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Thread: How do I get into sword forging?

  1. #1
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    How do I get into sword forging?


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    I recently started blacksmithing, and one of my childhood dreams was to make swords, so I figured I'd try my hand at making swords. My main issue is that my current coal forge is too small, and I'm working on a propane forge. So my main question is how do I really get started making a sword?

  2. #2
    I would recommend start by learning how to make good knives. The Complete Bladesmith by Jim Hrisoulas might be a good primer. Making good knives would be in line with a small coal forge. You can learn a lot about moving metal around and heat treating on smaller blades that will serve you well as you work your way up to larger one. You also need to figure out what sort of swords you want to make and if you really want to forge it or stock remove it etc. Creating a katana is a different setup and skill set then the ones used for creating European style swords.

  3. #3
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    You certainly can forge a sword in a standard coal forge-you really don't want long heats during the forging process or the thing will flop/corkscrew all over the place.
    Hardening one is an entirely different matter.
    I made my first four or five swords (possibly more, it was twenty years ago) in a coal forge.
    Find me not among gentle folk-for I traffic in the bright and dreadful geometries of mayhem...
    See me at BLADE show 2016, table 8DD
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  4. #4
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    I just started forging a Katana tonight. The tang is a bit different than an average katana's. It's also on the short side with the blade coming in at 21" long. It's not done in any traditional sense, I had a piece of steel, a friend wants a katana, I get to work. I would call it a Katana Shaped Object. Here is an image.

  5. #5
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    I suppose by making neophyte boneheaded ignorant mistakes, one learns.....at least that is one way of doing it.

    The curvature is not forged in, as an example...it is induced during the heat treat.

    Good luck!

    Best Regards,

    STeven Garsson
    Victory comes with the sword still in the scabbard
    The Way of the warrior is a dying art

  6. #6
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    I am over in CT, near New Haven. If you want to really learn, come see me. Get a good grinder, if you don't have one. I can teach you how to build a setup in your yard for heat treating, if you have twenty bucks to spend. If you have 400, I can show you how to build a furnace with good temp control (I am building one now). I will even give you a barrel for the furnace body.

    Also, there is a knifemaking gathering at Ashokan NY every year. You should come. It is awesome, and you learn tons. I learn every year, and I have gone for the last 10.

    I am NOT an expert on forging, but I can manage it, and I can make a damn fine sword.

    IMG_3769.JPG

    above is the body of a twist-core jian I am just finishing.

    Fittings, half of all of the work goes into fittings. Plus, over half of the work is fine shaping, and polishing. You will want to come to know all the ways that one can use a file. No more valuable tool for a metal worker, and especially a swordsmith. EVERYTHING gets filed at some point when making swords or traditional guns.

    take care,
    kc
    Last edited by kevin (theprofessor); 11-02-2016 at 07:22 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin (theprofessor) View Post
    I am over in CT, near New Haven. If you want to really learn, come see me. Get a good grinder, if you don't have one. I can teach you how to build a setup in your yard for heat treating, if you have twenty bucks to spend. If you have 400, I can show you how to build a furnace with good temp control (I am building one now). I will even give you a barrel for the furnace body.

    Also, there is a knifemaking gathering at Ashokan NY every year. You should come. It is awesome, and you learn tons. I learn every year, and I have gone for the last 10.

    I am NOT an expert on forging, but I can manage it, and I can make a damn fine sword.

    Attachment 669266

    above is the body of a twist-core jian I am just finishing.

    Fittings, half of all of the work goes into fittings. Plus, over half of the work is fine shaping, and polishing. You will want to come to know all the ways that one can use a file. No more valuable tool for a metal worker, and especially a swordsmith. EVERYTHING gets filed at some point when making swords or traditional guns.

    take care,
    kc
    ^that
    Kevin, if you're ever up my way (northern Vt) drop me a line and swing by the forge, if you like.
    Find me not among gentle folk-for I traffic in the bright and dreadful geometries of mayhem...
    See me at BLADE show 2016, table 8DD
    www.vermontbladesmith.com
    https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=208207042383

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kohai999 View Post
    I suppose by making neophyte boneheaded ignorant mistakes, one learns.....at least that is one way of doing it.

    The curvature is not forged in, as an example...it is induced during the heat treat.

    Good luck!

    Best Regards,

    STeven Garsson
    Oh I didn't know that. It started to take a curve naturally when I put the edge bevel on, so I assumed that was how it's done.

  9. #9
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    Well, now, it depends on how traditionally you are going whether the curve is put in during forging or heat treatment. With my mono-steel quasi-Japanese blades quenched in oil, the blade actually curves toward the edge when I quench. That's the opposite of the traditionally done tamahagane blades quenched in water. I put in more curve than I want and let the oil quench straighten the blade to where I want it.

    But what I do isn't remotely traditional.

    "Piece of steel" is kind of a disconcerting description. What alloy is it? How are you planning on heat treating it?
    James Helm - Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

    Forged blades: www.helmforge.com

    Stock removal blades: www.helmgrind.com


  10. #10
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    That's just it, I don't know what steel it is. It suited my need of length. It also passed a spark test,(I compared how it sparked compared to a rasp). I tried what
    Chandler Dickinson did when he forged a sword.

  11. #11
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    you will have to experiment with hardening. you can go with oil, but beware the flash fire on top. If it doesn't harden in oil, then go with water. The thing is, you will have a hell of a time getting it tempered exactly if you don't know the steel. I have hardness testing chisels to test what I make to know it's scratch hardness, and can relate that to Rockwell C hardness (Matthew Parkinson makes and sells the chisels).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Storm Crow View Post
    Well, now, it depends on how traditionally you are going whether the curve is put in during forging or heat treatment. With my mono-steel quasi-Japanese blades quenched in oil, the blade actually curves toward the edge when I quench. That's the opposite of the traditionally done tamahagane blades quenched in water. I put in more curve than I want and let the oil quench straighten the blade to where I want it.

    But what I do isn't remotely traditional.

    "Piece of steel" is kind of a disconcerting description. What alloy is it? How are you planning on heat treating it?
    This is my experience as well, especially differential hardening.
    If you look at an awful lot of period langseax it suggests it's been happening for a loooooong time
    Find me not among gentle folk-for I traffic in the bright and dreadful geometries of mayhem...
    See me at BLADE show 2016, table 8DD
    www.vermontbladesmith.com
    https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=208207042383

  13. #13
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    So, what is this steel from? Is it something you got at Home Depot? Is it an old Chevy leaf spring? Is it new steel or scrap?

    Don't put a lot of work into a blade that you don't know if you can heat treat it decently. Otherwise you have a good chance of your efforts being wasted. Leaf spring has a good chance of making a good blade (though not guaranteed), a bar of steel off the rack at Home Depot will not.
    James Helm - Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

    Forged blades: www.helmforge.com

    Stock removal blades: www.helmgrind.com


  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Storm Crow View Post
    So, what is this steel from? Is it something you got at Home Depot? Is it an old Chevy leaf spring? Is it new steel or scrap?

    Don't put a lot of work into a blade that you don't know if you can heat treat it decently. Otherwise you have a good chance of your efforts being wasted. Leaf spring has a good chance of making a good blade (though not guaranteed), a bar of steel off the rack at Home Depot will not.
    I found the steel sitting in my backyard, it was long so I thought I'd take a crack at making a sword.

  15. #15
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    Well hell, heat it up, beat the hell out of it until it looks like a sword, and post a pic!

  16. #16
    Practice, start small, study, read, and practice.
    A repeat of history would mostly not be a good thing.

  17. #17
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    I don't know if I'm allowed to recommend these, but Walter Sorrells has some great instructional videos on making Japanese-style blades.

    - Chris

  18. #18
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    Fellas, this Zeke guy gives me hope.

    I remember one time there was some newbie who came in asking all the same tired questions about how to get started into knifemaking. What tools he needed, how much it was gonna cost him, how long it would take to master, when he would finally succeed, and how much he could charge for them, ad nauseum.

    I finally replied something to the effect that the main thing he needed to make a knife (or sword in this case), was a passionate burning desire to make one, that no one could dissuade him from. And that if he had that passion, he'd have already been playing around in the garage with some scrap metal, and coming here for tips on improving the next one. I don't think he ever came back.

    I see that passion in what Zeke has done here. Sure, you've got a long way to go. But at least you're getting out there and doing instead of dreaming.

  19. #19
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    Everyone's first one is going to be crap anyway, right? Zeke saw a piece of metal, shrugged, said "That could be a sword" and got to it. All it cost was his time, and he's sure to learn a lot.

    I'm starting small with stock removal and fixed blades; I read as much as I can, watch knifemakers' videos on Youtube, and accumulate tools as my budget allows, practicing by modding along the way. One day, when I feel properly capable of it, I'll finally realize the long-term dream of crafting the "family sword." It's mostly a matter of differing priorities.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nap View Post
    Everyone's first one is going to be crap anyway, right? Zeke saw a piece of metal, shrugged, said "That could be a sword" and got to it. All it cost was his time, and he's sure to learn a lot.

    I'm starting small with stock removal and fixed blades; I read as much as I can, watch knifemakers' videos on Youtube, and accumulate tools as my budget allows, practicing by modding along the way. One day, when I feel properly capable of it, I'll finally realize the long-term dream of crafting the "family sword." It's mostly a matter of differing priorities.
    Damn right, Nap. Keep at it, you too, ZekeTheGameFreak.

    My first attempt to forge a ti sword blade didn't look much different than Zeke's:




    My last sword before it was quite finished:




    You'll improve quickly! It certainly didn't hurt that I was gifted some very good and illuminating advice from a few others who have already mastered making their sword styles.

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