Sometimes a little knowledge makes a job so much easier. Here you'll find little ideas that we've picked up along the way that make things easier. Send us your favourite hints and we'll put them up so others can benefit from them.

Monster knife vice

vice1I was making a large kitchen knife for a client, when I realised that it wasn't going to fit in my knife vices to shape the handle. So I made a new holder that bolts onto the existing bracket just for this one. It is a monster - 75 x 25 x 350mm. Enough for the biggest of blades. It needed three screws to squeeze the blade tight. 

A nice feature of the knife vice mark II design is you can have different sized clamps that fits different blade. Easy to swap in and out as required.

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Straightening Blades

magebo2

When hardening blades, especially large ones, warpage can sometimes occur. The choice of steel can minimise the risk, as can a good normalising cycle, but sometimes it just happens.There are a number of different ways to try and fix the bend, not all of them are guarenteed.

One gentle way is to use a Japanese straightening stick or "Magebo". I found this in Murray Carter's excellent book "Bladesmithing with Murray Carter". It is made with a large piece of hardwood, by cutting a slot or to (just thicker than the blade thickness) and making a handle. The bent blade is first tempered, then the back softened. This is to reduce the risk of breaking. The blade is then placed in the slot, where the bend is, and some gentle pressure applied to torque it straight. Gently does it.

It possiby could be used straight after quenching when still hot, I'll have to try it. I dont normally expect my blades to warp, but should have the Magebo hanging up near when I heat treat for emergencies.

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New Belt Grit Sequence

beltsI asked John Price from Radiusmaster what he recommends for belt grits in grinding a knife. His tip was to use a sequence of belt grits 60, 150, A45 then A6 to take it to almost a hand rubbed finish level. This is the smallest number of belt changes he recommends.

A good quality 60 will remove stock without putting too many scratches in. The 150 will clean out the 60 scratches before leaving an even finish. The A45 and A6 Trizac belts put the final touches on. The blade can be quickly hand sanded with 500 wet and dry for a satin finish, or higher grits before being buffed for a mirror polish.

Hand Punch

handpunch1Cutting a slot for a tang in thin metal can be a fiddly experience. When trying to drill a series of holes it is hard to hold down the small thin pieces of metal. Sometimes the drill bit grabs shim and it spins up damaging the it. Milling the slot has similar issues. I have been wrestling with a effective solution for years.

Lately I found a 1 ton hand punch on eBay for $30 that makes quick work of the job. It is like a leather punch on steroids. It can punch different sizes holes in thin brass, spacer material or leather with little effort. It is safe and quick to use and doesn't bend the shims. It comes with seven different sized punches. 

 

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Kerosene Flux

keroseneOne of the challenges in forge welding is preventing the surfaces that you want to weld together from oxidising when heating. If they do oxidise, then the weld can have inclusions or gaps, which can open up later. A flux is used to stop this surface oxidation, or to dissolve it. For years I had used Borax to prevent this. When the pieces were heated, the Borax powder was sprinkled all over the surfaces, allowed to melt, then the pieces were hammered together. The problem with Borax is that it is highly corrosive when liquid, especially bad for the forge lining. Borax can easily eat through the lining in a session. To prevent this, I filled the bottom half of the forge with some sacrificial kitty litter (the clay type), which mostly caught the Borax. This didn't protect the sides though.

A new method of fluxing is to use Kerosene. By soaking the pieces in Kerosene before heating, you coat the surfaces in the oily liquid. When the steel is put into the forge, the Kerosene burns off, leaving a layer of carbon coating the surface, which inhibits oxidisation. The advantages is that Kerosene can get into cracks and doesn't harm the forge lining. This will not work with already oxidised surfaces, they need to be clean to start with. Borax would still needed to dissolve the scale. But using Kerosene to start with, greatly improved the success of your first welds and limits the need of Borax.

Safety note: make sure you have the Kerosene in a fireproof container, with a lid. Don't put red hot pieces of steel in the Kerosene. Although it doesnt explode, it can flare up. And the fumes aren't too good for you either,

A little advice on the care of your carbon steel knife

Cut on wooden or plastic surfaces, avoid metal, granite glass or ceramic.

The blade may discolour with use, especially after contact with acidic food like tomatoes or citrus. This does not harm the blade, it can be cleaned with some fine steel wool if desired.

Clean the blade immediately after use with water, then dry it. Don't let it stay wet for too long.

Please, never put it into a dishwasher.

Clean the handle with a damp cloth. Keep the handled lightly oiled with some cooking oil.

Store them in a wooden knife block or on a wall mounted magnet. Avoid storage in drawers unless the blade is wrapped up.

Keep the blade sharp using a steel or ceramic stick. Repair the edge with a diamond or water stone.

With proper care the knife will last for many generations.

The knife is meant to be used, please enjoy it.

Advice to Young Men 1901

From Modern Blacksmithing - J.G. Holmstrom 1901

In every profession and trade it is a common thing to hear beginners say: I know, I know. No matter what you tell them, they will always answer, I know. Such an answer is never given by an old, learned or experienced man, because, as we grow older and wiser we know that there is no such thing as knowing it all. Besides this we know that there might be a better way than the way we have learned of doing the work. It is only in few cases that we can say that this is the best way, therefore we should never say, I know: first, because no young man ever had an experience wide enough to cover the whole thing; second, it is neither sensible nor polite. Better not say anything, but simply do what you have been told to do.

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