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Hand Forging Blades

Tools Utilized

Each blade began with a 2.5' piece of high carbon steel. In our class the specific steel utilized was 5160. This blend of steel is comprised of .6% carbon, 1% of chromium and the remainder iron. The carbon provides for increased "hardenability" compared to straight iron, while chromium adds slight corrosion resistance and high wear resistance.

Metal Rack

Each blade began with a 1.25" x .25" billet of steel. In the class we took a 5 foot length of steel and cut it in half on a chop saw. We began each blade from a length of steel to allow the material to be heated in a forge and struck on an anvil without the need for a pair of tongs. Although the metal gets blazingly hot, the heat does not transfer all the way up the billet. It's advisable to use gloves when holding the material, but the metal at the farthest end from the heat can be held with a bare hand.

After sectioning off a length of steel, the material must be slightly shaped with a grinder prior to forging. Since the first thing we are going to do is taper the end to a point, we need to remove the sharp corners. If we forget this step the metal, once shaped to a point, will end up with two small points that were the original corners (resembling a serpent tongue).

Rounded End of Steel Blank

After tapering the end of the blade to a point, the Bladesmith begins to draw the blade down the length of metal. The end process results in a "distal taper", a state in which the blade tapers from wide to thin along both the length of the blade (from handle to tip) as well as across the face of the blade (from spine to edge).

Forged Edge of Blade

One of the most important points to keep in mind while forging is to keep the hammer away from the section of the blade which is to become the ricaso (the flat part between the handle and the blade). Any hammer marks in this area will cause major problems later. Bottom line, this is a "no strike" zone.

Once the blade is drawn to a finish, the section behind the ricaso needs to be turned into a tang (the part of the blade that will become the handle). To accomplish this task, class members use a "spring fuller" to compress the metal behind the ricaso down to around " wide (a long blade would require a slightly wider tang).

After using the fuller, the blade is taken back to the chop saw and cut from the length of steel (see 4.8 MB video) about 1 " from the indentation made by the fuller. Once cut, it's time to pull out the tongs, heat the tang and use a little muscle to draw the remainder of the tang down to the " height created by the fuller. In the process, the material lengthens to roughly double it's original 1 " as the steel compressed from the width is displaced to create length.

At this point, the blade is pretty much forged. The Bladesmith turns their attention to ensuring that the blade is perfectly straight along all edges before moving on to Normalizing.

Next Step

Beginning - Definitions - Forging - Normalizing - Grinding - Hardening - Tempering - Summary



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This page last updated 12/30/2004
Copyright 1996-2005© John Pozadzides. All rights reserved.