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The telltale etch.

Discussion in 'Custom Knife Forum Archive' started by Keith Montgomery, Jan 23, 2002.

  1. Ed Fowler

    Ed Fowler

    Jul 21, 2001
    Jerry: There were folks etching blades for longer than that. The reference to functional balance comes from being able to see the entire spectrum, soft to transition zones to hard. WE have been able to learn much more than a simple soft hard comparison as available from the scale or sanding the surface. From reading the etch, we have a good idea of the structure inside the blade as it is mirrored in the transition zones. I have found what I consider defective blades thanks to the etch that would not have been obvious otherwise. I have also learned more about the steel we use.

    There is nothing new about knives other than the nature of the steel we have available to us now that was not available to bladesmiths in the past. By etching historic blades we can gain some insight into their methods. The etch is a source of immediate feedback to the bladesmith who seeks to get the most out of the steel he uses. The more you learn, the more you can read from the etch. Comparison performance testing must be used in conjuction with the etch to validiate what you see.

    The evidence available to the blade smith at the time of hardening (scale) is long gone when the client views the knife. Etching blades has taught me that reading the scale is not always as accurate as I once thought. Sanding the blade is also a little short of the whole story. There is much more to the nature of the steel than a simple hard soft comparison. I want to know more about my blades and will seek that information any way I can get it.

    I have been etching blades for over 15 years. The etch still provides one of my great pleasures, just like Christmas when I get to read the blade.
  2. R.W.Clark


    Apr 30, 2001
    Ed, would you mind taking a look at one of my clay hardened blades this weekend? If you don't mind, what stage would be the best? I am pretty new to doing my own heat treating and Red is not always around.
  3. Ed Fowler

    Ed Fowler

    Jul 21, 2001
    R.W. I am not real cognisant of clay tempering processes. I would enjoy sharing thoughts with you. E Mail me.
    Take Care
  4. NickWheeler


    Dec 3, 1999
    Who lit the fire-cracker under this one? :)
  5. Jerry Hossom

    Jerry Hossom

    Aug 1, 1999
    Beats me Nick, but the nice thing about knifemaking is that there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to do what they think is needed to make the best possible knife, and still have room for others to do it differently with equal or better results. Etch/don't etch. Bead blast/don't bead blast. Forge/grind. Ford/Chevy. The only thing that matters is that everyone does their best; the customers alone will decide what they prefer and why. He who dies with his name on the most knives wins... :)
  6. NickWheeler


    Dec 3, 1999
    Well put Jerry H. :D

    I am going to go etch and stamp my name into as many Pakistan knives as I can...I want to win ;) (mandatory "knife" related statement ;) ).

  7. fisk

    fisk National Living Treasure & Subject Matter Expert Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 31, 1999
    I agree that reading the scale will only give you basically the height of hardness. I also agree that when delivered the etched blade it will also help retard rust to a small degree better than a polished blade.
    I mentioned stoning a blade instead of sanding. Total difference. I was quite amazed at the difference on what you could see in the steel. There was much more going on that I thought you could have told.
    But I am thick headed so please explain again how functional balance relates to etch. I understand how you can read the zones. But that does not effect functional balance. Unless we are calling functional balance two different things. What I was calling functional balance was the functional balance of the entire knife [balance points etc]. Could you be meaning functional balance as relates to usage relating to the actual cut?
  8. Ed Fowler

    Ed Fowler

    Jul 21, 2001
    Thanks for the question.
    When one judges physical balance he holds the knife and judges what he feels.

    When I consider Functional balance I look for much more. We judge the nature of the steel, through the etch the experienced eye can gain insight to the forging practice. Ed Schemp gave me a knife that he purposefull forged using a drawing die on one side only. The etch revealed a ladder pattern on one side and smooth grain flow on the other.

    Every hammer blow leaves a trail. If each hammer blow is complimentairy to the total knife form I feel you have a better knife.

    The greater insight we can gain, the more comprehensive our understanding. Etch does possibly increase corrosion resistance, more importantly, fine grain structure increases corrosion resistance and structural stability. You can gain insight to the grain structure through reading the etch.

    All things being equal, a coarse grain will be more subject to the Bausinger effect than will a fine grain at the same hardness.

    Is knowledge related to functional balance? I believe so.


    Jan 7, 2002
    Mr Clark

    There does seem to be a trend of quick and dirty production. This is truely sad. There is a VERY popular company that produces production handmades. They grind, heat treat, bead blast, and paracord wrap the handles. This company is praised for producing "some of the best knives out there". I just don't get it. But they seem to get it, the big bucks that is.

    This seems to be a comment in poor taste from someone who doesn't understand the difference between a wall hanger and a tool designed to serv an operator in the field. If this honestly is not a jab at Strider then I withdraw. If it is, walk or run a few miles in the boots of the Men who field them before you render another judgement!
  10. Keith Montgomery

    Keith Montgomery

    May 9, 2000
    Geez Ron, it looks like you've got some people pretty pissed at you. Hopefully we can keep this thread on topic. A flame war won't serve any good purpose.
  11. R.W.Clark


    Apr 30, 2001
    Seems funny that everyone is so pissed when I was only responding to a similar comment made by someone else in this thread. So a knife has to be ugly to be functional. Thats just silly. RMKs have been highly sought after combat pieces for years, and they are not cord wrapped pry bars.

    Why should I, as a knifemaker, not be allowed to voice my thoughts? I am a knife buyer just like everyone else! All you Strider fans put away your flame throwers, IT WAS NOT ABOUT STRIDER! Thats twice now I have said that.

    In the end GET OVER IT AND GET BACK ON TOPIC! If you want to trade blows start a new thread.
  12. AncientSUL


    May 28, 1999
    RW Clark,

    It is truly a shame you are not man enough to admit who you meant in your statement. We all know that you refer to Strider knives. I was going to post something about it when I first read it but though maybe he would correct himself later on. But I guess you are not man enough. I prefer to keep things on this tread. It let other readers know how we progress to this situation.

    I have met the Strider guys. They are good people. Mick and Duane have back order that you wish you had. But I am not here to brag or gloat for them. After September 11th, we knew the country would eventually go to war. A lot of servicemen and women are going without good knives. There were many customers of Strider who wanted to help out. Mick and Duane came up with a great donation plan. They would put up a knife for ever knife that a customer donates. That is twice the amount of knives that is going to service for our country. Not taking into account the amount of work and loss of money. How many makers you know did that?

    As many people know, most knifemakers have a machinists background. Many turn to knifemaking because of their passion for this art. I am more confident of a knife being made by a machinist because that means he/she will be able to grind to the smallest detail. Precision work is what I am looking for. I was confused as to why you would take a knock against knifemakers who were machinist as it seems you make you knives by the stock removal method. That would mean you are a machinist too. Could you clear that up for me?

    Like I said before, I did not want to come in here and have an argument with you. You really do not show yourself in good light when you take shots like this against your own peers.

  13. R.W.Clark


    Apr 30, 2001
    Can't you guys ****ing read! I have nothing against SK, I actually think some of them are kinda cool looking.

    It is unbelievable that you would turn this into some type of political "my patriotism is better than yours" pissing match. I served this country for several years with the DOD, doing things that would make your skin crawl.

    I don't need this bunch of bullshit! You guys just lost another knifemaker on this forum.

    Bye Bye!
  14. Keith Montgomery

    Keith Montgomery

    May 9, 2000
    Ron, I really hope you reconsider. Personally I would hate to see you leave. You have helped me a great deal and I still think that thread where you took us through the making of Greg's knife is one of the classics. Stick around pal, this really isn't that big a deal is it?
  15. Kumdo


    Mar 7, 2000
    Mr. Clark, are you serious? You're going to leave the forums because, what, 3 people called you out on that post? Only one brought up anything patriotic. The others were merely defending a certain style of maker, customer and a company. I think it's cool that you don't want to mention the company's name, but seeing that the Strider fans are the ones angry, maybe just giving us a hint who the people you are refering to are would be a good thing. I can't think of any other company that fits your description (obviously I'm not the only one).

    As one of those few people who "flamed" you, I'd hate to see you go. You are a valuable part of the forum. Don't let one bad incident chase you away.
  16. Keith Montgomery

    Keith Montgomery

    May 9, 2000
    Now to get back to the topic at hand, I am really impressed with what I am learning from the debate going on here. The ideas being put forward by the many knifemakers that are taking part in this have opened my eyes to the fact that each has their own way of doing things. I have seen excellent knives from those that think etching is a very important part of knifemaking and I have seen excellent knives from those that do not.

    What I think is that etching a blade can certainly not hurt, but could possibly tell the maker a lot about the blade he has just made. If this is in fact the case, is there any reason not to do it?
  17. NickWheeler


    Dec 3, 1999

    As far as any reason not to do it...

    I think that it's been brought across as something that's really simple to do. While the actual etch itself is a simple matter of submerging the blade in an etching solution, the prep-work to do so and then finish it out properly or to get rid of it once it's there is not so easy.

    If a blade has a slack belt grind where everything is sort of washed over with the belt, it's pretty easy to finish...either pre or post etch (IMHO). But if you're talking about a finely flat-ground blade or hollow-ground blade with sharp and distinct grind lines, it takes a LOT of work to keep all of that while getting a clean etch.

    Once you have a flat-ground blade hand-sanded to 6-1200X and you etch it...it takes quite some time to get that finish back if you so desire.

    Don't get me wrong...nothing in this craft is necessarily easy, nor should it be... I probably make most things harder than they even have to be ;) I personally keep trying to make more challenging pieces... but if you can test a blade, be happy with it, and then put a pristine finish on it... etching might just not be in the cards on that blade (in my shop :) ).

    Whewe, and I was just trying to clear that up... :eek:

  18. Keith Montgomery

    Keith Montgomery

    May 9, 2000
    Nick, that is exactly the kind of response that I was hoping for. You have brought up a point that I think is very important. It does seem that etching a blade and then polishing it out could be a lot of work There are those that feel it is worth it, but I am sure that many think it is just to time consuming and therefore costly for them to do. Thanks for your perspective on this. It has opened the door for more debate on this subject.


    Jul 4, 2001
    Keith ,

    Great thread , thanks for starting it . On the new pronghorn you received , how far was it brought back after the etch ( to what degree of polish ) ? The temper line in it shows really well and illustrates what Ed said about the heat treating zones . Besides , I think it just looks way cool when done correctly .

  20. wolfmann601

    wolfmann601 Gone, but not forgotton. RIP Ira.

    Mar 12, 2001
    One of the most informative one's since I became an active member of BF. BUT I have one question that is quite STUPID and without the answer in very basic terms, I reamin lost and this entire thread lacks some important meaning to me. Here is the question:

    HOW does one ACTUALLY Etch a Blade?

    Simple question, and I have read Most of this thread three times now, and still remain very confused.

    I would greatly appreciate a "layman's" explanation of the ETCH PROCESS

    Thank you..................wolf:confused: :confused:

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