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Thread: Getting started in Blademaking/smithing

  1. #1
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    Getting started in Blademaking/smithing

    I often see the question asked, "How do I start?" in regards to blademaking. While I am far from the resident expert, I can lay out a few ideas for consideration. And I'll try to do it without making a book out of it (after all, volumes can and have been written on the subject).

    There are several methods for creating blades, but the most common seems to remain forging, and stock removal/reduction. Forging involves stock reduction as well, in most cases, but has the extra steps of rough forging and annealing/normalizing thrown in.

    What you need to begin... For forging, you need a heat source, the metal to forge (naturally), a surface to rest the hot metal on to strike it (anvil, piece of old railroad track, etc. Lots of things can work for this to one degree or another), tongs (for shorter things that you can't handle with your hands without being burned), and a hammer or 3. You can get by with 1 hammer, but a variety of weights and shapes are handy. With these items, you can forge a blade. From forging, you'll anneal/normalize your blade, and go to working on stockremoval to refine your shape.

    Stock removal skips the heat and forge. To do that you need tools to remove the metal to the shape you desire. Lots of ways to do it. A beltgrinder, angle grinder, files, scrapers, hacksaws, bandsaw, etc. (Don't overlook the files and scrapers in all this. Those allow a lot of refined work if you have the patience to work with them. I find them far more controllable, in my own work, than the grinders. )

    Beltgrinders (sanders) are probably one of the staples of stockremoval. You don't have to have one to do knife or sword work, but it will be a blessing to you if you can manage to come up with a quality grinder. It will save you tons of time and handwork. That being said, I don't actually have anything other than a Harbor Freight special... A 1" x 30" little thing. It is not all that great, and to do work with it requires a lot of patience. You can spend hours and not get much done. What it is useful for, I've found, is removing scratches after drawfiling or rough sanding a blade.

    Having said all that, what you *have* to have to do stock removal is minimal.
    You can get by with a file and a hacksaw, and your metal stock to work. Add to that various grits of abrasive paper from rough to very fine and you can shape a blade, with patience. Machines are undoubtedly quicker and easier, though, but I'm just describing the bare minimum approach to beginning here.

    From the stock removal stage you'll want to go into the heat treat. There are lots of methods of heat treatment you can do, but the simplest usually involves a heat source like the forge, or a furnace, and a quench tank to hold oil or water. I recommend some kind of metal container, plastic can melt to easily

    . There are other advanced and more complicated ways, like salt baths, but those require some care in use and do tend to cost a fair amount to get setup with. I still do my knives in my forge and oil quench, mostly. It is pretty basic, so anyone can do this.

    Tempering for shorter pieces, which is mostly what I've been doing, is accomplished fairly well by sticking the knife in the kitchen oven for several hours after the hardening.

    Now, if you don't have a way to do the heat treatment yourself, there are commercial outfits that will do this for you. You'll have to look around to see, as I'm not in much of a position to speak on that, since I do my own in the backyard. I expect asking for advice on that here on SFI would garner some fine suggestions.

    You'll want to have some files and a hand drill/power drill of some kind to do work on your hilting. I bought a cheap Harbor Freight drill press which while not high end, has made my hilting life a whole lot easier. Just so you have a way to shape your fittings and drill holes for rivets or for the tang to go through your handle material, etc.

    Add to this some stuff you don't *have* to have, but I think you should: Gloves, safety glasses or faceshield, leather apron to keep you safe from burns and scale and whatever else might come your way. Maybe even some earphones/plugs. Grinding and hammering can be hard on the ears...

    In a lot of ways, you can get by with a bare minimum approach to start out without a lot of trouble. The first thing I ever heated up and beat on was in an open pit dug in the ground with an old vacuum cleaner and a lump of coal. I used a ballpeen hammer and a rock. The result wasn't pretty, for sure, but it did work.

    Looking over what I've listed above, you can see that you can do the work without a huge investment. There are ofcourse a million ways to improve on your basic setup and as you work you will find what works best for you and beging to recognize what you need to do the work you want to do and what you won't need. And as you can see, I've left a ton of information out on extra tools that make it all easier and what you actually do, step by step ( which varies from maker to maker a lot, anyway) to shape and refine a blade. As I said, I don't want to bore you and end up writing a book.

    Speaking of which, I recommend you read any and all books you can find on smithing. I first picked up The Complete Bladesmith, by Jim Hrisoulas, in my research. It is, in fact, a book I recommend (as do others) as a great source for a general bladesmithing foundation. I found it quite valuable to me, as I had no one around to learn from at first.

    As a matter of fact, I think books on blacksmithing in general would be very valuable to study, as well. Look around your library or check around the net to see what you can find. Those often have alot of great ideas in them.

    There are also a number of blademaking videos out and about that might be of value to you. I haven't a lot of experience with those, so can't recommend any, but others here probably could.

    If you check around a bit, you might be fortunate enough to find a working blade creator in your area. If they have time to show you what is what it would be a great boost to you as a beginner, no doubt. Also check around your local colleges/ tech school type places. These places have been known to have blacksmithing or bladesmithing classes open to the public. I know my local community college did, and I enjoyed the classes I
    went to.

    Do a little searching around the Net as well as reading here on SFI. There are some very valuable resources out there for information from some great makers. I spend a lot of time on Don Fogg's great site, for instance. He shares a lot of great tips on everything from forge building to polishing. And there are other such sources out there. Just look around a bit and see. You'll learn a lot. I still do....

    (Well, I almost wrote a book after all, and I barely touched on the specifics of the craft... but, at least it is a kind of guide line and spells out a bit of what is needed to get a start... Hope it helps somebody...)

  2. #2
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    Resources...

    By the way, if anybody out there has a suggestion or list of Bladesmithing related resources, I'd be interested in seeing them listed. Since my post above is very, very basic, any helpful suggestions or on topic additions that would be helpful to a newbie starting out, would be appreciated. I feel like the question of getting started comes up so very often that having a thread like this would be very valuable to the community. Plus, it might serve to answer the question once instead of having to repeatedly cover the subject over and over... (I've spoken to Dennis and if we can manage to get enough good information on this subject in here, he says he might make it a sticky. )

  3. #3
    I also highly sujest The Complete Bladesmith, by Jim Hrisoulas and the Master Bladesmith by Jim Hrisoulas. The two over lap, but each of them has infromation that the other doesnt (like spears)

    [Father figure voice]
    Now, though you "can" work without protection, I HIGHLY sujest NOT TO.

    Lets start with the hands, obviously since they are close to steel that is ussually at least 1500 degrees, its a wise idea to wear them. Even with tongs or a hammer, your hands still get very close to the steel, and I dont know how many times something has happened to have the steel touch my gloves while hot. Without gloves, you are going to get 3rd degree burns real bad sooner or later.

    Feet, now I know what your thinking, when do I ever use my feet? Well, for one your standing on them all day, wear good boots, feet problems lead to back problems. But the big issue to me is having something heavy or hot land on my foot. Steel toed boots have saved my toes many times. If you dont like boots, just make sure you have leather protecting your feet, drop a hot peice of steel and it will turn most the fabics normal shoes are made out of into goo in a heart beat, then its just your sock thats between you and 2000 degrees.


    Next, ears, yes the ringing does go away, for now, but you are seriously risking damaging your hearing or loosing it later on. Pounding on steel on an anvil, or grinding or whatever simply makes a lot of really really loud noises. Loud noises for a long time will cause damage. Just get in the habit of wearing ear muffs when you work, its all it takes to be able to hear later in life. I sujest ear muffs and not plugs, simply because plugs can be difficult to move in and out of your ear, and when you have dirty hands, then that gets in your ears, while muffs just go on and off real easy. Plus they protect your head more, never really should be an issue, but sometimes things do like to fly in the shop.

    And of course, your eyes. I recommend GOGGLES over safety glasses, espcially if your going to grind. Safety glasses dont cover all the way around your eyes, there isnt a seal like there is with googles. A hot spark in the eye hurts like mad, then every time you look in the mirror you will see this little black spot in your eye, if your lucky it will fall out, if it goes to deep it has to be drilled out (eek). Sparks can easly slip down your forehead or up your cheeck or whatever, you want a seal around your eyes. A face shield is also a good idea to have WITH the googles if your doing heavy grinding. Even when you are forging, googles are a great idea, trust me i know.. it is very possible to have a strong grip on something being forged and suddenly with the energy the hammer causes have it get air born.

    Dont end your career before it starts. Remember, you can NOT forge without any of these things. Loose one and you loose the game. A welders leather jacket is also a wise idea, acciedents do happen, the more protection you have the better. Keep in mind, if this hot steel hits your skin, its not going to be like a burn you get from resting your hand on the stove or something, your skin is going to liquidify, eventaully the burn will start to heal, but will soon follow with a blister like appearnce, full of liquidy goo. When it does finaly heal, you will have a nasty looking scare thats not going to fade any time soon. A bad burn on the hand or something could mean over a month without being able to work.

    I know I seem to be pretty hard about safety, I dont want to discourage or freak anyone out, its just you can loose so very much if your not careful, and so, so, SO very quickly too. Mistakes will happen, no matter how good you are, and when your starting out, they will happen more, thats how you learn. But a mistake shouldnt involve lose of health. Also, one final thought, water bottle, always be drinking water, even if your not really thursty, thurst is the first sympton of dehydration. Even if you where forging in the buff, with the heat of a forge, its going to get hot. Make sure you have really good ventalation too.

    [/Father figure voice]

    With all that said, go out and have a blast forging! It takes time and lots of practice, but you can MAKE the most amazing things. How many other jobs can make there own tools?
    "Sometimes a shadow, dark and cold, lays like a mist across the Road, but be encouraged by the site, where there's a shadow, there's a light."
    Sixpence None the Richer (and Petra) - Road to Zion


    You can view some of my work here at Deviant Art

  4. #4
    Link time!


    http://www.keenjunk.com/sb/scrapbin.php (this is a great place to find equipment, like forges and anvils)

    http://www.museumofhistory.org/coal_forge.html (coal forge)

    http://www.nctoolco.com/forges.htm (propane forge, spendy but I love mine)

    http://www.texasknife.com/store/s-pa...frameStore.htm (knive Supplies, lots and lots!)

    www.kovalknives.com/ (knive supplies)

    http://www.oldworldanvils.com/ (blacksmith supplies, great guy to work with, highly recommend)

    http://www.kayneandson.com/ (supplies, mostly blacksmithing stuff, good place for hammers, tongs, ect)

    http://www.grizzly.com/products/item...emnumber=G1015 (decent belt grinder)

    http://www.beaumontmetalworks.com/sander.html (make a sander!)

    http://www.twinoaksforge.com/BLADSMI...20CHARCOAL.htm (make Charcoal! as well as a Japanese Forge)

    http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.a...urrency=1&SID= (japanese water stones, for finishing)

    http://www.ckg.org/links.html (bunch of knife making links)

    http://www.dfoggknives.com/knifemakers.htm (knife makers)

    http://www.admiralsteel.com/ (STEEL, LOTS OF STEEL)

    http://www.cartech.com/products/index.html (metals)

    http://www.onlinemetals.com/ (metals)

    I've got more links... lol I think about 2000+, but these are the most useful. Plus its 3:04 AM and I should be getting to bed I'll try and post some more, I have a few links somewhere that are for classes.

    Happy Forging!
    Last edited by Stephen Helsberg; 01-30-2004 at 03:02 AM.
    "Sometimes a shadow, dark and cold, lays like a mist across the Road, but be encouraged by the site, where there's a shadow, there's a light."
    Sixpence None the Richer (and Petra) - Road to Zion


    You can view some of my work here at Deviant Art

  5. #5
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    Just to add something to the safety list that Stephen gave, If you are working with anything that goes higher than orange heat, you should get yourself some Dydidium lenses. The intense UV and IR radiation will damge your eyes. Welding goggles should not be used as the dont block the radiation, they just reduce visible glare which will let even more radiation into the eye.
    Simon Wicks

  6. #6
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    Good suggestions, and thanks for all the links and advice, guys. I lost all my bookmarks recently in a system crash, so I'm getting some good stuff here too.

  7. #7
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    Heat sources

    Well, can't sleep tonight so I guess I'll ramble on a bit about heat sources for forging. There are 3 that are commonly known. Coal, charcoal, and gas.

    I've used coal, and have been on hand to see charcoal used, and currently use propane, in a homemade forge body. I'm using one of the Reil burner designs and it works just fine. And it was pretty simple to build, too, and that is saying a lot coming from me. It burns clean and evenly, comes up to temp fast, and is very convenient. I prefer it over the other 2.

    Coal... well, I like it in a way. Got used to the smell and it went a long way, lasted a long time and generated a lot of heat. Except when I couldn't find any convenient source of it and I ended up using some really awful nasty stuff, which I could barely keep burning. Coal is not popular with all smiths, though. It is a fuel which can have some flaws, as in impurities like sulfur in there, which can easily be absorbed by high carbon steels at heat and could weaken or ruin the steel. Using coal, you should always allow it to burn clean before heating your steel... Burn it til it the yellow smoke dies out, as a rule. And with coal, you'll have to learn to watch the fire and keep it fed with clean fuel and will have to deal with 'clinkers'. Still, working a coal fire in the twilight has a very 'mystical' feel to it, for me. If I had a source for good stuff I'd still use it now and then in my old coal forge.

    Charcoal is a very clean burning fuel. It is already pre=burned clean and can be added to a fire as is (natural charcoal, not the store bought briquettes which have additives that may cause problems with your steels). It burns hot and clean, but it also burns fast. It will take a lot more of it to forge with than coal. I understand that charcoal is an excellent heat source for forge welding, as well. I can't get any where I am, and it is so dry that I fear using the open fire forge , really, since I work outside. But if I had an inside setup, and a supply, I'd be really happy to work with this stuff from what I've seen of it. And to boot, charcoal was the traditional fuel source for most all the forging until recent centuries...

  8. #8
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    Anvil

    Thinking about anvils and the sometimes difficulty of finding them... You can get by with other things than the traditional anvil, though it would be nice to have one of those. I managed to buy a 140 pound anvil back in the mid 90's. I paid more than 2 dollars a pound for it, not as good a deal as some folks have got by being patient and looking around flea markets and farm auctions and stuff, but still... I've been proud to have gotten it because it works well. Heavier would have seemed better to me, though.

    I've seen other forms of anvil, though... the homemade variety. I have a piece of girder from an old bridge support that I do heavy forging on, if I'm hitting something that doesn't want to move. Got that from a construction site for nothing. It dings easily and I had to grind a flat on it, but it takes heavy impacts better than my anvil does.

    I've seen a couple of anvils that were made out of square iron pipe with a top welded on that were stuck in a bucket and filled in and around with cement that seemed to work just fine for bladesmithing. In fact, my personal experience now is leading me to look for a well made 'post anvil'. A 5
    inch by 5 inch square, maybe. Or something in that size. It seems to me that would be most convenient for forging in the bevels on both sides of a blade easily. A conventional anvil can be a little tough to work around sometimes, in that particular operation.

    I believe that there is a gentleman that makes post anvils. And I seem to recall someone mentioning someone else making anvils out of old mortar shells. I've seen a picture of a Vietnamese smith working on something similar.

    The point is, if you can't find an anvil, you can still rig something that will work well.

    Just about anything to do to get started is better than nothing, IMHO.

  9. #9
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    Steels...

    Lots of steel types to choose from for blades... You'll want to find something that has enough carbon content to be heat treatable. Mild steel is out for that, since it won't harden any to speak of. It is great for fittings though. (That being said, I've made a couple of knives out of old railroad spikes that did harden enough to make a decent light use knife. These are the so called 'high carbon steel' spikes, which is something of an laugh, since they have something like .30 percent to maybe .35 percent carbon, according to the specs I've seen. I wouldn't want to put these under much stress, though. I don't think they'd take it... You can get a hamon on there, though, so it is a cheap way to have some fun with that. I think Sheffield sells them, though I haven't bought any from them...)

    Some steels are hard to work by forging, some are very easy. I won't make any recommendations since a little research into a steel that interests you can turn up
    better info than I could give.

    Well, I will recommend a way to first learn smithing without a big outlay of cash for new steel. Use old auto springs. They are usually, though not always, 5160. This is a good, tough steel that will make a nice knife (or sword). There are a few issues to be aware of with this steel. Since these were preformed into springs before you forge it, there is a possibility that the steel may retain some memory and actually curve again after you've forged it. I haven't had this happen, but I've heard of it. Also, the steel may have internal stress fractures or cracks that you won't be able to easily find, if at all. So it is a bit of a worry. I haven't found a lot of trouble with this type of stuff, but I have found an inclusion or 2 in this type of steel, and dealing with pits and scaling from its first incarnation can sometimes be a pain. Then, there is the hole in the middle of most of these springs that is... inconvenient.... What I do with that is leave it, in sword blades. I just leave a wide area of metal on either side so it will not be weakened... That, and I countersink the hole a bit and peen something like brass in there for decoration.

    Coil springs from autos work well, too, but have the problem of having to be straightened out. I can't do that in my forge, so those are out unless I use an oxyacetylene torch and bend the thing straight using that.

    The good thing about the steel is it is easy to come by if you look around, and costs little to nothing, if you are lucky. It is easy to learn on, since you won't have to worry about wasting your investment in new steel.

    However, new steel is the way to go if you are making stuff for sale. It is just more dependable that you'll have a clean non damaged piece of steel to work with, in general... And you won't be working with a mystery steel so you will know exactly what range to work the metal in and what to do in heat treat (generally... there can be some variation in the same type of steel from one batch to another in modern times).

  10. #10
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    Hammers, tongs, quench tanks

    As I said on hammers, a lot of stuff will work. I use a 4 pound sledge with a short handle (though I'm thinking seriously about going to a 6 pound) for the first moving of metal. It does well for that. I use a 3 pound crosspein for most all the work in between, and I finish up with a 2 pound ballpein, the type you can get anywhere. That one allows me to smooth out the metal to a fairly high degree before having to go to the rough grinding. Hammers are one of those areas, I think, where whatever suits you and works well is perfectly fine.

    Same on tongs, to some degree. One thing, though, is I think you had best get some very tight fitting tongs (or make them yourself, ofcourse), or else you'll learn to dance, jump, and run. Hey, hot metal gets loose sometimes and you don't want to be in its way if you can help it. A tight fit with your tongs will help avoid that a lot. I'd suggest maybe looking into having one
    set with a quite long handle for quenching, but that is just a suggestion. It allows for steadily sinking a blade deeper into the quench medium to allow a more thorough and quick heat extraction (or so I've heard... ).

    As for the quench tank, a lot of things will work. You want enough of your quench medium to allow a speedy cooling of your metal when you quench. I've heard of some relatively small sized tanks, but when I set mine up I went for a fair sized one. It is 10 inches in diameter, 48 inches deep, and holds 30 gallons of oil. I've just been using old used motor oil cut with diesel fuel, and with a couple cups of dish washing soap added to it, as was suggested on another forum by bladesmith Randal Graham. This seems to work pretty well for me. I suppose you could get by with straight motor oil, as I've done in the past. Or transmission fluid. (As you may guess, all my steel work has been with oil quench steels, and not those aimed at water quenching.)

    Oh, and lest I forget before I hit bed for a few hours, you could probably use a 'slack tub' near where you are working. This is just a container of water with a dipper of some kind that you can use to cool your work as you forge and in watering down your anvil and hammer face if you choose to do the Japanese style wet forging. I just took an old coffee can and poked a hole through the side, ran a square dowel about 2 feet long through there, and wired it in place. Poke some holes
    in the bottom with a nail, and there you go.... a handy water dipper...

    Hmm... looks like I've went a long ways toward writing a book... heh, heh. Guess that is what insomnia does for the sword community. Guess I'll leave it here, since I can't think of much more to add to the forging setup basics, in general. Since I don't do primarily stock removal, I hope anything of value that might be added about that can be covered by somebody who knows it better than I.
    All I know is the angle grinder, file, very rough grit sandpaper to flatten and shape, and the little belt grinder to clean the whole mess of scratches up enough to go to work hand sanding to finish...

  11. #11
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    My thanks for Scott for this thread. If anyone would like to ad information please feel free to do so. Since this question comes up so often I will make this thread a sticky so we can all save some typing.

  12. #12
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    Forum Threads

    Here is a post of mine with a list of threads on the forum covering some of the most commonly asked about topics and including a list of good books:

    Beginner Info Links


    Others feel free to add to my list if you have useful threads.
    Last edited by Danny G.; 01-30-2004 at 03:49 PM.

  13. #13
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    Hey, great infromation scott, but one question. once you create the balde, how do you safley put it and secure it into a handle, either with making your own or using a premade one. just wondering, thanks.
    "Dream as you live forever. Live as though you'll die tommorow."
    -Unknown

  14. #14
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    Sorry one more thing, all the stuff you've described doing, how much does it cost, to say create one blade, including all of the stuff you've here mentioned(a blade of good qaulity to). Sorry for any inconvience, thanks.
    "Dream as you live forever. Live as though you'll die tommorow."
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    Well, there are a number of ways to do handles. It depends on what you choose. If you are doing a knife and want to have slab tang construction, or if you want the tang to be hidden. To hide a tang you have to drill a channel through the handle material that closely matches the tang size of your blade. Adjusting to fit can be done several ways. I use a file more often than not, or a rasp. I've been known to take a broken round file and put it in my cheapo drill press to literally file out the rough drill holes. It actually works pretty well, as long as you use reasonable pressure and don't break the file off. That is something I've not seen anybody mention before, actually. But, it works for me.

    The guard is just drilled out and filed to be a nice tight fit to the tang. That is if the guard is designed to enclose all sides of the blade. Some blades aren't designed for that and a slot will be cut into the guard material and it will be slid into place with holes drilled and pins put through the guard to secure it.

    The pommel/buttcap is made depending once again on what method you chose to do in the planning stage. A pommel made to go on a threaded end section is pretty simple to make. Round of the section of the tang at the end and thread it, then drill the appropriated size and drill a hole in the pommel and thread that. Use a tap and die set for this.

    Or you cut a channel all the way through, and then pass the end of the tang through and peen that down at the end to securely lock the pommel in place. I do a lot of peening, myself.

    Or you can cut a channel in the pommel that is just a recessed area and fit that over the tang or handle end and pin that in place by drilling and rivetting it there.

    Or you can cut a channel, and recess the end of the pommel and thread the end. The channel can fit down over the shoulder of the tang area that is not rounded and seat there so it reinforces the whole setup and won't turn, and the whole thing is held secure by the addition of a pommel screw or nut...

    For the slab tang mentioned earlier, you will want to get a nice and flat finish on the tang if you can, and then get a couple pieces of wood and cut them to the shape of the tang you have established, leaving a bit extra to clean off (easier to take material away than put it back... ) Drill a series of holes through your tang where you will want to pin. Where you do it is kind of up to you, just as long as you have enough there to be strong in the end. Then affix one side only of the wooden or whatever slab material you are using. You can clamp it in place or epoxy it. You don't want it slipping and you want it to be precisely where you want it. After you've clamped or epoxied (and waited for it to dry) you drill through the holes in the tang you first made. This should have everything lined up. Now do the second slab the same way. Fis it in place and drill throught the other handle slab and tang to get alignment. Then just place your pins and rivet or not. I know some makers just epoxy in place...

    I will point out that there are other ways to do handles as well. Some historical swords and knives just had a little nub of tang slipped into a handle that was secured using natural resins. Old tulwars, for instance, just to name one. Seemed to work very well.

    Or you can have a channel cut in two halves of wood that fit together very tightly. This was done on katana. There is a channel in the handle/tsuka that the blade fits into and a hole was drilled through the tang and handle and a peg put through to secure it all. That method worked very well, but requires the addition of handle wrapping and specially constructed fittings to add to the strength of the handle.

    The Albion Armorers models of Viking sword show another way of doing handles that is similar. The fittings are put in place permanently then the handle is constructed in halves similar to the katana and a leather wrap and adhesive secures it all very well. Which is a historically correct method, anyway, that seemed to work for lots of cultures.

    Anyhow, this is only a very general sort of overview, really. There is a lot to know when doing this stuff, but with the little bit I've outlined a person could go quite a ways (I think, anyway... lol)


    Cost is harder to speak to. It varies depending on material and project size and time involved. Material costs for a plain carbon steel blade without special fittings and really exotic treatment can be fairly low. Steel is still inexpensive, though the prices seem to be creeping up at a steady rate, I'm told... The handle material may cost only a few dollars or significantly more. The nicer stuff can be way up there. Different steel types have different prices as well. Some pretty low and some very much higher.

    All that cost can be easily calculated. I find it harder to keep a good account of how much I spend in propane and electricity. Not a fortune, but enough to raise the costs.

    It all depends on what you want to do.

    Just a guess, but a sword of average size and basic components would probably cost around 30 dollars for the raw materials, not counting tools and abrasives and everything you need to work it. Or the labor. Those are the parts that I can't really even begin to define. It seems to vary with everything I do....

    Well, like I said, this is all very basic and generalized, but hope it helps a little...

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Southern Maryland, for the last 350+ years; previously of the Danelaw.
    Posts
    812
    The Anvilfire website ( www.anvilfire.com )has a wealth of information on blacksmithing and metalworking.

    For a brief overview of swordsmithing in an historical context check out my article Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel at:
    http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/ar...li/swords1.htm (this is located in the Anvilfire Armory at: http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/armor/main.htm which has a number of weapons and armor related articles.)

    For anybody who needs a cold dash of skepticism to temper their enthusiasm, Sword Making for Gen X provides plenty of caveats: http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/ar...ord_making.htm

    To start out bladesmithing by making swords is somewhat like starting out painting by taking on the Sistine Chapel. A few folks, with talent, patience and skill, can do it; most of us need to learn in a slow, careful process. I’ve been at this for 20 years, (15 years seriously) and I’m still working on perfecting axes, spears, knives and tools.

    Good luck to you all.
    Retired civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal Viking ship captain.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Arkansas (regretfully)
    Posts
    22
    I have heard that you can make a kukri or aka khukuri out of some rear truck part. Leafspring or something like that. Can you point me in a direction in removing and crafting this spring into a khukuri. Thank you.
    He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    2,922
    Originally posted by Chris T
    I have heard that you can make a kukri or aka khukuri out of some rear truck part. Leafspring or something like that. Can you point me in a direction in removing and crafting this spring into a khukuri. Thank you.
    Chris, it is probably a leafspring you are thinking of. To use one you need to cut to cut the spring to length. You don't have to do this right away, but it makes it easier to handle for me in the forge. The leafsprings are usually pretty hard and cutting by hand is a lot of work. It helps if you do that to anneal first. Just heat up to a cherry red and let it cool slowly in vermiculite or ashes, or even sand, if that is all you can get. Or use an oxyacetylene torch. That is most convenient for many folks. Once you have the blank cut, clean it up (assuming you use a torch, the 'rippled' areas of the cut will come back to haunt you as cold shuts in the blade if you don't get rid of them first off. At least sometimes...)

    Once smooth you can start to shaping. I haven't made a kukri myself, but did a few downcurved blades. Just going on theory here, I'd suggest forming the tip area into a leafed shape with a point first, then tapering the tang end and the thinner blade profile area. I'd do this by using a fuller tool or the crosspein of the hammer. Forge only with the back peen at first, makinga series of little 'dips' in the blade where you want it thinnest in width. The hammer those with the main hammer face and you'll see that the metal has stretched a bit. You'll want to flatten the blade along the edges now and then as they will still tend to 'flare' out.
    In any case, do this til you have a good profile of your blade.

    Then I would work the edges a bit to think them down a lot before bending, but there are lots of variations on working that will allow you to get a shape. It is a matter of preferences sometimes. After the tang end is tapered and the thinner part of the blade established, I'd heat to a good heat and bend the blade downward a lot, more than you want the final form to be. It will distort sideways so you'll need to straighten the blade back to flat now and then in the bending process.

    After this, just start to hammer your edge bevels, not hammering on your spine but just sticking to the edges. The downbend you put in will start to bend back upwards as you work. Just simply work in your edge bevels and taper and adjust for the proper amount of forward curve that you want...

    Well, that is a general working outline... Hopefully you can follow the idea a bit. Having the metal in front of you and trying it all out is a better teacher than words can be, usually.

    If you explore the books and links suggested you'll find a lot more info than I can give you, anyway. I've found that besides for study purposes that looking over other people's working methods and results is also just inspiring and always makes me want to go and do some of my own...

    Hope this helps a little bit.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    central New Mexico
    Posts
    3,250
    Well there are more problems than that.

    Basically you are saying you want to trade unskilled labour for skilled teaching---what's a good trade off for that? I'd say 10 to 1 at a *minimum*, 10 hours labour for 1 teaching. Most swordmakers don't have a lot of "scut" work, many use the simple chores as time to rest or think about things. Also for "single authorship" makers they *can't* use your help on something that will actually sell.

    Also many shops don't have duplicate equipment, they are "one person shops" so if you want to use the equipment that has to be done "out of hours"

    Next comes liability; my health insurance has a clause stating that if I am injured with third party involvement I am required to sue them even if I don't want to---or else the insurance pays squat, so having you in the shop risks everything they have!

    Far better to arrange a formal student teacher relationship and pay for the learning up front!

    Thomas

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    12
    Yes. Earplugs are a good idea. Except when we are are performing live or recording, my band wears earplugs, because we have a loud stage and practice volume, and in the tight confines of our garage, it seems really loud, and ringing of the ears is never good for your ears.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Cape Town
    Posts
    197

    no charcoal?

    Where I live (in rural South Africa) for some strange reason, all we get is Antrasite. No coal, no charcoal,no nothing. Everyone here uses it instead of log fires . Don't ask me, I didn't choose to be born here. I was wondering how well this would work in a forge. Any help would be appreciated. Thus far I have only made wooden swords, so I have all the equipment like grinders and stuff, but I think I'm ready to make the leap.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Southern Maryland, for the last 350+ years; previously of the Danelaw.
    Posts
    812
    Anthracite is useable in a forge, with a few changes from normal practice.

    1) The air flow has to be steady. This is no problem with an electric blower, but a hand-cranked or bellows needs a lot more attention. You just can't walk away from it.

    2) You have to build the fire a lot deeper, more like a charcoal fire than a bituminous fire. Good depth provides more heat and puts the air to work.

    3) It seems to take a bit more water to control than bituminous, ladled along the outside of the heap. Anthracite does not insulate the fire pot from the heat like bituminous does, so the rig runs a lot hotter.

    4) The clinker does not consolidate, so you tend to spend more time picking out the bitty little clinkers and sorting out the coke and raw coal after the fire. I use various size sieves (rat-wire down to finer) to sort out the clinker from the coal. It gets impossible to get clean fines after a couple of runs, so you toss a lot of fines away.

    5) It takes a good kindling fire to get it going. A couple of rolled-up, fist size, balls of newspaper will not do the trick; start with that, add then tinder and kindling, as if you were making a full camp fire.

    6) Welding is more like in a charcoal fire, a hot, open fire, so it's a bit trickier. One charcoal trick is to place a sheet of heavier metal on top as a "roof" to reflect and retain the welding heat. I haven’t tried this with bituminous, but it should work.

    Now for the good news: A lot of anthracite coals are low in sulfur, low in smoke, and put out a LOT of BTUs. You want it to be "gravel" size or "pea" size, although I've used some big lumps in the corners just to start cooking them to coke.

    Check out Dave Lawrence’s comments on his small anthracite forge at: http://www.anvilfire.com/news1/newsp302.htm
    Retired civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal Viking ship captain.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    2,922
    Originally posted by Tom P.

    Now that I am done flattering you guys , I was just wondering if there was anything I can do to forge a straight single edged blade(sorry about the lack of japanese wording, but like a ninja sword)? It seems that every time I try, the blade always curves backwards.
    Hi, Tom... Yep, those blades that curve happen a lot more automatically than the single edged straight blades. I find the basic shape of something like a curved katana blade far easier to forge, personally, than the other styles of single edges I've made.... To counter the bending backwards there are a couple of methods that work well. I usually sort of do a little of one and a little of the other.... Some smiths precurve a bar of steel inward toward the edge they are hammering on. Sort of a shallow c shape. As you hammer the inside of the c the blade will begin to move back toward a straight blade. Depending on the length of the bar and a couple of other factors, you can figure you will need to readjust a bit of curve even with this technique. To do that you can heat the blade to a red range and lightly tap the spine with a hammer. As edges get thinner some smiths use a wooden mallet or something similar so that the edges and spine don't get mashed over too much.

    Plus, you can form the blade a short section at a time, forging carefully in say 4 or so inch heats and work one to a finished geometry before moving on. Part of what you will have to do there is tap the blade back straight as you work.

    Also, working in distal tapering on the spine will help you to adjust some curve upward back out of the blade.

    Mostly it takes a little practice and patience once you have the teckniques in mind.... (Be sure to check out the Randal Graham article posted in one of the old SFI online magazine articles. It shows an overview of his method for doing a katana blade and keeping it all in line...).

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    indiana
    Posts
    27

    another source for supplies

    In my recent seaches locally for suppiles to get started with making a backyard forge, I came across an unexpected supplier for certaian things. Tractor supply stores handle some weldable metals and some basic blacksmithing tools. Check your local store for availibility but the one near me has a limited ammount of refractory supplies such as fire brick and mortar. Just wanted to share the info....

  25. #25

    Wink I know nothing

    Hey, I was just looking around this site and found this link, and it's the closest to where I'm at. I've been interested in swords and blacksmithing for a while, not for the appeal of running around with a sword and swinging it at things, but for the cultural and social importance it's had for so long. Also, my great-grandfather was a blacksmith so it kind of gives me a drive to learn more about all of that. Basically though, I don't have much to work with, no training, and I was wondering if anybody with experience could give their opinion on wether my "setup" would work at all, and/or how to improve it. (I'm limited on cash and space which is my excuse for what I have ) For the forge, I have an older wood stove in my basement surround by bare concrete for a good 6 feet around, and a window right behind which could act as ventilation i suppose. I've never checked the exact temperatures of my stove but I know that after 10 minutes at a good blaze it can turn brass tools glowing red hot. (I'm willing to purchase or make charcoal if neccesary for the right temperatures). For the anvil, the closest I could come to would be the top of the stove itself. It's flat and is made out of around 1/8 of an inch thick metal (I'm assuming cast iron), also it has alot of pieces to it that seem to make it very sturdy. For safety I have a goggles, gloves, steel toed leather boots, mostly cotton clothes, and it sounds ridiculous to me but would a leather jacket/trenchcoat be sufficient to replace the leather apron? Just economising and such . For shaping tools I'm willing to buy a new hammer from the hardware store, and I have a band saw for cutting the metal to shape, as well as a good file and soapstone for sharpening. In terms of heating techniques, my woodstove has vents which I can use to control the airflow and temperature, and i have a tin bucket that i could use for quenching. As well, I'd obviously buy new steel to work with, although I read a site by a bladesmith who specialises in traditional japanese weapons who says using steel cable works just as well if not better. All in all though, that's what I have planned out so far. The projects I intend are just so that I get a feel for the craft, nothing fancy at all because I don't expect anything of myself, and if my "facility" (hahahah) isn't up to scratch enough for steel/sword working, working lower temperature metals like bronze or copper would be equally satisfying for tools or ornaments. Thanks in advance for any help/advice/suggestions anyone offers, or just tell me flat out if this isn't good enough to do anything with at all hahah.

    Cheers, and thanks a bunch again
    Mike

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