This page contains bladesmithing tutorials and other useful bladesmithing information to help educate about the craft.
Here are some recorded videos from live shop webcam broadcasts I have done in the past. This is raw, unedited footage of me working in my shop, explaining my processes, and answering live questions from viewers who were watching the boradcast. There is approximately 18 hours of footage from my shop!
Metallurgy and Heat Treatment for Bladesmiths
This is an introduction into the metallurgy used in bladesmithing. This discusses the inner workings of a steel's crystaline microstructure durring the heat treatment procedures. This is a good source to become familiar with the terms and to gain a good understanding of the crystaline microsturucture of steel and how it relates to bladesmithing.
Click the link above to view the article
The Creation of a Pattern Welded Blade (tutorial in progress)
This is a video and picture tutorial of the process of making a pattern welded blade. This tutorial will cover the entire process of making the blade, from preparing and welding the billet, developing layer count, patterning the billet, forging the blade, grinding the blade, heat treatment, and finishing and assembly.
This tutorial is currently a work in progress, check back periodically for updates.
Click the link above to view this tutorial
The first step in making a blade is shaping a piece of stock or material into the shape of a blade. This can be done in one of two ways, stock-removal or forging. The stock-removal process is whem a blade is ground and cut from a piece of larger stock into its respective shape. Forging is heating the material to high temperature causing its crystiline structure to transform causing the material to form into a plastic state in which it is easily deformed. While in this plastic state the material can then be shaped with hammer and anvil into a blade. I forge just about all of my blades, so this is what we will begin with.
The first step is to get the stock hot. This is done with the aid of a forge, which is pretty much a very hot furnace or fire. I use a propane forge for my bladesmithing.
Once the stock is hot it is time to begin hammering. The first step in making a blade is to establish its profile. This begins with tapering the stock to a point where the tip of the blade is to begin. To do this, the stock is held at an angle with respect to the face of the anvil and struck at an angle with the hammer.
This also begins drawing out the blade, or making it longer.
As the stock is struck, the force of the hammer displaces the volume of the steel elsewhere. When struck from the edge, the material is forced downwards and outwards, thus decreasing its width and increasing its thickness and length. When struck on the flat, the thickness of the material is decreased and the width and length increase. By understanding how steel moves under the hammer, one can shape it into a blade.
Once the rough profile of the blade is established, the next step is to begin forging in the rough bevels. To do this, much the same as with the tapering process, the edge of the blade is held at an angle with respect to the face of the anvil and struck at an angle, forcing the edge out and in from both sides, forming an angled slope or bevel.
As the bevel is formed, the edge expands in length causing the blade to curve. The profile must then be adjusted periodically thoughout this process.
Once the blade profile is forged to shape and the bevels forged, it is time to begin drawing out the tang of the blade. To do this a cross pien hammer and the edge of the anvil will be used to quickly force the tang material into a thin tang.
Once the tang has began to be drawn out, it is time to cut the blade from the stock. This is done hot with a hot cut tool, in this case a modified hatchet. The stock is cut about 95% through, then the rest is broken off.
Work on drawing out the tang continues. This process is similar to tapering and drawing out the blade.
After the tang is drawn out, its angle and bend are adjusted by placing it through the hardy hole and tapping the upper portion of the blade.
Finally the blade is reheated and final adjustments are made using a light and very smooth faced hammer.
The rough forged blade. The next step will be the rough grinding.
After the rough forging, heat the entire blade back to an even cherry red (above the critical temperature) and let it air cool, do this a few times. This is called normalization, this develops a uniform crystaline structure throughout the entire blade. After normalizing, heat the blade again and allow it to cool very slowly (putting it in an insulating medium like vermiculite is a good idea) to anneal it, or soften it to make it easer to work in the following steps.
Forging a blade brings it to roughly the right size and shape as the desired blade, however in order to bring the blade to its final shape with exactly the right dimensions and geometry, it is necessary to grind, file, or sand the blade. The rough forged blade is left slightly larger than the desired finished blade and material is then removed to bring the rough blade into its final state.
This will illistrate the linear grind (grinding down the length of the blade rather than perpendicular to it) I used on the rough forged blade above. This blade was made before I purchased my new belt grinder, so the grinding process is different on this type of machine than on a 2" x 72" grinder that is suited for knife and blade making. I will try and document the other (correct) methods using my new grinder on the next blades I start.
The first necessary step is to determine the final profile of the blade. This is determined either by pattern that can be traced onto the blade an that the blade can be compared against, or done solely by eye. I use a combination of the two, making a rough pattern for what I want the blade to be, then adjusting things by eye to aid in the transition from a 2-dimensional drawing to the actual existing blade.
It is also important to note that durring the grinding process the blade will heat up significantly due to the friction from the grinding belt, therefore it is necessary to cool the blade periodically by dipping it in water. Also note that I grind my blades with bare hands, this prevents overheating the blade, which is crucial after the heat treatment in the finish grind. When the blade gets too hot to hold, its time to cool it off.
To do this, the blade is ground linearly down the edge and spine until sufficient material has been removed.
Then the finger choil is ground using the front roller of the grinder as a contact wheel.
Now that the profile of the blade has been established, it is necessary to establish the geometry of the "flats" of the blade. This is the un-beveled portion of the blade that exists as the bulk of its crossectional area. The angles of the flats are important, as well as the thickness along the blade. If the blade thickness changes from tang to tip, the blade is said to have distal taper, meaning the blade is thinner at the tip than at the tang (this differf from profile taper). The distal taper is set when the flats are ground.
Using this setup, the blade is held flat on the grinding belt, running linearly and the angles of the blade are adjusted with respet to the belt along both axis. Pressure is applied to the blade to remove material. The amount of pressure and point of application of the pressure can be adjusted to change how much and from where material is being removed, as well as readjusting the angle of the grind.
The distal taper:
Next the beveling for the edes is ground in. Durring the rough forging the rough beveling was established which gives a guideling for grinding the beveling, however it must be noted that both bevels must be symetrical, and may vary side to side from the rough forging. Thus, it is important to make sure that the angle of the beveling with respect to the grinding surface is the same for both sides of the blade, and that the depth of both bevels remains the same and that after grinding the beveling the edge runs down the center of the blade and is not biased towards one side or the other.
The beveling is ground using a similar method as when grinding the flats. The bevel is placed linearly on the grinding surface and held at the appropriate angle and pressure is applied to the beveled section. It is often necessary to no grind one side of the blade completly and then try and grind the other, it is better to go back and forth between the two sides and slowly remove stock and adjust gemoetry until both sides are the same.
It is important to note that when rough grinding a blade to leave the edge somewhat thick (about the thickness of a nickel or 1/16") before heat treatment. Durring heat treatment, the blade is being heated to a point where rapid oxidization begins occuring, the rapid oxidization will deplete the carbon content in steel. A thin edge will be more greatly effected by this oxidization than one that is thicker. This decarbinization of the edge will result in an edge that will not become as hard and therefore loose its ability to hold an edge.
After the main beveling is complete, it is time to rough grind the false edge on the spine. And following that, true up the tang and clean it off a bit.
The rough grinding is now complete.
Following the rough grinding comes heat treatment.