Custom knives often begin with preparing the steel before you really get to something that starts to look like a blade.
Before even getting to the forge though, good blades are usually designed on paper. The design process is critical both in vetting good ideas from bad ones to focus the direction to take things under the hammer.
With steel prepared for a simple lamination, forging the blade shape begins. Working at the right temperatures and managing the movement of material to ensure the right proportions are the critical things to consider at this stage. There are many different ways to forge a blade and they usually change every time dependant on the steel, the pattern within it and the blade shape the smith is trying to achieve. The example below is just one way on that day for that blade.
Heat Treatment – Oil Quench
Heat Treatment is a term that implies several steps to ensure the steel is hardened to hold an edge without being so brittle that it would chip or snap while in use. Heat treatment needs to be a balanced approach to ensure the right amount of toughness, edge retention and sometimes flexibility. Think of these three traits on a sliding scale where achieving more of one usually results in a less of another. These traits also vary by steels used and become more complex to manage when you forge more than one steel into a single blade.
Heat Treatment – Water Quench
Heat treatment as a process can include annealing, normalizing, hardening and tempering. These are the typical steps used to define and achieve a successful heat treatment on a blade, but many factors influence the result well before this stage while the blade was being forged. There is also a variety of quench media and the process can be drastically different altogether for different steels.
Post quench, the steel is typically very hard, so hard that it’s too brittle. Tempering is the final stage of the heat treatment process that relieves some of the stress in the steel to a point where the blade can be functional and reliable before moving onto the next stages of bringing it to a fully finished blade.
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