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Best advice Bladesmiths give to Novices

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by american pride, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. american pride

    american pride

    Mar 19, 2017
    Good morning my friends, if you had one good piece of advice you could give to an entry level maker what would it be? Basically what was the biggest mistake new smiths will run into or what was your biggest mistake when you learned..
  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    These are all sort of the same thing:

    Don't be in a hurry - most new makers just get some steel and start making their first knife. Read ALL the stickys before you do anything on making a knife and you will avoid many first knife mistakes.

    Take your time - most first knives are made in a big rush and show it. It takes time to do it right ... and that time will show, too.

    Walk before you run - Make the first several knives by hand with a file and sandpaper. Too many new makers run out and buy a grinder and make a forge when they don't even know how to shape a knife. Lots of equipment does not make a good knife ... good skills make a good knife. Those skills have to be learned slowly.

    Start simple - Start with a simple drop point hunter or similar small to medium size knife. Leave the daggers and bowies, as well as fancy materials, for later when you have developed more skill.
  3. american pride

    american pride

    Mar 19, 2017
    Thank you for posting that is very good advice!
  4. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    Buy once cry once. You don't need the best of anything, but it's vastly easier to learn the trade with proper tools than it is with poor equipment. I understand the budget and expense is a lot to swallow in some cases, but that goes along with Stacy's advice - take your time, you don't need to purchase everything at once, or be able to make every kind of knife under the sun from the get go.

    A proper tool arm 2x72 grinder can be had with variable speed on 120v electricity for <$1000 these days, and is lightyears beyond any 1x30, 1x42, 2x48 grinder out there. You will use it on every knife you make, regardless of the type, size or style. Mastering the skill of grinding will reduce the amount of work you have to do by hand to finish a knife and will translate into other areas or use of other tools like a disc grinder.

    I get the desire to make a knife and to do it now. I think you're better off saving the $200 you might spend on an inferior grinder and using files and a guide to do it, if you have that desire. You will never regret investing in a decent grinder setup, because even if you decide this isn't for you, you'll be able to sell it for close to what you put into it.

    But a lot of the learning process is trial and error, no matter who has instructed you or how much you've read, and the lesser grinders simply throw more variables into that feedback equation that make correcting your mistakes harder to diagnose.

    ETA: To be clear, it isn't about what you spend on a grinder, it's about what you get. Whether it's a kit, home build, or a $3,000 top of the line commercial product: if it uses tool arms, 3/4 wheels, tracks true and steady, runs 72" belts, and has variable speed - then you've got what you need whether it cost $300 or $3,000.
  5. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    2nd piece of advice: Finish every knife you start. Forcing yourself to finish every knife you start will force you to learn how to fix mistakes. It's always easier to start over fresh. Some mistakes maybe you can't fix to the point of the finished product being acceptable, but that's part of what you're trying to learn. Throwing half ground knife blanks into a bin doesn't teach you anything.
  6. knife to a gunfight

    knife to a gunfight

    Oct 17, 2007
    Start simple and pick at least one thing on every knife that you can do better on the next, and plan/act accordingly.

    If you can't find something you would have changed or improved, stick it in a drawer for a week, and then come back to it. There's always something. ;)
  7. tmerkl


    Jan 8, 2007
    Best one on here so far and I still have to catch myself sometimes. DON'T BE IN A HURRY. Yes, it is exciting to see it start coming together, but DO NOT RUSH! At least for me, this is gold.
  8. HSC ///

    HSC /// KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 7, 2012
    don't be in a rush, after 2 years and 80 or so knives I'm still fighting this.

    have a plan, whenever you go about do something, spend more time up front with a plan.
  9. Tom Lewis

    Tom Lewis

    Feb 24, 2000
    Keep a notebook and when something works out well, write down how you did it. Also, if you find a belt, etc. that you really like, write it down.
  10. Tom Lewis

    Tom Lewis

    Feb 24, 2000
    Also, if possible get with an established knifemaker and get a few lessons. It will shorten the learning curve.
    The book, "How to make knives" by Bob Loveless has great information.
  11. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    That's important. As I was experimenting I kinda got into a habit of just walking up to the grinder or saw or whatever in a lot of cases and just seeing what I would come out with. Which is fine and fun to do.

    But a lot of the mistakes I've made on knives that I already knew how to make and were being made to specification, can be attributed to treating them as above and not planning well from the get go.

    Knowing what you want to end up with is important or it will never be done!
  12. erik markman

    erik markman KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 13, 2007
  13. jrrector


    Sep 21, 2015
    Mine comes from my mentor Stephan Fowler ....

    How do I fix that......"Hit it with a hammer"
    How do i straighten on flatten this or that....."You want it flat than hit it flat"

    Basically he is trying to get me to learn by doing and experimenting and then he will offer more tidbits...

    Seriously though the hit it flat comment hit the nail on the head...he made me realize I had a slight uptilt in my tongs that made my piece not sit perfectly flat on the anvil which was buggering up everything...
  14. JGarrison Knives

    JGarrison Knives KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 28, 2005
    Buy a variable speed grinder over a 3 speed.
  15. Josh Rider

    Josh Rider KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 2, 2014
    You didn't order enough abrasives...
  16. Kentucky


    Dec 13, 2008
    Take your time I guess. Ive seen guys the last couple years that have maybe two years under their belt and already own $35K in shop equipment, which is great(and absolutely nothing wrong with it) but at least know how to make a knife before you drop $12K on a self contained hammer. Lots of guys think that spending $2K+ on a grinder will solve their knife making problems or that buying a 120lb anyang will solve their forging problems. It wont, those tools wont do a thing you don't already know how to do. if you cant make a knife without them you cant make one with them either..
  17. Mark Behnke

    Mark Behnke

    Apr 16, 2008
  18. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    Well said, you will NEVER regret variable speed. I started with 3 pulley setup and said "that's plenty"... when I finally built a VSD direct drive grinder, it was daylight 'n dark difference. If money is a concern, then cheap out with the Chinese VFD for $100..... BUT - do go VSD direct drive.

    Ken H>
  19. RedFury

    RedFury KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2015
    Think a lot. Let the little grey cells work away on their own. The subconscious is a wonderful thing.

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