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Hello everyone!

 

I started making knives about a year ago and I currently own a whole bunch of Harbor Freight stuff.  I've upgraded a couple of things but I was hoping to pick you brain and get your opinion on the order that I should upgrade so that I can speed up my process and be a bit more effective.  I look forward to meeting you all and here's the list, in order of what I was thinking that I should upgrade in.

 

Currently Upgraded

- 2 propane burner, Devil's Forge

- Legend Forge tongs (I think they are called wolf jaw), this is my only pair

 

Current Old Stuff

- 55lb HF anvil

- 4x36 HF belt sander

- 1x30 HF belt sander

- Leatherworking kit, Amazon cheap special

- 8 speed HF tabletop drill press

- More tongs, specifically something to hold round stock easier

- 2 cheap HF file sets, 1 standard sizes, 1 small

- Hammers (3lb, 2lb sledges and a ball peen, all HF)

 

Any "lessons learned" or changes in my tool upgrade plan would be greatly appreciated!  I've finished a few knives and I'll post them in the other board along with a 2H Bastard Sword project I have on the back burner.  Thanks again everyone!  Nice to meet you!

 

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Welcome, Larry.

If I'm understanding correctly, and your "Current Old Stuff" is the list of what you're planning on upgrading, and looking for suggestions on ranking them, I'd put tongs as the #1 thing, then good files as #2.  Depending on your budget and what size blades you want to forge, a larger anvil would be #3, or maybe even #1 and then forge your own tongs as needed.  

Hope that makes sense.  Have fun.

 

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Yes, that makes perfect sense.  I watched some videos on how to make your own tongs but I have not committed to starting that yet.  I have a decent punch set to drift the holes but I need to get off my butt and get to it!  I'm also keeping an eye out for a reasonably priced used anvil but they are pretty hard to find out here in Vegas.  One will pop up eventually and hopefully I can snag it at a good price.  Thanks for your input.  I appreciate it!

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Anvil should be the top. I used the harbor freight ASO for quite a while. You need a new surface to pound on lol. If I could make a suggestion, go to harbor freight and find the biggest sledgehammer you can. Take off the head and sink one end into a five gallon bucket of concrete. You'll be amazed at the difference. People all around the world use basically the same thing when they can't afford or find a full sized anvil.

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Being that your still starting out, I would put good files as #1.  Or at least better files. the HF ones I've past up as they were visually cracked.  If you decided to work small and built up, better files can be just as good as a decent belt sander.  The difference is time put into the work. 

 

A strong #2 is tongs.  If you can't hold the work you can't hit the work. Look over at the tools and making board on the forum there's a batch of guides on different ways to make tongs. I've read through them, it's explained well and I have use a few of the methods in there at different times.  There are also tong blanks that you can buy and forge out to your need.  I really recommend these and have a few sets. Over time, you'll find that if you forge your tongs, you will become quick enough at them that it's pretty reasonable to make your own. 

 

Drill pressers - you can probably get by with that one for a long time. The HF stuff is not top of the line, but gets the job done. Just don't get hooked at some of their bigger tools. 

 

Your HF hammers could last you a lifetime.  But over time you may find you like a different style. 

 

As for anvil, I've spent many years working off of chunks of steel, and sections of rail. Skip the rail, a block of mild steel is better in some ways. When it comes to anvil this is where you should maybe decide to put the best investment. Vintage anvil or new, you have to find what best fits what your doing. Some time ago, a lot of the youtube channels I followed had anvil reviews of new anvils that were pretty affordable. Knowing what your looking for in a anvil - you have to work off a few different ones.  Generally vintage anvils, come with a $4.50 price per pound, and possible repairs.  You'd have to learn to live with possible chips and other flaws. 

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13 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

Drill pressers - you can probably get by with that one for a long time. The HF stuff is not top of the line, but gets the job done. Just don't get hooked at some of their bigger tools. 

Still using my benchtop model as my primary drill press for 8 years now.  If I were building folders, I'd most likely upgrade to a machine shop floor model.

 

13 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

Your HF hammers could last you a lifetime.  But over time you may find you like a different style. 

Don't be afraid to modify them as needed.  I'm talking about both handles and heads.  I have a couple of HF hammers that some people think are home forged hammers, when all I did was grind the face into the shape I wanted. I turned a 3# sledge into a ~2 3/4# cross pein, and another one into a similar weight rounding hammer.

 

I'll add here:  Don't loose sight of the forest for the trees.  We are knifemakers, and that means we are tool makers.  Don't be afraid to modify any tool you own, within reason of course, especially the handles.

Edited by billyO
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FWIW here is my take

 

Current Old Stuff

- 55lb HF anvil (this is nearly useless. Follow Geoff's or Brian's advice and get something that will actually work as intended)

- 4x36 HF belt sander (I still have one of these in my shop and use it frequently for wood surfacing and shaping)

- 1x30 HF belt sander (better than no grinder, but it's debatable whether you can do better or faster work with an angle grinder or a good set of files. This grinder will be fine for handle shaping and profiling work)

- Leatherworking kit, Amazon cheap special (I don't know what's included in that set, but leather work should be fairly low on the priority list)

- 8 speed HF tabletop drill press (useful as-is. don't upgrade for a while)

- More tongs, specifically something to hold round stock easier (wolf-jaw tongs are almost useless to the knife maker. Boxjaw or Offset tongs are more useful)

- 2 cheap HF file sets, 1 standard sizes, 1 small (these are disposable items. Good files are expensive and last a long time, if you take care of them properly)

- Hammers (3lb, 2lb sledges and a ball peen, all HF) (all useful to a degree, but a good forging hammer, made specifically for the tasks is always going to save you time. Learning how to hammer correctly, will save you a lot of time in the grinding or filing work)

 

This is a poor man's hobby. Good tools are an investment, not an expense.

First decide on how you want to approach learning the craft. If you desperately want to forge blades, join the local blacksmith's guild and learn forging. If you just want to make blades, go stock removal and make them from precision ground flat stock. You can still use that propane forge for heat treating. Your learning curve is very steep, no matter which way you go, but stock removal eliminates the whole learning to forge bit and gets you making knives much faster. Learn the process of grinding and shaping. leave forging for later.

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Thank you guys very much for the advise.  I'm really glad I found this forum.  You're all very friendly and helpful!  Thanks again for having me!

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Hello Larry,

 

I would recommend getting or making a vise.   It will probably be one of the most used tools in your arsenal.

You can get by with what you got, but I would listen to what the other guys say.

 

Look up the anvil posts on the forum, it will give you a lot of ideas and check out youtube.  "Glen GS Tongs" videos are always good to watch.   But most importantly, don't over think it.   Makers have been making with far less tools for thousands of years.   Tools help the maker, they don't make the maker.

 

On 11/1/2020 at 7:35 AM, Larry Pyne said:

so that I can speed up my process and be a bit more effective.

 

Some things that help me:

1) A solid, mounted anvil/surface will help you immensely.   Doesn't have to be huge.  Just solid and consistent.  Weight helps, but is not the deciding factor for blade making.

2) Good clean forgings need a lot less grinding.

3) Bouncy things are hard to hit.    i.e; Good tongs that are fit to the work, and good vises will help keep your work secure so it will do       what you want it to do.

4) Hand tools are awesome for when you are not in a hurry.

 

Most of the tools I keep around are either inherited, self made or bought for cheap at a yard sale or swap meet.   

 

Last bit of a warning is,  Collecting tools is a trap.  It'll only get worse once you start :)

 

 

 

 

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And don't forge about investing in safety gear, that's the most important thing. You decide to do a lot of grinding get a respirator and understand how to use it. propane forges should come with a CO alarm, and don't forget about your ears! We all kind of take the ringing steel and think it won't do anything to us but over time it will.

 

You will find depending on what work you do, that you will not need the biggest tools.  However, when you look to upgrade, Get the best quality you can budget. HF:unsure: I really try not to buy form them anymore, but sometimes I get snagged and regret it later. Their quality is too hit and miss, or sometimes looks like a good idea that doesn't work as intended.

 

Look for your local artist blacksmith group - and sign up for a news letter.  You might find some hand me down tools from there.

Edited by Daniel W
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56 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

And don't forge about investing in safety gear,

Good point, @Daniel W.  Thanks for putting us back on track.  

I'd like to edit my answer to say, #1 - hearing, eye and respirator.  Knowing what I do now, the first purchase I would have made was a positive air flow respirator.   While that would have probably put off other tool purchases for a couple of months, I would have had really good lung protection, and good, comfortable vision which would have saved some mistakes made over the past few years.  It's hard to upgrade to something that 'works awesome' when you have something that just 'works'.

1 hour ago, Daniel W said:

and don't forget about your ears! We all kind of take the ringing steel and think it won't do anything to us but over time it will

This is very true!!!  Just yesterday I was reminded this (and also realized that grabbing the ear muffs had become a habit for me, thankfully) when I used a hammer to loosen up one of my dies because I made the fit a little too tight (it slid in and out with no effort when cold, but after using the dies, the heat expanded the dies enough to make it difficult to remove).  2 whacks with a hammer and I noticed my ears ringing and it was almost painful.  I grabbed the ear muffs and...ahhh...no painful ringing, only the beautiful sound of metal on metal.  

And don't worry, you'll still be able to hear the radio if that's an issue.

1 hour ago, Daniel W said:

Look for your local artist blacksmith group - and sign up

I'll add - and help support them.  Thanks again, @Daniel W, this should also be in my top 2-3 choices on where to spend $.  Over the years of being with the NWBA, I can't count how many tools I've been given.  When just starting out, a local member let me borrow a #165 Peter Wright for 2-3 years until I got my own.  After helping him with a project, he let me have access to his shop and all his power tools while he was there.  

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Thanks again guys!  I have invested in safety gear.  I must admit that even though I've had a mask/respirator I didn't use it right away.  After several nights of blowing powdered steel out of my face in the shower and feeling sick after long stretches of time on the belt sanders, I have learned my lesson.  There is also a shard of a dremel cut off wheel stuck the ceiling as a reminder to wear glasses!  I've worked on fighter aircraft for a long time so my ears are basically shot but I still wear ear protectors most of the time.  I also keep a good fire extinguisher handy during any fire work or quenching.

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6 hours ago, Larry Pyne said:

I also keep a good fire extinguisher handy during any fire work or quenching

We have three of them in our shop.

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Take a look at the Atlas Tool and Steel 65 lb knifemakers anvil.  It's 10 lbs heavier than what you are trying to use not and is tempered.  There is no horn but it does have a hardy hole that will allow you to get a bick (another name for a horn) hardy tool and it's listed for $299.  For tongs I'd recommend chainmakers/bolt tongs.  Wolf jaw tongs are probably the worst there is for blade forging.  Try looking at GS Tongs. Glen makes a variety of tools and he also has some nice videos on Youtube.

 

Doug

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We always like to jump right into the fun stuff but sometimes may be a little relaxed on the safety side. A good practice at any shop is to put your safety gear right on the tool so that you have to pick it up before you work with it. A physical reminder to put on the safety glasses.  Or to set yourself a rule that when working put on the ppe and don't take it off until the job is done. Thats a little more ticky because we may not think to need it for a few hobby hours.  I find it normal as I have to have all the ear and eye protection on for my normal shift work. 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

A good practice at any shop is to put your safety gear right on the tool so that you have to pick it up before you work with it.

This is a good idea, and my respirator hanging hook is the tensioning arm on my grinder.   Just don't do what I do more often than I'd like, and say to yourself, "I'm only grinding for  a few seconds" and push it out of the way to do the little grinding.  Those 10 seconds intervals add up.  

Here is a good example of the "buy once, cry once" theory:  When I bought my facemask/respirator, I didn't spend as much as I could have, thinking that this one would be good enough:

61v8COzRvbL._AC_SL1000_.jpg  When I could have purchased this one:  PAPR+Page+270x270.jpg

 

 

A year or so later I realized I need glasses, and standard glasses don't let the first one seal, so I spent few months and some money trying various prescription swimming goggles and other types of glasses before settling on replacing the ear pieces on a pair of glasses with rubber bands.  It works, but it often takes longer to put on the respirator than do the little touch up grinding, so I often do what I said above.    For 2-3 years I've been wishing I spent the extra  money on the better option.  Sure, I saved  couple hundred bucks, but we should all think how much pulmonary edema  will cost us in the future.  

How much money do we spend on insurance to cover costs of unfortunate events?  Isn't it better (and cheaper in the long run) to prevent the unfortunate event in the first place?

 

 

 

And hopefully I'll do what I say from now on instead of having to avoid saying what I do....

Edited by billyO
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I don't know how many patients started out on their accident report with something like "I only had one cut to make" or they'd have to have gone down into the basement to get the step ladder to change one light bulb so t hey used a chair.

 

Doug

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