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Knife forging part 4

This is part 4 of the knife making tutorial. In this part of the series we finish off the knife. We harden it, temper it, mount the handle and sharpen it.

If you came directly to this webpage you can start this tutorial on page 1 right here: Forging a knife part 1

I also have a pair of videos that show this whole process. You can watch them here.



Hardening and Tempering the Blade

Now we need to get this knife ready for action. And that means hardening the steel then softening it up a little bit so it isn't brittle. This is the process of hardening and tempering.

Heat the oil

Crank up the forge. You will also need a bucket of oil for this. Any kind of used oil will work. Motor oil, vegetable oil, even transmission fluid is ok.

Crank up the forge and put your knife in it. Also put a long piece of metal in there too. Something like a piece of rebar is what I am using.

As that extra piece gets up to heat take it out of the fire and dip it into your bucket of oil as shown here. This brings up the temperature of the oil. It will make for a better hardening and tempering.

Hardening the blade

Heat the knife, paying particular attention to the blade and point, to red orange. It isn't so necessary to harden and temper the whole knife. Just the blade is good. Get it to the point where a magnet no longer sticks to it. This is the Curie temperature and once it hits this non stick point you can submerge it totally in the oil. And be sure to swirl it around.

The file test

Once it is cooled you can test the hardening with a file. Running a file lightly over it will give a glassy sound. The file rides over it without grabbing at anything. Compare this to sound it makes when filing the butt end where it isn't so hardened.

Clean the blade

Now clean the blade of the knife (both sides) with emory paper or sand paper. Get it pretty clean. We need to see the metal for the next step of tempering.

Tempering the Blade

The proper tempering colors

Before we temper the blade let me show you what you are shooting for. We want to slowly bring up the temperature of the blade (only to about 450-500) and we want the temp higher along the spine of the blade. The spine is the edge that doesn't cut.

The higher we bring the temp the softer the metal will get. So, we want to soften up the spine a fair amount but soften up the cutting edge just a little.

We do this by watching the color of the steel as it heats up.

This picture gives you a pretty good idea of what we are shooting for. We want the spine to get to a plum color and the cutting edge to get to wheat color.

temper in the forge

We achieve this by putting it near the fire with the back edge closest to the fire.

The arrow shows the knife. And you can see that the spine is facing the fire with the cutting edge facing away. This will heat up the spine first and slowly transmit that heat into the blade.

Monitor it closely and move it around to change the colors as you need it. Once you get it to plum on the back and wheat on the cutting edge dip it in your oil to lock it in.

Ok, lets finish off this knife


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Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop, Revised

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