These pages are provided by HABA Members from notes they made at recent blacksmithing demonstrations conducted at monthly meetings. If you can provide a note to publish, please send content to your HABA webmaster. Knife Making with Pattern Welded Stock
Notes from the HABA Knifemaking Workshop with Lee Oates
submitted by Reynolds Cushman
Lee Oates once again was kind enough to instruct the HABA crowd on knife forging, this time hosting the January event at his shop in LaPorte. Some 40 registrants packed Lee’s shop, which may have made the morning chill a little less biting.
Lee provided Damascus steel blanks to all who pre-registered and a few who didn’t. He went right to business forging a blank with two rounded corners on one end into a single-edged knife approximately 6” long.
First, he worked the end with rounded corners into a spear point, then began to work one side from the tang end toward the point, causing the piece to curve, producing the cutting edge bevel. Lee talked and was patient as videographers and photographers bid him to hold his piece still for shots. Lee finished the blade end in about 8 heats, but probably lost several heats due to elaboration on his instruction.
Once the blade was fashioned into a shape of his liking, he switched ends and worked the tang. The tang was a 1 1/2'” piece of high carbon steel welded to the Damascus blank. The first step on the tang was inserting the tang in a spring fuller (that was inserted in his hardie hole) to within 1/16” of the Damascus blank and fullering it. Then the tang was drawn out to the desired length of about 4 ˝”. Then an 1/8” hole was drilled in the farthest extremity of the tang so it might be held by wire and placed in the acid solution for etching the nickel-steel blade. First a good wire brushing was needed to remove scale formed during forging.
A preformed brass finger guard, or hilt, was then filed, while being held in a vise, to fit the specific hole necessary for the tang to fit snugly. Using a tool Lee created to enable the guard to be driven up the length of the tang to butt up against the Damascus blade without being marred by hammer blows, the guard was fit in place. The tool was essentially a horseshoe shaped piece of bar stock about 3/8”x 1” of about 10” in length. The right tool is everything! Once the guard was fit properly, it was removed and the blade heat-treated in a mix of peanut oil and a small amount of motor oil. Peanut oil is Lee’s choice as he now shies away from toxic fumes put off by burning motor oil. A bit of filing on the blade and tang was necessary to put an edge on the blade and conform the tang to the grips.
Once the piece was heat-treated, the guard re-inserted, then it was ready to have the grip fashioned. Care must be used as the blade now has a sharp edge. Covering the edge with a piece of leather is best during the handle-fitting step. Some workshop attendees chose deer antler while others chose a hardwood Lee so graciously provided for a small fee. Assembly was next with two to three brass pins driven through grips, peened and the grip sanded, then oiled or sealed.
Lee and Judy served a tasty taco soup for lunch, segueing into the HABA auction. Tom Lonquist lent his services as auctioneer and some 40 items were sold, some at a deep discount. Several new member and visitors joined HABA for the day and had the opportunity to wield a hammer and forge. Each was welcomed and encouraged to return in the months to come.
Again, a big thanks to Lee and Judy for hosting the event and allowing such rabble to ransack his shop. We owe you Lee. Lee Oates once again was kind enough to instruct the HABA crowd on knife forging, this time hosting the January event at his shop in LaPorte. Some 40 registrants packed Lee’s shop, which may have made the morning chill a little less biting.
prepared March 04, 2003
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