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Gerhard Gerber

Three cleavers and the lessons learnt

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I'm putting this under Beginners because it's more a warning than a Show & Tell, hopefully others can learn from this.

The lessons in this tale are about "the business end", heat treating, and not being an idiot.

The back story.....

I have a friend who is also my best customer so far, and he wants a cleaver.  He watched some cooking shows and I get the impression cleavers are fashionable.

Another acquaintance wanted to give me some leaf springs in exchange for a cleaver, and he had a Siberian cleaver in mind.  Told him in no uncertain terms  that some steel in exchange for a knife won't fly, and I don't have the materials to make something that silly......

Third was the guy that used to make sheaths for me, had debts to pay and he wanted a cleaver as well.

 

First attempt was using a big circular saw blade, found out in time the blade had worked a bit hard and was full of cracks. Next attempt was a 5160 and mild steel combo that also failed.

I was discussing this problem with my neighbour (almost) Mike, and he volunteered to forge some leaf springs wider for me.....we exchange work sometimes.

He gave up after one attempt, same as me, but we decided to give it a go together......

 

I'll add some photos later..... 

 

Three forging sessions and the best part of 19kg of LPG later I had the three blades.  During this process Mike said I was wasting steel, we should be forging out the handle. He's still very much in the learning process and doesn't expect the hobby to pay for itself yet.  I explained in no uncertain terms that I need to make money from these, and another hour's forging and the likely clean-up grinding required makes that a complete waste of time......

I should've listened to myself..........

The heat treat lessons are in the correct sub-forum, no need to repeat here......except to thank everybody again for the help and advice.

Two perfect blades, one cracked.......the 3rd one that was supposed to pay off a debt.

 

It's been a tough few weeks.....year......and I was upset about the cracked blade.  The potential owner dropped by to take a look and discuss alternatives, and right at this point is where I felt like kicking myself.....

He wanted a smaller cleaver to start with, and I wasn't willing to do all that forging work again.

Comparing the 3 blades to a piece of raw leaf spring I noticed all that work we did gained us max 10mm in width........

The ultimate kick in the family jewels, my grandfather's cleaver is almost exactly the same width as the leaf spring.

I didn't measure, I trusted my eye, and my eyes lied to me.

We did all that work for 10mm that was not necessary, the time, the gas, and cleaning up all those forge marks........

 

As for the business end, I now feel about cleavers the way I feel about a Kukri, namely pay me double what I charged for the first ones and I'll consider it.

This has been a hard lesson at a bad time......hope the lesson stays with me.

 

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That story is not so oddly familiar to me. I am not charging nearly enough for hamons (50$ extra). That's ridiculous considering the extra abrasive required, all the time spent polishing and the more costly W2 compared to 80CrV2. On top of that, I screwed the first blade misaligning my mark and had to start over. 

I am going to triple that extra on the next request.

Edited by Joël Mercier

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Sorry about your luck Gerhard.

Making money at this I mostly gave up on. There is just too much time in it. The only way to get a higher price tag on it is through more time spent. Time should be money, but your work has to be flawless to get what you deserve out of them.... My work is far from flawless :lol:

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I know it never feels good to feel like you've wasted time and material.  But now you got a better idea of how not to approach making the project and probably will not make the same mistake again.  In-fact you probably have a better idea of how to stream line the process a little better. 

Wasting steel or not - the time and gas involved with forging a blade to shape vs cutting it to a rough shape - you probably waste 2 cents in steel, and you gain hours.  This is especially true when you are attempting in maximize profit.  I've been working things out to an hourly shop rate per item.  I can pretty much estimate the cost of gas per hour since it runs at a rather consistence rate, add onto that the price of raw material. I now try to break down how much time each step in the process will take to get a rough estimate of how much time will be involved.  Then I at least double it.  I also include any tools I may need to make, setting up the work space, and if I have to out source a part of it.  In the future - if I proceed to take on work regularly, I'm going to have to add monthly insurance costs and one day a rate for myself.  Each person works out their rates a little different, some shops can charge an hourly rate, or just a rate for the job. 

Don't be discouraged, learn and continue. 

I know I'm not bringing a 'knife smithing' background with my experiences, but I do encounter knife smiths that have a healthy income from their part of the craft to run their shops with their profits.  Others live off their incomes, but I do not see all their other expenses in order to achieve that, or if they truly are living just off that income or also taking on side work.  Those people are very few. 

 

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I believe it takes between 6000 and 10 000 hours to master a trade. I don't expect to make a living off this trade until I reach such degree of experience. At my actual rate, I'll be good at my retirement :lol:, which is my goal. My current trade(car mech) doesn't allow me to stack much money for my old days so I'll fill the gap with this. 

So, just like Zeb(damn you dude, how did you gather such wisdom at you age?), I sorta gave up making money off this. But we're stacking up experience! Just gotta keep this fun on the long run. 

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1 hour ago, Joël Mercier said:

 

So, just like Zeb(damn you dude, how did you gather such wisdom at you age?)

Perspective is the closest thing to wisdom I have. I just know what a fool I am! Wisdom I think has something to do with looking back, looking within, and looking forward... At least I think that's how it is... Ask me next week and I might have a different view :lol:

Keeping it fun is a must! If you're not making money, and not having fun; what's the point!? Someday I'll know what I'm doing, but 'till then I'm gonna have a blast becoming poorer and screwing things up! 

But you just started this junk and you're already making awesome stuff! Better finish quality than I have for sure! And more knowledge of alloys! You've got a future in this if you really want it.  I'm gonna try to catch up on my next big project though :P 

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4 hours ago, Joël Mercier said:

 At my actual rate, I'll be good at my retirement :lol:, which is my goal.

That was my idea since I'll have to work till I peg it......problem is the economy is in the crapper and thanks to AA I'm unemployable....and 43.

This weekend was rough......

Got a tip from a master of our craft on how to treat a certain wood, got as close as I could to the same product as I could......but clearly not the right stuff. The results were not good.....and hopefully I can fix the damage.......and ab almost completed knife. :(

I spent the rest of the weekend chasing scratches on these cleavers, wasted belts, endless hand sanding in mild 36C weather...gave me plenty of time to think, figured some things out.

I had to resort to draw filing, I finished to 220 grit prior to heat treat and there were some scratches from the files still in there.  Even on the one side of the one cleaver that I got the best is not acceptable.

To make matters worse, I cut a grove into the bolster area of one of the beautiful handles with the grinder belt. I saw the puff, looked for damage but of course only found it with a finger nail after a lot of finishing had been done.

I'm not willing to let these go as is at a discounted price, can't sell them for the discussed price as is......price that is too low anyway.

I've decided to shelve these till further notice, which will mean three very unhappy people....

 

My head is not in the game, I need to find something else to keep my hands busy with in the mean time. 

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Sorry to hear all that...things sure seem different when you must make profit. I hope you get it all sorted out soon.

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That sucks man... Maybe make some "smalls" for a little bit. Small projects to to turn around quick. RR spike bottle openers, hooks, blacksmith's knives, fire pokers, napkin holders, etc. People can easily justify a small purchase, and these are quick and easy to make. Fun too! That fire for knifemaking will come back I'm sure. 

Holler at me if I can help in any way. I'm just a PM away.

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:lol: @Joël Mercier profit is not on my mind, but I feel I need to quit when I could make more doing part time gardening.....

Funny you should mention that @Zeb Camper, after stewing in my own juice I decided on blacksmith knives......

Got home lunchtime yesterday, made a drawing to get some idea of how long the tail needs to be, grabbed some old files, bearing races, hammer, tongs, gloves and carried them out to the forge.

In so doing I walk past my car, decided then and there to start building the steel frame aluminium clad canopy that I couldn't afford to have built when I bought it.

Been driving around with a flapping, dust-sucking soft-top for 2+ years now so why not.....

I got the bottom frame for down the sides done, and made the first bends in the flatbar that will marry up to the bikini-bar.

I will need to remove the softtop and its supports each time when I work on the canopy........which after day 1 reminded me that doing this shit at 43 is not the same and installing eardrum popping sound systems at 23 :wacko:

 

......"know when to walk away, and know when to run....." B) 

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From bad to worse......

I got a tip I was pretty excited about, everybody apparently has the same problem and this sounded like good advice, namely: Remove the abrasives right at the joint in the belt, thus eliminating belt-bump issues.....

Problem being it looked like it was working for a few passes, then I saw the canyons chewed into my blade......:angry:

The future owners are p155ed to say the least, my communication skills have not been the best, and I've had to prioritize other matters......like finding work.

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WooHoo!  Keep them cranking, Gerhard!  B)  You really do need to find some sort of anti-scale compound, though.  That pic of the cleavers fresh from the kiln is impressive! 

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13 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

WooHoo!  Keep them cranking, Gerhard!  B)  You really do need to find some sort of anti-scale compound, though.  That pic of the cleavers fresh from the kiln is impressive! 

You see what I mean by a carbon balloon? :D

I never had scale like that using the pipe in the forge, and the cleavers went through a complete normalization cycle (3x)

I bought foil with the kiln, but it's very expensive and a huge hassle, and I hoped it would only be necessary if I scrounge some super steel from my mentor.

The bar stock 5160 I only took to 830C and quenched, no normalization since its virgin steel   and stock removal only......it made a very nice carbon balloon as well, how much negative effect on the steel you think?

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Yeah, foil is a pain.  I'd guess a thin skin of decarb is the only issue, easily ground off.

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I'm wondering if plain clay would work? 

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I've found that I also have scaling issue on all low/high carbon steel I've been working on.  The mild steel is not so bad, but carbon steels are just a pain.  I can't grind it off, I can't break it off when hot, although I have had success with a soak in pool Ph balance.  Just have to keep in mind to leave thin edges stout enough that the acid will not eat through things.  My last axe attempt I tried to soak for 24 hours and still could not get it totally clean. 

That's more of a problem with my home made forge and other parts of the build.  If your steel is warm or even hot and give it a quick dunk, it can blast the scale off.  Although I've never done with this any kind of carbon steels it works well.   

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