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Possibly a knife


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Hello all, I've gotten pretty far with a my first forged knife build, and I want to say up to this point it is successful.  Why do I say maybe a knife, well first off let me say yes just a few days back I read through the topic of "so you want to make a knife or . .. " This is a mystery steel knife, that I started on over a month ago between decorative projects and my 9-5.  I feel pretty confident about it - I feel mostly confident about it. 

I'm going to just talk though my process of how I got to this point, and if anyone reads through and thinks I should have done a different step, please critique.  I want to be able to stand behind my work and any constructive criticism is appreciated.

Firstly, I know that mystery steel being used for a knife is pretty much a no brainier - just buy the right stuff to make good stuff.  I consider my skill level to be that of an educated beginner and expect failure the first time.  I take classes regularly, but haven't been able to put things into practice until I finally got my forge running this winter.  That being said, I do have an idea of how to identity a high carbon steel from mild and low carbon.

 

Ok, so as I started off this fall gathering supplies, a friend of mine who salvages cars told me he had just recently tore apart an F-350 dully and I was welcome to the axle, coil springs and leave springs.  I took them all, I took a few slivers off the leave springs and began testing.

I file tested a piece - just touched it with a file to estimate it's hardness to mild steel.  The file bit, and cut, but did not dig like it would on mild steel. I figured there is possibly some kind of heat treat done and I would need to normalize the steel anyway.

Therefore I heated the slivers up past cherry red into the brighter orange range 3 times and allowed to air cool each time. Descaled the surface, again touched it with a file and pretty much no difference.

I know the best way to tell if this was a tool steel was to spark test it.  Definitely not the same material as any file steel.  The spark on the mystery steel was about 3in in length before it burst into a branch of about 4-5 branches. I put it up against some mild steel, not mild steel, my spark was shorter and had more branches.  Coil spring, nope not like that one nor the axle. I have a piece of what a blade smith friend confidently told me was O1 and that was the closest matching spark pattern.  I know why didn't I use the O1 in the first place I was expecting failure pretty much and didn't want to ruin my only known tool steel.

I started to design and forge out my little knife hoping to gift it to someone.

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Next since I already normalized the steel, as far as I could tell, I forged it. The first hammer blow felt like I hit a piece of granite, no not super steel, but you got my point of knowing when you may have hit something other than mild steel.  It has a different density its like it doesn't want to move even at heat.  As I worked down the little strip of material, I made my forging about 80% to shape.  Friends of mine tell me to forge 90% to finished product - but I can't estimate how much loss there will be in grinding yet. IMG_20180111_171822405.jpg

In the above picture, this was also annealed along with 3 other test strips. Brought up to a orange heat again and placed in an ash bucket to cool overnight. As I was rough grinding the little knife, I took one of my test pieces that had a thin edge on it and with a small torch heated a section to non metallic and quenched it in motor oil (5w-30).  I just heard everyone reading this cringe - don't have the good stuff on hand yet, but for as little tool hardening I'm currently doing, it was there.  Touched it with a file and got file skate with a little grab, but no cutting.  Took it over to an anvil and cracked it over the hardy hole to see the grain structure aaaaaaaaaaand I don't know what I'm looking at.  A clean shear - I don't have enough experience in braking steel to know my grain structures but this did tell me the steel will harden.  I did pretty much the same process on the knife with the acceptation that I heated the oil this time and didn't plunge the whole knife into the oil until all the color ran out of it, I wanted to attempted to retain a soft spine to the knife.  Which it actually did not do, everything hardened but the tang - must have still been some color in it when I did the full plunge.

A file test with a chain saw file saw that it seemed to harden better than my test due to a little soak time in the forge no not like 5-30 minutes like 30 seconds of incandescent nonmetallic heat.  Now this skated like glass, I had to let the knife sit for about 2 days before I temped it.  I knew I could have drew the temper during the quench - but I was debating the best method to draw the temper.  The whole question of bake it for a while vs, what I've been taught - draw the temper colors and lock it by another quench. I chose what I've been taught, fired up the forge and drew a very quick straw color.  IMG_20180213_131743603_HDR.jpg

There's a little bit of grinding marks left as I only went to 80 grit but I didn't see any cracks but I just didn't trust myself enough to say this was ok, as another file test proved that it still skated a file like glass.  After a little debate with a knife smith friend I baked the knife for about 15mins at 400 degrees. Still skates a file well, but not like glass, it seemed a little softer. 

And after all this time, I finally attempted to look up what a ford leaf spring is, and found out here at blade smith forum - that it's pretty possibly  not an optimum steel.  In fact it's probably just some higher grade of mild steel, and I had one of those moments of awww man! I put a good bit of work into this at this point so if it was going to eventually fail, I was going to make it fail. 

A day after reading though a few of the pages, with a cringe on my face, I dropped the knife tip down into a concrete floor, expecting to break the tip off.  The floor broke not the tip of the knife in fact the tip didn't even turn there is no edge on the knife at this point, but I expected it to shear or bend and stay bent for how fine it is. I rough ground the primary bevel to almost a final sharp so I scratched my head.   About the worst thing I know to do to any steel is bend it.  I laid the knife on my work table and with my hand over the center of it, lifted the tang and put pressure down on the blade.  The tip of the knife bent, but re flexed, hmmm I say.  I attempted to get that bend to set by continually bending it, but it just kept re flexing.      I attempted to bend the knife along the spine but I couldn't do it by hand, and now I felt like putting it in a vise to do it would be a little over kill.  It's almost done don't break it now it might be good!

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I havn't touched the knife in a few days, still no final edge on it, but I do feel pretty confident about it.  I need to test it with an edge to see if its going to chip out or just be too soft.  But so far, I'm not seeing a reason for it being either.  I'm somehow expecting it to sheer because its not very very springy to my wimpy arms.  I should put the edge on it and attempt to baton it through some hard maple.  That seems like a good stress test with minimal destruction. It might be good!

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You might have something good, there. It's probably not ideal, but put an edge on it, and see how it holds up.

Pick up some canola oil if you haven't already. It's cheap, and safer than 5w30.

A normal temper cycle is usually at least an hour. I've done 2 60 minute cycles, some go longer. You may well be just getting the straw color only as far as the surface. Tried the same thing with a bearing race, and the thing was still hard enough to destroy two drill bits before i gave up. 

If you have a deep hardening steel, I think only quenching the edge will result in a less than optimal grain structure. Someone who understands the science better than I do may be able to clarify.

Otherwise, use it, compare performance to a known quantity if you can, and keep experimenting. 

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Batoning a knife through wood is only a measure of how it works as a small froe. Not much to learn about it as a knife from that exercise.

Best "test" (outside of actual usecompred to a known knife) is the brass rod flex test after initial sharpening . Chips = too hard. Stays bent=too soft.

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Looks okay so far.  Leaf spring is always decent steel equivalent to 5160, it's the coils you have to watch out for.  And only after about 2006 or so.

Keep going and see what happens!

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Strangely, when I spark tested the axle and coil spring - they tested like mild steel which sort of shocked me.  I would have thought for certain that the axle would have been a different alloy.  I never tried to harden the axle - I've only been making drifts with that material.  The coil spring - after I spark tested it, I noticed I could compress it a hair by hand.

A good rule of thumb one of my teachers had told me about was to look for the blued steels on auto parts, because this is a good indicator that the steel was heat treated.  I'm unsure if he meant that its holding its original temper color - or if the auto makers are blueing these better parts (the parts may also come from the bolt company blued).  The 'u' blot that holds some springs together seems to be a good one to go for as I know I made an axe bit with that material during class.

 

I'm going to continue with it and hopefully I can be done with it in about another month.  My known knife that I can compare this one too is only my queen cutlery pocket knife. Its a D2 steel, and although the blade is at the very high end of quality for toughness and hardness, it will be interesting to see a comparison.

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  • 4 months later...

Now this one I've been taking a little too much time on.  With the heat, I haven't been getting to the forge, so I decided to do some finish work on this little beast. 

I made most of my grip for the knife from red maple some bronze/brass and mild steel. The grip is something that just developed as I've been working with it. Originally, I just wanted an egg shaped grip and a slight finger well developed. Its pretty comfortable to my hands.  The rear of the grip, I'm still debating what to do.  Its a little heavy at the back end - too heavy so I've got to do something about it. 

I put a near final edge on the knife, and lost it's polish as I slipped while making the final bevel a few times. Sanded it back down to 2000 grit finish.  The edge is pretty good, cuts wet paper on the push cut pretty good, but got hung up on the draw cut.  A little more fine honing to go.

I worked the edge over some hard maple with some medium chops - didn't notice anything on the edge, just nice little chunks of wood flew off.  I don't know if I had mentioned before, but I've been wondering about how tough this little blade may be.  Before I put the fine edge on this blade,  I accidentally dropped the knife in the basement work shop,  knowing there was a point on it, it looked like my foot was about to get pieced. As I moved the knife fell tip down into the concrete and I got the cold sweats.  I thought for sure the tip was broke but better that than getting a decent poke.  fortunately, the concrete got a poke that broke out a small chunk, and the tip of the blade was without flaw.  Didn't chip, didn't break, didn't bend.  20180702_155053.jpg

The wet paper cuts.  The draw cut is pretty raggy, could be me, could just need more honing.

 

 

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The bottom of the grip, thinking it has a good swell, maybe make this egg shaped to match the top?

 

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If you hollow out that butt cap to lose some weight I think it will make you happier.  And the cuts look fine for wet paper!  I bet it will do dry paper just fine.

Oh, and chipping the concrete and not the tip shows you nailed the heat treat!

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It is not strictly speaking necessary, however as I am learning they can make your life a lot easier when trying to get the blade mounted with a guard without gaps. And I would say both forging and grinding, some people can forge it very close to shape. Wish I had asked that question before I started the knife I'm working on

Edited by Zach Wade
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6 hours ago, GPrimmer said:

Is there no ricasso? Is a ricasso something you forge into the knife or is it done in the grinding stage? Do you need a ricasso? 

The ricasso is general related to the dimensions of the preform dimensions before the blade shaping. To put it simply I try to think of the ricasso as the part of the blade and tang that I DON'T touch with the hammer very darned much. In my mind it is as if the blade grows from one side of it and the tang grows from the other. Let's say I decided to make a blade from 3/8" × 1 1/4" flat bar. When I got through pulling the blade down with the plunges in and drew the tang out, for a stick or forged in a taper, roughly, for a full tang the ricasso area would still be pretty close to 3/8 × 1 1/4, unless I had been going for a really wide, thin blade.

Of course there are always exceptions but setting  up your billet to the ricasso thickness, unless you are making a reverse distal taper the ricasso is likely to be the thickest part of the knife, ( hence, no way to "grind it thicker later") at least then leaving the area alone as much as possible is what is on my mind when I start. 

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That is the best explanation I've ever heard. And I thought this was a part of the knife that everyone just forgets to add while it's actually the part you leave, essentially, untouched. 

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I build off of historical ideas.  A ricasso is - not very common to see until like 1400 -1500, on anything. (don't quote me though) I think if I had added a ricasso it would take away from the look and function I'm going for with the knife. I did want this to look like a traditional Seax, but came out looking a little like Owen Bush style.

A ricasso is just a nice design feature that makes a blade look really - well to me modern.  Also when you make a ricasso unless you make the bevel proud of it, their a pain to get the base of the blade sharp if you haven't put in a choil.  On a small knife like this, I see a choil as a snag point.  A ricasso is nice for pinch gripping a knife, which I commonly do, but unless your wrapping your finger around the ricasso there's no real need.  Swords would be another story.

And yeah, having a ricasso would make the fit up a lot more clean, but I've cheated and chased the surfaces of the guard to close the gaps.

I designed this blade to be a maximum slicer for it's size therefore, no flat surfaces to the blade profile, and no ricasso.  Every point of this blade will ride the cut. I'm hoping this will make field dressing an animal much easier.  This post is pretty old and I can't remember if I had mentioned this is intended to be a piratical hunting knife for a family member. If they use it or not, I want to make it function as much as possible.

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Yep, the ricasso appears on western swords and daggers starting in the 15th century.  It doesn't show up on ordinary knives until the rise of industrialization in the early 19th century. (there are a few exceptions, mostly quasi-military Spanish cutlery and German hunting swords, but I wouldn't call either of those ordinary knives).  Early Bowies (1829-1840) often as not do not have a ricasso.  Once the Sheffield factory system got hold of them, they ALL had ricassos, I suspect because it both makes it easier to fit the guard and leaves a most excellent flat spot to stamp your name.  So, it's a pretty good dating tool.  Likewise, the soldered guard does not appear until the 1950s.  

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I am working on a certain older pattern and trying to develop a "method of work" to make it easily repeatable. The original from circa 1907 doesn't really have a ricasso but it isn't sharp for about 1/4" in front of the handle/guard. Many knives of the era were like that just because a knife doesn't have a noticeable ricasso does not mean it is sharp all the way either. Trying to figure out how to "batch make" several knives by stock removal gives you an understanding of the unseen function of the ricasso in production.

I have the radical opinion that the reason a lot of users today are so concerned with very prominent secondary bevels and hollow grinds is because the big makers sales departments have convinced people that the way that it is easiest, therefore cheapest, method for mass production just coincidentally is superior to the "old fashioned" (and requiring more expensive hand work) convex edge. In reality if one "free hands those factory edges on a stone to sharpen they end up with a convex edge anyway, if you examine it closely.

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On 7/6/2018 at 9:52 PM, Vern Wimmer said:

Trying to figure out how to "batch make" several knives by stock removal gives you an understanding of the unseen function of the ricasso in production.

Can you expend on that please?

I'm a firm believer in FFG or high saber with a convex edge........but horses for courses I've learned in the mean time.

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9 hours ago, Gerhard said:

Can you expend on that please?

I'm a firm believer in FFG or high saber with a convex edge........but horses for courses I've learned in the mean time.

I think a ricasso helps in mass or repeated production in two ways

As some have said it makes the fitting of a guard easier but it also provides a consistent "register" point for the use of jigs and fixtures in the production process, particularly when one is making a hidden tang with no holes for handle slabs to use instead. 

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  • 1 month later...

Ack! I'm realizing my cutlery skills need some work after my last bit of progress on this little guy. 

I got the grip where it felt better at the back end than what it did.  I just repeated the egg shape a little brought the weight down, felt a little more sleek.  I had a little bit of wiggle in my plates for the upper and lower ends, so I peened them a little to fit snug, and to hide gaps.

Time to fix it together I told myself.  I epoxied everything in place clamped it nicely for 24 hours. I had always planned to peen over the tang so I shaved down a good bit of what went through the guard until about 1/8 of an inch remained.  Got my welding tip on the torch for some focused heat and whack smack ah &^$% . . . . . I scorched the lower end of the wood from too much heat traveling up the tang. 

The peen is holding securely, but I again have a little gaping. I attempted to sweeten it up by peening it over cold but my punch may as well have been a noodle.

  20180818_154553.jpg

Aesthetically, If I would have scorched the top too, it would look intentional.  But I'm OK with it, the knife feels good in the hand and is very solid.  I'm telling myself I'm not done with it yet, and next time I'll know to make a peen even smaller or add a pummel nut.  You learn by doing.

Edited by Daniel W
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