This page is dedicated to information on Steel, Damascus Steel, Forging, Heat Treating, and general Knifemaking/Bladesmithing. Check back, as I will update this page often.
Forge Plans After years of playing with different types and designs, I have settled on a circular design that uses Castable Refractory, with a forced air burner. It's relatively inexpensive to build, easy to use, and it will last! I've had several forges of this type over the years and like them very much. The last one finally gave up the ghost after 5 years of almost daily use! If you're interested, I have plans available for this type of forge. If you would like a copy, they are $14.00 per set. DELIVERED VIA EMAIL ATTACHMENT. MAILED HARD COPIES ARE EXTRA.
You can Send (check or Money order) to: Ed Caffrey 2608 Central Ave. West Great Falls, MT. 59404 I will have a set of plans mailed to you the next mailing day. I can also email the plans as an attachment if you'd like to pay using Paypal(using Paypal will add 4% to the total). The text is an MS Word document, and the illustrations are in MS Paint format. If you'd likde delivery via email please send me an email (with your palpal email address included) and I'll send out a Paypal invoice.
Accordion Fold????? Many people have asked me how mosaics are created............well, it's a lot like putting a puzzle together. Building it is the hardest part. Once a desirable pattern is achieved within a bar, the question is....."How do I make it come out on a blade?" Since a picture is worth a thousand words...............here's how. (Remember, when building Mosaics, all of the pattern is located in the end view of the bar, this is how you get all that cool pattern to the "flats" of the billet)
I continually experiment with new ways of coloring damascus steel. Heat coloring or hot/cold bluing is the usual method employed by most knifemakers, however this method allows the knifemaker to produce only a limited number of colors. I have been using baking lacquers, heat coloring, and a combination of both to produce colors that are not often seen in damascus steel.
Of Forges and Fire
I began over 25 years ago with a coal forge that was made from an old brake drum. Since then I have progressed to utilize propane forges exclusively for my cutlery. Why? All I can say is that is makes life so much easier! Don't get me wrong, many fine blades have been, and are still being produced in coal forges. I even keep a bucket of coal in the shop, and occasionally set a few small pieces on the front of my propane forge just to smell the coal burn.
This brings us to forges. I have tried most every make and model available commercially, and many others that where formulated within my, as well as other Blacksmith's and Bladesmith's shops'. Through experience, I have formed some very pointed opinions of what a good Bladesmith's forge should, and should not be.
*A Good Bladesmith's Forge SHOULD* -Produce a very even heat. This becomes very important when producing Damascus (Pattern Welded) materials. -Be easily adjustable over a wide range of temperatures. -Be economical to operate (This includes fuel consumption and replacement cost of refractory). -Be durable (I hate wasting time repairing a forge lining when I could be forging blades). -Be designed with the K.I.S.S. principle in mind.
*A Good Bladesmith's Forge SHOULD NOT* -Be of a design that uses 90 degree angles (square shape) in the forge chamber. It seems that no matter how well designed, or how many burners there are, this type of forge produces "hot spots". (That can spell trouble when forging damascus). -Fiber Board type insulators: This stuff is VERY expensive, does not react well to coatings, and melts like cotton candy when hot flux hits it. Ceramic blanket has it's draw backs too. If not coated it will also "melt" from flux contact, fibers will become airborne when "snagged" by a work piece, and can be very irritating to the nose and throat (not to mention what a lot of the stuff could do to your lungs).
The Steels I use I am a big fan of 52100, 5160, and 1080/84 for my "straight steel" blades. Although none of these are rust resistant (which seems to be a big deal to some folks), no other steels I've used offers the overall performance that I seek in my "using knives". With reasonable care (the same care you would give your favorite rifle or handgun) will last well past a lifetime.
For those who demand stainless steel, I offer CPM154. This is the standard type of steel that I offer in my "Gen-2" Flippers.
My passion is forging Damascus. The primary indgedinets in my damascus are 1080 and 15N20.
Benefits of the Forged Blade
Custom Cutlery today generally comes in two forms. Forged, or Stock Removal. Each has its proponents and opponents. I personally have chosen to Forge because of the almost limitless possibilities it presents. I am not restricted to produce a knife based on the size and shape of bar stock that is available. Forging also opens the realm of Damascus Steel with its unlimited patterns and beauty. Through the forging process I have also learned the art of heat treating. This gives an added advantage in that I have the capability to selectively harden blades not only to match the chosen steel, but the intended application of the finished blade. More often than not, commercial heat treaters will harden a customer's blades to a specified Rockwell hardness, not taking into consideration what I choose to call the "Overall Package." (I'll define this a little later)
The "Overall Package" In my humble opinion, a knife is more than a certain type of steel, or a specific Rockwell hardness. In order for a knife to be all that it can be, the maker must take the "Overall Package" into consideration.
This includes not only what type of steel to use, but how that steel will perform at a given hardness, plus, how all the other aspects of the knife blend to produce the finished product. Things such as, blade geometry, distal taper, weight, and balance. Toughness, flexibility, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. All of these play a factor in the Overall Package. Each is equally important in a using knife, and worthy of the Bladesmith's attention.
For example, to demand a high rockwell hardness in a blade, without taking into consideration the type of grind that will be used, and ignore the impact that the combination or hardness and grind style will have on the toughness and/or ease of sharpening is to settle for less than you have to.
Wayne Goddard once told me that a knife must 1. Look good, 2. Feel good, and 3. Work good. Each of these three areas have many details. Through attention to all of them, the Bladesmith insures that the "Overall Package" is achieved with each and every knife that leaves his or her shop.
Damascus Steel (Pattern Welded, Wire, Mosaic, Composites) Damascus Steel comes in many varieties. From Wire (made from steel cable), to exotic Mosaics with a thousand different faces. After much experimenting, I have settled on 15N20 & 1080/84 for most of my pattern welded blades. These two steels are possibly the most compatible steels I have ever encountered for Damascus. Due to this compatibility, patterns can be produced with this mix that would literally tear other combinations apart. It produces a good contrast, as well as having the added benefit of being completely hardenable; Producing a blade that is also very functional.