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Complete Novice

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by iL Professore, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Hi all,

    This is a combination of a first post, introduction and question.

    So I have the desire to learn how to make a sword. I have no knowledge and limited facilities.

    To begin, I have a council bungalow. I specifically say council, as it means I have no personal garden. I can't even have a shed. At the same time, I have very limited storage inside (till I board out my loft) and limited funds.

    So, just to see if I have the determination to shape a blade, I have just ordered a metre length of mild steel. And yes, I know I cannot harden that. It is purely a cheap piece of practice steel.

    So, if, with the aid of an angle grinder and a workmate I can some kind of shape, I will then start with the aim of making a functional blade.

    So I guess I will have to use a processing company to harden the blade.

    For the handle, I aim to 3D print the components and then make a coffee can furnace and cast aluminium components from the models.

    Does this sound doable?

    I guess if our ancestors made them thousands of years ago, I should be able to do it in a bungalow.
  2. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Any advice and help would be gratefully received.
  3. Hesparus


    Oct 31, 2004
    1) Does it sound doable? Not really, unless you've got some technical skills that you didn't mention, or if you're willing to accept a product of lower quality. The typical advice for people who want to make swords is first to make 100 knives. Most people's first few knives are pretty bad, and swords are much more difficult than knives. You are talking about doing one prototype, and then your final version. That is not a good recipe for success.
    2) If you want a functional sword (and you say that you do), aluminum fittings will probably not be suitable. There may be exceptions for certain types of swords.
    3) Your plan sounds unwise. It seems like you are planning on doing this...in your living room? Making knives (or swords) produces a lot of steel dust that is very bad for your lungs, and can linger in the air for hours. A gas furnace for casting your parts will create gasses that are poisonous and suffocating (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide at the very least). You will either need outdoor space, or a dedicated indoor space with excellent ventilation that is sealed off from your living space. A garage is good if you work with the bay door open. Wear a p100 respirator and eye protection at minimum at all times when you are in your work space. I can't stress this enough. Knifemakers have died because of inadequate safety precautions.

    I think you will find this is harder than you expect, but I won't try and talk you out of it. Be safe, have fun, and show us your progress. You will also get good feedback (mostly the same as what I just gave you) if you post your question in shoptalk (http://www.bladeforums.com/index.php?forums/shop-talk-bladesmith-questions-and-answers.741/).


    ETA: My recommendation is that the most important thing you could do right now is learn. You admit that you have no knowledge, but there is no reason to jump in before you get some. There is a huge volume of information available for free on the internet (youtube, this forum, other forums), and a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. There is a sticky post at the top of the page on shop talk that contains a wealth of information for new knifemakers. Start there.
  4. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    OK, I did miss some details out, sorry.

    Also I did assume that basic knowledge would be accepted. Please do not worry, I am not going to build a forge in my living room. I meant merely to accent the minimal equipment I have. So, if I may, my basic Cv. Although I cannot really weld, I designed built and marketed my own brand of robotic welding equipment. By trade I am an electronic and mechanical engineer. As far as prepping pipe faces for weld testing, we had to be very precise, for a typical v weld, we had inclusive 60 degree angles with a 1.5 to 2mm open root faces.

    However, that was back when I was working. And I had my own factory with all the tools, from lathes, milling machines to induction heating coils.

    So, I know the theory, I have pretty reasonable angle grinding skills. I have even built the circuit for a 2" diameter induction heating coil. Made out of brake pipe and a windscreen washer motor to water cool the coil....

    I am just interested in seeing what I can create on a very limited budget, based in a bungalow with no shed. Any equipment or tooling has to be able to be dismantled when it is finished with, and also anything else has to be stored in my Hall cupboard.

    So the plan and the reasons are as follows.

    First, see if I have the patience. This means trying to sculpt a shape from a mild steel blank. Tools available are a workmate and a 5" grinder with cutting and grinding discs and some flap wheels.

    I will also include a regular tang shape, designed to lock into rebates in the handle assembly.

    I will degin and print all the handle components including flow paths. I have heard that it is possible to recycle cans and cast them at home (outside). Just to see if the video works....

    If that works, then I have the blanks, templates etc for the first blade. Therefore by learning from the mild steel version, I can repeat it. But substitute EN43 or whatever is recommended and then send it for heat treatment and a final polish and assembly.

    It is just to see what is possible with minimal available equipment.

    Is this a bit more useful as far as abilities and reasoning? Hope it helps :D
  5. BitingSarcasm


    Feb 25, 2014
    I like to grind away on metal and make it into something that more closely fits the picture in my head. Basically I "make" longer blades into shorter ones through stock removal, like making a Langsax out of a Paul Chen Zatoichi sword. It's a hobby, and a fun one. But I totally agree with Hesparus that it is important to do the research first, particularly on safety in relation to airborne particulates. You already know about grinders and how they WANT to hurt you, but when you start talking about casting that's a whole new level of danger. It's not just the heat, it's the impurities in your metal burning off and subjecting you to God-knows-what. Do your aluminum cans have a BPA lining? Is there any noxious heavy metal in the paint or mixed with the alloy? Just because you can put food in it doesn't mean it's safe to smelt. Research is your friend.

    In your position, I would get a big machete and cut away what doesn't look right to you; Cold Steel probably makes the biggest. Cut off the handle scales, and make your own from metal that you know to be pure of nasty contaminants. Aluminum is not a popular handle material compared to wood, but do what makes you happy. Just do it in a way that keeps your lungs pink and healthy.
  6. Mecha

    Mecha Madscienceforge.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Where do you live if I may ask? I've never heard of a "council bungalow."

    Angle grinder? Hell, that ain't minimal. Do it with a pile of files and a filing jig. This will eliminate noise and fine dust, and guar-an-teed the final blade shape will be better. You can probably skip the practice bar and just go straight to the real thing that way, as well. What kind of sword are ya thinkin'?
  7. kevin (theprofessor)

    kevin (theprofessor) KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 12, 2009
    Hello from another Professor. I am a Psychologist, but I grew up on a farm, so I know how to do manual labor and hand tool work.

    So, rough the shape in with an angle grinder with cutting wheels.
    Then rough the bevels in with grinding wheels.
    Then, refine everything with the fastest and biggest cutting file you can get. Buy it online, from McMaster-Carr. In fact, buy one HUGE (14") of the coarsest file they have. Then buy a 10" single cut SMOOTH cut file.

    Files bought from McMaster are about twice as thick as the "same," file bought from a hardware store. You get a professional grade product shopping through them, and the difference is tremendous. DON'T EVER BUY FILES FROM BOX STORES OR WALMART. They are inferior.

    After you have filed it to shape in the normal way. Draw file it with the big file. Then draw file it with the smooth cut file to remove the big scratches.

    After that, buy a lot of RhynoWet Redline Abrasive Paper. Online. 180 grit, 400 grit, 600, 800... and you are done.

    Unless... you want a hamon. If that is the case, it will take a ton of explanation.

    go here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPGxD_KKEb48mqhcjzPc3PA/videos
    This guy does more with an angle grinder than anyone I have ever seen. Watch him and learn...

    Last thing. Get a respirator, and make a board to clamp your work to, and then clamp the board to a table or bench (workmate?).

    Ok, if you had a forge and some files and an angle grinder, you would be totally set to make swords. Having no forge, you will need to buy stock that is as close as possible to the final thickness. I would buy 1/4" or 3/8". Even the thickest part of most swords (e.g., European or Chinese, which are what I know best, is not much thicker than .24-.27"). So, if you are making a dao or a saber or a jian, that is what you need.

    Where are you? If, by some strange chance, you ever happen to be in Connecticut, let me know. I will teach you.

  8. kevin (theprofessor)

    kevin (theprofessor) KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 12, 2009
    ok, a little more.
    DON'T cast aluminum. It sucks for sword furniture. just cold work brass or bronze or mild steel. Get a small thing to work as an anvil. Heat the brass until it glows just a tad. Dunk it in the water. It is now annealed. Go and hammer it for awhile (maybe a minute or two depending upon how you hammer). When it gets hard again, anneal it. Forge the bar or sheet into the shape you want the guard or pommel to be. Also, get some Easy grade of High Temp Silver Solder and some white past brazing flux. you can just assemble pieces and build them up from scratch. I think I use dynaflow brazing rods with this flux, as well. Brazing is even easier than soldering. Get a MAAP gas torch in a bottle. Don't get propane. The MAAP will be hotter, and will work for you to anneal and solder/braze. One tube of these will last you DECADES.

    You should also buy some Safety Pickle from Sparex. Use this to clean your metal after you silver-solder or braze. It will eat the fire scale off and make cleanup easier.

    Final shaping and the first part of polishing is done with files.

    Buy needle files. Get a cheap set or two from McMaster. I HAVE A FILE ADDICTION. You will NEED one set. It would be nice to have 2, a relatively coarse set and another of much finer cut. NOT the FINEST, but maybe one or two steps finer than Medium cut.

    So, build fittings by making component pieces and then assembling using brazing. Use bronze or brass or steel, and that will be traditional and durable. Cold forge when possible, fist. Saw to shape with jeweler's saw and hacksaw. File to final shape. File some more to refine lines and finish. Use abrasive paper backed by hard things (I wrap it around files, and control the way it works by wrapping more or fewer layers at any one time). Softer backing rounds and smooths, harder backing cuts faster. Also, get some round and half-round files.

    There, now you just need to get files and practice. The most used tool of the bladesmith.
  9. gadunz


    Dec 4, 2012
    Good luck bladesmithing without a forge
  10. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Thank you all so much for your help and advice. I really appreciate it.

    I am considering trying to replicate something like an 18th century back sword.

    As far as forging, i may have a play and build a hairdryer based plant pot forge. I know i cannot afford an anvil, but could get an ASO from fleabay.

    And, yes British, i do have an s10 respirator with a broad range of cartridges.
  11. gadunz


    Dec 4, 2012
    What's an ASO?
  12. Mecha

    Mecha Madscienceforge.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Anvil-shaped object, I'm guessin'.
  13. gadunz


    Dec 4, 2012
    Piece of rail iron on a log round.
  14. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    And yes, i was referring to an anvil shaped object :D
  15. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Well, the first bit of steel should be here any time between tomorrow morning and Monday evening.....

    I am hoping to get a bit of a curve in the blank. I have printed a simple jig so I can mark the guide lines. I will run my dremmel over it so I can be prepared to begin the rough shaping process.

    I have seen a really nice drawing of a late 18th century cavalry backsword that seems to be a basic shape, and not particularly difficult profile shape.

    The grip/handle and guard are a little more complex, hence the idea of trying my hand at aluminium casting. Plant-Pot furnace, with a hair-dryer.

    I will take photos, and see how well it goes. I have no money, but I do have time, and I think this process will get the grey matter functioning again.

    I just hope my first attempt is not too embarrassing :D
  16. Mecha

    Mecha Madscienceforge.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Lookin' forward to seeing it!
  17. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Thank you;)

    Just hope it is worth seeing.... I just have to remind myself, take time,do not rush.
  18. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Can someone tell me how to post images?
  19. JJHollowman


    Jul 16, 2016
    you have to upload them to a hosting site, like photobucket, and then use the address they give you "for forums". You don't need the whole thing, just copy/paste the part that goes from the two bracketed "img" in capital letters and including them. Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
    iL Professore likes this.
  20. iL Professore

    iL Professore

    Apr 19, 2017
    Final question before i start.

    I have read many reports where the point of the sword should be central to the tang. So, the question is, if i am making a single edged backsword sword with the point in line with the back of the sword, do i have to angle the tang or curve the blade so that the centre of the tang is in line with an off centre point?

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