Hammer Time

Alright well, I've got something more to talk about, so for those of you who care to read, come on in! 

I want to talk about my process a little, and also about what makes a Bladesmith different from a knife maker. When I first got in to this whole MAKE HAMMER SMASH business I had no real understanding of what was involved at all.  I had read many a novel of Swords and Sorcery, played many a game of Dungeons and Dragons, but hadn't been the least bit interested in Building Character and Sheds with my Dad.

Don't get me wrong I played a heck of a lot of football, and had a job since I was 16.  I wasn't lazy, nor was I uncoordinated,  I just preferred to spend my time in more intellectual pursuits.   Building things, makings things (other than love and music) did not appeal to me, for some reason it always felt like a chore.  As a young man I really hated doing chores.  Mowing the lawn, cleaning my room, fixing the shed door, I always said to myself"It's just going to get dirty again tomorrow, so why bother cleaning it today."  Kinda dumb really, but I fought such things tooth and nail at the time.  I still hate mowing. 

 The hand of a Blacksmith and a Gamer!

The hand of a Blacksmith and a Gamer!

Anyway building or making or anything like that just felt like kind of a chore.  When I finally decided to get into blacksmithing, I came at it from a direction that a good deal of smiths hate hearing.  I WANTED TO MAKE SWORD BECAUSE VIDEO GAMES!  This is a real thing that certain smiths get mad at.  I can see their point to a degree.  They've spent a good deal of effort and blood and sweat to achieve a skill that is not only physically demanding, but requires a fair amount of finesse, as well as some science. Here comes some punk kid with tattoos and a raccoon tail thinking he can learn how to make a "Buster Sword" whatever the heck that is.  It takes long hours and real skill, and having been one of those former punk kids(never with a raccoon tail) I can tell you I had NO idea what all was involved.

 See, I know what that is!

See, I know what that is!

 

There was one thing I did know about the process however, and that was hitting something glowing red with a hammer, on top of an anvil.  The image of a man in a dimly lit room with a fire to his left and a black iron anvil to his right;  sparks fly and the anvil sings as he forges out an elegant blade or fearsome axe;  quenching the steel in a hiss of steam and flames, the smith tests the edge by cutting clean through an ironwood tree trunk.  This was what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be.

Hammering at the anvil is the fun part.  Its the part that gives us our name.  Blacksmith.  We aren't Ferrousgrinders, or MetalBenders.  When I tell people I make knives they sometimes don't even know the words for it, but they will say "Do you...?" and make little hammering motions with their hands.  When that happens I really want to be able to say YES I DO! So with any smithing task I take on, I try to do as much hammering as possible.  It's a challenge for me in a way.  Get as much of your steel to its final shape as possible using only the hammer and anvil.  Its a fun way to build better skills and hammer control.  It's amazing what you can do with just a hammer and a flat surface.

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Of course this isn't to say I don't have a super sweet 1hp belt grinder at my beck and call.  I just try to use it sparingly.  It's part of the reason a lot of my knives have that textured finish.  That is what the steel looks like fresh out of the forge.  I feel like it helps me to differentiate my work as a bladesmith, from someone that only grinds away metal using machines, aka knifemaker.  It doesn't inherently make for a lower quality blade using these other methods, but I do feel like I have a lot more control as I create.  I get to live out this childs fantasy while at the same time making a living, making art, and making a useful high quality tool.  I don't get that feeling grinding away in front of a machine.  It's just not my style.

So finally I want to just share some things about the knives I make that also help to set them apart, and show that a real blacksmith made them.

I forge a distal taper.  That means the blade is thicker at the base, and gradually gets thinner towards the point.  This is not an easy thing to do well unless you are a smith.  Most knife Grinders don't bother to do it.

I do all my own heat treating.  This is where the real heart of a blade is born.  I do it all myself at my own shop with my own two hands.  Some knifemakers send their knives out to a third party to be heat treated.  There are ways of tempering and quenching that lend added strength and flexibility to a knife that you just don't get when it's been done at a factory.

 

Seem what you want to be.  Be what you seem.  Thanks for reading.