Knife #1

My first knife: a blacksmith's knife of mystery steel.

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Blacksmith's knife, rough. Blacksmith's knife, starting to grind. Blacksmith's knife, grind partly done.

My first attempt at a knife was made from an automotive leaf spring I picked up cheap at a junkyard. I'm not sure what the steel is, so this one's purely for skill building. I chose a self-handled "blacksmith's knife", a little like the pre-Viking "Kvinde Kniv" ("Woman's Knife") of Beth Holmberg's pattern someone showed me in class at Adam's Forge. I like how the handle turned out, but I clearly need more practice with a grinder.

Before starting, I'd made a few drawings of knives I wanted to make. One of the drawings, visible in the second picture, was the inspiration for this knife. I wasn't that interested in following the drawing exactly, knowing my skill probably wasn't up to doing that and also making something I'd want.

To make it, I cut a piece from the leaf spring with a hot chisel, about an inch and a half wide by the length I wanted the completed knife, about 9 or 10 inches. I drew out half the piece long and thin, tapering the end, and rounded it (square, octagon, round), for the handle. I left the handle straight while I shaped the blade portion, first shaping with the tip pointing down but no thinning of the blade. Once I began thinning the blade, the tip bent upwards to the shape in the first picture, almost a complete reversal of the shape it had had before. Once the blade was roughed to shape, I curled the tip of the handle tightly, then curved the "guard" portion, and put in the curves working back towards the blade.

With the handle and blade shaped hot, I used the grinder to shape the blade some more. The Adam's Forge grinder is a very nice KMG, but the belts are a hit-or-miss proposition. Just for fun and experience, I decided to try for a hollow grind. It took me a while before I could even come close to grinding evenly, but I was able to see an improvement as I went along.

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The break. Visible cold shut on back. Depth of cold shut.

Trying again a while later, I was able to do a passable hollow grind (8" wheel) and polish the blade to a level I liked. However, with a cleaner surface, I was able to spot some long cold shuts in the top of the blade. I triple-normalized and quenched in canola oil, knowing the cold shuts would probably make the knife unsafe to use, but wanting to see what happened. While trying to straighten out a slight warp, I cracked the blade across the flat. The cold shut on the top extended visibly through at least half the blade.

So, I learned a good deal from this experiment. I know not to straighten a warp in the way I did. I like the way the handle turned out, and will probably make another, but with slightly different spacing. The grain size at the break was very nice, about like 600 grit sandpaper, and the edge was hard enough for a file to skate, so the normalizing and quenching went well. And it's a pretty good confirmation that used steel can have hidden flaws.