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Zack Lewis

Ways to practice

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Try making a dozen hooks out of 1/4" square mild steel.  Try making them identical.  Repetition is good practice, it teaches hammer control and trains the eye to see the effect of minor inconsistencies in technique.  Using 1/4" stock also teaches you to use only as much force as necessary to get the job done.

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If you are talking 'smithing, taking a round bar and squaring it, then returning it to round is good.

If you have a traitional anvil making your own Hardy tools is a learning experience.

Making your own tongs when you advance a bit.

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Posted (edited)

Take a piece of scrap and heat it til the shadows disappear, test with a magnet, let it cool and do it again a few times to train your eyes to see when it is ready to quench.

The effect on the way up is called decalesence, once the shadows all disappear the blade has passed critical, will be nonmagnetic, and you are ready to quench. There are videos and better explanations on this site.

You should wear shade 3 welding glasses for this, you'll probably end up looking into the forge.

Read as much as you can lots of great info here.

 

Edited by Zach Wade
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Oh, here' a good one, take two steps forward and one step back. Then repeat, eventually you'll get where you're going. Story of my weekend 

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Zack Lewis said:

I've looking for effective amd productive excercises to improve my skills. Are there any?

Which skills? This kind of open ended question is one that will reveal a wide variety of answers. There are many skills required in this trade and there are many paths available to success (however you may define success) What areas do you want to focus on? Let's start with a few categories and you tell us which one you are having the most trouble with.

Design: Coming up with a sound design for a particular type, style  or use of knife.

Forging: Shaping steel to the desired dimensions.

Grinding: Profiling the shape contours and establishing bevels.

Heat treating: Self-explanatory

Fitting furniture: Attaching guards, spacers, and handle materials to the tang.

Finish: Sanding, shaping and polishing blades and/or furniture

These are my 6 basic categories or steps in the craft. Each of them has a number of steps within each category. Most of which gets into the realm of personal preference.

 

Edited by Joshua States

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If practice is what you want, just start making stuff. Every project will teach you something and show you several somethings you need to work on. I know I speak for a lot of the guys on here when I say that I have never made a single peice that didn't teach me at least one lesson. Every piece is better than the last, and in pursuit of mastering your craft, nothing is a waste of time. Try new things, screw up, and try again. Have fun with the stuff! 

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I tend to agree with Ethan, as thats how i started. But Alan has a fantastic point as well, making the same thing over and over teaches a lot of good skills. Taking a bar from round to square and back then tapering both round and square will teach you hammer control in a hurry. And hammer control is vital if you plan to forge... well, anything, really. 

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On ‎3‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 2:55 PM, Zach Wade said:

Take a piece of scrap and heat it til the shadows disappear, test with a magnet, let it cool and do it again a few times to train your eyes to see when it is ready to quench.

The effect on the way up is called decalesence, once the shadows all disappear the blade has passed critical, will be nonmagnetic, and you are ready to quench. There are videos and better explanations on this site.

You should wear shade 3 welding glasses for this, you'll probably end up looking into the forge.

Read as much as you can lots of great info here.

 

Novice question, what are the "shadows" you refer to? Just dark (cold) spots of the metal or is there a deeper meaning to this?

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22 minutes ago, Tanner C. said:

Novice question, what are the "shadows" you refer to? Just dark (cold) spots of the metal or is there a deeper meaning to this?

He is referring to decalesence and recalesence. As the steel reaches critical temperature, the carbon comes out of solution and appears as a dark shadow passing across the surface. Then it abruptly goes back into solution. See this:

https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?/topic/1852-decalescence-and-recalescence/

 

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Posted (edited)

There is a much deeper meaning.  Being able to recognize it is essentially the standard method for achieving an accurate temperature for normalizing and quenching.  Try plugging - site:bladesmithsforum.com descalence - into Google and read up on the results.  It has been discussed in depth several times and there have been some very good videos posted that will give you a visualization of the phenomenon. 

Edited by Alex Middleton
Apparently Joshua is faster than me. Lol

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The "shadows" are a visible effect in steel that takes place when the steel has been heated to the point of decalescence. This means, basically with basic steels, that the blade has reached the proper point for quenching. If the steel is quenched below that point it will not reach optimal hardness, taken too high above that point and the grain may grow too large for an optimal blade.

Shadows are the best way to descibe the visual effect. There are a bunch of technical terms and such but, once you see it, you'll get the idea.

I look at it as almost a gift from the gods of the forge that makes it possible for a clothpate like me to optimally harden a blade with dirt-simple equipment.

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If you want to get technical about it, it's a quantum phenomenon of photon emission and absorption during crystalline phase change in the iron/carbon matrix.  But it looks like swirly shadows inside the steel.  ;)

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On 3/11/2018 at 10:52 PM, Joshua States said:

Which skills? This kind of open ended question is one that will reveal a wide variety of answers. There are many skills required in this trade and there are many paths available to success (however you may define success) What areas do you want to focus on? Let's start with a few categories and you tell us which one you are having the most trouble with.

Design: Coming up with a sound design for a particular type, style  or use of knife.

Forging: Shaping steel to the desired dimensions.

Grinding: Profiling the shape contours and establishing bevels.

Heat treating: Self-explanatory

Fitting furniture: Attaching guards, spacers, and handle materials to the tang.

Finish: Sanding, shaping and polishing blades and/or furniture

These are my 6 basic categories or steps in the craft. Each of them has a number of steps within each category. Most of which gets into the realm of personal preference.

 

Right now I'm mainly focusing on shaping.I'm not worried about grinding as i currently don't own one. I would like to be able to forge as close to the finished shape I can. 

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On 3/12/2018 at 3:28 AM, ethanknott said:

If practice is what you want, just start making stuff. Every project will teach you something and show you several somethings you need to work on. I know I speak for a lot of the guys on here when I say that I have never made a single peice that didn't teach me at least one lesson. Every piece is better than the last, and in pursuit of mastering your craft, nothing is a waste of time. Try new things, screw up, and try again. Have fun with the stuff! 

Thank you very much

 

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I have attempted to make my own tongs but i failed miserably when doing the set downs for where the rivet hole goes. I would buy my own but becuase i use leaf springs i don't want to spend $50 on a pair of tongs juat to find out that they won't fit all the steel i have. 

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No tongs are going to fit all steel.  Measure how thick your springs are and order a set of blade tongs that size from JJ Simon here on the forum. 

Those will do for most blade work.  Then get yourself some mild steel bar and practice making tongs.

Hey, you wanted practice, and flat jaw tongs are good practice!

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expect mistakes...correct the mistakes and remember what went wrong / what went right....then literally rinse and repeat over and over...

and always remember patience is a virtue....there's no prize for being fast....but there are a great many prizes when you're happy and making progress

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I second Alan about JJ s tongs . You need a pair to start. JJ does great work. I really like mine.

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Tongs are great practice and always useful. If you're having issues getting the bosses right, get some cheap or free chunk of metal you don't mind wasting, and just forge all your step downs and faces and such, then chop that bit off and repeat. Your super basic flat bit tongs only use about 3" of material to get the jaw and rivet section, so you can practice 4x oer 12" bit o metal. Also, getting the bosses right is the only important part. All tongs are crazy different from each other, jaw shape/size, rein length, etc. But all of them pretty much have the exact same boss... So get that bit right, and you'll be golden for all your future tong needs.

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