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I Forge Iron

Hello from Germany


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I'm 33 years old, married, two little sons. I have no blacksmithing experience and got here on recommendation of a YouTube knife maker. I want to start into knife making because I like sharp knifes for cooking and I can't afford high quality knifes or the one's I like. I have some experience in sharpening with wet stones. After watching several videos about knife making I thought that I could give it a try. Forging blades is also very interesting, but not right now. 

First I thought I could skip the heat treatment by using an old file/rasp. But the farriers rasps i got are pretty hard and it takes forever to grind them with an angle grinder. So I ordered some soft firebricks and a little torch to build a small forge. Also ordered a face mask and eye protection. This is were I am right now.

I would like to show the steps of my first knife making and hopefully get some tips and tricks along the way. I already found the "Knife Making Class 101" section, is this the right place for such a threat?



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Welcome aboard Tim, glad to have you and hopefully your children as they grow a little. 

You can buy knife blanks to grind and finish. There are professional heat treaters a bladesmith forum or club in your area should be able to put you in contact. WE call making knives this way "stock removal" you get to build a set of necessary skills that don't require a forge, anvil, etc. 

Once you start forging blades, your skills with stock removal will come in handy. 

Yeah, knife making 101 is a good place to hook up with bladesmiths and beginner bladesmiths. Two members here are published authors regarding bladesmithing and one has been featured in educational television specials. So, yes you can get your questions answered even if it's just being pointed to something to read.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Hello Frosty,

I know that I could buy knife blanks but that is not what I'm after. I'm working as a mechanical engineer and I'm sitting in front of my screen far to much. I want to create something by myself.

I would like to take classes of several crafts but in the actual pandemic situation all of them are cancelled. So I just start doing instead of waiting.

Right now I'm building a shed which I designed, just waiting for warmer weather to pour the concrete base. All the framing and roofing I will do by myself. The shed will also have some space for further tools.

Perfect, so I will open a threat in the knife making 101 section showing the making of my first knife. 


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First thing: files are too hard to make a good knife they need to be tempered to a softer state and then worked without letting them get hotter than the tempering temperature.  (Note this is drawing the temper not hardening and drawing temper.)

Second: I got into blacksmithing about 40 years ago because I wanted swords and the good ones were so expensive---I could have bought the most expensive hand made pattern welded sword available back then for a fraction of the money I've spent on blacksmithing stuff! And I'm so glad I didn't!!!!!!!!

Third: I suggest folks starting out learn to smith and then work on bladesmithing, easier to learn it in steps than trying to do it all at once.

However if you do want to jump right in I advise taking a good sized coil spring from a car or truck and cut it along a diameter to get a lot of "(" pieces.  This will let you learn on all the same alloy and you can find out forging temperatures and how it works under the hammer and then practice heat treating, temps, quenchants, tempering,  break testing them to see what gives the finest grain.  Here in the US the springs are generally 5160 (EN-55?) and make a decent knife so if you luck out you end up with a decent blade.

There are a number of books on Bladesmithing and Knifemaking; several written by members participating in these forums; check out the book forum here!

When I was in Germany in the 1990's there were several active forges at museums, I remember one in Lauf ADP where a group of volunteers were running a water powered old industrial forge. I actually got to forge at the Fränkisches Freilandmuseum Bad Windsheim; where the the smithy was again being run by volunteers.  (They demanded I show them pattern welding.)  So a group associated with a museum might be able to let you work and learn quite a bit before going off on your own.

A coke or propane forge and a quiet anvil will go a long way to not annoying your neighbors. (As will making things like bottle openers as "gifts" for them.)

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Hi Pnut, hi Thomas,

thanks for the links. I already got an old railroad piece whitch I could turn into an anvil.

But right now I'm totally fine with stock removal knife making.

This is my little forge (or how do you call it?) for heat treating the blades. Just firebrick and a propane torch. No rocket science.


And no I don't fire it up on the workbench. This was just a picture after I finished it.

Thomas, so I don't need to anneal the rasps? Just tempering?

What I read so far rasps are often made of 1090 or 1095. I already followed a tip of jmccustomknives I found here on IFI. Heated the tang to non magnetic and quenched it in water. Then I tried to break it in the vice. It broke easily and this is how it looked:


For me that's a sign that the steel is not case hardened. So I would go on with cutting the rough shape with an angle grinder, tempering like a 1090/1095 and then starting to establish the bevel with a file.

If this goes to deep into detail for an introduction post, I can start a new threat in the knife making section.


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nope, detail is pertinent information sometimes.

Case hardening is a totally different process, and the minute that you heated it to non magnetic all the way through... case hardening would have been pretty much destroyed anyways.

This is similar to quenching and hardening a blade, then reheating it to fix a warp in it. You remove the hardening by heating it to non magnetic again. You can then hammer it, bend it... reheat, and requench it to harden.

Tempering, to me... in layman's terms is annealing. But at a much more controlled, longer process.

Annealing is heating the metal to non magnetic and cooling it very slowly,  retaining heat as long as possible to bring it to its softest state... its easiest to work state. You could literally then hand file that file to shape easily.

Tempering is heating the metal to a much lower temperature depending on the alloy- around 300°-450° F for a specific period of time to draw some of the hardness out gradually, not entirely. This allows you to still retain edge holding hardness, but flexibility and toughness of harder carbon steel. Again, much easier to grind and shape with abrasives.

Tempering a knife is a very important step in knife making after quenching high carbon steels. Immediately following quenching, the steel is hard, but brittle. Literally dropping a hardened blade on a concrete floor can break it half.

A knife should be tempered as soon as possible after hardening/quenching and cooling... and always before any additional grinding or shaping.

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Hi Welshj,

I know what case hardening is and also why to do the hardening, quenching and tempering. I just mentioned it because the post of jmccustomknives says that cheap rasps are sometimes made this way. And if so, it is not worth putting time and effort in it to make a knife out of it.

On 11/6/2013 at 12:36 PM, jmccustomknives said:

First thing I do is heat the tang up to non magnetic and quench half of it (the tang) in water.  Put it in a vice (wear safety gear) a inch or so up the tang and see if you can bend it.  A clean break means you're probably working with an all high carbon steel file.  If it bends or doesn't easily break then it may be case hardened.  Case hardened files are for rasp snakes, I wouldn't waste the time making them into knives.  Treat the high carbon ones like 1095 and you should be close.

So in conclusion to hand file the bevels I need to anneal the rasp. That was my primary plan, just got confused with Thomas' statement.

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If you are using files to work files/rasps then you do need to anneal it to make it soft enough to file.  If you are using a grinder you can just draw to the final temper temperature and grind from there making sure to keep the blade cool while working it.

The no annealing method is good for people who don't have the capability to do a full heat treat; as tempering can be done with a standard kitchen oven. Heating above the critical temperature for hardening requires a forge or high temp furnace.  I first ran across the just drawing to final tempering temp and grinding in "The Last Whole Earth Catalog" published in 1972.  I was given a copy for Christmas when I was in High School; but my Grandfather, a life long tinkerer, was so interested in it we gave him my copy and went out and bought another one for me---I can see it on the bookshelf from where I'm sitting!

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Hi Thomas,

Thank you. I will try both methods. One end of the file was already heated to non magnetic, so I will cut the rasp in two parts. One I will anneal the other one I will draw to the final temper.

I have a 3x21 belt grinder, which is mostly used for woodworking, with grits starting from 40. I will give it a try.

The annealed part I will do with hand files.

Maybe I find some time tomorrow to do the rough shaping with the angle grinder.

For the further documentation and questions I will start a thread in the knife making section.

Greetings Tim

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Rasps are generally not the same alloy as a machinist file since wood and hooves are not nearly as hard as steel is.  I talked with the metals guy at Nicholson file, and although he would not give me the exact alloy they used, he said that treating a machinist file like W1 for heat treating was a good bet.  He said their machinist files are a higher grade of steel than the wood files and rasps due to the above statement. 

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