Blacksmithing Projects, Dec. 2022

I last shared blacksmithing projects in April. I’ve made a few things since, so this is a catch-up post. My skill has increased some, but my work is still very very rough. My blades show a lot of hammer marks and scale both because my skills and patience are lacking and (conveniently) because I do like the rougher aesthetic. I can get a blade pretty sharp, but not as sharp as I’d like. But I’m getting better, slowly. I’ll sometimes go for a few weeks (or probably months) without doing much of anything, and then I’ll go on a tear of doing a little forging for several evenings in a row or doing a lot of work for several weekends. It’s really inconsistent, as is my progress. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve worked on since April. I also have a sort of graveyard of failed attempts at knives (one in particular) and a bunch of square bar forged into points and spikes for technique practice.

These first two images are of a knife I designed for/with my best friend. He had said he liked the idea of a smaller Bowie, and this is one of the designs I came up with after looking at a lot of knives. It looks more like a small kukuri than a Bowie. He liked the drop point, the big belly, and the bit of recurve. The steel on this one is 1084 and the handle is jigged camel bone. It took me six or seven tries to get this one forged to the profile I wanted, and the divots in the camel bone (that’s what makes it jigged) were a real pain to work with. The blade is fairly sharp but it’s got a lot of scratches on it and some hammer marks I wish I had smoothed out. I don’t love the butt end of the handle. In spite of all the flaws I can see in it, I’m proud to have made this one, a custom design that I had to troubleshoot a lot to make it work. It’s the second knife I completed, and the first of high-carbon steel.

After making that knife — which took me several weeks of intermittent work — I decided to go back to basics a bit and practice some forging techniques, chiefly tapering half-inch square stock into points and rounded points, which helps with hammer control. Meanwhile, I had promised my sister something handmade as a belated birthday gift. She’s been heavy into flower gardening, and I thought I’d try to make a garden ornament. I found several videos of people making snails out of rebar, so I decided to give it a try. My first was really bad, but I got the technique down for my second (the one pictured on the anvil) and sent it her way. It’s made of about a 3-foot section of rebar. I made another and then decided to try making smaller snails out of 1/8th-inch round bar. They’re cute too.

Having taken a break from knives, I wanted to try some more, so I rough forged these two in an afternoon from 1084 steel. The big hammer marks in the knife with the brown handle I did leave in place intentionally because I thought they made a neat stippled pattern. I left the other knife (which is a little smaller) fairly rough too. I forget what wood I used for the brown-handled knife, but the darker handle is Macassar ebony, which is very hard wood that produced very powdery, sort of acrid dust when I sanded. You can see where I split the wood on that one in a couple of places when drilling pinholes. I wasn’t able to sand these all the way out as I had hoped to. These were pretty quick and fun to make, and while they look rough, they were good practice for quick blade shaping. I was able to form better bevels in these when grinding than with the others I had made. I haven’t put these to any real use yet, and I should, to test whether they’ll hold up to any use.

I had never tried doing twists or making hooks before, so I tried making a few candy canes and hooks. These hooks aren’t really functional because they’re too rounded, but I’m pretty pleased with how symmetrical they came out (not perfect, of course, and the shadows make them look more misshapen than they actually are), as I just eyeballed them and didn’t use a jig or anything. One of my next projects will be to make myself a jig that’ll help me make more consistent hooks. I’m interested in this partially because I’ve joined a local blacksmithing guild that makes things like hooks for the gift shop of the facility we meet at.

Finally, the latest class of things I’ve made have been railroad spike knives. Spikes are a mild steel (meaning basically low carbon, meaning that they won’t harden enough to make good knives), but they’re neat as curiosities and turn out to be pretty easy to rough forge. I did some significant grinding on these to get them to their final profiles. The blue stuff is indeed blue and not just taking on the color of the bucket. It’s a quenching fluid that will supposedly help harden some mild steels. The recipe (for my future reference) is 5 gallons of water, 5 pounds of salt, a ~20oz bottle of blue Dawn dish washing liquid, and a ~9oz bottle of JetDry or similar. It’s thick and makes a wild sound when you quench in it. I didn’t really test the hardness of these blades, but it was neat to quench in this stuff. I’ll be giving one of these to the friend I gave the first knife in this post to, as he found the spikes for me.

5 thoughts on “Blacksmithing Projects, Dec. 2022

  1. Love the white knife! It’s cool to see you experimenting with different styles. Where does one acquire camel bone?

    The snails are still my fave, they’re so great ❤

    Importantly, please describe the quenching sound??

    • You can buy various knife handleware online, and I got the camel ones (and a bunch of others) at knifekits.com. They come as rectangles (in this case domed on one side), and you attach them to the knife and grind them to the shape you want.

      The quenching sound is something like Fzzzsplorglefzzsplorglesplorglefzzzz. The usual quench sound is more of a straight-up fzzzzz.

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