about 6 miles to the NNE of me.

Remembering that that was published even before "Cast Steel" was common in the UK, (Huntsman, 1750), and so folks were using wrought iron derived blister and shear steel for blades and probably working them quite hot!  As grinding was a much greater problem back then, (remember the video of hand hewing immense grindstones!). they must have considered the extra labour and expense worth it.

(And of course: "Steelmaking before Bessemer, vol 1 blister steel, vol 2 crucible steel"  Barraclough)

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9 hours ago, SJS said:

 But the quote is:

If a blacksmith would an edge make keen, then he must forge it thick, and file it lean/theene???

IMHO I would interpret it to be,     File it lean , because.

Most working/cutting tools were wrought iron edge steeled with blister steel, so filing/wet grinding on stones, exposed the welded edge.

"Lean" meat in butchery terminology has little or no fat, the fat showing up in a "marbleing" effect, (That gives the meat flavour) it also reveals differences in composition.

Filing removes the inclusions at the edge of a working surface, and exposes the actual structure and integrity of the weld,

Lean also does not mean thin, different cutting edge thicknesses are required for different purposes and materials. eg Scythes or axes

 

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Moxon doesn't mention steeled edges for knives at this date; though I know it was common in medieval times, ("Knives and Scabbards, Museum of London" even has a categorization of blades based on how the edge was welded on.)

.The manner of Forging Steel, either for Edge-Tools, Punches, Springs, &c. Is (the several shapes considered) the same with forging Iron: Only this General Rule observe, from an Old English Verse used among Smiths, when they Forge Edge-Tools,He that will a good Edge win,Must Forge thick, and Grind thin.

I'm trying to track down the "Old English Verse"  mentioned to set an earlier date on it.

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I strongly doubt it was in Old English, or that Moxon would know Old English; as you know there is a limited amount of known works in OE.  While I would love to find one of Chaucer's characters spouting this phrase; I would more expect Moxon to be referring to a "traditional saying" of the last 100 years or so of his time.

Old English would have a lot more alliteration over rhyme.

Hmmm:  Best Blades the smiths Battle bought, From fire firm strokes left Fat, Ground keen the war tooth bites bitterly (last bit needs some work...)

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  • 7 months later...
On 2/18/2020 at 8:18 AM, SJS said:

If a blacksmith would an edge make keen, then he must forge it thick, and file it lean/theene???

I also took a class with Mark Aspery!  He taught me to forge and heat treat a 4140 cold chisel and cleaned up my hammer swing!  (I was questioning my own memory of his saying this rhyme but only for the last quarter)

 

"If the Blacksmith will, a keen edge win; he must forge thick, then file thin." 

 

(the only thing I can't 100% remember is if he said "and" instead of "then".)  Anyway, this version scans and has a pleasant flow and it's how I remember Mark saying it.

Have a good one brother!

Noah

On 2/18/2020 at 6:21 PM, ThomasPowers said:

Only this General Rule observe, from an Old English Verse used among Smiths, when they Forge Edge-Tools,He that will a good Edge win,Must Forge thick, and Grind thin.

Cool to learn some history of this pleasant little phrase, thank you brother!

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On 2/18/2020 at 10:41 AM, ThomasPowers said:

"He that will a good Edge win Must Forge thick and Grind thin"

That is also very interesting.  Also thinking it might actually be "and" instead of "then"...   "and" makes the phrase easier to say out loud...

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Check out the book: Moxon's "Mechanick Exercises"  published in 1703; but mainly written in the last half of the 1600's.  I'm sure you can find a copy online.  I have a facsimile printing of the original put out by Astragal Press, so all  the original wording and even the use of f for s.  Great fun to read.

Why get bogged down in people reporting what other people said that other people said---go to the source!

OK, found one: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015028306002&view=1up&seq=82    go down the page a bit to see the quote as of 1703

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