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which production yields stronger knives...

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Wish I could say I knew the answer to that question. I can say that even if tomorrow I found out that stock removal could make a stronger knife I would still be a smith... I'm in love with the whole process, not just the product. I love breaking up charcoal, and making fire. I love cranking my champion blower while I sample homebrew. I even love removing scale!


The 'soul' debate is a tough one. Maybe it exists because everyone's version of 'soul' is subjective. Maybe it is because there are more hobbyist stock reduction makers than obsessed ones, whereas there are more obsessed smiths than hobbyists. The numbers are unbalanced in comparison. I do know for a fact that you can tell if love has been put into a knife either way -- go pick up something made by Bob Ogg and tell me it doesn't have soul.



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I have been making knives steadily for 9 years, and full time for two.

I started doing stock removal stainless and did it that way for 6 years.

I don't speak this from inexperience!

I did not feel as if I had truly CREATED a knife until I forged one.

Since I lit that first coal fire, I use my left over stainless bar stock to keep the shop door propped open. That doesn't mean it won't make a good knife! I've made hundreds with stock removal stainless bar stock, and never had one come back in 6 years.

I just like forging down heavy - 1" or more - stock, watching the heat and sparks, watching that blade take shape, going through the various thermal cycles and heat treating techniques that makes ME a far more active participant in the final result, and a much more important segment of the recipe.

God, I love that anvil!

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Unless you are using stellite, or casting your blades in investment, ala David Boye's method, all the steel you ever see will have been forged at some point in it's processing. Most of the popular stock removal alloys are forged only under closely controlled conditions in rolling mills or presses that are a tad bigger than most of us can afford, but it IS forged material, none the less for it.


I like forging a lot. It is my favorite part of the job, I am most happy with a hot fire, some iron based alloy, and a hammer and tongs in my hands (or in front of the Nazel), so far as work goes, anyway. ;)


That being said, the microstructural condition (i.e., the heat treating, all of it, not just the final quench and temper) makes or breaks the piece as a knife, or whatever it is you are making. Optimize that for the chosen material at hand, and you have done all that can be done for the piece. Fail in that task, and it will matter not one whit, whether or not you hit it with a hammer during the making of it. Material selection and shape being compatible makes a big difference too, but at that we are working back out onto the thin ice, as are questions of spirituality and blades.


Intent and execution. Methods are tools to get to the end, a tool that works. Use what you have to get where you want to be. The spirituality is in you, not the blade. (opinion, again) I'm full of those :wacko:

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thanks for everyones replies, i dont have much experience, but i am mystified by the whole process, of smithing and metallurgy. i just found out i only have access to the school forge im working at for 1 more week!!! then i would be able to do anything for atleast a year or more until i can get my own shop put together... well i guess ill have to go back to painting or something for a while... maybe then i can get the handles done.


as for the spirituality thing after reading everyones post, i think it is the worker and how much of themselves is put into the blade, how much sweat and love. where a blade smith uses a powerhammer or by hand, or a stock removal uses a grinder and saning belts or jigs and milling equipment. but ofcourse there is spirit in everything so how can i or anyone say this spirit is more than that, they are both spirit, they just are, well different.... somewhere on the continuum of a knife, or a knife like object, or something functional to a work of art... etc...





Jacob elmslie

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Not wanting to get philosophical or deep, I forge for one reason.

Everytime I do it, it's something 'primal' if you will.

I can go back in time.

Doing the craft smiths did for thousands of years.

Call it a 'kinship' if you will.

Maybe I'm not putting it into words correctly.

I think any smith knows what I'm talking about.



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It's primal and in a way something very human.

It's an activity that has been part of human history and culture for thousands of years. That's pretty significant. And to be a part of that same process to me is just pretty damned awesome. Carrying on the traditions and processes used. I think it's a large part of why some of us enjoy using old methods to produce steel when there are better and more efficient ways to do it. There is just something about using the methods of yore to complete the tasks which we set before us. I'm very interested in making some of my own steel someday.


Think I could sit and ramble about this, but Josh, I'm with you bud, definitely a kinship with those current as well as those who came before.


I just love this stuff =]

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  • 3 months later...

I agree with Howard when he mentioned that almost all the steels used by stock removal makers are forged in the process of the steel being made. At least one off-the-shelf tool steel (D-2) typically shows macroscopic dentritic structures identical to those laboriously produced in the wootz process.


I started out smithing, I made my first blades from pieces of plowshare beaten out with a claw hammer using a propane torch for heat and the concrete floor of the garage for my anvil. (Apologies to my former landlord for those cracks in the garage floor!) I also began learning stock removal after seeing Sid Latham's book KNIVES AND KNIFEMAKERS and being totally blown away by the crisp hollow grinds.


I was a member of the ABS when it first started, and was involved in discussions with Bill Moran about whether and how we should institute apprentice, journeyman, and master smith classes of membership. It was my feeling that all forms of craftsmanship should have been honored. The criteria for membership focused entirely on the forging tradition and the rules were rigged to exclude stock-removal. The situation went further downhill when a certain group of smiths started loudly and publicly badmouthing the stock-removal makers. I let my ABS membership lapse as I had no desire to be associated with those folks, and I thereafter embraced stock-removal with the caveat that anytime it was easier to do a task by forging, I did it. I have no spiritual belief that forging makes a better blade... just that it can be a more effective use of your time and effort in some situations.


So, you can see why Don is reticent about having this topic dragged up from the cesspool!


We need a balanced approach. I am still saddened that the ABS has proved to be a dividing line cut through the knifemaking population instead of the powerful force for enlightenment and learning in all the traditions of knifemaking that it might have been.


Be well!

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I like your thoughts, Tom. There are always more sides to the issue than we realize or acknowledge. I like Finnigan's attitude too. I think the key is focusing on what brings us together, not what divides us. An attitude of superiority certainly divides. Right now I can forge because I live out in the country and it's possible (and I enjoy it). Maybe next year I'll be in an apartment where forging is impossible. I want to feel my knives have soul and excellence in both circumstances. Technically speaking, I believe they can. As was said, heat treating will always be the secret. Even when we forge, it is followed up with stock removal that basically covers all signs of forging. The same shapes and contours can be achieved with either method. I can see by your knife how much heart and skill you put into it, but most of the time I would never be able to tell whether you forged it or made it by stock removal. Todd

Edited by toddhill
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I am fond of dropping the line "It's all good..." when I get the chance. I have done a little work in both styles though I must admit that forging holds my heart.... I remember the first time I ever had a fire in a hole in the ground and makeshift forged my first old car spring. Felt like magic..... But, that feeling likely came from my strong desire since a very early age to do just that work. Others might not have that feeling, though I feel sorry for them if they don't get that chance.... ;)


I also have owned work done by both methods and feel that if a maker knows how to make a good blade then they will, and if not, well, what the method to getting to that 'not so good blade' is pretty irrelevant....


I somehow doubt that I'd want to be a solely stock removal worker, though. I find it personally a bit more tedious and boring, but no offense to those that love it... I just speak for my own character and preference....


As for politics, I've had no part in any of that and always need reminding that a lot of the issues get heated so much because there is in fact so much water under that bridge... I think it is pretty sad but have known since an early age that group identification is a powerful thing and humans have a lot of it by nature, so the old 'our way is better than your way' is bound to pop up pretty often, for better or worse...


I'd rather just say it is all good, do what you like and enjoy yourself, and let me do the same.... and then go and do the work, which is really where all that debate time ought to have went anyway. :D

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Okay, I'm gonna hijack this for a minute......


I'd like to say it's an absolute pleasure to have Mr. Maringer join in. Tom, you are one of the greats. I grew up drooling over your work, and, if you're involved in knifemaking once again, I cannot wait to see what you might be up to!


Okay, awestruck-baby-mode ending......we now return to your regularly scheduled forum....



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Welcome Tom, I am really pleased that you have joined us. We will all benefit from your experience and passion.


There is no reticence on my part about this topic or about the ABS. The ABS is dedicated to the craft of bladesmithing so it's focus is specific. Much has changed over the years and as with any organization there will always be politics, but it is a dynamic group that is sincerely trying to perserve an ancient craft.


The stock removal vs forging debate is a matter of preference or expediency in practical terms. We each gravitate towards tools and methods that interest us personally. For me it is the fire, I can get excited about forging.


Anyway, we sure are glad to have you join us Tom. Welcome.

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  • 1 month later...

Bomb shelter


This is one of those threads that pops up on nearly every forum and quickly spins out of control. I am not sure that there is a convincing argument that will settle anything or change opinions one way or the other, but most certainly passions will be fanned.


Folks choose their methods and materials based on what appeals to them. Machinists love stock removal and stainless steels, bladesmiths love forging and carbon steel. Each will justify their choices passionately, the debate goes back to the Loveless-Moran fights of old.


I will let this thread continue, but only if it reasoned and factual and if it doesn't get emotional.




Greetings All,


Sorry if I awaken a dragon by responding in this sleeping thread, but it has my attention.


Everyone here is entitled to their opinion, and I respect them all - and here is mine w/ some history:


I've been selling knives and swords for about four years, and about a year ago, I realized that I could make a better blade than any I was currently selling. I knew this because I have done some metal work, and even the best production blades lack the attention to detail that I know a handmade blade should have.


I decided to learn bladesmithing. I bought an anvil and some books from a local blacksmith (Jonathan Nedbor at Canal Forge), and he pointed me to Ashokan '06. At Ashokan I met, watched, and learned from Don Fogg, Kevin Cashen, Rick Barrett, and a host of other truly humble masters. I talked to Delbert about Damascus and mokume, I bought a leg vise from a very knowledgeable blacksmith, some 1084 from that character Aldo :) , and I met Eric Bravo, who is now a good friend. I watched Don forge a blade, and I watched him finish a knife with a file (hmmm, isn't that stock removal?). We all know that Rick forges his blades, but I watched him give a lesson in grinding, as he did some work on a commission piece for the benefit of the plebes (I'm a plebe :rolleyes:).


The pinnacle of my career as a bladesmith so far is that I found out I live real close to Joe Szilaski. I took a two day course on forging from him, and I'll be taking a five day course soon. At the two day course, Joe showed us that a bladesmith can do something a stock removal maker can't: he forged a blade (which I am now finishing) out of an odd shaped hunk of 52100. But, and here is the kicker, Joe makes stock removal knives, too.


Although I LOVE TO FORGE, it's pretty windy here in NY right now (mild winter, but very windy, and my crappy propane forge farts flames in the wind), and my forging is limited to the great outdoors, so guess what? I'll be doing some stock removal, and I'll be happy doing it, and my stock removal blades will be as good (not very :rolleyes:) as my forged blades.


I've watched masters in our art do both, and so will I. Until my hands have Don's mastery, Rick's passion, Delbert's knowledge, and Joe's humility, I think I'll keep an open mind. ;)



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I love the forging process but I must admit that I do it because I love it .

take a perfectly good steel and heat it many times and hit it a lot and what you have at the end of the process is a shaped bit of steel that has been heated and hit a lot !

If you want it to be shiny you file or grind it .

It would seem to me through pure logic that all you are in reality doing apart from shaping is introducing possabilities of decarburisation and possable forging flaws, We would hope with good practice that this is not the case? If you grind it from stock then all you have is the possability of manufacturing flaws and less of your own .

I believe in the forging process as it is the path I am on and has been my way of working metal as a blacksmith or bladesmith .

With the coming of ebay I am now the proud owner of a few industrial belt grinders and I sure believe in them too!!

It is all well and good to feel smug about forging in the face of people who grind but in reality it is a tool and can help you get the result you want and be happy about doing it .


Forge it ,grind it ,tig weld it or glue it if it is good for the aplication and your asthetic do it .


The result is important but so is how we feel about the process .

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When I made my first few knives, everyone who saw them asked how i did the blade?


But the problem was that I got the blade pre-made from Texas Knifemakers supply.


So when I told them where the blade came from, they always then asked, "You mean you just sanded the handle?"


So, I went and got some steel (Truck springs) and a grinder and started to grind out blades.

But I always felt that something was missing.

I knew that I needed to have some "fire" in the stoy of my knife.


Thats when I learned that people expect that a knifemaker does the forge work too.

So I do forge work now too.


To tell the truth, the knives I made from a kit at the beginning have a better shape and finish, but they dont have a soul....they dont have "MY" soul in them.


The blades I just cut out with a grinder, well, they are about the same as the ones I forge, due to the fact that sooner or later a forged blade also is shaped on a beltgrinder.


But I have placed something of myself into the blades of the forge.

Their shape was not just a matter of drawing a pattern on some steel and cutting on the line.


The forged blade is important to, and reflective of, "me"

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well...for me iv only been forging for about 6 months but i love it, i have made one blade from stock removal a few years ago, one of my friends and me pulled out my dads grinder and took it to a piece of mild steel and used the stock removal method even if we didnt know what we were doing we were happy with the result. theres just somthing about playing with fire that realy gets me though! im in Finland and this is where i learned to forge knives and when i get back home (canada) ill be building a charcol forge cause my stock removal days are over...steel, fire, and a big fricken hammer. dont need anything else other than a cold beer at the end of the day and im happy

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Since we're off of the original topic of this thread and on to the more ephemeral aspects of forging vs. stock removal, I'll throw in my $.02 (but that can't even buy you penny candy anymore!).


I came to blacksmithing because I was looking for something to do that would leave me with a tangible "thing" at the end of my work. By day I work with computers and very often there is very little sense of accomplishment at the end of a project. I knew I wanted to work in metal, and for some reason blacksmithing grabbed my attention. After taking some basic classes, I took some more advanced classes to try and find what it was I wanted to do. I signed up for my blacksmith guild's knife making class because it was something new to try. It was the first class where I felt happy and proud of my output. In two days I forged out a blade, ground it, fitted guard, handle, and pommel and was very happy with the result. It was the first metal-mashing activity that really "spoke" to me.


That was November of 2005. I've not made much since then due to "life" getting in the way, but I've got a workshop building up and I'm starting to get some work done. Since I started I've built machine tools, learned to tame fire and steel (though they still sometimes exert their will on me no matter what I try to do to them), and have learned the value of patience. I've also met some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of being associated with. Knifemakers as a whole, be it forged or stock removal work, are some of the finest people I've ever known.


I have a great respect for all makers no matter the methods they use, as long as they are doing the best work they can. For me, forging a blade to shape is almost intuitive. The stock removal portion of the game still mystifies me. To my way of thinking, the difference between stock removal and forging is simply one of necessary vs. sufficient conditions. At some point in it's creation, every custom made knife undergoes stock removal. However, not every knife that undergoes stock removal is hand forged. It's all about what process drives you. I enjoy the sheer joy of forging, and then the challenge and frustration (for me at least) of the stock removal portion, and the almost maddening act of handle and guard fitting. I haven't yet managed the time to start and complete a single project in a continuous stretch of time, but I imagine that for me, once I get to the end of the cycle, I'll be ready again for the almost effortless work of forging the next one. Also, as has already been said, if I were purely stock removing, how could I make my own pattern welded pieces? The only thing worse than the knife bug so far is the damascus bug. For that I owe much of the credit to Bruce Bump (who shared just enough steel with me to get me hooked) and Delbert Ealy who has taken the time to humor my questions and feed my brain the knowledge and understanding of process it's been hungry for.


I am just now beginning to understand the true meaning of the word "craftsmanship", and I owe a debt to all the makers I've met for helping me realize what true craftsmanship is. It doesn't matter who they are, what they do, or how they do it. Every maker out there has something I can learn from him or her and thankfully just about every one of them I've met has been willing to teach.


I'm not certain any of that was on topic, but at some level it felt good just to put the words down...



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uuhhh...id like to second the handle making as maddening...so far i have one completed knife and handle and im working on about my 5th blade....but iv worked as a carpenter for years and the wood working holds less interest for me that forging...

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The handle making does seem a bit more maddening/challenging to me as well.

I've got a bit of a background in woodworking so that portion is pretty easy for me. It's more of the "fit and finish" aspect. I need to practice on getting the slot in the guard to fit the tang very closely. To get smoother transitions between guard and wood. Things like that.

I think I'm doing quite good, but I can see what I need to improve upon.

I'm thinking also that I should buy me a jewelers saw and a pack of smaller files for guard fitting. Might be worth looking into for myself.


I like forging as well. First blade I ground out of an old file my grandpa had. Wasn't all that long ago and I have it sitting here on my desk. Turned out good. But it was the forging that I wanted to do, so shortly after that I pieced one together and went to work on it. Really enjoy the forging. The filing and grinding not so much, but I enjoyed it more on this last project since I used stones instead of sandpaper.

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yea, its not that im not good at the final stages like handle making(not trying to sound arrogent as im not nearly as good so many guys on this board) its just i growing up i worked in my dads carpentry shop since i was tall enough to see over the table and strong enough to carry stuff/do the grunt work-about 12 years- so when its kinda like torture because i want to see my finished blade but just going back to the forge is so tempting!

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forging is a hell of a lot more fun than grinding, i would much rather work at a hot forge and form a knife essentially with my hands and a hammer. plus its the way it has always been done and the way it always should be done.

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