Jump to content

Wesley Alberson

  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Posts posted by Wesley Alberson

  1. 1 hour ago, Joël Mercier said:

    Beautiful work sir!

    Edit: I have a question: how do you grind your bevels? They seem a bit convex right?

    Correct. They are a little convex. I start with a jig that I made for getting most of the material at the edge removed. I forged these thin enough that I was able to heat treat them before grinding the bevel. I use a jig because that keeps me from slipping and accidentally getting 36 grit gouges on the forge finished part. With the bevels flat ground most of the way, I then use higher grit belts freehand because the bevel is already established. I grind at an angle on the platen, and with the nature of freehand grinding, it's pretty much impossible to get a perfect flat grind.

    • Like 1
  2. It has been ages since I have posted here. I have been getting into local markets to sell some of my knives and other forged things, so I've been making some kitchen knives. They are much more popular than my utility knives and historical/fantasy stuff, although my folders sell well too. Most of the kitchen knives were forged from 1095. I got them really thin, too. I made these knives a bit too triangular, they were all from the same forging session. Usually there is more of a drop point quality to kitchen knives so the handle and edge are more parallel. The handles are all stabilized woods, micarta, and g10.


    My favorite handle combo so far was this circuit board spacer/micarta. The board is from old ATM boards, so the copper and solder bits are thicker, making it pop.


    I also got a scholarship from NCABANA to do a damascus class. I took one of Joe Szilaski's classes, it was a really fun trip to NY and back.


    A rusty rustic  swiveling bistro set I made from some old farm stuff (not meant to stay outside)



    ... and a meme for y'all seax aficionados


    • Like 1
  3. One detail that I left out of this write up is an experimental process. Now its always easier to make the face of the guard flat because when it hits one shoulder you know it hits the other.  Lets say you want the face of the guard to have a certain look to it, like a chevron or a radius. You can punch the oversize hole, then make a second punch that matches the dimensions of the first, only the very end of the punch has the desired shape you want. When you deform the guard to make the smaller radius, it conforms to that shape. Essentially what this does is it makes the smaller radius all one thickness when fitting, so it all deforms at the same rate, and is easier to deform.

  4. Here is a write-up for a process I demonstrated at the SBA:

    Forged and Hot Fitted Knife Bolsters/Guards

    Wes Alberson

    It is a curse to be an impatient bladesmith. There are so many little processes in knifemaking that give a whole new meaning to tedium. One such process has been emphasized more and more in modern times, and that is guard fitting. The main purpose of bolsters and guards is to act as a surface for the handle material to rest against, giving the handle material extra support. Another function is to protect your hand from accidentally slipping onto the blade.. The accuracy of a guard fit has become an important part of bladesmithing because it makes the knife look neater overall, and having a tight seal around the blade keeps dirt and debris from getting in and causing rust. Using solder or JB Weld to close the gap is a good method, but not always the cleanest looking. It is best to get the fit as close as possible.


    The usual way to make a guard that fits a knife is to drill a series of holes that are slightly undersized, then file out the rest of the way until the guard fits. I have done that plenty of times, and the first time is just as tedious and hand-cramping as the last. Another way is to mill an oversize slot most of the way through and the last bit is filed and fitted.  I made it my mission to find a way to fit a guard so that I would never have to touch a needle file again. Punching and drifting in the blacksmithing realm is preferred over drilling because you have less loss of material, and on top of that you can make the shape of the hole as complex as the punch. I have figured out a simple way to create a precision fit with thick stock without intense filing.

    The process begins with making a punch. This process is all about the punch. You can forge it out of spring steel, or any other high alloy steel you like. You need a punch that matches the width of the tang, but it needs to be thicker than the tang by a small amount. It needs to be slightly tapered to release the punch. For knives with plunge lines or a ricasso, a rectangular punch with rounded corners works well. For knives like puukko and historical seax knives that do not have a plunge line, you will need to make a triangular punch. This is because the shoulder at the spine is full thickness, and the shoulder at the edge is almost ground down to an edge.



    It is crucial to make sure that the tang of the blade is tapered. Most of my guards are hot drifted onto the shoulders of the blade, so I make the thickest part of the blade just past the shoulders. If the tang is not tapered, the guard fit will only be as close as the thickest part of the tang. All the corners of the tang should be chamfered, too.

    For metals that are easily worked hot like steel or copper, I like to punch a hole through hot. For metals that are trickier like brass or aluminum, I drill holes that remove most of the material that is in the way of the punch, then I drive the punch right through to break away the “web” between the holes.


    Now at this point, the guard can slide up all the way to the shoulders, and there is still a considerable gap on each side. We can remedy this situation by inserting the punch almost all the way through the bolster, leaving about a 1/8” or smaller gap. This leaves an area of the guard that is not supported by the punch, so with the punch in, focus hammer blows at a slight angle over the unsupported area so that it deforms, and hammer evenly on both sides. I have found that it is harder to deform the areas closer to the shoulders, so focus hammer blows there, preferably with the round side of a rounding hammer.


    The face of the bolster should be smaller but not completely closed, and the punch should keep the rest of the bolster oversized to the tang. The face of the bolster can be ground down or left at its rough finish state if that’s the look you’re going for. At this point, you could break out the files and fit your guard, but I don’t have time for that.


    Instead, I like to make the tapered tang do all the work. With the face of the guard slightly undersized, the very end of the tang can fit in, and I can hot or cold drift the bolster onto the knife. I do this with aluminum vise inserts and a piece of pipe used as a monkey tool. I set up the knife tang up in the vise with the aluminum inserts, leaving the shoulders higher than the jaws because it will get pushed down no matter how tight you make the vise. In the case of steel or stainless, I heat up the bolster to bright yellow, transfer to the knife, making sure it is in the right orientation, slide the monkey tool on, and get to hammering. In the first heat, I drift up to the shoulders, and in the second heat I drift onto the shoulders to make an impression in the bolster. For more malleable materials it can be done in one go. When hot fitting, getting the blade too hot is always a concern. I usually hot fit my guards before heat treating, but I have noticed that the temper colors don’t extend too far, probably because the aluminum acts as a heat sink. I could feasibly get the knife heat treated and finish ground, then hot fit the knife and be done with it. The aluminum will leave a couple marks, but no intense refinishing needed.


    When it comes to finishing these the order of processes can be rather tricky. If the knife is rough ground when the bolster is fitted, there will be gaps when it is finish ground. These gaps can be closed by squeezing in a vise with the knife in it, or in extreme cases re-inserting the punch, closing the gap further, and then refitting. Sometimes the guard is hard to fit back on the knife, so padding the vise jaws

    and the back of the bolster with leather will keep it from marring. There are also tools that allow you to slowly press fit the guard that use threads and nuts, much like a vise in reverse, and it doesn’t touch the blade at all. There are still a lot of things I have not tried out with this process, and I’m looking forward to seeing how others modify this process.


    • Like 1
  5. Usually when I rivet tongs I cut a piece of the rivet material so that it is hanging on by a little bit. Then I heat it up, put the rivet through both holes, twist it off, and start hammering. Using a rivet block under the tongs is probably best so that you don't run the risk of bending the rivet instead of mushrooming it. Then I heat up the tongs and rivet, mushroom the rivet the rest of the way, and start opening and closing it to loosen the action.

  6. last year I suggested a dao bao. It is a combination veggie peeler and kitchen knife so you can cut and peel things without switching tools. The 2 pieces are held on with screws so it can be taken apart and washed/sharpened



    It might also be fun to do a "tacticool" theme where we make something that looks crazy like mall-ninja stuff. It would be giving into the dark side, making the knives that the basement dwellers and cheap katana collectors want! :P


    • Like 1
  7. 4 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

    With ~90% the majority of knife hilts was made of bone and more rarely of horn.

    When thae say "knife hilts," are they talking about the bolster, or the whole handle being made of horn? Also, is there a type of oak here in North Carolina that would be comparable to the oak in Europe?

  8. 22 hours ago, Gerhard said:

    I've made 4 Kukris now, just my interpretation having nothing but photos to go on.....

    My opinion, in the case of a Kukri recurve is not the correct term, I see it as a bend in a blade that takes a knife halfway towards being an axe.....

    As far as recurve blades are concerned, two things are not in doubt: Their sexiness (JMO :D ) and their cutting ability....... I understood it when I nicked myself with a recurve blade, the cutting edge suddenly was where I didn't expect it to be and it bit.....

    The only issue on smaller recurve blades is the sharpening......depending on how you sharpen.....

    That is an interesting perspective, I can definitely see kukris as being pinched and bent rather than having a recurve. The cutting ability of a recurve is great indeed, It is almost like a thin and sharp club.

    16 hours ago, Dan Hertzson said:

    As with any tool, there are different configurations optimized for different uses.  I would never try to replace a chef's knife made for cutting on a flat board with a recurve blade, but a slight recurve certainly appears to have some advantage in cutting free hanging items.  I believe this is a combination of the increase in cutting edge length per relevant length of blade as well as the geometry of the edge to object to be cut orientation during a swing/slice cutting operation.  Cutting involves both dragging the sharp edge across the object to be cut (slicing) as well as providing a force vector down on the object (chopping and progressing the slicing cut).  For some cutting activities a recurve seems to coordinate well with the ergonomics of knife use to make the cutting more efficient.

    That makes sense with cutting free hanging items, the inwards curve kind of "gathers" the material so it applies more force to an object in mid air, rather than just letting it slide across one large outwards edge.

  9. I have had this question on my mind for a while. I have made recurve knives before, and I love the way that they look, but I'm not sure how much more useful it is when compared to a knife with a belly.

    So from what I can gather, the main purpose of a recurve blade is to have a more extreme curvature out towards the end. The extreme end of this design concept is something like a dane axe. There is no recurve, only an extreme curvature at the end of a long stick. A step down from that would be something like a kopis or kukri, where the blade is sharpened down the whole length, but the sweet spot of the blade is towards the end with the outwards curvature. I guess the sharpened inwards curvature could be useful for really close situations.

    One thing that I noticed about kukris, at least the one that my mentor had, is that the outside curvature is the only place that is sharpened. He got it as an antique. In the case of something as long as a kukri, it makes sense to have a recurve because it is a long chopping blade that benefits from having a belly further away from the handle. On smaller knives that don't have the forward weight and momentum to be a chopper, is it really necessary to have an inwards curve? If you took a recurve blade, and drew a straight line from the start of the edge so that it is tangent to the belly of the blade (essentially filling the recurve part so the curvature is positive), wouldn't it cut the same? This question has no clear cut answer like many design questions, but it is interesting to discuss. 

    I think the polar opposite of a recurve blade would be something like a sickle sword, where the point can be used like a spike, and the blade can hook and grapple. The miniaturized version of this design concept would be a sickle or karambit.

  10. 21 hours ago, Doug Lester said:

    Here's hoping that you state fair goes off ok with hurricane Michael heading your way.  The handle on the puuko looks interesting, by the way.


    I hope so too, the hurricane will hit a bit earlier than expected, so that's good. 

    11 hours ago, Alex Middleton said:

    That big one looks familiar somehow! :D The honeycomb handle is cool idea.  If you wanted to, you could get pretty creative with color schemes and designs.  Did you do the resin yourself, or purchase it already done?

    Haha! looks like I got a bit jealous, so I had to make myself a bigger one. The blade profile reminds me of a sporty boat. The handle block came for free with a purchase of another. They were having problems with the resin popping off of the aluminum in small places, but I haven't had any problems. The handle block that I ordered is shredded carbon fiber suspended in transparent blue resin.

    10 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

    I not usually a fan of the "funky material cast in resin" handle materials, but that aluminum honeycomb material is really doing it for me!

    Good luck with the fair :)


    Yeah, this handle material is done really well. Rather than the resin just suspending some random thing, the resin fills the pattern and becomes part of it.

  • Create New...