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First Knife - Junk Tire Iron and Plywood

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This is the first knife born out of my coffee can forge. I was mainly looking to keep it as cheap as possible just to see if bladesmithing was for me. 

The steel comes from a junk tire iron I found in the garage when we moved in. My guess is that it's 5160-ish. 

The scales are made from some leftover 1/4" plywood with a couple coats of linseed oil (before I got it all dirty. I'm probably going to sand it down and refinish it). The pins are some kind of mild steel cut from a 3/8" round bar that the gentleman at our local welding shop gave me for free when I came in looking for brass. The place doubles as our local gun shop, so I bought a few boxes of .223 he had on sale to return the favor.

This baby was quenched in Canola oil and tempered in our kitchen oven to a nice dark yellow after I fished it out of the bottom of the oven with a baking mit and a pair of vise grips. 

I blew a lot of money at Harbor Freight on tools to get this done (much to the dismay of the Mrs (thank God I'm an inside track club kinda guy)), but I feel that it was money well spent, as I have a cool little shop set up and I think I finally found a hobby that I'm passionate about. I'm thinking of calling it The Hobo Freight knife... There's still some forge marks on there that I couldn't quite grind out, but it's like the scratches on my guitar, it gives it character.

The main point of this post isn't to show off my janky first blade, but to mostly thank all of you. This forum is like a cornucopia of knowledge for everything bladesmithing, and while this is my first post, I've spent hours and hours on here going through old posts trying to consume every little scrap of knowledge I can and steal all your little tips and tricks so, hopefully, I can one day create something on par with y'all. It's a journey I'm now excited for.

So, thank you all.


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Hey, that is definitely a start.  If after getting to this point, you are still enthusiastic about it, then it is a good start.

For each knife you make from this point on, pick some aspect that you want to improve on, and then hold yourself to task to make that aspect a good as you can possibly make it. 

It's all about being honest with yourself.  If it as good as you can do, but still fails to make you happy, that is OK.  However, if you know you can do better, but are just sick of messing with it, then that is a fail.

I fail a lot :)


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For me, there are times when I just need to move on to the next step or knife. Knife makers have a tendency to never 100% like their own work so sometimes you have to let go and still be proud of your work. That's my hobbyist opinion...

This trade is much more vast and complex than I first thought it was 2 years ago. If you are curious enough, you'll never stop learning!

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I agree with you Joel, and probably didn't make my point very well.

Accepting that I just can't do any better, and that I should be proud of what I achieved, is a good place to be. 

However, I still feel that those other times when I just decide it is time to give up and move on should sting in my memory just a bit. 

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Definitely on the road.  A good first forged blade.  Make sure you keep it to compare to subsequent knives.

Things I like about this one:

  1. General proportions of blade (flat spine and drop tip), handle lengths and handle width to length ratio
  2. Domed rivets!
  3. Subtle curve on front end of handle close to the blade.

Things that I can see you improving on in the future:

  1. Primary bevel grinding (a tip: get more grinding belts and replace them often or look into draw filing for a couple of blades - if the latter, don't forget to anneal...)
  2. Improved plunge grind
  3. Better defined riccasso
  4. General fit and finish (hand sanding; you will learn to hate it, but there is no substitute)
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6 hours ago, Dan Hertzson said:

Things that I can see you improving on in the future:

  1. Primary bevel grinding (a tip: get more grinding belts and replace them often or look into draw filing for a couple of blades - if the latter, don't forget to anneal...

Yeah, those bevels definitely got to me. I spent hours on each side with my little 1x30 grinder and a 60 grit belt. I'm probably (read: definitely) not changing them out as frequently as I should.


I'm looking into draw filing for my next adventure.

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Keep at it.  Your first is a couple of notches above where mine was.  Brian's advice above is spot on.  Pick one discipline with every knife and focus on doing it as best as you can.

When it comes to your bevels, draw filing is a good bet.  Somewhere on here is video of Don Fogg demonstrating hand finishing at Arctic Fire 2012.  After watching it, it totally changed my approach to blade finishing and saved me a ton of time.

Edited by Alex Middleton
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