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Great Bladesmithing Class at Peter's Valley, NJ

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I just wanted to share my experiences at the bladesmithing class at Peter's Valley Craft Center near Layton, NJ. It was a 5 day class which ran Jun 13 – 17th. It was a truly enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable experience.


The class was small, only 5 students. Since everyone came with some experience, we got started the first day with some introductions and such and within an hour or so, Jòl was forging out a blade to demonstrate the basic techniques. Soon after, we were starting to forge out some mild steel blades. After practicing with mild, he handed out some 1084 and we got to forging out some blades.


After forging out and grinding a couple of blades, the instructor encouraged the class to move in whatever direction that interested us. One student focused on taking one blade through to handle and polishing. Another, after getting a late start, forged and ground 5 knives and changed the water pump on his truck. I forged and ground a couple blades and then learned how to use a power hammer, and to my surprise, was able to forge out two billets of cable Damascus using a coal forge.


Peter's Valley is located inside the Delaware Water Gap Rec area, not far from Dingman's bridge on the NJ side. They have a nicely setup shop, with 8 coal forges, a couple gas forges, a really nice air power hammer and a couple other power hammers. Two Bader grinders were very nice to work on. The weather was very nice, although we had rain one day and a thunderstorm which took out power one evening. The shop was open in the evening after dinner if people wanted to work or just hang out and talk bladesmithing. One student, Steve, brought some very nice home brew which hit the spot.


One of the highlights was a heat treating demonstration in which I was able to see the shadows (recalescence) for the first time. After watching this and working with a magnet, I am much more confident in my identification of proper quench temp. We also had a surprise guest in the shop, a Daguerreotype photographer. He setup two shots in the blacksmith shop, one of Dick Sargent and one of instructor, J. Arthur Loose. The photographer developed them on the spot and they came out great..


I highly recommend the class to anyone thinking of attending. I want to thank J. Arthur Loose for putting on a great class. I learned a lot. I also have to thank Dick Sargent, the head of the Blacksmithing department. Has put together a really nice shop. Also thanks to Silas Maddox, the teaching assistant who patiently helped us out (especially welding the cable ends) and gave us an amazing demonstration of fire juggling.



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I've taught now for 3 years at Peter's Valley and this year was really nice. Usually I have 9-10 students and I run myself ragged checking up on everyone, showing them hammer tricks, blade shaping, geometry and all the rest. This year I had five students, all reasonably experienced and self-directed... one of whom was a very spry 77 years old. We started off the first day forging blades in mild steel and by day two, everyone had at least one blade forged out of 1084. Peter's Valley has 10 forging stations and it was fun getting back into the coal.





On day 3 we began grinding... now that we have two Baders with flat platens the grinding stage of the class goes a lot smoother. I like to finish day 3 with heat-treating demo where I show students how to read the transformation from pearlite to austenite and back down, including recalescence, which is always a big hit with a lot of mumbo-jumbo about the magic of what we do. ;)





By day 4, some students wanted to go back to forging and Doug here wanted to explore some cable damascus. Doug brought some really nice quality cable and got some practice on the air hammer for drawing it out after welding. I disclosed my secret coal-cave™ technique, ;) which I developed during my first year or so of bladesmithing, when I did all my damascus blades in coal. It creates a really clean space with good atmospheric control for doing damascus & heat-treating. With Doug's thermocouple (why didn't I ever think of bringing mine?) we were able to show what was going on in there and sure enough, bringing that coal-cave™ down lets it sit right at 1450-1500 for the heat-treat. Bringing it up we were able to keep it right around 2300 without overheating & melting things, and Doug got some nice pieces of cable damascus finished up.






I have really come to enjoy teaching these classes. There aren't too many other craft schools embracing knives, and department head Dick Sargent is mostly responsible for it. Dick is an amazing volume of blacksmithing & fabricating knowledge and I love talking shop with him. There's also a lot of smelting energy happening at Peter's Valley, again, due to Dick. Here is an article from Ornamental and Miscellaneous Fabricator on curved stairs including some of his work, which is pretty amazing.


I'd also like to take a moment and mention that Don Fogg is teaching a class on hamon at Peter's Valley from Aug 22 to 26.

Hamon the Art of Temperline: Creative Heat Treating


I'm thinking of auditing in exchange for doing a demo at the Pig Roast later this year... sign up soon!

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