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Robert Burns

The Traveler WIP

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Well I have had this project kicking around in my head for a while and finally have some time to get around to it. I have been entranced by Japanese blades (as many of us are) for some time, specifically in hamon and hada development. It was last year when I saw some of J.D. Smith's work that I became really inspired to try my hand at it; BUT in an American style. Can anyone say harpoon point bowie? This will be a pretty detailed WIP thread that will be done in live time, so any questions or pointers are always welcome. :)


I started working on this project about two weeks ago and in a somewhat unorthodox manner. It started off in the usual manner for me of first getting my ideas down on paper and then roughing out a wooden template to use for measurements while forging.






This is going to be a fairly large blade at 10 1/2 inches long x 2 inches wide. My plan is to have damascus and bronze spacers with a handle made from block carbon fiber and AAA curly koa. Everything about this knife is supposed to be a blend between Asian and American styles, old and modern techniques/materials. I'm pretty pleased with the overall design, although the handle shape still requires some tweaking.


The next thing I had to do was sit down and figure out my blade and guard steel mixes and patterns. As I said before I wanted this blade to have a fairly prominent hada and be able to produce a very vibrant hamon. So after looking around at other peoples work I saw that a mix of 1045 and 1095 or W2 produced very good results, so I decided I would work with that as well. But never being able to leave well enough alone I decided to change the mix up slightly and give it more of a Japanese flavor, so I got in touch with Aldo to get some Hitachi #2 blue sand steel (the same as is used in Japanese cutlery and sometimes swords). Metallurgically speaking Hitachi #2 and 1095 are fairly similar in their make up the primary difference being that Hitachi #2 has approximately 1.16% carbon whereas 1095 has .96% carbon. So when doing some off the cuff calculations with the 1045 dropping the overall carbon content a fair amount the resulting steel should average out to near a 1084 equivalent. Which is perfect for a heavy bowie/ chopping knife. The only dilemma I faced at this point was that I now had to wait for the hitachi #2 to come in the mail and I began to grow antsy wanting to start this project, and so I did. :D


I decided for the guard I wanted to do a simple low layer but tightly twisted damascus so that is where I started.

Prepping materials:




On the left you see the material for the guard and spacer while on the right part of the stack for the blade. I was running low on 1.5" width stock so I decided to use my remainder of my 1" stock and consolidate it into more usable material. This is a relatively simple thing to do as you weld to parrallel stack together and now have double your stock size. :)




At this point the billet is 3.5 in x 2.5 in x 2 in and 14 layers so there is plenty of meat there to work with.


Heating up to welding temp:



Drawing out to twice its length under the powerhammer: (this tool has made my life so much easier!)




It is then cut and folded and prepared for another welding pass.




After the next welding (28 layers) I draw it to 1 1/2 inch square and prepare for twisting.




Then let the twisting commence!




I ended up giving it a few more twists after this shot but I felt it was close enough to not require an additional photo. I have to say this idea for the guard and spacer was definitely inspired by Karl Anderson's recent twist bowie, and while this does not yet resemble the level of twist he did it was sufficient for style I was going for. It was also very exciting because this was the largest bar of damascus I have ever twisted and so tightly.


Next I flattened it into a 1 1/4 in x 1/2 in x 12 inch bar, quickly ground the surface and etched to check the pattern:




Nice and tight.



I next started to cut the pieces I needed do to length.




Then I cut the bronze spacer as well and brought it to slightly over 1/8 inch thick:




That this point all of the spacers and guard are roughly flattened on my grinder, but now I start to sand them on a granite block to get them closer to true flatness.




Then I superglue then together to prepare them for have pin hole drilled.




At this point I was going back and forth because the scale from the twists was messing with my eye (even when using high powered lighting to check and see if the seems were close) so I ground in slightly to check.




Okay so maybe I snuck in a light dabbing of acid with a Q-tip to check the pattern but the joint looks pretty good. Close enough to drill the pin holes anyway.


Here I have drilled the pin holes and started to shape the first two spacers. If you look closely on the right side you will see a small shadow which implies a gap, What happened here was that when removing one of the pins after shaping them I bent it slightly so it caused the one side to kick up in this photo. When I made a new pin a little later we were back to no gap (Pheww..that was close)




At this point I could have stopped and waited for the hitachi steel to arrive but I still had a couple of days left so I started to rough in the detail on the spacers.


I started by measuring and taping of the damascus spacer to make a nice center line to use as a guide for a small cut off disk:




I use this center groove as a guide for using a file or dremel to help keep things more in line.


Here is the spacer after using the drum sander attachment and the cut off disk. This is how is looks buffed at 120 grit from the scotchbrite wheel.


Later on when I am getting closer to fitment I will go back and clean everything up with files and sand to 600 grit before buffing.





And the same goes for the bronze spacer, roughed in with a cutting disk and then go back with files.




Then I cut the corners off of the guard piece to start to rough in the shape, leaving two sides square to hold in the vice while drilling the tang holes. This is as far as I will go before working on the blade.




This brings us nearly up to date with my current progress on this project, aside from my work yesterday which is where is gets exciting! More to come later.









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Now this is gonna be good! Looking foward to more, Robert.

Edited by Austin_Lyles

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Fantastic detail! I'm looking forward to seeing more of this!

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Thanks for following along everyone and for all of the comments, here is today's progress.


Well the hitachi #2 arrived today! Very excited (Friday):




And was promptly placed into the billet and prepped for welding. This is one of the largest billets I have worked under my 50 lb little giant, it probably took about an hour to really start to break it down. Just as a reminder this billet is 2 inches wide x 3 1/2 inches long x 4 1/2 inches thick of hitachi #2, 1095, and 1045. 13 layers starting out.




Warming up:




Welded and drawing out:




After about 3 hours it is now 2 inch wide x 1/2 inch thick x 25 inches long




On the left you can see some of the starting material and the resulting bar:




This was then cut into six bars each 3 3/4 inches long:




In order to get this to 1200 layers as quickly as possible I decided to break it up into two billets. So 13x3= 39 layers per billet:




Each billet was folded back onto its self bringing the resulting layer count to 78 layers per billet:




They were welded and each drawn out to approximately 8 inches long x 2 inches wide x 1/2 inch thick:




These were then cut into four tiles to restack as one billet bringing the total layer count to 312:






This was welded and consolidated into a single bar of 1/2 inch thick x 2 inch wide x 12 inches





A quick clean up and etch to make sure the layers are blending nicely:




Looking pretty good so far. Now the billet is annealing and just has to be cut and stacked (four tiles) to bring the bar up to 1,248 layers so pretty close to the desired layer count. More to come tomorrow.

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looks like a cool project. I have had good luck with W2, 1020, and Aldo's 1075 in getting a very subtle hada and a vivid hamon. The trick is to etch in vinegar 5 or 6 times to show the hamon, and then on quick etch in ferric chloride to show the hada.


the guard and spacers look cool.



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Thanks for the tip Kevin, I'm glad that my line of thinking is in line with your experience. Now on to today's progress!


Yesterday I ended with a single large bar at around 300 layers, this bar I then cut into four separate pieces to bring the end layer count up to 1,200ish layers.




Then I got the forge going and up to welding temp:




Welded under the power hammer:




And then back in the forge!




Now that the bar is welded nicely I can start to bring it down to the final bar stock size of 1 3/4" x 1/4" x 20"




And then I did a partial annealing cycle of 3 hours in vermiculite and then the rest air cooling. (Sorry I forgot to get a picture of the finished bar prior to going into the vermiculite) :(





Then all there is now before I start forging is cleaning up an end and etching to look at the steel:




Looking good! (For this photo I turned up the contrast a bit and darkened the highlights to make the pattern more visible. In person it is a good deal more subtle which is what we are going for :) )


Now onto the forging:


With this blade I decided to forge a bit backwards (sometimes I do it this way and sometimes not this time it was just more convenient). What I mean by backwards is, while still being attached to the parent bar starting at the tang and forge back to the tip as opposed to starting with the tip and working back to the tang as is often done. There isn't really a difference in the end result but in this case while the handle was still welded on it was easier to manipulate the bar and work on the tang, then cut it free, flip it and refine the tip. Most of the work done until refining the tip is done on the power hammer.


Tang first drawing out:



And there!
Now to establish the ricasso, this ricasso will be 1 1/2 inches wide:
Then to establish the bevel and plunge lines:
Here is a quick photo looking edge down to make sure I am drawing my bevels even (at this point I switched to a hand hammer to lean things up):
Here is the knife after the distal taper and bevels have been forged in leaving only the point to be established. So at this point I cut the knife away from the parent bar. Which I am very happy that I will get several more knives from (at least two anyway).
I then began forging the point and roughing in the shape:
Cleaning up the point and general lines:
(At this point I switch to a mirrored face oversize ball peen on a short handle. This functions very much like a Japanese forging hammer and has served me well for years, but one day I will get around to making some new hammers.)
I then forged the false edge bevel and did a normalizing cycle:
I then traced from the wooden template of the knife onto the blank and began to profile it. As most of you will note I did not forge in the recurve on the edge and the reason was simply that it was faster and more accurate to forge it close and then clean up later. You can see from the sharpie marks that this one is fairly close.
And this is where she stands now, profiled and ready for grinding tomorrow. As you can see I still need to come in at a more shallow radius on the harpoon point, but otherwise is it pretty close. I did end up making it 1/4 inch longer in the blade than the template because to my eye it was more pleasing, there are a few more tweaks in the overall design but they are very slight. As it stands now the spine and ricasso are sitting at right around .25 inch so nice a beefy!


Thanks for following along! More to come!

Edited by Robert Burns

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That is so awesome!!

I feel you on the hammer thing, I've been wanting a Viking style cross pein and a nice huge rounding hammer for a long time. I did finally make a weight forward hammer for myself and I love it, it has me wondering why I never made one before.
I love hammers, but what I need way more is tongs.

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Really liking this build Robert!

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I too am enjoying this build. Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks for the comments everyone, I spent several minutes looking for my post today and then I saw that it was pinned, wow what an awesome feeling thanks guys. :)


For today's progress I only have a few photos for you unfortunately. But since today is my wife's birthday I have to hurry home and make dinner :blink:


So here is the knife profiled and sketched on to show the rough layout of where everything will go, I'm not sure if the initial sketches so it very well bu this knife is going to have a lot of facets.




I started by using a round file and fixing the radius of the harpoon point on the spine as it was way to tight before:




Then I roughed in the (swedge?) I always forget the name for it on my grinder then I true up the flats:






This is one point where it would be slightly easier to grind the flats first so that you know your center line, but since I am only roughing in the back bevels on the grinder I decided to do them at the same time. I always end up finishing with files anyway but it is easier for me if I set the angle on the grinder first.


Here is the spine after a few minutes of drawfiling:




And starting to clean it up with some sand paper just to crisp up the lines.:




And that's all for today, unfortunately there won't be any updates tomorrow as I do have to make some money and finish other paying orders :P But more to come soon.

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Outstanding work so far! I have really enjoyed watching the progress, your level of detail and precision is inspirational to say the least :)



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Thanks John that's kind of you to say :) it's only thanks to communities like this that I have learned as much as I have so far so it is only right to share some of that back if it helps anyone.

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Update: With this being a "live" work in progress there are always bound to be set back and this is one. While conducting the heat treatment the blade cracked quite severely in several places :(






But I view this as a blessing in disguise because the hada was too prominent in the previous blade for me to be quiet happy with it. Fortunately I still had the other half of the parent bar of 1,200 layer material that this blade was forged from, so I broke this cracked blade into several pieces and stacked it in with the remaining 1,200 layer bar. I then welded this and folded a couple of times to produce a homogeneous billet that should be closer to 8,000 layers. I then reforged the blade and am currently much happier with it. More photos to come tomorrow.







While this seriously sucked and was a major set back I simply refuse to give up on achieving this project in all of it aspects to my utmost skill.




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Oh no!!! One of the few things that can make a grown man cry, haha. The anger never lasts long though, I look forward to your next attempt!

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Ouch! Serious bummer, dude. What was the quenchant? A little too fast, apparently.

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Yeah definitely a bummer, the new blade is now profiled and ready for grinding. On the plus side I am much happier with the hada on this one. Alan, yeah my oil wasn't quenching quite fast enough so I opted for brine, now I have ordered parks 50 so hoping this one should go well.

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One word... Narsil...:)

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Exactly! :)

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Okay so after a brief absence I am back to say this project is still going. I had to head up to Grand Marais to teach an ax course for the past week so the knife was put on hold for a bit but it now back on track.


Here is the as forged blade with some quick sharpie marking to outline from the original template.




I then began to flatten out the ricasso.




Then rough grinding the bevels on the edge side of the ricasso. (These will then be trued up with files to get everything nice and straight.)




Then I flipped it around and began working on the spine bevels again:








And that is all I was able to sneak in during off hours from class, but tomorrow I get back into my shop and can really sink my teeth into this project without any distractions.

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way to get back on it!

it happens to everyone.

I know you know this, but I have to say it... leave the edge thicker than you think it should be for a water quench, and interrupt it after 3 secs and put it into medium oil (canola is what I use, because it is what I have).



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Thanks Kevin for the reminder it never hurts :) I finally made an investment in some Parks 50 so hopefully it should work out better this time.

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