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I Forge Iron

What the latest knife taught me so far


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Made my first knife when I was 14. Then in the next 35 years only made 3 or 4 simple knives that weren't very good. Now I'm in my 50's and have become disabled I needed a way to force my brain into learning something new I figured black smithing might be cool. And I gravitated to knives soon as I started.  It was then I discovered that I hadn't forgot most of it. And what I don't know is the smithing part. My dad made knives and he taught me, but he never forged any. He ground his knives from flat steel bars he bought.

Last night though I had missed a big one.  That is, use a countersink bit on the rivet hole and not only does it look better, it makes the rivets easier to set.  

And if you think only quenching the edge and tempering works, well it doesn't seem to.  In the future I plan on getting a propane torch so I can drill the holes and shape the metal and then quench and temper. But for now as my forge is coal I'll have to keep doing it when the smithing is done.

Oh and towards the end of forging use a lighter hammer and a softer touch so the blade won't have dips and tool marks.

Anyone got more tips you'll only learn by doing?

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Have your hammers properly dressed so they don't leave as many dings.

Differential hardening and tempering works quite well for many alloys; if you are having a problem it may be with your method and not the concept!

There are ways to make a coal forge better for heat treating, a common one is to insert a pipe with one end sealed off into the hot coals and use that as a muffle furnace.  Be sure the pipe is steel and NOT galvanized!  Placing some crushed real charcoal in the pipe can help scavenge oxygen while you are using it.

I use a set of tempering tongs to help with differential tempers.

Saying that a method doesn't work because it's not working for you is rather like saying stick shift cars don't work because you can't drive stick!  How were you doing it?  Perhaps we can figure out what went wrong?

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Hondo:  When Thomas mentions dressing hammer faces he means that any imperfections or patterns on a hammer face will transfer to the hot metal.  Also, most hammer faces are slightly domed.  This means that they create a shallow crater-like depression in the metal.  For most work, the overlapping depressions average out and do not leave large irregularities in the surface.  However, there are times when you want a flat face on your hammer, particularly when you are finishing a blade or anything else you want a flat surface on.  There is even a set tool (one which you place on the hot work and hold with a handle while you hit it with the hammer) called a flatter which you use as a near final step to smooth everything out.

Also, the edges of your hammers should be nicely rounded/radiused to prevent C shaped marks in the work if you strike a little off of dead flat.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

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My stepson lost (and I found and kept) a small hammer with a very flat square end. It's a bodywork hammer for beating pieces of fender strait. I gave it a try on this latest knife and had pretty good results with it compared to just trying to smooth it out with the flat side of a ball peen hammer. 

I should have qualified that heat treating just the edge doesn't work for me these last couple of times. Parts of the edge are hard to file on and other parts the metal feels soft as butter. Going to take me a bunch more practice to get good at it. 

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