Tools of the Trade

The anvil is probably the most easily recognized of the blacksmith (or bladesmith) tools. Mine isnít though. The anvil Iím using right now is made up of three steel mill rollers. Theyíre made of H13 and each one weighs 64 pounds. I also have a 110 pound cast steel Russian anvil. The surface is too dented up to be used for bladesmithing, so I use it in my finishing room for various things.

I use basically 3 different hammers. A two and a half pound cross pien, a three and a half pound cross pien, (both for forging) and an eight pound sledge for putting my mark on my blades.

Power hammer
The power hammer I have now is a Ron Kinyon designed air hammer, made by myself. (With a lot of help from my dad.) It's a great help when it comes to forging down round stock or other large pieces of metal. As well as forge welding. I hope to get a bigger hammer someday.

I have two gas forges and two coal forges. The forge is used for getting the steel hot so it'll move when struck with the hammer. (Obviously) It's also used for heat treating. I built all of them except for one of the coal forges. I much prefer gas. It's clean, easy to start, and easy to come by. It does cost more, but it's worth it. I can forge a knife a lot faster in a gas forge than a coal forge, because I don't have to keep cleaning out junk or adding fuel. Gas also doesn't have the impurities that coal does, like sulfur, which is very bad for steel.

Along with the power hammer, this is the most labor saving tool in the shop. It removes material a lot faster than files and sandpaper. I also built my own 2" X 72" belt grinder. It doesn't leave a very smooth surface, so I always finish my knives by hand sanding.

Drill Press
The drill press is used for drilling pin holes, and for drilling out handles for partial tang knives. It's another tool I wouldn't want to be without.

Band Saw
The band saw is used for cutting barstock to length, cutting damascus billets prior to stacking, and for cutting out blades when Iím doing stock removal knives.

Arc Welder
I use the welder a lot. For building tools, for assembling damascus billets, for repair work, for all sorts of stuff. It's great. I donít know how I got by without it for so long.

Oxy/Acetylene Rig
I don't use this as much since I got the arc welder, but it still comes in really handy for cutting big pieces of steel that I can't use the bandsaw for. Also can be used for heat treating small blades. Itís also good for drawing knife spines softer, which I only do as a last resort to straighten a warped blade.

Heat Treat Oven
This is the latest addition to my shop, and I use it almost everyday. It's great for annealing things, hardening, and tempering. Mine was made by Evenheat.

Bead blaster
For texturing guards, Micarta handles, and sometimes blades.

Air Compressor
Not really a tool in itself, but still important. It's what powers my air hammer, and the bead blaster.

Salt Pots
This is something I donít have yet, but dearly want. The way salt pots work is you have a stainless steel tube filled with special salt. The tube is heated up either with gas or electric to the austenitizing temperature, the knife is put in and soaked for the appropriate length of time, then you pull the blade out and quench it in whatever quenchant youíre using, which could be lower temperature salts or oil.

The advantages are: The salts transfer heat to the steel very evenly, thus reducing the risk of warpage. The blade is protected form the atmosphere, which means no decarburization, as long as your salts are neutral. Because thereís no decarb, you can bring the blade all the way to a finished polish before hardening. No grinding after heat treat! This technique would make using high speed steels much more practical.

Miscellaneous Tools
Things like chisels, saws, drill bits, files, sanding sticks, a scribe for finding the center of edges. Etc.