I've been lurking around here for quite some time, and thought maybe it's high time that I introduced myself. A little background, I got interested in making knives about a year ago and started to collect some tools. I bought a forge and anvil, found a post vise or two and some hammers. Then I started building the No Weld Grinder... This has been holding me back some as I'm too cheep to buy the wheels and apparently very slow at making them. (I think this has been an 8 month project now..) Anyway I decided to make a couple of small items to gain some hammer control and ended up making a pot rack, pair of tongs, toilet paper holder, and a fire poker (not much for a 1 year span, but I do this when I have free time, and my shop is 20 minutes from my house..) I also practiced banging out two of knife shaped objects just to figure out the correct angles of attack so to speak. I never took them past a rough forged state as I had never planned on them being anything other practice pieces.
This past week however things have changed a bit. No, I didn't manage to get the grinder finished yet (grumble) however while at my county fair last week I smelled coal.. After a few minutes of tracking the lovely scent I found a blacksmith selling some steak turners, spatulas, ladles, fire pokers, and spike knives. He had a pretty nice setup, small enclosed trailer with a coal forge/blower on one side and a workbench with a grizzly 2x72 grinder, a portable band saw (rigged up vertical with a small table) and a drill press opposite.
Outside of the trailer was an anvil, and .... a 25 lb trip hammer! I walked over and looked at the trip hammer for a few minutes, wishing I could afford such a thing before introducing myself to the smith. He was talking to few people when I had arrived or I would have introduced myself before gawking at his tools.
Anyways I introduced myself and started talking to him, He was a nice gent named Gordon, from WY. I told him I played around a little in my spare time and we talked for a bit, then he said "Why don't you go pound something out on my trip hammer?" This was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I asked him if he would mind if I tried to weld up a Damascus billet, and if he would be able to give me any tips? He told me to go for it. So that night I stopped at my shop on the way home and cut up some 1085 and 15n20 and "attempted" to arc weld a handle to it. (I'm not much of a welder)
The next day after work I stopped back at the fair and started welding it up. I learned many valuable lessons during this attempt. Gordon was extremely generous with both his tools and knowledge, giving me pointers when he could (he was of course busy with customers, but was able to answer any questions I had as I encountered them).
I welded up the billet with only a little problem, remember how I said I had meager welding skills, the handle broke off after setting the initial weld and I ended up using tongs for the remainder. After the initial weld I cut off the ends (There was a cold shut in one end (right on the very edge, and the other was completely buggered from me losing my grip on the billet with the tongs while setting the weld). I then drew it out, twisted it, doubled it, re-welded and drew back out, twisted it again and then pounded it flat.
Now here is where I learned my first very valuable lesson... You can lose A LOT of steel to scale if your not careful (especially if you're used to gas and using coal for the first time apparently).. I ended with about 1/4 of the steel I thought I would when I was done. I now don't know what I'll do with that twisted billet... However I decided I wasn't going to be beat, I grabbed the piece with the cold shut that I had initially cut off of the end and trimmed it up a little then drilled some holes in it to give it a random pattern. I cleaned up the area area with the cold shut with the grinder and wire wheel, then fluxed the heck out of it and proceeded to weld it back up and draw the billet out. I managed to draw that little piece of the billet out enough to make a small knife. After cleaning it up on the grinder and drilling my holes in the tang. I decided to harden it there ( I wanted to take advantage of Gordon's grinder as much as possible since mine isn't finished) So I normalized it twice brought it up just to non-magnet and quenched.
I then learned my 2nd big lesson with this knife... ALWAYS temper immediately following heat treat.. The quench went great, and I thought to myself I'll finish profiling it on his grinder then take it home and temper it in the oven. I spent the next hour or so finishing up the grinding. (first time using a belt grinder and I was taking my time trying to figure out the nuances.) After grinding I looked blade over and i was with the way it was looking for a first attempt. I set it down and went to get a drink. When I came back I thought I'd polish it real quick so that when I tempered it I could really see the colors run. I picked it up and ... there was a crack. The crack hadn't been there before, I'm 100% certain of that. Oh well.. After cursing myself for about 10 minutes for being so block headed, I lit up Gordon's torch and did a softback draw on it.
So I'm quite mad at myself for not doing what I knew I should have, but I've decided to finish the knife anyway. The spine is cracked back about 3/4 of an inch from the tip, but I think the knife will still be usable as long as no one tries to pry with it. It will become one I'll keep both to use and to remind me not to do something that dumb again.
I had quite a few firsts in this knife:
1st time using a real coal forge
1st time with a power hammer
1st time making damascus
1st time using a belt grinder
1st time finishing a blade
And with any luck it will become my 1st finished knife
Anyway here are some terrible phone camera WIP pics of the blade and you can see the crack in it... Without further here is my first attempt at knife:
1085 and 15n20 random pattern: