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Subject: Bladesmithing rss

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Paul DeStefano
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Blacksmithing is one of my hobbies. About a month ago, I took a poll here in ChitChat to determine whether my first attempt at an actual blade rather than little hardware bits should be a 1 piece construction from a railroad spike or a multi piece construction.

The result was the spike. After a scheduling problem for forge time, this weekend I got in.

The spike was an unused, fairly unremarkable hunk of steel.


Stupid mistake: Forging in a heat wave in August is moronic.

The forges hit like 2200 degrees. Went through 3 large bottles of water and afterwards had 5 sodas with my dinner. Never had to go to the bathroom. There's a lot of things about blacksmithing that are really physically intensive. In that heat, just standing there is not an easy task.

After about 2 hours at the anvil and forge, I got the thing into the silhouette I wanted.

The blade leans forward, so if cutting, your fingers stay behind the leading edge. The pommel is obviously what was the head of the spike, changed from disk to a kind of hooked sphere, where your pinky would rest inside the forward edge. Being you can't actually touch it while working on it, this is very annoying to judge. I wanted a bowie like taper to the front of the blade, just because it's pretty. I wanted something a little like a Kukri and a little like a Bowie.

Early on, my design was going to have a thrusting point.

However, do to that whole 'holy crap it's a hot day' thing and sweat and hot tongs, I dropped the blade pulling it from the forge one time. It blunted the point. Rather than reform it, I figured I would cut my loss and round the edge, assuming I would be bound to drop it again. Yes, I did. Rounded point it is.



Then comes grinding. Here's where you spend hours at high speed grinding belts and wheels, removing hammer marks, refining the shape and such. This is when you get all those super dramatic spark showers. The grinding heats the blade, but after water dips, you can hold it to test the heft and feel. This part also takes around 2 hours.

Then the quench. This is to harden the steel. You get the blade yellow hot and dip the thing in motor oil. This sudden cooling, where the bucket of oil ignites, changes the molecular structure of the steel, hardening it.

You then head back to the grinders and start to taper the blade to an edge and do a bit more refinement.

Then, the tempering. Tempering hardens the blade further. This is a slow heat of the steel where it undergoes another molecular refinement. There's a strange color change from silver to rainbow blue and orange. Then it air cools. That takes about 20 minutes before you can touch it.

After that cooling, the edge has to be put on. More grinding.

Finally, after some 7 hours of periods of intensive labor and waiting and sweating, my first blade project was complete.

Named Jupiter after one of the trains that met at the middle when the Trans Continental railway was finished. And yes, it is freakin sharp.




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Pone McPoneface
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Thank you for the follow up story and photos. Very impressive, especially that you did this during such awful heat! yuk
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James Arias
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Neat stuff...Looks like a kukri or one of those other machete like things.
Makes you appreciate our preindustrial ancestors!
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Jeff
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I pick Paul to be on my team for the Zombie Apocalypse....
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Andy Leighton
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crazybyzantine wrote:
Neat stuff...Looks like a kukri or one of those other machete like things.
Makes you appreciate our preindustrial ancestors!


And it would have been even more work for them then it was for Paul. Both maintaining furnace temperature and grinding would have been physically more difficult.
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Paul DeStefano
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andyl wrote:
crazybyzantine wrote:
Neat stuff...Looks like a kukri or one of those other machete like things.
Makes you appreciate our preindustrial ancestors!


And it would have been even more work for them then it was for Paul. Both maintaining furnace temperature and grinding would have been physically more difficult.


Apparently coal forges aren't terrible to run. They take longer to reach heat, but due to the direct contact of the heat source to the material, it's easier to work the metal and due to restricted oxygen at the heart of the fire, the metal oxydizes less, making a smoother finish in need of less polishing and refining.

I'd love to try a coal Forge one day.

But yeah, hand grinding a sharpening would be insane. That would probably add 6 hours.
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David Dearlove
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I made a bronze axe from the raw materials: clay, charcoal, goatskin, wood, sheep dung, malachite and cassiterite on a course once. Took a week.
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Andy Leighton
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DavidDearlove wrote:

I made a bronze axe from the raw materials: clay, charcoal, goatskin, wood, sheep dung, malachite and cassiterite on a course once. Took a week.


There is a guy who runs a bronze sword casting workshop every year near me. It takes two days but uses a modern furnace and power tools for the grinding.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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andyl wrote:
power tools for the grinding.


This to me is definitely the biggest tech change as far as effort and time.
 
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David Dearlove
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andyl wrote:
DavidDearlove wrote:

I made a bronze axe from the raw materials: clay, charcoal, goatskin, wood, sheep dung, malachite and cassiterite on a course once. Took a week.


There is a guy who runs a bronze sword casting workshop every year near me. It takes two days but uses a modern furnace and power tools for the grinding.

I must confess we just took the rough edges and flash off the casting and left it.
 
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Jon M
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DavidDearlove wrote:
andyl wrote:
DavidDearlove wrote:

I made a bronze axe from the raw materials: clay, charcoal, goatskin, wood, sheep dung, malachite and cassiterite on a course once. Took a week.


There is a guy who runs a bronze sword casting workshop every year near me. It takes two days but uses a modern furnace and power tools for the grinding.

I must confess we just took the rough edges and flash off the casting and left it.


Those cold long winter nights with nothing to do? - just grinding your axe sharp! Kind of like knocking in a cricket bat.
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Steven McKinney
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Any pictures of the forge used?
 
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Paul DeStefano
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steven1mac wrote:
Any pictures of the forge used?


It was an unimpressive propane forge. Kind of looks like a beat up microwave.
 
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