Archive for December, 2015

Dec 14 2015

My brief obsession with knifemaking

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Here’s something most of you don’t know about me. During high school and college I was quite interested in metalworking, especially as it applies to historical weapons. I read a lot about the subject and found some very nice folks who helped me pursue it, and for a while I had a fairly encyclopedic (entirely theoretical) knowledge of how Japanese swords are made, as well as various types of Damascus pattern forging. At one point a local blacksmith let me make one or two super-crude blades in his forge (one was just a leaf spring ground to an edge, the other looked like a pointy baguette gnawed by a dog). Later I met the amazing Jim Kelso, who I am happy to say is still a close friend. He brought me to a bladesmithing conference, which was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to the true level of craftsmanship involved.

My sophomore year in college, I did an independent study with Leonard Urso in which I attempted to make two fully-finished knives. I was not very successful, but I recently found these knives in storage and thought I would post some photos for posterity.

The first knife was an experiment in “cable Damascus,” probably the easiest way to produce a pattern-welded blade. I was picturing this as a throwing knife, hence the weight is toward the tip, and it has a full tang which is threaded to attach a pommel (I was planning a ring-shaped pommel). I was pleased with the shape, and the pattern in the steel — but I never finished it, both because I ran out of time and because I was disappointed that the cable didn’t weld solidly all the way through, producing the cracks you see at the tip (and making the knife somewhat useless as a tool or weapon). The steel isn’t stainless, and has rusted a bit in storage.



The second knife came out better, though not nearly as well as I’d hoped. It was supposed to be a sort of East-meets-West knife, a double-edged stainless steel blade essentially European in style but married to a more Japanese style hilt and fittings. The shape got away from me a little in the forging, and I had to keep simplifying the fittings to accommodate the amount of skill and work time I had. Still, it is my first and only complete knife, and it is functional (solidly built and very sharp), and not quite the ugliest knife I’ve ever seen, so I’m a little bit proud of it.


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