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James Helm

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Everything posted by James Helm

  1. These are a couple of bush swords I forged at the same time that are kind of linked in my mind, though they went to different customers. The top one was ordered up by a fellow on an archery forum who was directed my way by a guy who uses blades extensively, who wanted an 18" blade. The bottom one was a first for me in that the customer had no e-mail or smart phone that I could send him pictures of it before shipping it. He had based his decision to ask for a bush sword from me on an article by Joe Flowers in the final issue of the lamentably-out-of-print Tactical Knives magazine. Since it had been several years since I had made the blades for that article, I let the customer know that what he got would, of course, be a bit different and hopefully better. tharkforged by James Helm, on Flickr What links them in my mind is that when I had forged them out and had them laying side-by-side, I immediately saw them as Barsoomian short swords being wielded in the lower limbs of a Thark to ward off any blows that might slip through larger, longer-range weapons wielded by the top pair of arms. Very different blade shapes, but kindred spirits, if you will. These are also a jumping-off point for me as I have been making bush swords for years now with integral socket handles. While I still feel that they make great handles if done correctly, I think that I have refined my multi-layer cord wrapping technique to the point that it is more comfortable than what I am able to do with the integral sockets. I still built them with Turk's head knots fore and aft to provide a good mechanical lock in the hand. The longer blade has a black-over-black wrap and a thin false edge that could have a secondary bevel added to sharpen it. The customer initially wanted a 21" blade, but I felt that I could give him better balance at 18" and he let me go ahead. thark04 by James Helm, on Flickr We set up his Kydex sheath for baldric carry, with a double-adjustable, quick-detach shoulder sling like I use on my tomahawk sheaths. thark05 by James Helm, on Flickr I believe the blade may have picked up a bit of negative sori during the quench as the slight recurve seems more pronounced in the post-heat treatment photos. thark06 by James Helm, on Flickr The shorter bush sword has a 15 1/2" blade. The top edge is fully sharpened. thark01 by James Helm, on Flickr The wrap is tan over black, with a tan Kydex sheath. thark02 by James Helm, on Flickr I have to say that I firmly believe that the customer got a better bush sword than the one in the article that caught his attention. He was certainly happy with it. Couldn't ask for more than that. thark03 by James Helm, on Flickr
  2. My donation piece this year for Knife Right's Ultimate Steel fundraiser: 13.5" blade forged from 80CrV2, marine epoxy-impregnated black-over-tan paracord handle wrap, black Kydex sheath. I'd rather sweat and feed mosquitos in my shop than wrestle with lawyers and politicians. Thanks, guys!
  3. Don - We stayed in Gatlinburg a couple of days, those pictures were taken in the national park.
  4. The Forged in Fire contestants who were at Blade Show got together for a group photo. There were a lot of us!
  5. Finally doing a Blade Show after-report. It was the best knife show I've done, and it flew! I didn't get to get around to talk with more than a small handful of the folks I wanted to, and sold all but three pieces at the show. Those three were all claimed before I made it back home. It was the biggest Blade Show yet. The first year I was there, a large margin of empty space surrounded the tables. The year after that they pushed to the outer walls. This year they had booths in the foyer out front. I haven't done a show yet where I didn't end up putting the final edges on in the hotel room. It was my buddy and fellow Forged in Fire champion Tobin Nieto's first time to have a table at Blade, and he, of course, made it entertaining. My loverly bride holds a glaive that he made, and he has my sword. You always need an eye-catcher on your table, and these are ours. Always enjoy it when Dan Keffeler comes by. Among other things, he had a Super Assassin with him. Which Tobin seemed to like. This fellow bought several blades from me, including the Ludicrously Oversized Bowie. Got to meet Ryu Lim, fellow Forged in Fire champion. Jason Knight was a contestant on the unaired pilot episode of Forged in Fire. He won with this Damascus gladius. He did all right. Mardi Meshsejian (another FiF contestant) made a katzbalger that was undoubtedly prettier than the one I built for the show. Mine was lighter, though; there's a full pound of sterling silver in the guard! Gorgeous work with a stainless san mai blade, anodized titanium handle, sterling guard, and fossilized walrus ivory pommel. He also had this gorgeous o-tanto with stainless san mai blade and fossilized walrus ivory handle. Tobin was as enthralled with RMJ Tactical's official rendition of the Frank Frazetta Deal Dealer ax as I was last year. There was a small disagreement that was amicably settled. Luke Swenson liked Tobin's glaive in spite of it not being a slipjoint. My brother-in-law talking with Tracker Dan. An interesting study in contrasts. Ed Calderon, the Taco Ninja, poses with some $5 foam nunchucks someone sold my nephew. Tobin's wife and daughter are in the background, oblivious that they are being posted across forums and social media. Don Carlos Andrade, who makes beautiful culinary cutlery, and Joe Flowers, who designs for Condor Tool and Knife. This bolo, o-tanto, and sword were the only items that didn't sell at the show. We got invited to tour RMJ Tactical's new shop in Chatanooga, TN, on the way back home. Enjoyed it a lot! Ryan made some comment about "the bellies of bladesmithing". While my wife and I spent a couple of days in the Smoky Mountains on our way home, I shot some better pics of the unsold items. All three were bought before we got back to Texas. This Sasquatch waded into the stream and grabbed the sword, but eventually wandered off. In spite of the long handle on the sword, the Sasquatch's paws filled it with a two-handed grip. I didn't get a good picture of my two tables at the show. I did have one of the four smaller tantos travel back with me so that I could ship it to the customer so he wouldn't have to mess with getting it back home.
  6. And a couple more bush swords in 80CrV2 steel, with integral socket handles, black paracord, and 16" blades. And black Kydex.
  7. I had a couple of finished up tantos go out to a good customer recently. He's been waiting for the shorter one for a while, and picked up the longer one, which I had forged as a demo of using my power hammer dies, when I posted as available on Instagram. The shorter one is forged from 80CrV2, with a 9 1/2" blade. The longer one is 5160, with a 12 1/2" blade. I did a bit of a variation on my usual wrap with these, matching a wrap I had done on a chopper for him last year. Over a foundation of neoprene is an underlay wrap of white bleached hemp cord, with tan paracord for the overlay. And, of course, tan Kydex. [/url] He sent me a video of him hacking up a large pumpkin with the longer tanto. Made short work of it. And this bush sword was one that I had forged a while back and had the customer disappear on me. It was kicking around the shop for a while until another customer bought it as his first custom blade. It's forged from 5160, with a blade length of around 15" - 16" and an integral socket handle. I had made a Kydex sheath for it, but the customer also got a leather sheath with baldric rig for it from fellow knifemaker Luke Swenson. Nice little detail on the leather, Luke!
  8. I don't have a whole lot of experience using a variety of grinders, and don't yet have much time running the AmeriBrade. That being said, it is worlds ahead of the step pulley KMG I've been running up until now. It has almost no vibration, and I would not buy a grinder that only has one tool arm slot these days. It can hog the metal! Which is what I mostly want out of my belt grinder. I do have to say that their customer service has been awesome. I had only bought a 12" contact wheel from them prior to ordering my grinder. But with my dealings with them, they have treated me like I have bought 30 machines from them. Whatever you go with, I would say to not try to cheapen out on buying a good quality grinder. It's your workhorse. Even if you're a hobbyist, it's going to be a lot less frustration working with a grinder with the power, control, and flexibility to make your skill be a bigger factor than working around tool inadequacies. And if you're selling blades, at an average of $220, it would take 8 knives to pay for the kind of setup I got from AmeriBrade.
  9. Thank you! Alan - You're more right than you may realize. This is the last of my FiF stuff. It's dominated my week, but now I need to get back to working on Blade Show inventory. A washed-out look at the push knives I did for the first challenge. They can actually be seen better in the reflections. The katzbalger in its hideous glory: My second take on the guard. Didn't like how the first one fit, so abandoned it before I finished out the quillions. And my second take on the handle since I ground through the side into the channel for the tang on the last day. So many things had to be done several times on this that I named it "der doppleschwert". The pommel was forged from a piece of pipe with the end cap oxy/acetylene welded on. The TeroTuf of the handle fits down into the pommel and the flared tube rivet goes through pommel, TeroTuf, and tang. And finally, a YouTube video featuring myself and fellow FiF champion Tobin Nieto (season 2, episode 8, Cutlass) reflecting on the show, our experiences with it, and answering common questions and criticisms. It's as long as an episode of FiF, but I think it's both entertaining and informative.
  10. Geoff - Gotcha. Part of the design parameters we were given was that the tang had to be a full tang and we had to use scale handles. Jason - Catch up on bills and shop upgrades so I can make more knives. Looking at a second, purely stock removal line for higher production while keeping the forging creative.
  11. Thanks, guys! This is seriously the best part of the episode. I laugh to the point of tears every time. I had forgotten I did this until I saw it on international television. What got left out was after I took a bite of watermelon and said this, I followed up with, "...and sharpening oil." Geoff - It may just be because it's 1:00 a.m., but I'm not following what you mean. Could you explain? Are you talking about the push knife challenge or the katzbalger?
  12. Thanks! #snackbreak Jesse is ok. It wasn't just heat exhaustion that knocked him down, it was also a heart condition he didn't know he had and a lack of sleep. It's a good thing he stopped and sat down when he did!
  13. Watch the episode tonight and you'll see who won! A show that was perfect for knifemakers would not necessarily be as perfect for the average viewer. Within that limitation and the even bigger limitation of their 43 minute run time, they do a pretty good job. It at least gives a taste of bladesmithing to the general public, and we knifemakers can sit there and appreciate the ingenuity and nitpick over the mistakes each contestant shows.
  14. Caleb- Knifemakers have a love/hate relationship with this show. I agree to an extent with both sides. Overall it's a positive thing for our craft, I think, otherwise I wouldn't have competed on the show.
  15. Tomorrow night! (Tuesday, April 18, 8:00 CST) Here's the episode description: "For the first time ever, the competitors are challenged with creating not one, but two blades in the first round. With double the pressure and double the work, the bladesmiths are pushed to their limits, which leads to another first–a hospital trip. After a grueling second round, the two remaining smiths have just five days to create an iconic 15th century combat sword–the Katzbalger. Which bladesmith has what it takes to burn through the obstacles in their way and become the next Forged in Fire champion?"
  16. Don - Whoever he is, he needed a haircut before he went on international TV. Thanks, guys! They're now showing commercials for my episode (next Tuesday, 8:00 CST), and it's interesting to see myself on the TV screen. The cuts are edited so quickly, that by the time I realize I'm looking at myself, I'm already off the screen. It should be an entertaining episode.
  17. New season starts this week. And on the 18th:
  18. Some recently finished tantos. All are 80CrV22, with paracord wraps over neoprene hardened with West System marine epoxy, with Kydex sheaths. This black one was a commission, while the tan one will be on one of my tables at the Blade Show. Blades are around 7". This o-tanto and smaller, stabbity slicety tanto were a commissioned pair by a son for himself and his father. The o-tanto is about a 14" blade, and the other is about 7 1/2". The stabbity slicety tanto is about as narrow a point as I can recall doing on a blade! The son decided he wanted a retention strap added to his o-tanto as a belt-and-suspenders insurance policy to keep it secured while it rides on a pack.
  19. I sent an e-mail to Alan to see if I can get my screen name changed to James Helm. Here are a couple of camp bolos that went out to customers recently. Both of these started out as demonstration pieces, showing how I use the dies on my power hammer to forge blades. Neither one of the customers who ended up with them had me build sheaths for them. The blades are a little over 12" long, with false edges on top. This first one was for the first STAB (South Texas Association of Bladeslingers) get-together out at my shop back at the end of January, forged from 1084. I finished it out with tan over black paracord on top of a neoprene foundation. The second was forged from 5160 as a demonstration for a fellow who came to my shop to study my home-brewed guided helve power hammer to help build his own. He ended up buying the demo blade from me, and I finished it out in black over black paracord over neoprene.
  20. Came out good! I'd be curious to see a picture of the on from the Battle of San Jacinto that inspired it.
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