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Thread: nepalese cache hardness questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    2

    nepalese cache hardness questions

    hi,
    new to the forum so please excuse any faux pas. I have a couple of those blade only cache kuks from atlanta cutlery, a ww1 and a longleaf. I was disheartened to find that both are quite soft as my main goal was to get a non tourist piece that would hold up to heavy use without breaking the bank. I am considering hardening them ( differentially) myself and am familiar with the generalities of the process but i am now seeking people with actual experience with these specific blades. I am considering using clay, but am willing to let someone talk me out of it altogether. Why are these soft? I imagine there are some advantages to having a soft edge. The blade shows heavy use so i imagine a soft balde can provide good service and be easy to sharpen. What kind of steel are these likely to be? Do they have enough carbon to harden correctly? What is a good guess at a temering temp? I have been suprised at the lack of information in chat groups on these blade only versions and i am of course interested in making a handle after sorting out the metalurgy, so any input from fellow owners is appreciated.
    joe p

  2. #2
    Joe,

    I expect that you will probably get more responses on the details of your metallurgy questions over in some of the forums dedicated to craftsmen. Most of us are collectors. Traditional kukri are differentially hardened. Have you tried the file test on yours to see exactly where they are at in terms of your hardness?

    In general the Nepalese thought about their blades a little differently than we do in the west. They tended to have slightly softer blades so they would be tougher (less likely for the edge to shatter) when worked hard. Remember, most of these knives spent most of their time splitting fire wood. A softer edge was also preferable because it was easier to sharpen and maintain in the field with no special tools.

    Likewise you have no doubt noted the short spiky tangs on your blades. The British never liked these as they loosen and fail over time. That is why they went with full tangs that were riveted in place. But those handled still broke eventually, and when they did they were impossible to fix in the field. If a traditional handle breaks you can always just re-glue it or carve another one.

    I think for most people in Nepal the kukri is a tool. Its a tool with a lot of symbolism behind it, and it has some social status, but its still basically a farm/camp tool for most people. Like any farm tool there was an awareness that they would wear out eventually, so the central question was always how do we make it easier to repair it, and keep it running. Thats always been my take on the blade hardness situation at least.

    If you really want a harder user that you can still customize, very often you can find high quality commercial kukri blade blanks on ebay.

  3. #3
    Oops, and I just noticed that this is your first post, so let me extend a big welcome to SFI. You will find a lot of good information around here! Post some pics of your blades when you get a chance.

  4. #4
    Welcome!

    Benjamins right, even in ww2 the requirment for kukris was that the should be differntialy tempered, & hard enough to cut barbed wire on a board withouut chipping , but not so soft as to dent. This also enabled them to be sharpend in field with ordinary files etc.

    Spiral

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    2

    file test etc/

    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Judkins View Post
    Joe,

    I expect that you will probably get more responses on the details of your metallurgy questions over in some of the forums dedicated to craftsmen. Most of us are collectors. Traditional kukri are differentially hardened. Have you tried the file test on yours to see exactly where they are at in terms of your hardness?

    In general the Nepalese thought about their blades a little differently than we do in the west. They tended to have slightly softer blades so they would be tougher (less likely for the edge to shatter) when worked hard. Remember, most of these knives spent most of their time splitting fire wood. A softer edge was also preferable because it was easier to sharpen and maintain in the field with no special tools.

    Likewise you have no doubt noted the short spiky tangs on your blades. The British never liked these as they loosen and fail over time. That is why they went with full tangs that were riveted in place. But those handled still broke eventually, and when they did they were impossible to fix in the field. If a traditional handle breaks you can always just re-glue it or carve another one.

    I think for most people in Nepal the kukri is a tool. Its a tool with a lot of symbolism behind it, and it has some social status, but its still basically a farm/camp tool for most people. Like any farm tool there was an awareness that they would wear out eventually, so the central question was always how do we make it easier to repair it, and keep it running. Thats always been my take on the blade hardness situation at least.

    If you really want a harder user that you can still customize, very often you can find high quality commercial kukri blade blanks on ebay.
    Hi,
    thanks for the input. I don't have any fancy gear for determining hardness, but it is easy to get a file to bite in anywhere on the edge and i can scratch the surface with other pieces of metal that i know are not particularly hard. I tend to like blades that are softish and i don't plan on trying to chop through any barbed wire, but i have seen others comment that kukri from this source have occasionally been extremely soft. I am almost certain that there is no way this thing is going to cut through the barbed wire that i am familiar with, although i imagine barbed wire comes in a range of hardnesses. Clearly if these were designed to be repaired in the field with files then some files will bite in. Do i need a special set of files to determine hardness?

    p.s. i was under the impression that only pro blacksmiths could post in the metalurgy forum

  6. #6
    You should check out the bladesmith cafe. To be totally honest I am not sure what constitutes their definition of a professional smith as it seems most of the posts there are not by people who make their living exclusively selling hand made swords and knives. But I do know that if you search through their archives of old posts you will be swamped with discussions of tempering in all sorts of situations.

    Also, you probably want to know exactly what the hardness of these blades actually are before you start reforging them. You can find a fairly inexpensive set of files for measuring hardness at amazon for under $100. The more advanced machines that do this will run you a few grand.

    In my experience (and I have studied the AC/IMA kukris pretty extensively) there is a fair degree of variability in the blades that come out of this cache. Even in a single group (like the "Longleaf" knives) there were clearly lots of different artisans making lots of knives over lots of years and its not clear they were even all using the same models. So you will see variability in blade length, geometry, weight, the handle and tons of other stuff. I would certainly expect some variability in hardness as well. But all of these knives should have been differentially hardened.

    Its hard to know what to say about your blade lacking any definite data. In my experience the Nepalese blades are a little softer than the British ones (which had the barbed wire requirement) but they should definitely be able to take an edge. I have only run across a couple of blades that seemed totally untempered to me. Interesting both were in the WWI series and both seem to have been abused in the past. One is very corroded, the other looks like it was run over by a tank. I suppose if these knives were abused enough (like they were involved in a fire) they could have lost their temper at some point in the past. Just something to consider.

    Also, if you are interested in how these knives were made you may want to take a look at this film. Berkley found it online. Unfortunately its in Chinese, but you can follow what is going on without the commentary.

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