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AndrewB

I'm a potato when it comes to making knives...

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Okay I've been having a bit of complications with getting the knife thing down.  So I'm at a point where I'm a complete potato and just fully suck at it.  Quenching hardening and tempering is no problem.  Easy Easy Easy.  But I can never get the shape I want of the blade or for it to even come out straight.  So at this point I'm wondering if I should just say the heck with making knives and go right into making axes?  Is that going to be a better way to start working with the hard ball on this one?  It seems that axes are a heck of a lot easier than knives to make.  For me its just a pain trying to get a straight blade lol.  Ugh giving up on knives for a while Id like to try axes.  Is this a good move or is it tougher?

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Axes require more skill to forge I would say. It is fun though!

Either one will require lots of practice. My advice is to do whatever makes you happy. 

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Posted (edited)

@AndrewB Does your anvil have a pretty flat and smooth face? If it doesn't, getting a straight blade is going to be tough. If it does, or you have a reasonable facsimile, then get yourself a wooden mallet, or a heavy plastic faced mallet. You could also make yourself, or buy, a flatter or planishing hammer. Straightening a blade (or anything else for that matter) can be easily accomplished by heating it to orange,  laying it on a flat surface and hammering the thing straight with a soft hammer. It helps if the soft hammer has a wide flat face.

My guess is if you cannot get a knife blade straight, you ain't getting an axe straight either.

Edited by Joshua States

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Joshua States said:

@AndrewB Does your anvil have a pretty flat and smooth face? If it doesn't, getting a straight blade is going to be tough. If it does, or you have a reasonable facsimile, then get yourself a wooden mallet, or a heavy plastic faced mallet. You could also make yourself, or buy, a flatter or planishing hammer. Straightening a blade (or anything else for that matter) can be easily accomplished by heating it to orange,  laying it on a flat surface and hammering the thing straight with a soft hammer. It helps if the soft hammer has a wide flat face.

My guess is if you cannot get a knife blade straight, you ain't getting an axe straight either.

I does have a fairly flat surface.  Its the one I bought from Ebay the 66 pound ebay anvil lol.  The face is pretty smooth its just when I forge out the blades they are never straight for me I do use a wooden mallet to straighten out the blade after I forge the bevels out but even then it still seems to be crooked LOL.

 

14 minutes ago, Zeb Camper said:

Axes require more skill to forge I would say. It is fun though!

Either one will require lots of practice. My advice is to do whatever makes you happy. 

I dunno why but it just seems that axes would be a heck of a lot easier than knives.  Especially since you can make them either with one hole piece of steel or use a piece and wrap it around and forge weld it to a working cutting head.  That just seems a heck of a lot easier to me for some reason.

 

(hope you guys got my potato reference LOL)

Edited by AndrewB

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A knife is literally the simplest thing to forge that isn't a nail - it's a point and two tapers. An axe is infinitely more complex. And if you think that heat treating is 'Easy Easy Easy', the chances are that you haven't really understood it...

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Posted (edited)

How many knives have you forged?

Practice, practice, practice.

But don't just go out there with no plan. Make a design ahead of time and really try to produce it. Work on what you're struggling with over and over. When I was getting down forging points without making fish mouths, I forged a point, cut it off, forged another, cut it off, etc (each time attacking it slightly differently) until I found what worked for me and was very comfortable doing it. Focus on improving each time at some aspect.

Study... watch videos. Watch closely how people do things. Quitting and moving on to something harder to forge will not make you better at forging knives; neither will buying/building a tool. Only practice will.

 

Edited by Cody Killgore
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3 hours ago, AndrewB said:

I dunno why but it just seems that axes would be a heck of a lot easier than knives.

Probably seems that way because you have never tried it. I've never tried it either and it looks pretty complex to me.

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2 minutes ago, Cody Killgore said:

But don't just go out there with no plan. Make a design ahead of time and really try to produce it. Work on what you're struggling with over and over.

This is the best advice anyone can give you.

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A bit of constructive criticism Andrew. Although I am very new to knife making, I have had a number of hobbies over the last 50 years, and I have made many of the "mistakes" you are making.  You are trying to make knives, but you are not concentrating on making them. You are looking for things to make it easier. Please stop. Get a piece of steel, heat it up, and bang on it. I agree on planning what you want to do, but the process itself is very simple. Studying the craft will help, but will not substitute for practice. Since you are not happy with your progress, I wouldn't even worry about completing a knife until you can forge a bevel and a point, and a tang, etc. Then put the various parts together in a knife.

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Forging practice and control of the hammer/steel interaction is required. Before I forged my first blade, I had probably made a dozen by stock removal and forged hundreds of other items from mild steel to get proficient at what I call the "basic 5 techniques". Drawing, tapering, fullering, rounding and upsetting. The truth be told, everything you need to know to forge a knife, you can learn by making a hook like this that you can sell for $15-$25.

hook.jpg

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1 hour ago, Ron Benson said:

You are trying to make knives, but you are not concentrating on making them. You are looking for things to make it easier. Please stop. 

I think this is so true. Yes this hobby is basically about collecting tools, but I can assure you that almost everyone in here started out with almost no tools. If they had the tools already it was because they were proficient with them from another hobby or from their job. Each new tool just adds a whole new skill set you have to learn. 

I think the other thing to realize is making anything well takes a lot of time. The microwave mentality is so prevalent these days in knifemaking especially (IMO) since FIF came out because the general consensus is that making a knife in 4 hours is normal. It is not, especially so early in your knifemaking career.

I think I am on one end of the extreme, as I’m sure people have picked up from my current WIP, it takes me months (years even) to make each knife because I spend way to long researching and practicing each step before I apply it to my actual knife. Not to mention I’ve only made a handful of knives (I think I’m on 14 or so), so I pretty much assume each one is still going to suck. Someday I’ll get quicker, but I kinda like the process, I’m weird that way.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Adam Weller said:

Someday I’ll get quicker, but I kinda like the process, I’m weird that way.

The way I see it (for myself), I either waste my time playing video games like I used to in my free time, or learn or practice useful stuff in my basement shop. I wanted a hobby that allowed me to make stuff that will last after I'm gone. It's one of those things you start thinking about when you're 36 and a father I guess...I didn't want to be remembered as Joel the guy who was a mechanic and played video games. Not that it's wrong, but you know what I mean :lol:.

What I mean with all that is don't count the time spent on a knife, you'd waste it elsewhere otherwise anyway. 

Edit: I am quoting Adam but talking to Andrew, just to clarify :lol:

Edited by Joël Mercier
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I do enjoy my video games lol.  I can loose myself in an online world and I often do.  But when the weather is nicer I get more forging time in.  I do all of that stuff outside when it's nice.  When the weather is just garbage here raining or too windy I'm stuck inside and yep geeking out in PC games.  How ever if summer is nice and holds out like it did last year I'll be forging on hopefully a daily basis.  I dunno if I just under estimate myself with it or just get frustrated with it.  But I have a few ideas in my head and when I go to put them into the steel they just never turn out the way I want them or I discover a warp in the blade after the heat treat and temper and the entire project is scraped.   I guess you could say yes still the noob and still in the learning phases of this.  In all honesty I do find heat treating how ever to be fairly simple.  I understand how to do it.  How the oil reacts in a certain way at the proper temperature to quench and what to look for in the forge when it's time to pull the steel out of the fire.  Probably one of my favorite parts of forging is heat treating.  Making oil boil instantly.  Dunno what it is.  LOL.  Maybe its the former cook in me that likes seeing that part.  There are also certain days where I cant do anything because my body tells me no you aint doin crap today.  I guess I just gotta get better at it.  But at least I'm also learning on the actual steel yea it's an expensive way to learn but for me its the best way.  I was on the forge yesterday had a great tang shape and the thing melted off completely cause I over heated it opps.  But I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish.  But where I really want to get is making axes that is my number one goal.  Knives everybody is making them.

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You can do any finition work inside when it's raining. Keep your hand sanding for those days...you can also put your ideas on paper or study geometry of various blades, etc...

I would also consider taking courses. Not everyone is made to learn all by themselves. Making axes require serious elbow grease and skill...

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19 minutes ago, AndrewB said:

Knives everybody is making them.

One of the reasons I picked my niche... the other question to ask is - are they making them well? I think that’s even a better way to stand out, we can all recognize when somebody makes a knife that is well made.

I think right now knife making is kinda a fad. I think the pendulum will swing the other way. I started researching making knives 20 years ago, at that point there was very little interest.

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The three best tools you will ever possess are you two hands and your mind, set your mind to the purpose you wish to achieve, and with time and

effort you will learn from your successes and failures at your hands, time being the key to understanding how to do it right by learning how you can do it

wrong, which you will more often than you want to.  

Don't give up because it wasn't perfect in your eyes, you are your own best and worst critic.

Keep striving to improve on each project and in time,    you will...........-_-

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You have to give this more time.

Make the mistakes learn from them, and continue, make new mistakes not the old ones - and in this process you will find your forging becomes better with every try.  More importantly continue to have fun with it.

You can forge a knife but you can also cut or fab up a knife too.

You may be falling into something I see at my local forge where we stress the need to learn the traditional basics. People come in and take the beginner courses, and want to jump right into making a knife.  2 or 3  attempts later, their basic forging process has flaws worked in that cause failures.  Fish lips, folded over corners, simple things that shouldn't be there in the first place.  They then get frustrated and never come back. These people have skipped a step. A knife is not a hard shape to make, but it is if you don't have a good concept of the basics in mind.

Get a knife project in mind, but your next forge day, get a piece of 3/8 round and just make tapers. If I can find the sheet with the measures I'm going to give you a project to practice and it is knife related. 

From what I've seen of your forging work it is getting better. But you may need to work on something simpler to get that confidence up.

 

 

 

As for making an axe . . . :wacko: I made 3 my first year forging, but I had hands on guidance for that.  The other 5 I have around range from success to absolute junk.

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On 4/21/2019 at 12:02 AM, Cody Killgore said:

...But don't just go out there with no plan. Make a design ahead of time and really try to produce it. Work on what you're struggling with over and over.

Lots of great advice in all the responses, but Cody (and Joshua) hit one of the primary things for me.

Forging to a shape you meant to achieve takes many hours of practice at the anvil.  It probably takes 100's of hours of forging the same basic shape to get good at it, and easily 1000's of hours to be able to walk up to an anvil and forge something you've never done before on the 1st try.  (I wouldn't know, since I am nowhere near that point)

Give yourself some time to develop the skills.  In the meantime go easy on yourself with respect to your results.  It is more important that each attempt get better than that the overall outcome be good.

A great way to make yourself improve every attempt is to have a target design on paper that you are trying to hit.  It's fine if you fail to hit the design, but try to understand why the failure happened, and formulate a new approach.  Way to many of us tell ourselves, "I guess that is what the steel wanted to be today" and don't push hard enough to to understand how we can change our approach to truly master the steel.  Doing so eases up on the pressure to learn, and you are the only one who can apply that pressure.  (I am speaking of my own journey, and not assuming anything about yours :) )

Keep at it, and look to make a minor improvement everytime you light the forge.  Get comfortable with the idea that this is a journey that will take the rest of your life.  

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I'm relatively new to forging, and the only real forging I've done is forging a muzzleloader gun barrel (and I use the term loosely) from an old wagon tire.  I have a buddy who has been helping demonstrate barrel forging at Dixon's Gun Maker's Fair in Pennsylvania for nearly 30 years, and I got the forging bug from hanging out with him.  I spent about 40 hours over a year and a half ( I didn't have a working forge until last August) on my first barrel and it is horrible, but I learned a lot. 

In order to learn the kind of control I'll need to make knives I've started to practice exercises from this ABANA webpage:  https://abana.org/education/controlled-hand-forging/.  The exercises are designed to get you to not just mess around doing something like making a taper, but to get you to make a taper to certain dimensions.  It's a whole lot harder to make a specific taper than just any old taper.

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@AndrewB watching your activities constantly reminded of the saying about sculptures, namely you just need to remove the rock that doesn't belong and the sculpture emerges.

Knife making is very much the same, but you just seem to stop before all the "rock" is removed....

Also, you might need to divert some time away from online gaming to "study time", namely reading all the advice on this forum.........and watching a few thousand hours of youtube videos.

I have no idea what your circumstances are, but most of us have jobs, families and other responsibilities with demands on your time, but you need to make time to study and practice.  The knowledge and the skill is not obtained through osmosis  

 

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I've been at this for something like 4 or 5 years and my blades still suck. I did all of my first blades draw filing and hand sanding. I've just now finally got my grinder to where it is "fully operational" and now i have ruined more blades than I've actually finished. After all this time my forging is still mediocre or just downright sucks. I've found myself venturing into tool making and stuff like that just to try to improve my hammer skills. Keep at it and everything will start to fall into place. 

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On 4/23/2019 at 8:12 AM, Jeremy Blohm said:

I've been at this for something like 4 or 5 years and my blades still suck. 

I've been at this for something like 12 or 13 years and I think I finally have a clue. It's just that every time I turn around, I find something else I don't know how to do

 

On 4/22/2019 at 6:04 PM, Rich Bostiga said:

In order to learn the kind of control I'll need to make knives I've started to practice exercises from this ABANA webpage

Great advice. Make something simple, and make it over and over again. That develops what I call "body knowledge". Musicians know this and so do rock climbers. Your body learns at a different pace than your brain. It takes repetitive motion to obtain body knowledge. It takes constant trial and error.

 

On 4/22/2019 at 8:36 AM, Brian Dougherty said:

A great way to make yourself improve every attempt is to have a target design on paper that you are trying to hit. 

Every knife I make gets drawn out on paper first. Then the paper gets photocopied and I cut the blade out and superglue it to a piece of 1/8" flat stock. Then I grind the profile out. Now I have a template I can keep at the anvil. Right now I have a box full of templates. If you are planning a road trip to Yellowstone, what is the first step? Open a map and plan the route. It's the same with creating anything. Make a road map on how to get from point A to point B.

 

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The size of the knife you are forging can make a big difference to how you feel about it, and approach the work.

Lots of practical knives are 3" blades, yet many people assume if you are forging a knife it needs to be massive.

Try starting a forging session with a 1/2" dia bar (or even easier a bit of 1/4" thick x 3/4" flat bar), and the idea to make 3 or 4 stick tang blades. If 1/2 get scrapped in the learning you will still have something to show for it at the end of the day you can feel proud of, and finish into a knife. Not just a pile of frustration.

Repeat this exercise a few times and suddenly you will finish the forging session with 4 nicely forged small blades, and you can move on from there.

It just seems odd to me that a lot of people kick off trying to forge a big knife, that most experienced bladesmiths would pull a face at without a power hammer :)

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All great advice here. Paraphrasing from people I really look up to: 

Whatever you do, do it the best you can.

As a maker, you have to enjoy making piles of dust. 

You aren't just working on a knife; you are working on yourself. 

You are in charge; you tell the steel what to do. [Not the other way around]

 

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66 pounds is a fairly light anvil; do you have it secured so it is not bouncing around? That might make it harder to forge straight blades.

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