I’ve previously mentioned that when I moved to Canada from Texas last March, I thought it meant leaving knives behind for a whole year. And then I met Jim, and that changed everything. Since we first met in January, I’ve been able to go spend 3 long weekends working in his amazing shop, eating his amazing wife’s amazing food, and enjoying the whole family’s truly amazing hospitality (there’s a theme here). I already told about the first trip to a hammer-in Jim put on in June, and the second trip it was just me, Jim, and another maker named Jay. We forged a lot of damascus, and a friendship as well. This weekend was the third, and I’m pretty sure it was the best yet.
This time, ABS Mastersmith Ed Caffrey came up for the whole weekend. While the hammer-in with Bruce Bump and Steve Culver and J. Nielsen was cool, there were 40-50 other folks there, which diluted the personalized coolness. This weekend it was just me and Jim and Ed, which allowed the coolness to compound.
From Friday evening to early Monday afternoon we spent about 35 hours in the shop making damascus.
Ed made up 3 or 4 cans of mosaic. I made up 3 billets for variations on Ws, and a few for other projects later. I lost track of what all Jim was working on. Ed helped me refine my forge welding technique, and worked with me on my Ws to make sure I got the pattern going right. I twisted one of my Ws billets, and the other two were cut into tiles and mig welded together for the final weld, but I ran out of time and will finish them another day.
We also welded up 8 or 10 billets (I never actually counted) of cable damascus. With Orange Crush, Jim’s 80 ton press (not a typo, that’s 160,000lbs!) and his nifty electric billet twister, we got them all done in about an hour and a half. The results were some of the cleanest cable welds Ed had ever seen, or so he said, and I can’t wait to see how they look made into a knife.
To top it all off, I spent some time forging blades with Ed Caffrey. I had only ever forged 2 or 3 blades before (and most never got finished), and I was not really happy with the results. Having a Mastersmith at hand seemed like a too good of an opportunity to waste, so after a quick demo from Ed and a few pointers for feedback during my first attempt, I was on my way.
- Stand closer to the anvil.
- A power hammer is very nice to have for drawing out tangs.
- Leave it a lot thicker than you think you should. Once all the scale is ground off, there will be a lot less left than you thought there would.
- The point where the returns gained by forging closer to shape start to diminish comes a lot earlier than I expected.
With a little practice, I’m VERY happy with my progress. This is good and bad. I’ve made about 110 knives or so, only one of which was actually forged. I’ve been content to have forging remain somewhere in the distant future. I am no longer. So that’s another thing I need to spend money on. Sigh…
Another good part was helping to teach one of Jim’s distant relations (who just turned 18) how to make a knife. Jim got him started a while back, and I took him through the post heat-treat grinding and blade polishing. It was nice to give back and teach someone some of the stuff that other folks have taught me.
And finally, Jim’s family is great. They always treat me like I belong, like they want me there, and like they want me to come back. I’ve rarely been so well taken care of, or made to feel so welcome.
Overall, it was a great weekend. I got burns, cuts, and blisters, smashed my thumb in a clamp, ground some skin of my knuckle with a belt, am sore in almost every place in my upper body, my feet STILL hurt, and it will be at least a week before I get caught up on sleep, but it was worth it. Many, many, many thanks are due to Jim for his generosity and hospitality, and likewise to Ed for freely sharing his time and knowledge.