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Eric Byers

Forged in Fire

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Ok, so I've watched almost every episode of forged in fire. They make it look so easy. (Just heat it up, forge weld it, shape it, then grind it pretty. But a handle on it and boom, knife)

 

My question is, (and I know the answer sort of) is it that simple?

What makes it more complicated?

Is it the "proper grind angle"?

Getting the heat treat just right?

Knowing the temperature?

I guess this is a "what's the catch"? Kinda question cause they do make it look easy and I know it can't be.

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1 hour ago, Eric Byers said:

 

 

My question is, (and I know the answer sort of) is it that simple?

 

If you've watched all of the episodes then you have watched numerous master smiths be eliminated in the first round.  That should answer your question.;)

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1 hour ago, Eric Byers said:

Ok, so I've watched almost every episode of forged in fire. They make it look so easy. (Just heat it up, forge weld it, shape it, then grind it pretty. But a handle on it and boom, knife)

 

My question is, (and I know the answer sort of) is it that simple?

What makes it more complicated?

Is it the "proper grind angle"?

Getting the heat treat just right?

Knowing the temperature?

I guess this is a "what's the catch"? Kinda question cause they do make it look easy and I know it can't be.

in short, yes, it can be that simple.

but what do you want to make, a knife that looks amazing, with every tiny scratch hand sanded away from a forged blade that you spent hours and hours beating into just the shape you wanted, heat treated with care and attention to the temps and tempering cycles, with beautifully selected wood or other handle material that you lovingly sculpted, carved and sanded to fit your hand just right, all adding up to a knife that you know will last for generations to come and be used and loved by someone who appreciates it....

or do you want something that was put together in a rush, made from unknown steels and heat treated in a rushed generic way with slapped together handle and knowing that very soon it will be destroyed, either in a minor way or catastrophically?

both of these are knives. one is "easy" one is "hard".

i know i know, a very over simplification of the FIF set up. i too watch the show and love it, but there are stark differences between the blades that are made there and the ones made in real life. 

to put it another way, would you drive a nascar everyday? no. why? because its made to do one thing well, but only one thing, go damn fast on a circular track. same as a FIF knife in my opinion, its made to do one thing and one thing only, be tough enough to stand up to a massive beating. 

all of this is of course my own opinion, so make of it what you will ;)

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Looking at those guys (and gals) rushing around and sweating their whatevers off while trying not to burn or cut themselves does not look like the easy way to me.  It looks like the hard way.  Things get thrown out of order.  Like I would not grind a quench hardened blade.  I would temper it first and because tempering a blade is only slightly less interesting than watching paint dry, they sum it up with the statement "your blades have been tempered".

So, yes, grind angles matter, for the job that the blade is intended to do.  Then there's steel selection picked for the job you want the blade to do and the equipment that you have to heat treat.  That's as in 52100 is a great steel for a hard cutting blade if you have a heat treating oven.  If all you have is a forge it would be difficult to get consistent results with and it would not be a steel I would pick to make a sword from.

Doug

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Guest

Engh fact is its an elimination tv show with drama, and the way the talk about it is on the order of : can you make a 100$ garbage production blade and how fast you make it.
and you can tell that for certain because the first thing they comment on is. Oooh what a lovely handle choice. and then they finally look at the blade after the ascetics.

Plus iv seen contestant winners have power hammered premade bar stock "Damascus" (ground in with next to no forging)

Oooooh such a toxic topic for me Ima go now.

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8 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

My question is, (and I know the answer sort of) is it that simple?

What makes it more complicated?

Obviously the answer to the first question is "No".  Just like it isn't as simple to renovate a house as they make it look in a 30-min show, or restoring a car isn't as easy as it looks on TV, or building a custom motorcycle isn't as simple as we might be led to believe.  Reality shows are not reality.  (Nor are they meant to be)

As for the second question, give it a try!  You will very quickly get a feel for why it gets more complicated.  You'll also probably quickly fall in love with the craft, or decide it isn't for you.  You can dip your toes in with some very basic equipment and very little money.  Just be careful, you very may well get sucked down the rabbit hole :)

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As a contestant on the show (season 5, episode 25) , I think I can speak to your questions.

No one goes in ready to work in the conditions.  The clock, the cameras, the heat, unfamiliar tools, the mental stress of not wanting to look like an idiot on TV, all of those things come into play.

They want to make good TV.  That is their job, and I think they a pretty good job.  They are not there to make TV about makers making knives, they are there to show makers under pressure.

If I were making the blade I made on the show, at home (though I can't imagine why I would make that blade at all) I would have taken at least a day to do the can, I would have stopped to fix the hammer when it broke, when I got woozy I would have stopped and taken a break.  You don't get to do any of that on the show, the clock drives everything, that and the desire to make it to the next round.

Since you can't plan at all, you have to be quick on your feet.  They hand you the challenge, and you've got 10 minutes to figure out what to do with what you have.

The tests are intentionally brutal and destructive.  I generally build a pretty light knife, but what I make at home won't chop through a block of ice, or whatever ridiculous thing they've chosen this week.

If you think it looks easy, step right up.  Make a knife in 6 hours, I'll be happy to give you a challenge to meet, and then test it to destruction.  That will give you a taste (a small taste) of what it's like and why it's hard.

Geoff

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You have to know your steel and what its capable of and what the purpose of the knife will be. A steel that may be ideal when tempered at a certain temperature may not be ideal if tempered at another but might do another job better. Each steel pretty much has its own tempering range and results. Then you get to grind angles and edge geometry which are generally optimized, again to the purpose. Then you have to match the handle ergonomics to the purpose and choose the right materials for that. 

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@Eric Byers First of all, regarding FIF, what Geoff said. Second of all, Clayton Cowart (another FIF contestant I know) once told me "I can teach a monkey how to make a knife". 

To answer the question "is it that simple?" well, it can be. It depends on what your intention is. If all you want to do is make an object that will cut another object, you can use a clamshell or a sharp rock. The human race did that for a long time before they developed metallurgy. The truth is, the basics of making a metal knife are: 1. Shape the metal. 2. Put a handle on it. 3. Sharpen it. The devil is in the details. To a lot of the people on this forum, knifemaking (or blade making for that matter) is an artform. It's more than the utilitarian production of a tool. 

Before you jump into this craft, it's probably best to have some sort of goal in mind. What do you want to do with metal and blades? How artful is your intent? What is your goal?

For me, it's the phrases "Craft, not business. Value, not price. Quality, not quantity. To create, not produce, Hands, not machines" taken from The Northmen Guild. (and the rest of it for that matter), but how you feel about it may be different. I'm not saying that this is the only respectable goal, just that this is what I intend. What I want for me. Others may feel differently, and that's good, if that works for them. What do you want to do?

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On 12/5/2018 at 1:18 PM, Geoff Keyes said:

 "If you think it looks easy, step right up.  Make a knife in 6 hours, I'll be happy to give you a challenge to meet, and then test it to destruction.  That will give you a taste (a small taste) of what it's like and why it's hard."

Geoff

 No sir, not yet anyway. I know it has to be harder than it looks. Isn't everything? Being new to the craft I was just seeking a little more insight into what difficulties one might face. I ment no disrespect.

 

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20 hours ago, Joshua States said:

@Eric Byers First of all, regarding FIF, what Geoff said. Second of all, Clayton Cowart (another FIF contestant I know) once told me "I can teach a monkey how to make a knife". 

To answer the question "is it that simple?" well, it can be. It depends on what your intention is. If all you want to do is make an object that will cut another object, you can use a clamshell or a sharp rock. The human race did that for a long time before they developed metallurgy. The truth is, the basics of making a metal knife are: 1. Shape the metal. 2. Put a handle on it. 3. Sharpen it. The devil is in the details. To a lot of the people on this forum, knifemaking (or blade making for that matter) is an artform. It's more than the utilitarian production of a tool. 

Before you jump into this craft, it's probably best to have some sort of goal in mind. What do you want to do with metal and blades? How artful is your intent? What is your goal?

For me, it's the phrases "Craft, not business. Value, not price. Quality, not quantity. To create, not produce, Hands, not machines" taken from The Northmen Guild. (and the rest of it for that matter), but how you feel about it may be different. I'm not saying that this is the only respectable goal, just that this is what I intend. What I want for me. Others may feel differently, and that's good, if that works for them. What do you want to do?

First of all I absolutely love that. "Craft, not business. Value, not price. Quality, not quantity. To create, not produce. Hands, not machines". Not sure about that last part "hands not machines" I don't fancy myself a Puritan. Hopefully that's not disrespectful in any way.

As for what I want to do, I want to make beautiful weapons that are more than just "wall hangers". I want to be able to make not just blades but, Warhammers, Spears, Battle Axes possibly even shields. (Although I hear armor making is incredibly difficult and it's not wear my passion lies) 

I'm also very interested in woodworking, learning to be a bowyer and leather craft. (Although I'm not sure how useful that last one will be.)

My Main goal however is to make Beautiful weapons with my own artistic touch. Perhaps even create anime variants of blades. 

I understand I'll need to learn alot and I intend to go to NESM in Maine as much as possible over the next 5 years.

I don't intend to make a living off it but it'd be nice to be able to sell my wares. 

 

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I did not take it as disrespect, I'm sorry if I came across as gruff.  Partly it's hard because if it were easy, no one would watch.  In my episode we had to make a billet out of scissors.  With 10 minutes to think about it, I decided to make a can billet.  I got all fanboy seeing Jay Neilson at the judges table and tried whiteout in the can (as a release agent) without understanding the ins and outs.  I could have, and in the end did, just incorporate the can into the weld, but I lost time and momentum trying to remove the can.  Every decision you make impacts the build and the clock is ticking.  I wanted and needed to draw my billet out quite a bit, but the hammer went down and they decided that we just had to live without it.

Everything you do affects everything you do later, and there isn't any time to recover or start over.

None of what I did in the show are things I would do at home.  I would normally take a day to make a simple damascus billet.  I'm a slow and pretty meticulous maker and you can't see any of that in the episode.

As Napoleon is supposed to have said "No plan survives it's first meeting with the enemy".

 

Geoff

 

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2 hours ago, Geoff Keyes said:

I did not take it as disrespect, I'm sorry if I came across as gruff.  Partly it's hard because if it were easy, no one would watch.  In my episode we had to make a billet out of scissors.  With 10 minutes to think about it, I decided to make a can billet.  I got all fanboy seeing Jay Neilson at the judges table and tried whiteout in the can (as a release agent) without understanding the ins and outs.  I could have, and in the end did, just incorporate the can into the weld, but I lost time and momentum trying to remove the can.  Every decision you make impacts the build and the clock is ticking.  I wanted and needed to draw my billet out quite a bit, but the hammer went down and they decided that we just had to live without it.

Everything you do affects everything you do later, and there isn't any time to recover or start over.

None of what I did in the show are things I would do at home.  I would normally take a day to make a simple damascus billet.  I'm a slow and pretty meticulous maker and you can't see any of that in the episode.

As Napoleon is supposed to have said "No plan survives it's first meeting with the enemy".

 

Geoff

 

Some of that comes across in the show but it's never explained. I appreciate the insight, and I do respect the craft. I cannot say that "I know" how difficult it is as I've never even put hammer to anvil yet. I can imagine how hot it must be and how oppressive that clock is though. 

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Two different contestants have told me that by late afternoon it's often around 120 degrees in the studio...:ph34r:

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4 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

Not sure about that last part "hands not machines" I don't fancy myself a Puritan. Hopefully that's not disrespectful in any way.

It's not meant in puritanical way. It doesn't mean a total lack of machines, it means that even with the machines, it is hands-on fabrication. I always take it to mean things like:

I shape the blades with the hammer (even a power hammer) and the grinder. I do not have my blades cut out on a CNC water jet. 

4 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

and leather craft. (Although I'm not sure how useful that last one will be.)

Every knife needs a sheath. It's a Yin-Yang thing. Leather working will come in handy. I was a leatherworker long before I was a metalworker.

4 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

As for what I want to do, I want to make beautiful weapons that are more than just "wall hangers". I want to be able to make not just blades but, Warhammers, Spears, Battle Axes possibly even shields.

Excellent. Then you have come to the right place. Read all the pinned threads, more than once. I've been at this art for 12 years or more and I still go read them every once in a while.

1 hour ago, Eric Byers said:

I cannot say that "I know" how difficult it is as I've never even put hammer to anvil yet.

If you want my advice, here it is. Learn the basics of moving metal with those two tools (and a couple pairs of tongs!) Start simple with small craft projects like coat hooks with a leaf on them. There are a few basic skills to this blacksmith craft. After all, a blade smith is just a blacksmith with a specialty. There's a couple of books out there by Mark Aspery. Buy volume 1 and a few basic hand tools. Start moving metal. Join the local blacksmith's guild. I see your location is "everywhere", so it shouldn't be difficult to find one close by. :D

Don't think you need a 200 pound Nimba anvil to start with either. The Vikings had anvils the size of Dixie Cups and they made all those items you mentioned on them. A good smithing hammer is a must, but there are so many different styles to choose from, it's a crap shoot at the beginning. This is where connecting with a network of local smiths comes in handy. Most smith groups have open forge nights and demonstrations where you can get in front of the anvil with a hammer and give it a go under the watchful eye of an experienced smith. Most of these events also have Tailgate sales where you can buy used equipment. There are a bunch of pinned threads here that discuss anvils (small and large) and other tools of the trade. It is far easier to start small and upgrade over time than it is to buy a lot of expensive equipment at the git-go (unless you have serious amounts of disposable income).

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12 hours ago, Joshua States said:

I see your location is "everywhere", so it shouldn't be difficult to find one close by. :D

That's just the trouble. I'm an over the road truck driver and I spend 6 weeks living on a truck then I take a week off. 

Generally I go to Morgantown WV to spend time with the kids (we live in an apartment) Perhaps I could find a local Smith or even a guild willing to let me experience forging in their shop. Good idea, although my time would be limited I could get some time in front of a forge and anvil. 

 I am planning on going to NESM in Maine. Eventually working my way up over the next 5 years. Then my wife and I are going to buy a house and get off the road for good. Try to live off driving Uber and selling wares :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am a complete newb.  I have a partially finished lawnmower blade I started hammering.. and it is still sitting in the shed waiting, two months later, for me to pick it up again.
   Why?  Because, in spite of how easy this is made to look on TV and Youtube, once you pick up that hammer and start swinging... you realize that all those hours and years spent by the blacksmiths and bladesmiths honing their skills, the hammer is literally an extension of their arm, and they can make those minor adjustments in swing, that correct the previous strike's slight miscalculation.

    You will learn very quickly how difficult it can be to planish, as well as how to hold the heat on the metal when you are hammering it.

    Every blow of the hammer causes not just the reaction you wanted, but others as well.  You will be constantly compensating and correcting.

   And... it is a very addictive thing.  A few on here have seen my bottle openers.  And the difference between my first and my fifth was huge.  You can progress and get much better.

   Your hammer control will get to a better level with every swing....

   And you better pack a lunch, because this is NOT a sprint.  It is most certainly a marathon.  My admiration and awe of the bladesmiths just grew once I got to swinging my own hammer, to the point where I plan on taking several more months of just learning the blacksmith basics before I again try a blade.

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3 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

Generally I go to Morgantown WV to spend time with the kids (we live in an apartment) Perhaps I could find a local Smith or even a guild willing to let me experience forging in their shop. Good idea, although my time would be limited I could get some time in front of a forge and anvil. 

 

Buddy, you don't need to go to Maine, there are two very big crafting centers very close to you, one in Fayette county pa and another in Cumbria county pa.  During the summer there is a local shop also not too far from the WV border that has a open forge night every Thursday night.  There is also a school in Fredrick Md that I know of.  Being in the Coal region of southwest Pa and Morgantown area, your in blacksmith heaven, you just need to get out and find them. 

 

Is the craft of bladesmithing/blacksmithing hard - yes.  A skilled crafts person can make the hardest thing look simple. The show - err umm I kind of like the show and also dislike it.  In some ways it promotes the craft - for me, I began my crafting due to a passion for blades, but my first class/lessons changed all that when I realized there is so much more to explore with the craft. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Daniel W
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9 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

I'm an over the road truck driver

I did OTR for a few years when I was in the music business. A completely different type of OTR driving, but I know the lifestyle. I was driving as little as 4 days to as many as 30 and my time off was equally as variable. It was difficult to say the least, to focus any energy on other things. Good stuff to consider from Daniel and Ben above. 

9 hours ago, Eric Byers said:

I am planning on going to NESM in Maine. Eventually working my way up over the next 5 years. Then my wife and I are going to buy a house and get off the road for good. Try to live off driving Uber and selling wares :-)

Having a plan is a good thing. Even if Geoff Keyes and Napoleon were right about the survival rate of plans. :P A friend of mine used to drive for Swift doing local runs only. His typical route was from Phoenix to either Flagstaff or 29 Palms where he would switch trucks with another driver and run back to Phoenix. Are there any opportunities like that in your area that you could make the switch to? 

Another thing to consider is stock removal making. This is how I started and my mentor believed that learning stock removal before you learned forging was the way to go. It still has the three basic steps of blade making I outlined above and uses less equipment. Either way, living in an apartment is not conducive to this craft. 

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On 12/7/2018 at 7:28 AM, Eric Byers said:

 

 I am planning on going to NESM in Maine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric,  I've taken several blacksmithing and bladesmithing classes at NESM. They were all top notch. Derick and Nick do a great job. Their guest instructors are great. You'll really enjoy the experience. 

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I can only imagine what actual chefs feel like after watching one of the cooking elimination shows.  Probably much like folks here do watching FIF. :-)

 

The thing that always bugs me with FIF: When do they temper?  Tempering takes a hours, and we never see them even doing post-temper sanding.  Do they just not do it and use brittle blades?  Do they hide it well?  @Geoff Keyes If you can fill that part in for us I'd love to know.  It's always bothered me. :-)

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1 hour ago, Larry Garfield said:

The thing that always bugs me with FIF: When do they temper?  Tempering takes a hours, and we never see them even doing post-temper sanding.  Do they just not do it and use brittle blades?  Do they hide it well?  @Geoff Keyes If you can fill that part in for us I'd love to know.  It's always bothered me. :-)

They temper the blades off camera between the first and second rounds. Will Willis has said it a few times before round two that the blades have been tempered.

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What he said.  They group temper all of the blades for at least one cycle.  What you are not seeing is that the shoot takes 3 days.  The first round is day one, the second round is day two, the testing is day three (which gives the epoxy 24 hours to set).

Geoff

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Ah!  So they temper and then polish, or let you polish?

I always wondered how long it took to shoot an episode.  I figured one long day would be tough, but I didn't realize it was three.  That makes sense, I suppose, although it makes it all the more amusing when they make fun of a contestant for mistakenly using 24 hour epoxy if they really are waiting 24 hours anyway! :-)

Do they overlap shooting for episodes, or do they really take 10 days for just one episode and then move on?  (I always figured they were shooting the first 2 rounds for another episode while the finalists were off doing round 3 at home.)

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