My first forged blade

Oct 3, 1998
As a guy with a desk job, I've always thought of forging as something that bad people do with checks, deeds, ID, etcetera.

Yesterday, Greg Barnes, a local maker who is more ambitious than I am, invited me and The Wife over to his place, to help devour Bambi, and to introduce me to pounding on hot steel with his new forge and treadle hammer. It was an interesting experience, and about half the hammer blows were his, on account of his superior accuracy and endurance.

We started with several inches of steel cable, about an inch in diameter. After much cooking and pounding, we ended up with a bar of cable damascus about 13 inches long. Half the bar remains as a "thing to do." I took the other half over to the grinder and made an eccentric little letter opener, designing it on the grinder. Greg did the heat treat then and there, cooking it in the forge, quenching it in the water bucket, and tempering it in the kitchen toaster oven. I finished it with a 400 grit belt - no hand sanding this time, and etched it with ferric chloride.

My intention was an all-steel letter opener, with a sharp edge for envelopes and a dull edge for prying staples and such, flat on one side to lie flat on the desk, with the point slightly raised. The point ended up raised higher than I had intended, from the heat treat, so I'm trying to come up with a reason why that curved edge is a design feature, and not a bug. Here's what it looks like. Our cat volunteered to be background for some of the scans.
and, in glorious black and white,


Thanks, Greg!


[This message has been edited by James Mattis (edited 11-01-98).]
With that tip, it reminds me of a shorter version of the Bob Engnath sleeve-rig dagger; in that case, the raised tip was to allow re-sheathing into a sleeve sheath with less risk of injury.

In Calif, it'd be illegal as all hell in that mode, but very combat effective, especially if you wrapped the grip in paracord tied off on the hole.

JM (who tends to think "COMBAT" even on a peaceful-use blade designed by the gentlest of us all...)
What? Is this a dagger which I see before me?

It would need cord wrap or some other non-slip grip for anything but light duty use.



Nice work. I think you've found a new way to occupy your "spare" time.

Keep us posted on your new creations.

James, the raised point is obviously there to help with the staple-prying. That way the point can slide under the staple without you bruising your knuckles on the paper.

Its a subtle, yet important detail, obviously the mark of careful design and long research into the uses for which this tool is to be used. :)

It *is* a pretty cool looking little knife. Does it need to be polished before the damascus pattern shows up, or is it just not showing on the scans (or my monitor)?

Sometimes a guy sees something that he really wish he had thought of first in his life. You kill me with the Cat thing....and oh yeah, the knife, er, staple puller is nice too. Saw a forge just yesterday making nails, he is paid by the nails on the floor at the end of the day, BUT in his coals was a KNIFE BLANK! Have fire, have steel, have fun.
A truly fine job on the knife!

I feel that the tip was modified to enable the user enhanced leverage on even the most stubborn of staples!

Leave it to you, James, to design a letter opener of which the entire edge can be brought to bear on the middle of a cutting board. That said, I think the curve is self-explanatory.