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Bill the Butcher WIP

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So I'm working on a project at the moment that is quite extensive. A customer wants me to make him an entire set of knives and cleavers that the character "Bill the Butcher" from the movie Gangs Of New York would have carried. This includes...

-5 throwing knives

-1 belt knife -1 small cleaver

-1 massive cleaver

-sheaths for all and a belt to hang them off with hand forged hardware


The customer's name is Seven (his stage name) and he travels around doing tattoos and some sideshow type stuff inkllusionist.com he said that he's looking to add knife throwing to the repertoire. The throwing knives are made of aldo's 1075 they have leather handles attached with epoxy and copper rivets.


The belt knife is made from an old Nicholson file, black walnut and is antiqued.

The Mini cleaver is Aldo's 5160, black walnut, and is also antiqued












I've never heat treated something as large as the cleaver. It is a piece of Aldo's 1075 that is 1/4" x 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" it weighs several pounds, and I'm a little concerned about warping in the quench. At this point it's been forged and normalized twice, I plan on doing one more cycle before the quench. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? I plan on using warm canola oil. Would it be foolish to only get the bottom half of the blade up to critical (this is usually what I do with smaller cleavers)?


How about grinding, any tips on getting something this broad nice and flat? I'm thinking contact wheel on with a 36grit belt, 80 grit flap disk on 4" grinder, 100 grit with random orbital sander then hand work. This blade will be antiqued like the others.


Here are some shots of the cleaver. For reference that is a 260 lb anvil, and a 2.5 lb hammer.


a nice shot of decalescence







I'll be adding more photos as I go, and I'd love some feedback on the HT of this thing.

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I agree (although I am still fairly new to this) that bring the entire cleaver up to critical is overkill.

That thing is a beast! Beside the other seven blades, it is like Goliath, and the shot with your hand really sets it for me. All of them look phenomenal, I love the finish.

Sorry I don't have much advice, but I'll be watching to see what you do with it.



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My only advice would be to draw the cleaver handle out a bit. Unless Seven has a huge hand, it will be uncomfortable to wield with a handle.

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Thanks guys, it's always good to hear that your plans aren't poorly laid. I pretty much never use an angle grinder on blades unless it is profiling, but I think I'll take your advice Raymond. Shawn thanks, you're definitely right.

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The last cleaver I made, I used a torch to bring the edge and 1 1/2" of the blade up to critical temp. I edge quenched the monster in warmed oil, then put the whole blade in after about 30-35 seconds. I had no warping and when I tempered the blade back to about 55 Rc it held an edge great. It was a little softer than I usually make my blades since it was going to be used to butcher large Alaskan animals and I didn't want to chance a chip.

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That looks like fairly thick stock and Aldo's 1075 is pretty shallow hardening from what I remember from other posts. Past a certain thickness, depending on grain size and austinizing temperature, you just are not going to get any hardening no matter what unless the steel is over 1/4" thick. At some point as the steel gets thicker then you will get a martensetic shell around a pearletic core but again, the thickness that that will start at will depend on other things also. I too would recommend that you treat it like an ax and only austinize near the edge of the blade and quench and temper for a softer edge. I would also grind the secondary bevel at the edge at a thicker angle to put more steel behind the softer edge to support it.



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It's all done, this was a pretty big project for me, but it all went very well. The sun is being oppressive at the moment and making the pictures all washed out, but here a couple. I'll post some nicer ones this evening or tomorrow morning depending on the lighting.



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Okay here are the finished pictures. I had a friend of mine help with the belt so I was able to shoot that happening as well. The cleaver has moved from being an unwieldy mass of metal to a beastly tool begging to chop some stuff... so that's good. As always I'd love to hear your opinions and criticisms.










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That is an incredible package... unusual, but very nicely done.


I just re-watched GoNY on television a couple weeks ago. Ol' Bill would be proud.


Thanks for showing the whole process.

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very cool... looks like you will have one happy customer!


I hope you got paid well for the whole set.... I quit doing them because everybody wanted too large of a discount. There is some time savings in doing repeat designs... but it is still a set of individual knives made by hand!

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Thanks guys, Scott I agree about sets, people often times have unreal expectations about stuff like that. Thankfully Seven was great, and totally willing to pay full price on each item.

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