Jump to content

First Knife—what should it be?


Nolan

Recommended Posts

I'm getting ready to forge my first two knives (one for me, one for a friend who's going to help) and I was wondering what an easy starting knife might be. I was thinking a broken-backed seax since it doesn't have much curve to it. I have a 5160 leaf spring, and I think I can get at least 2, if not 3, knives out of it.

 

Also, (I like to combine questions in my posts :rolleyes: ) the friend that's going to help out is only coming up for a week—and he can't take his knife home on the plane to finish it. So I was going to finish it for him and send it to him, but is it even possible to send a weapon like that?

 

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it's more difficult to forge a straight blade than a curved one, as the blade will curve as you forge the bevels, and you need to counteract this either by pre curving the blade or straightening as you go. you can use some plasticine and a small wooden hammer to get an idea of how the steel will move as you hammer it.

 

if your forge gets up to a decent working temp, you should be able to get all the forging done in a day or two max, with two of you working. a week is plenty of time to finish two simple knives even working entirely by hand, if you're prepared to put the hours in.

 

there is no problem sending knives through the post, but i wouldn't call them 'weapons' - go with 'metal sculpture' or 'agricultural tool'. it's also generally not a problem to fly with knives so long as they are in your checked luggage, and provided the don't violate any state laws (i think double edged blades can be a problem in a number of states, for example)

 

as for what to make, it's entirely up to you - a seax isn't a bad choice. i't's easier to forge something close to the dimensions of your starting stock, and medium sized knifes are easier than very small, or very large (small means more stock reduction and smaller margine for error, large means harder to keep straight and centred. full tang is easier than narrow tang, though you will need some way to drill holes unless you go with a wrapped handle.

 

my basic process: form the point, either by forging one corner back into the bar, or else hot cut or hacksaw/angle grind a point. i find about 45 degrees works for most things - you can shorten or lengthen it as needed, so long as you don't have a fish mouth cold shut or any lumps and bumps: forge in any distal taper (seaxes usually don't have any): forge the profile (remember that for many styles you forge the profile upside down - the straight edge will curve up as you bevel the tip): forge in the bevels: normalise 2x: grind: normalise once more: harden: temper: break down the edge, polish and mount. good luck...

Jake Cleland - Skye Knives

www.knifemaker.co.uk

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

 

Albert Einstein

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're doing your first blade, I'm a big fan of going simple, with a focus on attention to fit/finish, rather than starting with an ambitious project.

 

My vote is a full-tang, no bolster, every day carry (EDC).

 

You might even want to skip the forging part and do a stock removal piece first. All forged blades become stock removal pieces eventually. Starting with clean, straight barstock removes a lot of variables.

 

I've recommended to many starting makers that they start with blank of 10xx steel and make a small, drop point, no bolster, full tang hunter using stock removal as the first blade they try.

 

Believe me, if you focus sufficiently on quality of fit/finish, even a knife that simple will still present you with challenges if this is your first attempt. After you've perfected that form, add an element of complication (maybe forge the next blade, or add a bolster, or go with a stick tang, etc.).

 

At any rate, this is just my opinion. You have to do what inspires you. The main point of my advice is to make sure you don't get discouraged by your first blade. By keeping it relatively simple, you increase the odds that you'll produce a quality blade and get psyched to make the next one.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

Dave

-----------------------------------------------

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

http://stephensforge.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks guys,

 

@Jake: I am most worried about forging the bevels because of the curving—how easy would you say forging a straight blade is for beginners?

 

@Dave: The problem with stock removal is that I don't have the equipment—and the fact that a red-hot blade is a lot more fun B)

I'm also not exactly sure on how to do a full tang. I've done a hidden tang before (I didn't forge it, just put new fittings on an old blade). What do you think are the advantages to a full tang?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jolan -- If you have the equipment to finish a forged blade, you have the equipment to make a stock removal blade.

 

I'd suggest getting a few books: The Complete Bladesmith, Step-by-Step Knifemaking: You can do it, and The $50 Knife Shop. All are available from Amazon. Just do a search for them.

 

Luck!

 

---Dave

-----------------------------------------------

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

http://stephensforge.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nolan,

 

I'd agree with Dave, full tang would be the best way to start unless you've got someone there to teach you. I personally think you should forge your first blade. Granted, I tend to enjoy forging a lot more and that's a large part of why I would suggest it.

 

As for making the handle easy, you could even do a wrapped handle, though that would take away the experience of woodworking, so I'd try for a nice wood handle on your first. Even if it doesn't come out nice, you'll be able to do much better next time.

 

As for advantages of full tang vs. stick tang...full tang is technically stronger and will take a beating better, though you're never going to put a stick tang knife through the kind of beating that will damage it to the point where it's unusable most of the time if it's made right. I also find it easier to play with the balance of the knife on a full tang, as there's more cross-sectional width to play with in terms of taking away metal or tapering the tang to shift the balance of the blade. Other than that, it's just a different way of doing things. It's also must easier to get a good fit on a full tang than a stick tang.

 

As for the plane, just put it in checked baggage, or ship it (with insurance!) just like you'd ship anything else really.

 

Good luck!

 

-Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Dave: I don't have a beltsander or a grinder—I don't know how you'd do stock removal without at least one of those. I'm planning on doing the arduous task of filing it down after forging. :blink: Also, I have The Complete Bladesmith—I love it!

 

@Dan: Without a beltsander, would getting the wood fittings and the tang in alignment even be possible? I guess I could file it, but I'd have to rely mostly on my ability to forge it in perfect shape.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I debated on whether to reply to this thread...

I have to disagree with my respected fellow makers on this, if you are forging the blade and tang to shape and already have experience with handling a hidden tang, I think it would be easier to get a good fit using a hidden tang design. Steel barstock starts out nice and flat and parallel, and then it gets beat on with a hammer and ends up neither flat or parallel. With a good belt sander this is not hard to fix, but without one it is very close to impossible. If the tang is not perfectly flat, you will not be able to fit handle scales to it without gaps. The primary reason I avoid full tangs is the difficulty in getting everything perfectly flat after forging, and I hate gaps, regardless of how small... Another reason I dislike them is the sides of the tang are exposed, get handled, and naturally rust/patina if the knife is not stainless.

 

With a hidden tang knife with a guard, the only place where perfect fit is necessary is where the guard hits the blade, leaving a much smaller area to achieve perfect fit at. As long as the tang tapers in width and thickness, this is fairly easy in comparison. A ricasso helps, but even without a ricasso it is not difficult. Take away the guard and it starts getting tricky....

 

All that is needed to fit a hidden tang blade to the handle is a hand drill and needle files. Unless you have a drill press, I would not suggest even attempting a full tang.

 

Just make sure the tang tapers in width and thickness, and that the tang to blade junction does not have sharp inside corners...

 

It is not difficult to forge a straight blade, you will just need to correct the curve as it forms or beforehand by giving it a precurve. I use a bit of both methods to achieve the shape I am after. Have fun with it.

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


view some of my work

RelicForge on facebook
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the tang is not perfectly flat, you will not be able to fit handle scales to it without gaps.

 

That's what I was worried about. It'd be pretty tough-going to flatten it out with a file.

 

The other problem is a guard. I have no idea how to go about making a metal one. Is wood ever used? I know the purpose of a guard is to... well, guard, but could I get away with wooden ones if the knives were relatively small?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The guard need not be metal. Horn, antler, bone, or wood will work well as long as there are no thin fragile bits hanging out to get broken. The method of fitting a guard is pretty much the same, regardless of the material it is made from. One or more holes a drilled through the material a bit smaller diameter than the width of the tang, and then this hole is opened up with needle files and such (I use a jeweler's saw to remove the bulk of the material, but it is not the only way) until the tang of the knife fits snuggly into it. Take your time and get a good fit, and try your best to make the hole no larger than it has to be as we are trying to avoid gaps. When you are ready to glue everything together, coat the tang with epoxy and slide the guard into place, then remove the excess epoxy from the blade-side before it hardens... the epoxy will help seal the joint in order to keep out moisture.

 

I tend to think of anything between the blade and the handle as a 'guard', even if it is flush with the rest of the handle. If you are wanting to make a broken back seax, this is a very good example of how to shape the 'guard'. An organic material would be perfect for this, as no metal parts have survived on the originals.

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


view some of my work

RelicForge on facebook
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...