About A. Davis metalworx

I am a Bladesmith and I construct knives as well as teach and instruct students of all ages in the craft of metalworking.

Class Openings!

Hey everyone,  I have been doing some one-on-one instruction (kind of like an apprenticeship) with a few students in the local area.  I would like to extend the offer to anyone who would be interested in learning any specifics about blacksmithing, bladesmithing, copperworking, bronze casting, woodworking, or lathe tooling.  I offer two different hourly rates, one rate for instruction time,  one rate to just rent the materials, and tools in the studio.  

With my classes you get:

-my undevided attention to help you design and build any project you want to complete.

-All materials needed to complete your project including steel, bronze, brass, copper, wood, iron, coal, electricity, etc.

-All tools and equipment needed to complete the project including grinders, forges, hand tools, engravers, casting equipment, powerhammers, etc.

 

If you are interested in setting up some one-on-one instruction, I would be happy to have you join me in the shop!

adavismetalworx@gmail.com

765-465-8469

Thanks!

-Andy

A. Davis metalworx

A HUGE Thanks

It’s been  while since I’ve updated my blog, but I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has been a return visitor!  I will certainly be posting some more on here.  I tend to ebb and tide,  but I will do my best!

Currently I am working part time making custom knives and swords, part time making utility knives for custom knife stores, and part time teaching people the craft.  I am working 60+ hours a week, so needless to say, wordpress is near the bottom of my list of to-do’s.  

A few additions to the shop since i last posted are:  6 new returning students all requesting one-on-one instruction. A new Beaumont Metalworks KMG grinder, a new Norman Coote Belt grinder, A new gas forge powered by a Diablo Chile forge burner, 3/4 of the way done with a hydraulic press, and a new leatherworking space.  Needless to say, the shop is constantly growing and transforming into a functioning studio.

A new addition to the shop has also been the people.  Since graduating from Ball State in May 2012 I have been in the shop 30-50 hours a week.  However not alone!  I have had the amazing opportunity to work besides Vic Eichhorn (Porfessional copperworker and ornamental ironworker.  He has a long history of 15+ years of work while traversing the U.S.).  I have also had the opportunity to work with Tracy Davidson (Jeweler, welder, and inspiring individual.)  As well as Nathan Brandt (A young artist who works in copper, steel, and wood in a rustic and eclectic aesthetic.).  All of these artists have been an amazing distraction of my everyday knifemaking.  They have been a fantastic inspiration for my work, and have pushed me to work harder on my craftsmanship.

I will certainly keep everyone up to date on any new adventure ahead of me.  Currently I am finishing up a website and will have that online within the month!

Thanks!

-Andy

A. Davis Metalworx.

Upcoming Class Dates

In a couple weeks I will be releasing the first class dates for beginning blacksmithing.  Please check back often to view more classes and tips on this page.

Classes soon to be offered include:

-Basic blacksmithing,  learning everything starting with the basics.  If you have no prior experience with a forge, this class is a great basis to continue onto more advanced classes.

-Forging a primitive blacksmith knife.  This class will teach the basics of knifemaking starting with choice of steel, tools, forging , heat treating, tempering, and filing.  This course is for people who have experience with blacksmithing, but no experience with sharp objects.

-Basic Copperworking.  This class will cover the basic techniques and beginning to understand the material.  This class is a great introduction class to further develop your metalworking knowledge.  You will walk home with a copper rose at the end of the class.

-Basic Welding.  This class will briefly discuss the types of welders and safety precautions, but will then focus on MIG welding which has become the most common form of welding.

-intermediate welding.  This class will focus on using your MIG (wire) welding skills to create a 3 dimensional form using welding, a forge, and compressed air.  This class is designed to teach students how to properly weld air tight seals in metal, and how to properly use equipment.

-Forge welding.  This class focusses primarily on forge welding pattern welded steel.  This is a MUCH more advanced class and will require quite a bit of knowledge and instruction on equipment use.  Each student will receive a portion of steel that is suitable to forge a knife.  In this class students will be using a 30 ton hydraulic press, powerhammer, welding flux, and other dangerous materials.   Please be advised that this class is designed for advanced level blacksmiths and bladesmiths.

-Mokume Gane.  This class will focus of fusing copper and brass and traditional patterning techniques.  This class takes alot of patience, and with a 50% success rate, it is not for the slight of heart.   This class will teach the basics fo fusing the two materials, and allow for further discussion on advanced techniques.

 

I will post class dates as soon as they become available.  Thanks!

Andy

A.DavisMetalworx

 

Reader Email Response #1 Forge welding, Clay heat treating, and Sheath making.

“I am a beginning blacksmith and cant cant help but admire your work as well as how you got started. I’m having trouble with a few aspects but don’t know anyone who might have the answers and I was hoping you could help me out. I cant get the layered steel fuse together when making patterned blades. Do you have to heat the steel to the point where sparks fly off and the edges start to melt? Also I think one of the best things you do are the sheaths. How do you make it out of one solid piece of wood or is it two halves glued? One thing Ive learned is many blacksmiths have their own trade secrets but if there are any hints or tips you could offer I would greatly appreciate them. I am still working out of a deep well break drum with coal but hope to upgrade soon. I’m hoping to try some clay tempering some knives soon. Any advice?”
Many smiths have tricks of the trade and secrets they aren’t willing to share,  however David and I have always taken on the approach that we want to share everything we can about this craft.  We’re all craftsman and our work can never be duplicated by another.   So it only seems fit to help further the rest of the community in any way possible.
Pattern welding is an extremely difficult process that took us years to get right.  There are many different factors that play into a sturdy forge weld.
1. Cleanliness of metal.  all surfaces of the metal you are using have to be ground clear of scale and other impurities.  the surfaces that come in contact should be as clean of EVERYTHING. Sometimes even a little bit of rust(oxidation) can cause your welds to fail.   Make sure you clean them well.  we usually clean them with an 80 grit belt on the belt sander making sure to get all discoloration and scale off.
2.  make sure you use flux.   We use borax (20 Mule Team Brand). It is sold as washer detergent.  However it is extremely effective when it comes to forge welding.  The purpose of flux is to coat the billet in a layer of glass sealing it from the oxygen that would get to it.   Oxygen creates oxidation(scale).   Oxidation is the primary contaminate of welds.
3.  Heat.   if you are burning the steel it is too hot.   most forge welds are made when the steel is a lemonade yellow color.   There really isn’t an exact temperature for forge welding. It just depends on what steel you are using.  We use 1080 and L6 and sometimes 15N20 all three of these steels weld at a light yellow heat.
4.  Pressure (hammering).   We use a hydraulic press at our shop to forge weld.   This gives us a even pressure that will not split the layers apart.  One thing with hammering is that you have to hammer hard enough to fuse the entire stack at once.  but not too hard to shear the layers with the shock.   So an even concise tapping is all you need to forge weld.
5.  soak. (Optional)   Once your sure the billet has welded (beat it on the anvil to make sure no welds rattle,  also while it’s hot,  set it on a cold surface and see if the billet cools evenly.)  then leave the billet in the forge and hold it at a yellow heat for a couple minutes.  Some people say up to two hours,  some say 3 minutes is enough time.  What you are doing is allowing the carbon molecules to drift from layer to layer which will make the bonds stronger between the layers.   At these heats the carbon can jump from atom to atom and squeeze into the cracks between the sheets of steel. This is optional due to the fact that there isn’t much going on in this process. If you made good forge welds you might not need to do this process.  This isn’t something that is practiced very often in the blade making community.  There is no actual visible evidence that anything occurs during this phase.
6.  Don’t hammer too hard in one area.   The layers could still come apart even after you’ve forged a blade if your too rough with them.   Forge slowly and make sure your not forging below an orange heat.   DO NOT forge at a red heat.  this will cause too much stress in the steel and you could break the welds.
I think thats about it.   Theres alot of scientific research about this stuff,  but there are few who actually care enough to use it.   I would just tell you since your starting out to give it a go,  and just be careful to make sure you don’t get TOO far off track.
as for sheaths.  what we normally do is have one of our friends, who owns a bandsaw, rip a board in half for us.   then we plane the sawn surface down and rematch the wood grain.   We then carve out a channel the size of the lade on either side,  then glue together and shape.   It’s pretty simple and works great.  just be sure to leave a little extra room on the inside.   and also be sure to not get glue on the inside of the sheath.  hard glue blobs are very difficult to remove on a 40″ sheath.  We usually include a leather spacer that is glued and tacked onto the mouth of the sheath.   this will protect the blade from being scratched on it’s way into the sheath.
Clay heat treating knives is more luck than talent for the beginner.   I would say steer clear of water quenching for now.   Theres a good chance the blade will break.   I would suggest Canola oil or something thinner.  If you have a lowes or rural king near by,  go there and pick up a bottle of “fireplace mortar”  or “fireplace repair sealer”  It should be a 6-8oz tub of thick black goop,   it is a mixture of high heat clay, fire brick, binder, and sand.   It’s pretty much exactly what you want.
Just experiment with the steels you have.   some steels work,  some don’t.   you just have to start experimenting. If you want more information on that,  you might want to check other online articles about clay heat treating. I’m by no means an expert,  but there are many who ARE experts that have alot of good resources online.

Engravings

A common question we get when people first see our work is “how do you do the engravings on your blades?” and to many people’s disappointment,  no, we do not carve them in with our fingernails like traditional dwarven smiths.  Sorry to disappoint you.  

There are a couple different ways that are extremely easy that almost EVERYONE can do to make engravings like ours. 

First process is using a Dremel Tool.   Dremel Brand tools are AMAZING.  our shop would not function without them.  A dremel tool has replaceable bits and different attachments that do very different things.  Most of the time we use the regular “cut off” disks.  They are an inch in diameter and are usually 1/64th of an inch thick,   They are very good for making straight lines (ex. dwarven runes).  Another tool is a Carbide Engraver.  Carbide is made to grind steel,  and this tool is VERY tricky to get the hang of,  but once you do,  it has the freedom of a pencil when you are engraving.

Another method is using Ferric Chloride.   An effective acid against steel.  Ferric Chloride sounds scary and toxic,  but it actually is quite harmless to human beings and can be disposed of and kept in plastic containers.  This method requires the use of painting the blade with enamel paint.   Then scratching away what you want to be etched.   then applying the acid and letting it soak in for several hours.  Once your done,  use acetone to remove the paint and your design should be cut in fairly deeply.   DO NOT leave the acid on for more than two hours.   It will get TOO aggressive and end up eating right through the paint.

Another method is using electrolysis.   Sounds scary,  but it really is pretty neat once you get the hang of it.  it involves building an electro inverter and running an electric current through the knife and using saltwater to electrically eat into the steel.  this process takes about 5-10 SECONDS!  I will discuss more on that when i get around to playing with our new etching machine more.

Any Questions?

Sheath Making

For many swords made in factories acrossed the world come with a terribly crafted mass-produced SLO (Sheath Like Object).  Usually it is a stacked leather sheath that does no more good than protect the blade during shipping.   However when we look back into history we see MANY varieties of sheaths that were constructed throughout the age of the sword.  The basic materials used to construct sheaths are wood, leather, gold, silver, steel, nickel, and bronze.  The process I am most familiar with is wooden sheath construction. 

Wooden sheath construction can be done is several different methods,  however I will discuss one in particular that we tend to use most often.

Select a board of wood that will have an appropriate dimension for the sheath you wish to make.  You may want to get a board that is 1/16th of an inch over the size you actually need.   When selecting a board you want to make sure it will be wide enough, long enough, and most importantly thick enough.   The thickness you want should be roughly the thickness of the guard of the sword.   Most often this thickness will be between 5/16th and 3/4s of an inch.  Once you have picked out the proper board,  trace the blade shape on the face of the board,  then find a chunk of wood or metal that is 3/8th of an inch wide,  with the edge of the block against the blade profile, hold a pencil on the opposite side of the 3/8th block and move the pencil and block around the perimeter of the profile drawn.  Once you have the enlarged blade shape,  cut out the shape.   Once you have the shape you will need to find someone who owns a bandsaw.  With a pencil and a ruler mark exactly half the width all the way down the edge of the board.  Then with the bandsaw,  saw the piece in half so that you have two identical pieces that are now half the thickness of the sheath you need.  Plane the bandsawn surfaces flat and trace the blade profile on the inside of the two sheath pieces.  Hollow this portion out either with a 4 or 2 inch wheel on a belt sander,  or use chisels and remove the material.   Check the blade to make sure it will fit in the sheath by clamping the two halves together and sliding the blade in and out of the sheath.   It is better to make a sheath fit TOO LOSELY than TOO SNUGLY.  Once you have the inside shape you need,  glue everything together with the RED LABEL titebond glue (red is non-acidic). 

Once you have the inside of the sheath made,  all you have to do is shape the outside.   Round out the corners and sand everything down to 220 grit.    Once you have the basic wooden sheath made,  there are an innumerable ways to go from there.   Collars, fittings, chapes, guides, wraps, ect, ect, ect. 

One more thing I would strongly suggest is glueing a small piece of leather over the mouth of the sheath.  letting it dry,  then cutting a slit to slid the blade through.   You will have to file and cut a little of the leather away to make it fit smoothly,  but if done correctly, it will create a water tight seal and hold the blade from rattling around against the mouth of the sheath.

Normally we dont use any pins or rivets when we make sheaths.  Glue, leather and collars usually work well to hold everything securely.

Any Questions?

Easy/Inexpensive Hydraulic press

David and I get a lot of questions about what type of machine we use in a lot of our videos. To some it looks like a horizontal power hammer, to others it just looks like a hydraulic press. In reality, this special, mystical, odd, and sometimes dangerous machine is an ordinary log splitter. We have had our log splitter for 3 years now. It has performed magnificently and has blown away our expectations. It is the cheapest model you can buy, at 22 tons splitting for under 1k, it’s a tough bargain to beat.

While researching and contemplating building a forging press, I began looking up all the parts and accessories I would have to buy in order to build one. i soon had my list, and when I began to compare the parts on a log splitter, i saw the EXACT SAME PARTS. The forging presses people are making these days are derived from the same components used to make a log splitter. However, the one difference is that log splitters are gasoline powered, and MOST forging presses run on electricity. The advantage to the press being gas-powered is that i do not have to run a 220 motor, and I can take my forging press anywhere in the country by just hitching it to the back of my truck.

So what are the disadvantages? First, there is the notion of “you get what you pay for”. and with our $900 log splitter, we have had 3 years of use out of it. It has allowed us to make Damascus and pattern welded blades that we could have NEVER done by hand. So If we got 3 years out of $900, I would gladly pay it every three years for the rest of the shops life. Another disadvantage is the motor. It does run off of gasoline. Meaning, you cannot have it running in an enclosed space for too long. Another disadvantage is it’s size. at 6 feet long, and 4 feet wide, it has a pretty large and awkward footprint in the shop. We have it off in the corner where we wont trip on it, but it still takes up a lot of space. This would be a machine that I would leave outside with a tarp on if i didnt have the room to keep it under a roof. Another disadvantage is that this machine is made to crush logs. Not have steel against steel compression. There is a little bit of sway and the spine of the machine when it reaches 22 ton forging compression. However, in the end product, you’ll never be able to tell. We just rotate the stock every other time we pull it out to forge.

The pro’s are pretty obvious. It’s cheap, Easy, fast, and versatile. for $1000 you can have a hydraulic forging press and 4 different sets of dies. Hard to beat that. If you compare it to a brand new forging press it’s 1/3rd the cost for the same tonnage.

I will draw up some plans and make a bit of a tutorial about how to construct the dies for a log splitter press in a later post.  The dies consist of a 12-16″ section of 6″ Ibeam and some 1/2inch plate to make the dies and wedge die holder.  You will need to have access to a Wire or Stick welder to make these dies.   It will only take about 10 minutes of welding,  but it MUST be welded.

If anyone has any questions please let me know and I will include them in the post.

Thanks,
Andy

Ric Furrer-Door County Forge Works

Ric Furrer has been a long time friend and inspiration for David and I,  he has opened our eyes to the world and possibilities with blade making.  He constantly pushes the boundaries of what we think we know.   He is a master of steel, and is one of several men in the US who has a superior knowledge of traditional and modern steel making techniques. Ric is a great guy who has a passion for knowledge and teaching.   If you ever get the chance, I would strongly suggest taking a class of his.  

Take a look at his site at Door County Forge Works.

Also take a look at his instructional videos that will make your head hurt!

Thanks,

-Andy

MDW

Articles and Tutorials

A fellow bladesmith Jim Hrisoulas has written a set of articles that are extremely well documented,  however difficult to find on his website.   I will repost them in their own links for everyone to view.  

The first few will be some basic forging techniques and projects.

Why do we Forge? is a good description of the reasoning behind why we do what we do.

Forging a railroad spike knife is a good project for people who want to make simple knives out of a railroad spike.

Forge Welding a Cable Billet can be a good beginner forge welding attempt.  It’s much easier to control than working with plate steel.

Now for some more intermediate difficulty links.

Forging Ladder Pattern is a basic tutorial on how to forge weld, and control pattern in a finished product.  remember that pattern welded steel is all trial and error,  you can use this tutorial as a guideline, but there is something to be said for getting out and doing it.

Forging A composite Twist Sword is a method of creating swords and knives that have 1 or more central cores of twisted steel with a wrap of higher layer steel.

Alloy Basics  is a good article explaining the basics of why on earth they call it 1095, 15N20, and O2.

More Advanced Links.

metallurgical explanation to why steel is steel.

Forging a meteorite.  enough said.

Hope you all like the links,   Thanks Jim for spending the time to write them out!

-Andy

MDW

Basic Heat Treating

Many people say “heat the blade up to orange and quench it in oil.”  and while this statement is true,  it’s pretty vague.   “orange-ish heat isn’t very specific, it depends on the light and how your eyes see colour. best thing is to keep testing the blade with a magnet, and when the magnet stops sticking bring it up a little bit hotter and get the heat/colour completely even.  It’s best to soak at temp for a few minutes, but you’re better off quenching immediately than you are trying to soak it and raising the temp too much. quench in canola oil.  Heat your oil first by heating up to orange and quenching a bar of scrap steel.

Red heat is far too hot for tempering, you’ll draw almost all the hardness out that way.  For that blade i’d guess about 475f – 500f would be about right. you should clean the scale off after heat treating, get it back to bright metal, and heat it until it turns a kinda bronze/purple colour.  One way to heat a blade for tempering is to get your coals nice and hot, cut off the airflow,spread your coals out until you have a large enough area to heat the whole blade, and cover them with a couple of inches of ash. lay your cleaned blade on top of the ashes, and carefully watch the oxide colours. once you get it up to the right colour, lift the blade off the ashes but keep it in the heat so you hold the tempering temperature as long as possible.   Another way to temper the blade is to hold the tang with tongs and pass the blade back and forth acrossed a propane or coal flame.  Watch the colors on the blade start to change and make sure you heat as evenly as possible.  This method takes alot of practice and control.  Be careful you do not overheat thin edges or the tip.

There is one process that must be done prior to heat treating and tempering.  normalizing is bringing the blade up to non magnetic, and let it cool to black, and repeat a couple of times. you may have to straighten the blade on the first couple of normalisation – i keep a flat block of wood and a rawhide mallet handy in case it starts to warp. if you do this right before you harden the blade, it will help you get your eye in with regards to the correct colour for quenching.

If this is your first time heat treating I would  recommend that you make a small test blade of the same steel and practice hardening and tempering before you try this blade – it’d be a shame to spoil so much work, and heat treating on a long blade can always go wrong.

check the hardness with a good file after the quench – the file should just slide off the edge – and then after tempering – the file should cut, but not much.

this is a very basic guide – there is plenty more detailed info on this site and others.   This is not the best and most precise way of heat treating.  But it will get you fairly decent results if you are using a basic and simple steel.

If your heat treatment didn’t work you might want to make sure you have high carbon steel,  or that it is made to be quenched in oil.   If your heat treating and tempering is accurate you should be able to bend the blade 45 degrees MINIMUM without it warping. 

If anyone has any questions I can edit this post to include them,  Thanks.

Andy

-MDW-