Conan the barbarian's' knife maker wanna bees?

When demonstrating to the public, I an often asked if I shoe horses (I
don't) or am told that the "I want to learn just enough blacksmithing so
I can make a sword", as mentioned in a recent post. Many people ask
the same questions over and over, too; whatever they might be, such as
"Is that a real fire?" The list goes on and on.
To all of them I give polite answers. It doesn't matter to me if I am
answering the same question over and over. I just assume the person
didn't get it the first time(s). In this public demonstrating mode, I
am there to educate and to provide an enjoyable experience for those who
came that day.
Sooooooo----- to the guy who says he wants to make a knife I say
"That's good. You have chosen a respected craft to become involved in.
You have, however, chosen one of the toughest parts of it. Sword
making comes at the end of learning blacksmithing, not at the beginning.
If you are interested, I can tell you more."
Then I go one (if they want). I also inform them about our club,
offer a brochure that we always happen to have handy and tell them about
our training schedule. For those who are REALLY interested in
beginning or investigating blacksmithing, I might invite the person to
try it at my shop.
You never know for sure which of those "I wanna make a knife" people
are simply "Conan's" or whether they get hooked on the craft. I could
name dozens of people in our clubs who, with a kind answer to a simple
question gravitated our way over the years. Many of them now instruct
in our basic workshops.
I have had the occasional "smart ass", too. When I get one, I pretend
they were making an honest commment and attempt to turn the reply into a
positive tool. When they see that they don't "get my goat", they
wander away.
Oh, the knife maker wanna bee---- If the person shows even a little
interest, I adjust my demo for (usually a "him"), while still keeping an
eye on the interest level of the rest of the crowd. You see, many
people don't ask questions of they don't make comments that are in their
mind, so when they hear someone else say something, they usually crowd
in to hear the reply, too.
So, as I explain the processes the person will need to learn, I
will draw a piece out (always making some sort of end product), etc.. to
show how it's done. AND---- I LOVE to get the crowd involved in heat
treating which, of course, I can fit in easily with sword making. So,
I make a "Striker" or fire starter; you know; the old flint and steel
kit. It is just wonderful to me to see the people gather closer as I
talk about the magic of hardening while I quickly whip out a simple
striker after demonstrating making a fire with one.
After that demo is done, you see who hangs around to ask questions
and go from there.
Even the "old timer" who stops by to tell me that I can't forge weld in
that shallow fire gets a smile. I just keep on welding up chain while
saying "no, I don't s'pose you can".
Pete Stanaitis
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Hi Pete,
I'll add a little.
To make a good functional sword is pretty easy, to forge one takes a lot more time to learn.
I'll expand on that a little.
Using the wasted steel method. The skills required to make a sword are a steady hand, and to know what to remove and how a sword feels to swing. With a "BIG" angle grinder I can carve out the basics of a functional generic type X Oakeshott in about 1/2 an hour. Finishing takes about another 1/2 hour, so an hour per blade. I get my long blades heat treated professionally, although I am going to attempt a differential H&T alla Jim Hrisoulas, at home.
My first sword by this method took a day, now it takes an hour to heat treatment stage :-) And yes they are all still individual... with the right fittings ;-)
The forging process for swords, I'm still learning, and it is made much easier with the right hardie tools. I learnt very quickly that you can't forge a fuller with one fuller tool, and I also think I need a striker (or at least that foot powered sledge) to help me out. Shifting the fuller by hand blows big time. Not being a Sheffield Cutler I do the final finishing on a belt, not in the fire (definitely want to get that good).
Pete, it would be helpful if you could outline the steps you go through to forge a sword. Shaping the blade is a good subject, and always interesting. Do you use a power hammer or a striker... or both?
Regards Charles P.S. Corm!
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Who, me? I don't make swords. But I know a lot of guys who do it by forging and I know what it took for them to get good at it. That's what i describe to the would-be sword maker. Over the last 6 or 8 years our club went from having only a couple of people interested in swords and knives to dozens. One group of at least a half dozen are even producing their own sword steel from ore and/or taconite pellets. They are working toward a Japanese process whose name I can't recall. Something like Ta-ma-Ha-ga-ne (I think). No, and I don't shoe horses, either. I just repeat the basic processes over and over and see what comes out.
What you called the "wasted steel" method, I think we'd call the "stock removal" method. No forging, start with a blank and saw and grind away everything that doesn't look like a sword. The people who do it one way or the other often call eachother names. I go and get a beer.
Pete Stanaitis --------------------------
Chilla wrote:
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Hi Pete,
Aw you should make at least one. I could give you images, accurate dimensions and weights. Swords aren't big business, but they are fun business :-)
My big thing is working up to making an affordable, functional, historically accurate (as historically accurate as modern resources will allow anyway) pattern welded type X. My target is $500 AUD for a usable blade.
Yep that's the process, except without the dashes ;-) Pierre is currently in Japan apprenticed to a sword maker, he recently had some setsu available so I bought a little :-)
A quote from a sword maker in Australia for a 100% historically accurate sword metal mined from bog iron, no modern tools etc. is $25,000 for the blade. Cheap for what's involved.
Stock removal is another name for it, and your description is correct. We can get away with it these days because we have access to good quality steel.
Don't know why they should call each other names the results can be the same. I only call people names who make swords that don't work and profess themselves a master sword smith. Anyone can shape a piece of steel into something that resembles a sword. To make one that swings, well for me, it's a nice feeling :-) I am by no means a master sword smith, but I know how to make a sword ;-)
Sometimes I get a wise ass stating that "I can make a knife so I can make a sword", the problem is everyone knows hot to use a knife and how it should feel. Knowing how a sword "should" feel is totally different.
Regards Charles
spaco wrote:
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