Soldier knives: A build-along thread

For those who live in areas where firearms are not an option and those that are smart enough to have a back up.
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Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Storm Crow » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:29 am

I was approached by a soldier stationed in Alaska who is about to be stationed in Afghanistan atthe end of the month to make a pair of knives: one for him and one for his brother who is already stationed in the Rockbox. With his permission, I am posting pictures of the process along the way. I mildly exploded at someone on Zombie Squad who commented that there is absolutely no reason to spend more than $100 on a knife. Perhaps this will explain why I had that reaction.

This is the design that we settled on. It is a 7" blade, steel double guard, with a hybrid full length stick tang/slab handle using paper Micarta, stainless steel Corby rivets, and a lanyard hole. The sheath will be Kydex.

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This is the steel just removed from the shipping tube. 5160 chromium alloy steel, 1.5" x .25" x 6'. Since this is approximately as wide and thick as I want the final knife to be, if I just started forging the blade, I'd end up much bigger. So I forge it narrower and then forge the blade.

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I cut off a 2 foot section of the steel and heat it in my little coffee can forge. This is a variation of this: http://www.zoellerforge.com/coffee.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; It uses high-temp ceramic wool insulation. The metal of the coffee can stays cool enough that you can touch the outside comfortably for several seconds. With the relatively small chamber and single burner, it's easy on the propane.

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I use my newly-completed custom three-station hydraulic forging press (built to my specifications by my cousin Travis Martin) to speed things along, drawing the steel out longer and narrower while keeping it forged down to about the same thickness it started out. It says 60 ton, but it's actually 42.4 tons. This has been a great machine and I haven't yet tapped half of its potential!

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I finish out my pre-form by hand.

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I counter bend the blade. As I forge the bevel in, it stretches that side of the steel, lengthening it. This straghtens the blade back up. I forge down the edge, leaving a ridgeline where my hammer face ends. Then I hammer down the ridgeline, widening the blade and straightening it more. After a number of passes, I have the general shape of the blade finished. I tweak it to make sure it has a straight edge, then cut it off and draw the other end out into the tang. The press and hand hammering come into play here.

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After heating the blade once again and letting the knife cool to refine the grain (normalizing), I grind the basic profile. For most of the blade, there isn't much to remove, but the tip needed a fair amount removed. I made sure to leave myself plenty of wiggle room with my forging at the tip. After that, I stamp my touchmark into the blade, straighten the spine and then the cutting edge (something that can sometimes be maddeningly frustrating. It wasn't too bad this time), tweak my angle of tang to the blade, normailze the blade again, and do a bit more clean up grinding.

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Then I go through the whole process again for the second knife. Because I needed the two knives to be identical in profile, I ended up using the first as template to mark on the second with a Sharpie the excess to grind off. After getting close to the lines, I clamped the two blades together with a pair of ViseGrips and completed the profile grinding as a single unit.

The angles of the tangs are too high. I'll work on them tomorrow and get the tangs uniform.

Here's how they stand at the moment.

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More as they progress.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Ad'lan » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:14 am

Very, Very Nice!
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by TheDrifter » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:44 pm

They look great. Nice safety glasses you got there :wink:
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Silent Kube » Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:02 pm

Those look great. Makes me want to get out to the garage and start pounding that piece of leaf spring I have earmarked for my carry knife.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by rainbow_pact » Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:07 pm

I'm interested in how you heat treat the blades. How large is that anvil? 55 pounds?
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Janissary » Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:32 pm

It must be a very thing to shape such material. I can't wait to see the result.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by SolidCopper » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:34 pm

Awesome! I can't wait to see the finished result. I am doing a knife project myself (assembly and handle construction using a prefabbed blade) and will post it soon!
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Rainbird » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:06 pm

Great thread! I recently began tinkering in the Blacksmith arts. How is that forge working for you? Did you put it together your self or buy a kit? The books I’m working on all relate to a coal forge but a gas forge would be a better fit for my shop. I look forward to seeing the progress.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Sworbeyegib » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:10 pm

I can't wait to see the finished work!
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by congochris » Tue Feb 16, 2010 11:47 pm

Crap.. I've gotta build myself a propane forge. The coal one I have is a PITA. Granted if the world does end, we've got enough coal to keep us warm/forge blades for a good long while. :lol:

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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Storm Crow » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:21 am

Remember folks, you can walk with a wooden leg, you can write with iron pinchers, but you can't see with a glass eye!

Koterba13 - The forge works great. It'll heat car axle and jackhammer bit. Takes a little while to get those up to heat, but not too long to re-heat. Click on the link I posted to the coffee can forge. That's who I bought the burner kit and insulation from. The stand is built by me and was never intended as anything but temporary.

Rainbow Pact - Wait and see. ;-) It'll be documented. The anvil is a Peter Wright marked at 148 pounds in the English stone system.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Veritas » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:15 pm

Dude, this is awesome. I love that you post so many pics, it is great inspiration for those of us that take one year to almost finish one knife....I can't wait to see the next updates.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by JohnE » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:32 pm

Totally offtopic but I have a question, are used vehicle springs a good source for scavenged metal?

I have a set of springs that came off of my Subaru that are sitting in my backyard, I've been thinking about trying some blacksmithing, are they worth cutting up and reusing?

Nice project by the way.

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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by jamoni » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:03 pm

Awesome.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by CCHAPL » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:14 pm

That is really awesome, looking forward to more.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by the_klenzer » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:13 pm

Very cool! Hope the next update is just as pic intensive!
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by ........ » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:53 pm

What is a custom peice like this running?

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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by lonewolf15002000 » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:51 pm

Lord Bane wrote:What is a custom peice like this running?
I was wondering the same thing. I can't afford to do anything right now but eventually I do want a custom knife and like the style of this one.
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by Storm Crow » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:34 pm

lonewolf15002000 wrote:
Lord Bane wrote:What is a custom peice like this running?
I was wondering the same thing. I can't afford to do anything right now but eventually I do want a custom knife and like the style of this one.
If interested in a custom knife, shoot me a PM and we can discuss particulars.
Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

Forged blades: http://www.helmforge.com

Stock removal blades: http://www.helmgrind.com

The Wasteland Crow Project: http://wastelandcrow.blogspot.com

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Day 2

Post by Storm Crow » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:42 pm

On this day, I was hoping to have have some grinding belts for my 2" x 72" belt grinder that I had ordered show up via UPS, but didn't happen. I have a little Sears 2" x 42" belt grinder that I could use, but the big machine would go faster and do a neater job, so I worked on some other stuff than stock removal.

I tweaked around on the angle of the tangs.

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I started some preliminary work on the guards. They'll be made from flattened out railroad spike. It's higher carbon content than mild steel, but is still low enough carbon to not be brittle. A tough guard. This is the only piece of scavenged material on these knives.

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The spike squished out somewhat. I'll cut it into two pieces and then individually squish them down thinner and broader.
Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

Forged blades: http://www.helmforge.com

Stock removal blades: http://www.helmgrind.com

The Wasteland Crow Project: http://wastelandcrow.blogspot.com

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Day 3

Post by Storm Crow » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:09 am

Still no grinding belts. Rather than cooling my heels (the end of the month is swiftly approaching, and it has to ship as well), I went ahead and fired up my little Sears grinder.

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It has served me pretty well through the years and I still use it quite a bit for rough grinding as I get used to my KMG grinder, but it is limited. The selection of grit size for the belts is very limited (although I think there are places you can order a wider range from, Sears only carries two or three grits), and the switch broke in the on position, so I unplug it when not in use. Sometimes it needs a little help to start rotating, at which point I know it's time to squirt some WD40 on the bearing of the tracking wheel.

I start with the spine, taking off the forge texture and getting the blade down to clean metal. Then I do the same for the other side. As I go, I work it down until the whole side is clean. This takes a while, and leaves big scratches on the blade.

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After both blades were done on both sides, I smoothed them out a bit more using what belts I did have for my KMG.

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This still left a lot of grind marks running perpinicular to the blade. So I started in hand sanding. I use a board for a sanding block and my hands to focus on specific areas.

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I started with 100 grit, then 150, then 220. I'd sand parallel to the blade, then diagonally, then diagonally the other direction, then parallel with the next grit down. As you go, you find little scratches still left from the belt grinder and have to start over again in that area (if not the whole blade) with 100 grit. It takes a while. Looking at them under the light of my apartment, I see some areas I'll need to work again tomorrow.

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Then I buffed the blades lightly. It helps me see where I need to go back and re-sand.

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My poor touchmark is coming apart. These are probably the last two knives I'll stamp with it. Time to see about getting one professionally made. It's lasted me since college and has stamped a good number of blades.
Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

Forged blades: http://www.helmforge.com

Stock removal blades: http://www.helmgrind.com

The Wasteland Crow Project: http://wastelandcrow.blogspot.com

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Re: Day 3

Post by the_klenzer » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:15 am

Storm Crow wrote:I start with the spine, taking off the forge texture and getting the blade down to clean metal.

Booooo! I was thinking that these would look totally badass with the forge texture still on them as neo-tribal style knives. :)
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by cowboyfromhel86 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:51 am

Saw this thread over at the Hoods site thought I was seeing double good work man
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Re: Soldier knives: A build-along thread

Post by JohnE » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:03 pm

If you need an alternative to buying sanding belts other than Sears, McMaster-Carr has several different types and grits in the 2"x42" size listed on their website. They'll also have some to fit your other machine as well.

They're a great company to deal with, they ship very, very quickly.

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