Knives Illustrated - - Expert’s Corner -

Be­low are some tips to help you flat­ten out the learn­ing curve. James Helm of Helm En­ter­prises, Forg­ing Di­vi­sion, episode win­ner of His­tory Chan­nel’s “Forged in Fire” of­fers up these tips to suc­cess.


Learn as much as you pos­si­bly can so you aren’t spend­ing time try­ing to re-in­vent ba­sic tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies. There are a lot of books, videos, fo­rums, and mag­a­zines that pro­vide a tremen­dous amount of in­for­ma­tion for free or lit­tle money, and any num­ber of schools across the coun­try that hold black­smithing and blade­smithing cour­ses.


Tech­nique will make a big dif­fer­ence in how well you can work. In par­tic­u­lar, ham­mer tech­nique is para­mount. There are a lot of bio-me­chan­ics and er­gonomics be­hind it that you might not nec­es­sar­ily think about. If you haven’t spent a lot of time swing­ing a ham­mer, ax, or ma­chete in your time, it may take a while to learn it.


If at all pos­si­ble, learn from some­one in-per­son. There are black­smith groups all across the coun­try, and many of them have monthly meet­ings. Some have open forges once a week or a cou­ple of times a month.


If you want to make blades, learn some ba­sic met­al­lurgy— es­pe­cially proper heat treat­ment. It’s an in­cred­i­bly com­plex sub­ject, but it’s also very im­por­tant to the per­for­mance of your blade. A good-per­form­ing heat treat­ment on sim­ple car­bon steels is mostly a mat­ter of pay­ing care­ful at­ten­tion and be­ing pa­tient.


Test your work. Test the cut­ting per­for­mance, bal­ance, com­par­i­son to sim­i­lar knives, edge re­ten­tion, ease of sharp­en­ing, abuse tol­er­ance, etc. Use and abuse your knives so you know if they will per­form prop­erly.

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