• The Wait Is Over. From this thread, orders for the 2023 BladeForums Traditional Knife are open & here's your handy order button.
    OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS $200 ea, one per household, must have been a member prior to 3/2023
    User Name

My new SWORD BLADE showed up! Alan Folts custom ground

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Oct 7, 1998
Ohhhh ya.

This is going to be one very interesting finished piece. As is it's a fully ground but unsharpened blade plus square Titanium Tsuba (guard).

It's a "Japanese-oid" critter with a 24.5" dead-straight blade, 5" tang in 1/4" stock ATS34. It has a slight vertical taper; it's 1.5" tall just ahead of the Tsuba tapering to 1.25" at the point where the geometric tip starts, 1.5" behind the tip. Most of the spine is ground to a gentle peak shallower than a true false edge, they meet at 90 degrees and form a "breaking peak" for maximum strength when defending with the spine in Japanese fashion. The main edge grind is an interesting double grind whereby at the tip area it could be described as flat ground but as it comes back, the taper construction becomes clear as the flats grow to 1/4". The Tsuba is hand-fitted to the blade but is otherwise unpolished; I'll round the edges with a Dremel and like the sword, do the initial polish with a "metal eraser", basically rubbing compound impregnated into rubber. My roommate John Bell of "Renegade" infamy turned me onto these things, they're a "poor man's waterstone" and do a fantastic job.

The grinds are clean and smooth, with just enough variation to show it's handmade nature. There are two tiny magnifying-glass-level wavers in the grind that in no way detract from the piece. Given the enormous relative size and the fact that he went dead slow and ground without gloves so as to avoid heating it and causing heat-treat failures later it's a marvel. This "cold grinding" is critical with a high-tech stainless to avoid "wasting" your "one shot" at heat-treating it.

From Alan's shop in North Carolina it went to Ernie Mayer in Arizona for cryo and heat treating with his low-temp-cycle process. The total length of just under 30 inches was chosen to allow it to fit in Ernie's oven, as I knew his biggest piece is his 20" shortsword with a 10" full tang.

It's going to be a bit heavier than a similar size Japanese classical piece. Alan suggested the taper and he was 100% on target; given my somewhat large size and that I'll be running a 15" grip on it, it won't be any sort of problem. It's not a "claymore heft" issue at all, and could reasonably be set up one hand with a basket hilt, not that I'd do that.

It's going to be a *devastating* weapon. One of the first things I did was, believe it or not, throw it over my knee and bend it 10 degrees. Snapped right back to true, did it the other way, no problem. You CANNOT do that with a real Japanese blade, there's no "spring" properties there at all. The upshot is, for a practice blade that can be beat around, that can practice blocks with the spine against a good Bokken (or baseball bat!) and can cut well, this is one way to get a *very* good piece.

Prices: I paid Alan $275 for blade, Tsuba and shipping (to Ernie), I paid Ernie $45 for heat/cryo and shipping to me. There's nothing "proprietary" to me about the blade; if anything Alan had a lot more to do with it's design, this isn't like The Outsider. If anyone wants another, Alan, go for it. Note that these prices are only a bit higher than the late Bob Engnath's 1084 carbon pieces were, and I suspect it'll be a hair tougher. ATS34 might not be as good, but this heat treat is per a lot of people pretty much the ultimate and there's more metal here. NOTE: there's no guarantee Alan will do another at this price, you'll have to talk to him. It may have been more complex than he anticipated but he still honored his quote, that sort of thing happens in the custom world and isn't the result of "unfairness".

One question? Is anybody out there any good at scribing drawings into soft steel (or rather, the Ti Tsuba)? I'd love to have a custom drawing scribed onto the side facing the enemy...a picture of a pair of sheep one holding a Tommy Gun with a cigar stub and an evil grin, the other with a bazooka would be *perfect*.

Jim March
Trust me...it looks NICE!


Mouse Assassins inc.

It WILL look nice. It's OK, but it's unfinished. Good news is, all work from this point out is a "Dremel over the bathtub" proposition" rather than "shop required".

Hey, how many here knew than ATS34 straight out of the heat-treat process is *gold*? Not very even, and flakes off easily or I'd find some way to preserve the tone. Just from gripping the tang to check balance it's turned silver there.

Made for an interesting surprise, I thought it was bronze for a second there.

And yes, pics will be coming when done.

Jim March
Does ATS-34 have the strength required for a sword?

It seems to me it would be a tad brittle, even when heat treated properly, to be a good steel for the rigors of a sword in a reasonable weight and blade profile. But what do I know?

Rob Simonich is making me a sword and I asked him the same thing..in the context of some other stuff this is what he said about it:

" My
old sword was of ATS-34 and I abused that thing to no end with no damage doing
a stress test on it, I threw it a bunch also, had to duck a couple times when
it boomeranged off the target! LOL, anyway, it was a damn tough sword, so I
personally dont discount stainless in swords........"

However, I want mine differentially tempered so we are going with a high carbon tool steel. Besides, I like the smell and bluish tint of carbon steel

Does anyone have any pics of Alans products I would love to see them I am thinking of getting a piece made by him.

Thanks, Lorenzo

Yes! Bluish-tint. As vast as the ocean. As bloody as Moses' prophecy of the Nile. Such a tint on a blade conjures up such awe and fear that a voice starts to shout inside my head; a voice that will not be denied. Masamune!

YES!! Preach it brother! Make that song in our genetic memory sing its praises. The ringing steel of Leuctra, Marathon, Rome; of Saladin, of Subedei, of Musashi and Munenori.

The heart pounding blood heating primordial thrill of cold merciless blue steel.


The engraver I have worked with is Liz Dolbare. She does good work, and the turnaround has been fast. Prices are reasonable as well. Her wesite is at:


OK, on that note (dark metal), how do you darken stainless? 24 hour soak in the wet part of a cat's litterbox? Before anybody thinks I've been reading too much alt.tasteless, that's an actual technique.

Jim March
Test it on other stainless until ya have the timing and technique down ...you can get the blue tint with sulfuric acid...wipe or spritz in a spray bottle. Be very careful...it will burn you.

Play with the concentration and time on.
Hey Jim did you ever post a pic of the sword? If you did I missed it.

O If you did direct me to it and if you haven't What the heck is the holdup

-Greg Johnson

Lorenzo, you can see a prospective product by scrolling down the topics till you find "What do you think? PIC"

It has a picture of a small self-defense fixed blade Mr. Folts is about to start producing. Hope it helps. All I can tell you is that he's been more than generous with me--for merely suggesting a name for the knife I get #3 of 50 for half price. I've never owned a Folts blade, but Jim March and Scott Evans seem impressed and that's good enough for me.