Making Knives by Hand – May 20, 2018

Heavy Hammers, Hot Steel, and Making Knives by Hand

We had another great class at The Forge yesterday. A father and son team came by to try their hands at hand-hammering some knives out of railroad spikes.

They each started out with an old rusted spike (don’t worry they were purchased legally).

Through some focused hammerwork and some finishing, they came out with some great knives.

Here’s a “Before and After” shot of the two great-looking knives Chuck and Kyle made.

Knife Making Class Indiana - Brown County Forge

Hours of Work – Great Results

The guys hammered, hardened, shaped, tempered, polished, and sharpened for about three and a half hours.

It was a fairly warm day in the shop – 80+ degrees outside and quite a bit warmer next to the forge, but they persevered.

Chuck shared some memories that inspired them to take the class: a great-grandather’s anvil (who was a blacksmith for Cummins) and hot-forging a cold chisel as a high schooler.

Seeing a few episodes of the History Channel show “Forged in Fire” didn’t hurt either.

Father and Son Knife Class - Brown County Forge

Learn the Fundamentals and Make Something Useful

“Make something useful.” That could be the unofficial motto at Brown County Forge.

Everything that comes out of the shop has a use. Whether it’s a knife, a hook, a fire poker, or a bottle opener, it’s an object that is handmade to be used.

It’s great to see what each person comes up with in class each Saturday and Sunday. Every piece is different. Each one is unique.

Knife Making Class Indiana - Brown County Forge

Interested in taking a class? Feel free to take a look at the Classes page to see the next available date.

January Forgings – Rebar Fire Tools, Railroad Spike Knives

Tempering Colors Railroad Spike Knives

We’ve been busy at the Forge this month making S hooks, J hooks, Rebar Fire Tools, and Railroad Spike Knives. The knives pictured above were hand-hammered from old rusty railroad spikes, ground into shape, polished with emory paper, hardened, tempered, and finally sharpened.

You can see photos from the process below.

Hand Forging a Railroad Spike Knife

First, we got the spike up to an even heat. By keeping the heat even throughout the piece of metal, we’re able to control where the metal goes a little better.

You can see videos of the process on Brown County Forge’s YouTube channel.

To hammer thick steel like this, we use a much heavier hammer than we normally would. In this case, we’re using a 4 lb. cross peen instead of the standard 2.5 lb.

Railroad Spike Knife Shaping - Brown County Forge

Once the basic shape of the knife (plus a twist in the handle) is done, there’s a fair amount of grinding work and polishing to give it the final shape. Aaron’s knife has a large sweeping belly and a drop tip.

Tempering Colors Railroad Spike Knives

After the knife is shaped, we bring it back up to a red-hot heat and quench it in oil. This hardens the knife and makes it fairly brittle. The knives are set aside to cool completely before we polish them a second time.

This second polish is done so the shiny metal shows through. This makes it easier to see the color change as we carefully heat it up to temper it. In the picture above you notice a slight wheat color in the blades. This is a good level of temper for a knife blade.

Finished Railroad Spike Knives

And finally we have the finished blades all polished, sharpened, and ready to go.

Next up:

Rebar Fire Tools and Forging with Family

Father and Son Class

Earlier in the month, we had Jerry and Chris out to the forge to learn some of the fundamentals. We made some S hooks that you can see below.

S Hooks Brown County Forge

We also made J hooks and rebar fire tools including a scrolled fire rake and poker. Working with rebar can be a challenge since it’s much denser than the mild steel we use for hooks. It takes a lot of high-heat hammering to get it to move the way you want. Jerry and Chris did a great job and got results.

Rebar Fire Tools Brown County Forge

That’s what we’ve been up to in January so far. If you’re interested in classes we just made more times available. Check out the Classes page.  

Friday Night Forging and New Class Offerings

Brown County Forge Lessons

This past Friday night, we had a Brown County native in the shop learning the fundamentals. Ethan had never swung a hammer at hot metal in his life, but by the end of the three-hour private class he showed a real knack for it.

In the top picture, he’s fine-tuning a scroll at the end of what will eventually be an S hook. The S hook is a great beginning project because it involves a variety of techniques.

BC Forge Hammering

To make a single S hook, you’ll have to taper or draw out the metal, scroll it multiple times, quench it multiple times, and make nice, fluid bends. Since the S hook has two ends, that’s double the practice. Repeating those motions pays off quickly, too. There was a huge improvement from one end of the S hook to the next.

Here’s what Ethan created at the shop:

BC Forge Getting Results

Great Job, Ethan!

Sunday Class Times Now Available

Your interest in the Saturday classes encouraged us to make Sundays available for lessons as well. You can now book the forge either day.

If you’re not ready to do a full class, that’s okay. Come stop by for 2 or 3 hours like Ethan did and create something.

Thanks for stopping by. Let’s get forging!

Working with Your Hands in 2016 (plus Hammer and Tongs Giveaway)

Tying Knots in Steel

I hope your holidays were good and 2016 has gotten off to a roaring start. It sure has at the Forge. Classes start tomorrow evening and they’re quickly filling up for the rest of the month. I’m excited about sharing this set of skills with people interested in blacksmithing.

That brings us to the title of this Shop Update and New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not much for limiting resolutions to the first of the year. You end up getting super-motivated for the rest of January, maybe a little into February, and then you peter out.

It’s been more effective for me to make changes as I go along. When inspiration to change something hits, that’s when I resolve to do it differently. With that said, this is still the time of year many people are very focused on setting goals.

So here’s the one goal I’ll put forward for the year: create something with your hands.

  • Plant seeds
  • Throw a pot
  • Knit some socks
  • Make a collage
  • Build a bench
  • ___________

There’s something extremely satisfying in taking raw materials, applying pressure and energy, and turning them into something else. You might move dirt around, push a seed into it, and wait patiently for spring to bring you blooms. You might cut up a bunch of magazines and create a collage of what you’d like your year to be. Laughter, sun, good food…

You might find some metal, throw some coal in an old grill, get it hot, and bend it into something beautiful.

Making Creating Easier

Here at Brown County Forge we’re pretty specific about how we help people create. We take one of the hardest materials on the planet, apply heat and energy, and turn it into something beautiful and useful.

To make this easier, the Forge is sponsoring a Hammer and Tongs Giveaway with DIY Blacksmithing.

From now (11 AM January 7) until 11:59 PM January 10, folks from around the U.S. are putting their names in a virtual hat to win a Peddinghaus Blacksmith’s Hammer and a set of Wolf Jaw Tongs.

If you’re interested, you can find the giveaway here (It’s Free):

DIY Blacksmithing’s Hammer and Tongs Giveaway

Working with Your Hands 2016

Enjoy January and start making things!

Wood and Steel – A Collaboration with ThriftyWoodShop

Thrifty Woodshop Barn Style Doors

Before Christmas, Michael from ThriftyWoodShop contacted me about possibly incorporating some of the hooks we make at Brown County Forge in a project. He runs a small woodworking business in New Jersey making custom cabinetry, barn-style sliding doors, and kitchen islands.

I’m a big fan of combining metal and wood to create useful things. Metal is great on its own. So is wood. When you put them together the results are even better.

Here’s the handmade wine crate shelf he created:

ThriftyWoodShop New Jersey Wine Crate Shelf

The hooks he used are a hand-hammered version of our large wall hooks. They have a dimpled texture that gives them a more rustic look.

Hammered Wall Hooks - Brown County Forge

It’s a lot of fun working together to create beautiful things. Bringing different craft traditions and talents together is always a great experience.

See you in the New Year! Stay safe!