Methods and Materials


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This page is about the materials I use and the methods I use to turn them into something useful and attractive. When I first started out, I used the stock removal method exclusively, which basically means drawing the shape of the knife on a bar of steel, cutting the blade out, grinding in the edge bevels, heat treating it, and finishing it. I believe that this method will (assuming good heat treating) make a knife every bit as good as a forged blade.

A couple years ago I got into forging. Forging in this case has nothing to do with bad checks, or IRS statements. Forging is "mechanical manipulation of heated metal." In other words, heating a bar of steel and hammering it into whatever shape you want. While I do grind a knife every now and then, most of my knives are forged, for the reasons stated below.

1. It's less wasteful of material. The only stuff that ends up as dust on the floor is what you need to grind off to clean up the hammer marks, and get rid of the decarburized metal.

2. It's a lot more convenient in some ways. For instance, if you want to make two knives that are different thicknesses the stock removal method, you have to buy two different pieces of steel, or waste a lot of time and materials grinding one size thinner. With forging, I just start with one size that's big enough to make a big knife, and forge it down to make smaller knives. You can forge just about anything from 1 1/4 inch diameter round stock. And steel is less expensive when bought this way, because you're not paying the steel company to roll it flat for you.

3. It's a lot more fun! At least it is for me. I don't enjoy grinding, and who doesn't like playing with fire? :-)

4. No forging, no damascus steel. :-)

Forging has some downsides to it though. It takes quite a bit longer than stock removal. Reasons for this are, after forging, the steel must be normalized multiple times and annealed properly, which takes a long time.

Also, if too much time is spent on the forging step, you run the risk of burning the carbon out of the steel. Since carbon is what makes steel steel, obviously this is something to be avoided. :-)

As stated above, I use both the stock removal and forging methods. Forging is more practical for bigger knives, or simpler shapes. Also, in the middle of a summer heat wave, I just don’t feel like firing up the “Dragon”.

I use stock removal for smaller knives, or for more complex shapes. For high speed steels, I use a combination of forging and stock removal. I start with a large bar, forge it to the thickness I need, forge in any distal taper or tang taper, then grind it the rest of the way.

The links below will take you to a basic description of some of the steps in making a knife. Some steps are left out, because I intend to to a “tutorial” soon, and go into each step more deeply.


Tools of the Trade

About Steel



Heat Treating