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I Forge Iron

Newbie with a Gough Jig - Thoughts and Observations


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Sometime during quarantine, I got the bright idea to learn how to make knives and thanks for some wonderful advice on this forum I got a very small but functional forge up and running.

I also learned from several horrific experiments that I am not yet interested in using a belt grinder to attempt to make stock removal knives. The obvious and well stated reasons apply regarding wood belt sanders. The other reason is that, honestly I would rather learn knife geometry using a tool that is more forgiving, in that I cannot remove too much material in one go. As a result, I did some searching and came across multiple examples of Erin Gough’s jig. The attached pictures are my second attempt at making a serviceable filing jig. I think that it is a wonderful tool to learn some of the fundamentals of shaping knives. I, unfortunately, cannot free hand drill three holes in line with each other, and as a result was unhappy with my first attempts. A steel work surfaced jig with full length backer plates suits my abilities much more readily. I had read about the idea of welding together such a jig, but have yet to actually see pictures of such. Lacking welding equipment and skills, an oak backed, mild steel surface is the closest I can come to approximating the concept. In truth, I’ve been enjoying it enough, and its functionality works well enough that I have been making a conscious effort to use it after work. I enjoy it because it is very easy, for me, to ensure that a knife blank is in proper alignment, regardless of which side is facing upward. That is not in any way, shape or form a criticism of Aaron's original design. Rather, it is a concession towards both my abilities and my preferred way of thinking. Also, shown are my first attempts at hand filing a knife… such as they are. Please don’t be too brutal and keep in mind this knife blank is a refuge of my abortive attempts to cut bevels with a belt grinder. Prior to filing on the Gough jig this blank had multiple, crazy bevels and the thickness at the working edge was all over the place. I figured that considering that it was messed up to begin with, that it might as well serve to practice file stroke form and practice efforts to bring things into consistent bevel and thickness. As a result, pulling the bevel and plunge line all the way to the spine was a conscious decision on my part, even though it is not aesthetically appropriate.

All in all, I certainly do need to practice setting my plunge lines. As well, I am aware that there are multiple issues with the blank as it stands:
     - Plunge line evenness, and continuation to the spine
     - Weird bevels on the plunge line wall
     - Thinness of blade edge prior to heat treat
     - File scratches near the plunge ling. This blank continues to provide opportunities to learn, and I am pretty happy with the direction my experience is headed. In all likelihood, I will probably play with correcting the plunge lines, heat treat and polish to some level of finish so that I have an understanding and can do better, and more quickly on the next go 'round. I mean why waste more material?

Things I have learned that might benefit other new folks:

- Some Nicholson mill files have one edge that is not serrated and a side each that is single and double cut. Life is easier if you buy two and set them up on separate guide rods so that you have a separate left-hand dull edge and right-hand dull edge file for working near the plunge line. (You can of course grind the edge having serrations smooth, but for 11-ish dollars it’s nice to have two files whose edges that you know have consistent and factory geometry)

- Draw filing actually goes surprisingly quick and makes interesting corkscrew shavings, as opposed to perpendicular filing.

- It’s worth spending some time practicing cutting bevels with a single cut file… While it is slower, you are less apt to leave deep scratches, and it is good to have an understanding of what it feel like to have a file quickly load up with metal shavings.

- While most videos I have seen show people filing perpendicular to the knife spine, it can be beneficial and a time saver to file at a moving angle across the face of the blade….to help prevent filing divots.

- Draw filing near the tip of a knife is tricksy and it pays not to use too much pressure.

- While it is time consuming, and I’m not sure I want to do it for years, there is a certain amount of Zen involved in hand filing knives.

- Weird flex, but I built my jig way way larger than I needed… mainly because I was being lazy and didn’t want to cut metal. This actually worked out to my advantage in that the additional length on the “wings” lets me use them as a steady for my off hand while filing.

-  It’s worth practicing and getting comfortable filing with both your dominant and non-dominant hand for each “side” of the knife. You don’t have to be perfect, but it does help with both divot and deep scratch cross filing.

In any case, any thoughts, advice, or criticism would be appreciated.  






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You just started and You are full of impressions....one impression hunts another.

Sometimes it is difficult for me to follow every error and trial You have been through, but You do well and above all You pay attention very well and 

You are thinking.Just collect on all those impressions and with time a lot of questions will be answered by themselfs.

Maybe add a jig to get the ricasso even and scribe a middle line.....couldnt tell from the pics if you did

when you understand whats happening You dont need filing jigs anymore, you dont want them anymore....there is a point where this technique might slow down your developing skills.

because it is easier to compare both sides of the blade and work on them equal if they are not clamped down all the time.....then a belt grinder will come to your mind and you get an idea how to handle its power to serve your understanding so far.

al in a nutshell you do very well.....good luck;)


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  • 2 weeks later...

Templehound, thank you very much for the kinds words and advice!! I very much appreciate your encouragement and I apologize for not responding sooner. I also want to apologize as my writing style can be difficult at times. Thank you for reading through it.

You are exactly right in what you stated. I am using the file jig to get comfortable with the geometry involved and am greatly enjoying contemplating the ideas that come from that. When I am able, I best learn by physically doing, and it is a lot easier to correct mistakes when I make them slowly. I do hope to eventually progress beyond using a jig. Whether that involves filing freehand or using a belt grinder I do not yet know. I do know is that there is some amount of peacefulness to be had in shaping metal regardless of how it is done.

This was my first attempt at cutting a ricasso and it was done without scribing a line on both sides of the knife. I have since bought a carbide cutter for layout lines and I will use for future efforts. I have also been making an effort to regularly look at each side of the knife blank while filing.

More generally, a little bit of progress with things. I am taking it slowly both because I don’t have a great deal of free time and because I enjoy attempting to think through the process prior to doing it.

My originally intent was to polish up the blade prior to putting a handle on it. However a friend expressed interest in how it looks after seeing it on my desk at work. (It has been tempered, and de-scaled in vinegar) Attached is a picture of how thing stand currently. I have a running debate in my head about rust bluing the knife prior to permanently affixing the handles.  

I have been playing with shaping the wood scales and this is my second attempt. I like the direction it is headed but need to reduce the total thickness and will also start with scales that are not as thick next time.

The wood is un-stabilized sapele. It was chosen because I had a block that was already squared up and because I think that when it is finished it will have some nice, muted play in the figure. Once everything it ready, the plan is to finish the handles with Odie’s oil. I have a friend who makes ukuleles that swears by it. That finish has an amazing citrus smell.




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Panik: Doing this kind of work is very meditative and is good for the soul, especially during times this trying. 

I don't usually comment on knives not being a bladesmith guy myself. However at first glance your first pic looked like you'd meat axed your blade in someone's shoulder.:o Brother, that is one HECK of a way to get folk's attention. Marketing GENIUS!

Frosty The Lucky.

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