Tim's Editorial

Marking Your Blades/Knives

Posted on

Many times I have received emails, or seen posts on forums from makers, asking suggestions
about marking their blades. Many of these emails/posts include an image of a logo, which the
individual obviously put a great deal of time and effort into creating.

On the forums these questions receive a wide variety of answers, and in this article I will attempt to give you my advice, based on 25+ years of making and selling knives.

OK, first of all, there are two basic ways to mark you knives. The choice is yours,
but traditionally forged blades are stamped, and stock removal blades are etched.

Creating a mark with a stamp is very straight forward and with a bit of practice,
is easily accomplished. This method involves nothing more than a “stamp” with the
image/letters you wish created in a mirror image on the end of the stamp.
The marking can be done in a number of different ways that I will discuss later in the article.

Quality stamps are made of materials that are suited to the purpose, and if you
intend to go this route, I would suggest ordering your stamp based on quality….not price!
I have used the cheap stamps, and in one case the stamp only lasted for about 5 impressions
before the letters began to mushroom out. My personal choice for quality stamps
is Henry Evers Corp. in Rhode Island. You can find them on the internet by searching for “EverStamp”.

The second method of marking your work is with electro-chemical etching.
This system consists of an electronic device, a chemical electrolyte, and a stencil
that contains a design/name that the individual chooses. While I have this option
in my shop, I rarely use it, simply because I have never been able to achieve what
I consider satisfactory results. I also find this method difficult for marking Damascus blades,
which are a majority of what I produce. This method requires that the individual
create artwork and then have stencils produced, or purchase the equipment to create their own stencils.

Since I consider myself less than qualified to instruct on the chemical-etch method,
I will concentrate on how one can accomplish marking their blades with the stamping method.

Choosing your Mark

This is an area that requires a great deal of consideration and thought on the
individual’s part. For anyone but the most well know makers, I believe it is imperative
that your mark contain information that will allow nearly anyone to
look at one of your knives, and without any doubt, know who made it,
and more importantly, be able to find you! That means using your name,
and not some obscure logo or initials. Many times over the years I have
had individuals come to me, with a knife that had some strange logo,
initials, or a single first name on the blade, and ask me if I know who
made the knife, because they would like to order another one.
The fact of the matter is….If the individual(s) cannot find you, then they
certainly cannot order another knife from you! Your mark should contain
at the very least, your last name, and if it’s a common last name,
I recommend both a first and last name. If you can get a city and state in there too,
then that’s all the better.

I’m blessed in that I am the only “Caffrey” in the knife world who holds a Mastersmith rating.
I mark my blades on one side of the ricasso with “Caffrey”, and the other side of the ricasso
with my “MS” (Mastersmith). If there were another “Caffrey” making knives, mine would be
distinguishable by the “MS” stamp. Even if there were another “Caffrey” who was a Mastersmith, I would simply add my first initial to my name.

The point being that your mark must be easily understandable, and with minimal effort, anyone should be able to locate you from the mark on your knives.

Creating a stamped mark

Now that we’ve covered choosing a mark, lets talk about how
to apply a stamped mark to your knives.

Applying a mark via the stamping method can either be done while the blade is cold,
in its annealed state, or when the blade is hot. I have tried both, and choose to
create my mark with a stamp when the blade is hot. This gives me a deeper,
more defined mark, which does not grind out when I am finishing a blade.

Once I have rough ground a blade, and it is prepped for hardening, I prepare
by ensuring that my stamp and stamping fixture is handy (you can also use an
old pair of slip joint pliers, with the stamp in the jaws and the handles wired
tightly to hold the stamp). Personally, I built a fixture that holds both my “Caffrey” stamp,
and my “MS” stamp. I place this fixture on the anvil that sits next to my
quench tank, and get everything else ready. I always do three normalizing heats
on a blade just prior to quenching, and on the third normalizing heat,
I stamp/mark my blade(s). I often use a salt tank for these normalizing heats,
but whatever type of heat source you utilize, the procedure is basically the same.

Once the heat required is achieved, the blade is quickly placed in the fixture,
and one blow, with a hand held hammer is applied to the stamp, creating
the impression in the ricasso. Be aware that if you let the hammer “bounce” it will
likely make a double impression! The fixture that I use ensures that the stamp
is level and at 90 degrees to the face of the ricasso, so that the impression is
even, and NOT tilted one way or the other.

If your using pliers or vise-grips to hold the stamp, you will have
to ensure that the stamp is place square and flat on the ricasso to
ensure a good/clean mark. As with anything in Knifemaking, it will
require a little practice on your part, and at first you might wreck a
blade of two, however, this is my preferred method.

I have also tried marking my blades with the stamp method, using a
homemade press, while the blade is in the annealed state.

My feeling is
that this method puts undo wear and tear on the stamp (which I paid $100+ for),
and I have also destroyed a couple of blades when I pressed just a bit too hard,
and literally cracked the ricasso from one edge of the mark to the plunge cuts!After the stamp/mark is applied,

I complete the heat treatment of the blade,
and finish it out as usual. I now have a knife that is readily identifiable
as my own, and with the information I applied with the stamp(s), anyone can
locate me with minimal effort.

In conclusion, it really dosen’t matter what method you use to mark your blade.
The rules to follow are:
•It MUST look good/professional
•It MUST be easy to recognize
•It MUST identify the knife as uniquely yours
•It MUST allow anyone to find you with minimal effortOnce you decide to mark anything you make, you’ve made a decision
to proclaim it’s excellence. Take the time, thought, and care to make sure
the mark you place on your work reflects those points I’ve indicated!

Ed's Editorial

Gas/Propane Forges…. A Primer

Posted on

 

  This article IS NOT intended to be all encompassing, it is primer, focusing on the differences between gas forges used my Bladesmtihs, and those used by General Blacksmtihs, with some “Do” and “Don’ts”, and safety thrown in for good measure!

 

As one who started my career as a Blacksmith, I agree that there is a world of difference between Blacksmithing and Bladesmithings, AND the equipment used for each.   The way/method that a Blacksmith’s forge heats is generally not a factor, because of the material/steel types utilized…… short of a forge “burning” the material/steel, there’s not much consideration as to how a Blacksmith’s forge heats.

Now, it’s a totally different story with Bladesmithing.   The materials/steels that Bladesmiths forge are usually VERY heat sensitive, and can be easily degraded with improper heating.   Evenness of heating can also make the difference between a successful or a failed outcome, particularly with Damascus/laminated steels.

So, those things being taken into consideration, the how’s and whys of a Blacksmithing forge are far less important than those of a Bladesmithing forge.

So, what should those seeking a Bladesmithing forge look for?  Based on my experiences, here goes….

  1. Round design period.  Even if the burner is not placed in the optimal location(s)/position(s), a round forge is always a better choice for Bladesmithing because there are far few “hot spots” than in any “square” design.   Flamepattern1
  2. Burner(s):  A SINGLE blown burner, of proper size is by far the least complicated, easiest to use/operate, and most versatile of any forge burner(s).blowerburner1.jpg

**What should you look for/build in a blown burner??

-Black iron pipe

-A blower SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED/BUILT FOR FORGE APPLICATIONS.  (NO “squirrel cage” blowers, because they they are design to operate where NO BACK PRESSURE is present, and WILL burn out at some point…usually sooner than later. ALWAYS PURCHASE A BLOWER THAT IS DESIGNED/BUILT FOR A FORGE APPLICATION.  Personally, I buy mine from Blacksmiths Depot online.

blowerburner2

-Sizing:  It always better to err on the side of a burner and/or blower being too large….. You can always “dial it down” as required, but if a burner and/or blower are too small, and you open everything up to its max…..and still don’t get the heat level you need…… you’re only option is to buy/build a bigger burner and/or blower. So again…its better to have a burner/blower that is too large, versus one that is too small.

-Where the fuel enters the burner The further away from the ignition point, the better the fuel & air mix…. and if there is an angle built into the burner (such as a 90 degree elbow) all the better, provided the fuel inlet is positioned very close the end the blower is attached to.

-A propane needle valve at the fuel inlet which allows far more control than a typical ball valve.  (use a ball valve at/near the fuel source.  Ball valves are either FULLY OPEN OR FULLY CLOSED….. DO NOT try to use them for anything in between!! I always place a ball valve at the propane source….if a tank, then right after the regulator.  If you have a large outside tank, place the ball valve where the propane comes through the wall, etc, and into your shop.

Welding-Forgebunerandblower2.jpg

Welding-Forgebunerandblower1.jpg

 

NOTE:  Can you use venture or multiple burners??  SURE!!  But by doing so you inherit many potential issues/problems that do not occur with a single blown burner, I simply don’t understand why anyone would want to.  I have given up trying to help those who insist on using multiple burners, especially the venture type in a square forge design… my thought pattern with this is….. Some people are always trying to ice skate uphill. Do yourself a favor, and build a single blown type burner!  It will run trouble free for YEARS, and you can spend your time forging, versus messing around, trying to get venture burners to operate correctly.

Here’s an exert from a recent forum thread, where I was attempting to explain to an individual about venturi burners:

“I’m not going to attempt to answer the question about where to put the burners  (multiple venturi burners), simply because getting multiple venturi burners to work well/correctly, in the same forge is nearly impossible. To explain, I’ll concentrate on a two burner setup here…… when fed off the same fuel supply, one burner will always get more fuel than the other, meaning one burner will burn hotter than the other, and all the things that go along with that occur. I’ve seen people waste literally months and months of their time goofing/trying to adjust multi venturi burner forges, trying to adjust them……and they never can. Those who tell me they have a multi venturi burner forges that are “adjusted just fine”, are ones I don’t even bother trying to help, because they either have no clue, are are simply in denial. The ONLY time I would recommend a venturi burner, is for a single burner application, and then for someone who will never required “welding heat”, and/or who needs a forge that either requires no power, or must be portable. So how does one make a multi burner venturi setup work correctly? The only way I have ever seen it accomplished is to have completely separate/independent fuel systems to each burner, then each burner is adjust as if it were the only burner. Everybody has this fantasy that using a “T” to supply a single fuel line to two burners means they must be getting equal fuel…..and it’s just not true. The line to one burner might be a bit longer or shorter then the other, the ID might vary, or any of a hundred other things….but two venturi burners, running off the same fuel line never get the same amount of fuel.

I have no idea why so many beginners gravitate towards venturi burners….they are far more complicated, far more finicky to work with and adjust, and consume far more fuel than any blown style burner. Maybe it’s back to the “lemmings” jumping off a cliff?”

 

  1.  Refractory/Linings:  Basically you have two types to choose, Blanket/ceramic fiber, or castable.   There are others, but cost and availability usually put them out of reach for the average person.   Each refractory has its pro and cons, and each heats in a different manner.   Most believe that refractories are simply “reflectors”…..not so.  There is also a common belief that “more is better”, particularly when it comes to the blanket/ceramic fiber refractories…. which is also a fallacy.

Castable:   Very durable and long lasting.  It is intended to absorb a given amount of  heat, then start reflecting….the amount of heat absorbed/reflected differs for each variety…in general, those castable refractories with lower temp ratings will absorb more heat before reflecting, and tend to look heat quicker.   Those with higher temp ratings absorb less heat before they start refelecting, and tend to “hold” the heat longer.     Most varieties of castable work best in a layer of at least 3″. My personal favorite castable refractory is Cast-O-Lite 3000.

The issues with castable refractories are:

-VERY specific mixing ratios must be observed for product to perform as advertised.

-MUST be allow to cure NATURALLY to be durable.  “Firing” to force cure it GREATLY REDUCES THE REFRACTORY’S LIFESPAN.

-Significant amount of time required to heat a forge using this material….typically 45min-2 hours.

The Pros:

-The best durability of any forge lining material.

-Once heated, you can turn down the fuel/psi and the forge will maintain its heat

-Temp does not drop significantly when a large piece of steel/billet is inserted

-Does not give off dust/fiber during use like Blanket/ceramic fiber does.

-Overall forge will last for years, versus weeks of months Blanket/ceramic fiber….especially if flux is used.

 

Blanket/Ceramic Fiber: This material is also engineered to absorb a given amount of heat before it starts reflecting.  How much and how fast are dependent on the type/variety.  For the purpose of this information, I will ONLY CONSIDER 1” THICK X #8 DENSITY Blanket/Ceramic Fiber.   This is the place where I’ll lose some of you.  For anyone who is/intends to use 2” of more of #8 Ceramic Fiber for a forge….. You are wasting your money and costing yourself extra fuel every time you use the forge.

I’ve done the tests, using the exact same forge body, burner, etc.   1” of #8 density ceramic fiber reaches temp quicker, on less fuel pressure, and maintains that heat WHILE WORKING IN THE FORGE  at a lower fuel consumption than 2” of the same material…..weather that’s a single 2” layer….or 2, 1” layers stacked.

Next, Blanket/Ceramic Fiber SHOULD have some type of “coating” to keep the ceramic fibers from flying around and getting sucked into your lungs.   The best coating that I have ever found is ITC-100.   It’s expensive, but a pint will do SEVERAL coatings in a large sized forge is reduced properly.

VERY little of this product is necessary to gain the maximum benefit.  MORE IS NOT BETTER!!!  Use too much, and your just wasting the product, and in many cases, reducing its effectiveness.   How?  A couple of tablespoons in a paint/mixing cup…..add water and keep stirring until you get the consistency of latex paint (NO THICKER).  Spritz the inside of the forge (already lined with Blanket/Ceramic Fiber) with water/spray bottle.   Using a cheap paint brush, simply paint the coating onto the interior of the forge/lining.   One done as with all refractory products…. It must be allowed to cure naturally!   This is so important, that I feel it necessary to explain further… Many, because of impatience want to “fire” the forge to a given point, then shut it down, and let cool, then repeat.  THE ONLY THING BEING DONE IS A FURTHER WEAKENING/LIFE SPAN SHORTENING OF THE REFRACTORY……..simple as that.

    Now that I’ve beaten that dead horse some more, just how can you “expedite” curing the refractory??  AT MOST, place a single “heat lamp” bulb, or a 100 watt incandescent light bulb inside the forge, and LEAVE IT ALONE!!  Depending on where you live/the environment, it could be from a couple of week, to a couple of months for the refractory to cure.  One novel approach that a student of mine did….a couple days after “pouring” his new forge….he placed it atop a wood stove in his shop, that basically burned 24/7…. And within 2 weeks his forge was nicely cured, and ready to fire.

Even with a lengthy curing time for a castable refractory forge, care must still be taken on the initial “firing“….. I like to bring the forge to about 500F, then shut down and let cool overnight…..next day I will take it to 1000F, then shut down, and allow to cool COMPLETELY.  Next firing, it “let it go” time.  Usually a new castable refractory forge will get to around 1500-1700F and stall….meaning it won’t get hotter…for a while.  That “while” will entail a lot of steam and maybe even drops of water as the last remaining moisture is forced out.  Once the steaming and weeping end, the forge temp will start to climb again, and they treat it as normal…go to work, and have fun!!

SAFETY:

   This is the part that everyone hates, but I’m going to lay it out plain as day for you….  YOU BUILD, SETUP, AND USE A PROPANE FORGE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!  I have seen so many people do really dumb things over the years, it’s ceased to surprise me.  Here are some tips that will make things as safe as possible…

-NEVER PLACE/USE A FORGE CLOSER THAN 6 FEET TO ANY FLAMMABLES!  THAT MEANS WALLS, DOORS, FLOORS, AND SOMETHING MOST NEVER CONSIDER CEILINGS!  This goes double for things that can melt….. These forges are heat throwing monsters, and I have seen items as far away as 8 feet from the front opening of a forge melt!

You also have to keep distance and safety in mind when building….

DO NOT build a cart for your forge, with a propane tank sitting on the bottom of the cart…..when I said AT LEAST 6 FEET…. And means your propane source too!  Also, electrical wires, and/or anything else that can melt should be kept as far from the forge as possible, or at the very least, heat shielded.  OK…ONE MORE thing…..hoses and fuel lines…. MAKE SURE THEY ARE RATE FOR GAS/PROPANE!!  There is a reason that they make PROPANE hose…..because if you try to use other hose, such as air hose, fuel hose, etc….. Propane will break down/eat up the hose from the inside out…..and if you forge is running when it lets go….You and your shop will be a smoking hole in the ground!!

Next, let’s talk about propane.  Propane is heavier than air. That means if a leak occurs, it will naturally “pool” at the lowest point(s) on a shop floor, and if a spark or other ignition source reaches it….not good.  So, how do we protect ourselves??  First, we regularly (I do it weekly) inspect ALL propane lines, pipes, tanks, hoses, regulators, valves, and any connections visually, to ensure they are good and not damaged in any way.  I also go over EVERY connection with a spray bottle of soapy water….you see even the tiniest bubble(s)…you have a leak….FIX IT!!

One final rule for all forges with a blower type burner….. THE BLOWER IS ALWAYS THE FIRST THING TURNED ON…..AND IT IS THAT LAST THING TURNED OFF Follow that rule and you will eliminate 90% of possible accidents.

I could go on and on forever with various scenarios of do’s and don’ts for propane forges, and never cover it all.    A propane forge is nothing more than a controlled explosion.  Keep that in mind at all times, and your mind will be in the right place.  Don’t HOB KNOB anything when it comes to a forge….your life is literally at stake if you do.

weldingforgebodylined

(My current welding forge, after removing the forms and before allowing it to cure (this one took almost 2 months to cure before it’s first firing)

But once cured and in use……..

weldingforgetestweb

too-funny-emoji.png

 

Good Luck!!

 

Ed Caffrey, ABS Mastersmith

“The Montana Bladesmith” 

Ed's Editorial

Grinders and TYPES of belt tension… Some Interesting insights.

Posted on

For a long time I have watched as more and more 2 x 72″ grinders on the market utilize Gas Spring Cylinders (https://www.mcmaster.com/#spring-cylinders/=1byb3fm) for belt tension.  I’ve tried it too, and in the beginning, had durability issue….the cylinder rod seal would fail within weeks or days of me putting one of the grinder.  I finally figured out that I could make them last by using a “boot” zip tied on, to protect the rod/seal from all the grinder debris floating around.   But that’s a different story… the whole reason for this post is to expose something that I find very interesting.  These cylinders are NOT the “end all” that many make them out to be….particularly when it comes to belt grinder tensioning.    I have/use/like the KMG grinders.  I have changed mine to direct drive, and love it’s rock solid/heavy build quality.  I tried using one of the Gas Spring Cylinders on it, and found that when used on this particular grinder, Gas Springs seem to cause more issues than they solve.  A few grinding session after installing the Gas Spring Cylinder on the KMG, I notice that I was getting serious belt chatter on both 50 and 120 grit belts.  I tried adjusting the mounting locations and positions of the Gas Spring Cylinder, but nothing helped.  When using a flat/glass face platen, the belt chatter was so bad it made grinding nearly impossible….no matter what brand, backing, or type grit of 50 or 120 grit belt I used.

I spent a small fortune on different poundage rated Gas Spring Cylinders from 20lb, all the way to 90lb, all with the same, or additional issues. depending on the poundage rating…….

Out of frustration, I removed the Gas Spring Cylinder, and reinstall the coil spring mount, and the coil spring….. NO MORE BELT CHATTER!!!   I pondered this for a while, and can only come up with the following……  A Gas Spring Cylinder is built to apply a specific poundage of force.  I believe that the pressure applied to the belt when grinding caused addition tension on the belt before it reached the drive wheel…..and a slight amount of slack after the drive wheel.  The constant tension of the Gas Spring Cylinder is what caused this.   On the other side of the coin, a typical coil spring provides for a “variable” amount of tension, based on the amount of “drag” I cause when applying pressure during grinding.   Preventing the situation, or part of the belt having more tension than the other, and in turn, eliminating the belt chatter!  Since returning to the simple coil spring for belt tension, the infuriating belt chatter has been eliminated!

OK, What’s the take away?   1st….. just because something is “cool” doesn’t mean it works well.  2nd….. the latest and greatest, just might not be.  And finally……if you’re having issues with belt chatter on a grinder…… it MIGHT just be the TYPE of tension mechanism!  🙂

 

 

Ed's Editorial

CAUTION…… A PLEAD TO ALL BEGINNERS!

Posted on

During this past week, I have fielded several phone calls & emails, most dealing with an individual telling me they wanted to purchase a forge, and asking my advice.  In ALL cases the individuals first consideration was to find the cheapest forge they could, which is understandable, but it’s also DANGEROUS when that is the main consideration.  Several of the emails sent me a link to a “new” outfit that is selling forges.   Not having heard of them, I followed the link to their site.  OMG!!  Are you kidding me?!?!  Besides the fact that these forges are VERY poorly designed, they had copper tubing and a needle valve affixed directly to the exterior of the forge body!  If you have even a fraction of knowledge that propane ignites at around 900F, and that doesn’t scare the poop outta you, then you need to look something else besides forging to do….. you’ll likely live a lot longer!

In another email, an individual asked me what I used to etch damascus, and told me that he was using Muriatic acid MIXED with Clorox Bleach!   I asked him why, and who’d told him to do that.  His response was….. “I saw it on YouTube”.     Again…. OMG!!  This is a sure way to kill yourself!  DON’T DO IT!!!!

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!  IF YOU DON’T KNOW OF WHAT YOU’RE DEALING WITH, DON’T DO IT UNTIL YOU GET ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WITH EXPERIENCE…. OR AT LEAST SOMEONE WITH A FEW BRAIN CELLS!

Mark my words…… we are going to start hearing about home/shop/garage explosions, and/or people dying from doing stupid things like these!   I’ve already been made aware of 2 incidents where somebody watched Forged in Fire, and decided “I can do that”…… and burned their houses to the ground!

Ed's Editorial

A “slice” off the billet produced in the upcoming video “Canister Welded Damascus”

Posted on

I love it when a plan comes together!   This is a “slice” off the billet I produced in the upcoming video “Canister Welded Damascus”   The video was taken pre-heat treat, at a 220 grit finish.  It’s gona look killer when finished out to 1200 grit!   Look for the video to be available in the near future on the sale page.  And look for this blade, and others from the same steel at the Blade Show in Atlanta, GA, June 1-2, 2018!

Ed's Editorial

New Video on Canister Welding coming!

Posted on

Tim and I have been filming a COMPLETE video on Canister or “Can” Welded Damascus.  This will be as complete a video as we can offer…. from the type and size of “can” to use, to what goes inside, as well as tips and “tricks” to help you be successful.  Here’s a short clip of a “slice” that I sawed off the finished billet…..  This piece is fully annealed….so the high carbon steel have a “frosty” look.  Once heat treated, those areas will be very dark/black.     Look for the complete video to be available on KnifeMakerTraining soon.  (Tim has a LOT of editing to do on this one, so it might be a couple weeks) 🙂

 

Tim's Editorial

5 Minutes With The Mastersmith

Posted on


One of the things we want to do is help people get to know our amazing Mastersmith Ed a little better. The time and patience he dedicates to making our videos. We want to inspire as many people to check out his amazing workmanship and point them in the direction to where they can purchase his knives. So we start by asking some random questions with our Mastersmith in a new series called “5 Minutes With The Mastersmith”.