Handground blades vs Machine Ground blades

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Mar 1, 1999
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Why are handground blades better than machine ground blades? I figure the machines would be able to grind the blades more symmetrical than a person can do by hand, with just his eyes.

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Johnny
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For the same reason a handpainted oil painting is better than the paint-by-numbers version of it! There rightfully should be more precision in machine-ground blades, more symmetry, etc. The idea behind a handmade knife, though, isn't so much that the knife is "better" but that it is typically made with more exotic materials, the maker can tweak the design to fit your needs, you know that you are supporting an artisan who has learned a difficult craft, and the knife represents an extension of the ideas, blood, sweat, and tears of the maker himself. Less precision? Probably, but add in the rest of the story, so to speak, and you have something that will never be duplicated by a machine, namely the human "touch". Just my two cents!

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With todays manufacturing technology, it would be a rather simple process to take any hand ground blade and 3 dimensionally "scan" it. Once this is complete a program is computer generated using CAM. At this point the program could be used to control a number if very precision CNC controlled grinders to actually grind the blade. This is commonly done with turbine blades and other High Tech and aerospace parts. In addition to the ultra-precision process, it is all done under a constant bath of coolant. This prevents ANY heating of the blade during manufacturing.
Just about any of the manufacturing magazines will have articles, pictures or advertisments in regard to this or similar processes.
Neil

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Apr 28, 1999
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If one wants a machine ground blade then the answer is go buy a Buck or Case etc. If it is hand made you are after then get a hand made. Mixing the two is like mixing soap suds and beer, looks the same but tastes bad.

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old pete
 

Jim March

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Depending on the steel type, a case can be made that by hand-grinding a maker can control heat-buildup at the grind faces. Steels like Ats34 and many others are "one shot only" heat-treat propositions, and "burning" it at the grinder causes flaws in the final product.

Alan Folts, Ernie Mayer and others are fans of this view.

As a contrary note, the late Bob Engnath by all accounts didn't see it that way...he'd rip out huge amounts of metal at a stroke, sparks *everywhere*. I can think of several possibilities: maybe he "went slow" later in the grinding process and shaved away any "burnt spots", or maybe he had such a steady hand that he did the "pre-burn" so evenly there was no irregularity in the finished product! Or maybe 440C/ATS34 and other high tech steels are more forgiving than conventional wisdom assumes.

Dunno. The "don't burn it at the grinder" theory makes logical sense. Alan Folts I know grinds with bare hands to feel and control temperature, slowing it down if the temps rise.

Jim
 
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Question 1: Who claimed that handground blades were better?

Machines allow blades to be ground identically over and over again with a great precision. This also means any mistakes or misalignments will be repeated many times. take note of the large number of Spydie Militaries that are "dogeared" - their grinds run up the sides of the blade at slightly different angles so they have noticeably diverged at the top (and pease also note that Spyderco is aware of this and pays great attention to aligning the machinery now).

Machine grinding also may not be capable of more complex grinds. I know that the false edge on the Starmate, for example, was a matter of some consternation due to the difficulty of machine grinding it.

Hand grinding is more flexible, but, of course, more variable piece-to-piece except when done by the most skilled hands. Does this matter? If a knife has clean, symmetrical grinds, who cares if it precisely matches its fellows of the same "model?" I enjoy the knife-to-knife variability of something like a Blackjack, for example.

This is all a moot point, however. Grinding machines are large, expensive, and costly to operate and maintain. They are simply not an option for 99.9% of "handmade" knifemakers. they are not even feasible for many "production" knife companies. And finally, they are hard-pressed to handle the newest high-performance steels (go ask Sal on the Spydie forum about the joy of machine-grinding 440V), so perhaps we will not see their use in the future?

-Drew
 

Scarman

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Instead of hand grinding, how about hand finishing? Putting the finishing touches, smoothing out the rough edges, etc....
Look at the Sebenza for example. I double dog dare you to find a better example of production quality with a human touch.

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The bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he would.

*Lewis S. Chafer

2 Tim 3:16

[This message has been edited by Scarman (edited 18 November 1999).]
 
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What about a cross between the two methods?

Like a grinding jig. Everything is setup and controlled by hand, but it's also aligned by the jig.

Would this be considered hand made or machine made?

What would be the difference between using a jig and using a rest? The rest gives you more control. (Like rolling the blade into a disk type grinder/sander).

The last knife I made (a custom 7" blade, flat ground) was done freehand. The next one I did was using a jig I set up. I had much more control with the jig.

I guess I lack the skill to grind freehand proficiently.

 
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Kevin 'Mad Dog' McClung tried this. He bought a CNC machine, and tried to have it partially grind the blade, then hand finishing it. It did not work.

As a side note, the pATAK I have is one of the few knives that made it up to spec., and were sold. There were about 200 of them. You can tell them by the two holes in the tang, needed to align the billet for the CNC machine. These are large holes, about 3" or so apart, not the infamous notches on the end of the tang.

Of course, you need to x-ray your knife to determine if there are two holes, but everyone does that now, don't they?
wink.gif


Walt
 
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Many good points. When I said hand ground blades were "better" I meant, more sought after, seen in a higher light. Which brings me to my second point; Sebenzas are hand ground and this is seen as a good thing. But if a machine could grind the blades perfectly every time, with perfect symetry, which would you rather have? I'd take the machine ground blade.

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Johnny
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I would take the hand ground one. My two favorite makers are the late, great Madpoet, and Sean Perkins (who is introducing a noteworthy new line, I might add. You'll see a review ehen I get mine in a week!). Both maker uses freehand grinding with no jigs, blade blanks, etc. I can point out irregularities on all my examples, but I LIKE THAT! Call me crazy, but I really like to see the human touch in knifework. I have a bunch of khukuris and they are all imperfect. I saw a Cold Steel one that was machine ground (or at least more precision ground) and it didn't have any impact on me. Nice knife, but no attitude. I like knives for their usefullness, but also because of their story, their history, who made them, what went into it, etc etc. An error here and there doesn't bother me in the least. I'd much rather take a small blip that breaks the knife's monotony up over the sterility of machine ground blades. That's just my own quirk, though. I appreciate the artisanship as much, if not more, than the finished product. The process AND the product make the knife.
For example, I have what I found out was a first run (one of 200 or so) Spyderco Calypso. The last two inches of blade has a big warp right in the end, but there was no effect on the cutting ability and you have to look at it right to see it. Sal Glessar offered to take it and exchange it, but when I got the story behind it there's no way I'd take a "perfect" one! I felt lucky to have one of 200 blades, all of which ended up warped, from the first run. I got a great knife PLUS a good story to go along with it!

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I'll take one of Mike Irie's hand ground blades over anybody's machine ground. And to think that you can get a fully finished, polished, heat-treated and sharpened BG42 blade for an elk knife for $50.00 (45.00, if you're satisfied with mere ATS-34). If I only had more time, I guess I just have to get the finished knife with stag slab grips (before his prices go up).
 

Cougar Allen

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Aughhhhhhhhhhhhh! Not the grinding jig controversy -- NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Search the Shop Talk forum for "jig" ... but put on your asbestos underwear first, and alert the fire department to stand by....

Some knifemakers believe using a jig means your work will go faster and be more precise. Others believe using a jig means selling your soul to (ECHO EFFECT)Satannnnnnnnnnn! There doesn't seem to be any middle ground....

Two holes in the tang, Walt??? (ENORMOUS EVIL GRIN)

I wonder what that could mean ... excuse me; I'm going to go talk to the Cistern for a bit....

I'll post any revelations that are vouchsafed to me in one of the other threads -- that issue is spread out over too many threads already, IMHO; let's try to keep it out of this one.

-Wholly Brother Cougar, Speaker to the Cistern :{)


[This message has been edited by Cougar Allen (edited 19 November 1999).]
 
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Sorry for the "Jig" question.

I'll run and hide now.

PS... is it me, or has that MadDog thing got everyone uptight?

Sorry again.

Run away, flee!!!!
 

Allen Blade

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Hello,

I guess for myself Free hand grinding is the way to go, It gives me Soul authorship over the Grinding manipulations Needed to Create A symetrical
Ground Blade by Eye.

Repeatability of the Free ground Blade
over a series Run is the same as the First blade ground in the series, it takes Technique and Repeatability linked from the Mind to the HAND.

I kind of think of Free hand Grinding as a Martial Art in the way you Learn the two. Learn basic Manipulations that produce the results you want to achive on any given Design, ie... Swept lines, round Radius grinds, taper. Ect.. and with these basics
any Grind is a Repeatable process.

Speaking just for myself as a Maker and Grinder, I would Put my FREE HAND grinding
up against any machine made today that has been tooled up by the most Fantastic Programmer on the Planet for any Type of grind he wants to program . I bet i could out Grind it for Symetrics and proper Cross section for the grind type. I think any maker who does Free hand Grinding if he has learned his BASICS can achive the same results. Maybe not as Fast as a JIG or a MACHINE. But then again in my opinion there is a Certain Loss of Something I just
havent Figured out yet in a Machine or Jig ground Blade.

I also Think Historically Hand Ground Blades Installed a Sence of Confidence in the Buyer.

Although as we all know there is alot more to Consider in the final blade other than if it was machine ground or not.

Proper Heat treat, Grind style and all other aspects make up a performance blade.

anyway my .02

Allen Blade
 
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