I got a text message on Friday from someone saying that he knew the son of my shop's landlord, that he was interested in blacksmithing, and could he come by. I told him I was a bit busy but that he could.
What I didn't realize until he got to the shop was that he was a 16 year veteran of the Marines (out now) named Max who was on a road trip that had lasted a month so far and taken him from Los Angeles to Portland, across to Tennessee, and was in San Antonio only briefly on his return trip to L.A. He had met the landlord's son at a party in L.A. I dropped what I was doing and we forged out a small knife blade. Max was really taken with my primal/tactical Bowie "Thunderdome", as well as a Ridiculously Large Bowie that I had forged out a day or two earlier, so I agreed that we could forge one out the next day, Saturday.
On Saturday, I cut out a couple of pieces of F-250 coil spring, and we got busy. Using my hydraulic forging press to straighten the spring and Gunnhilda, my power hammer, to do the heavy forging, we forged out a couple of large Bowies, one for him and one for me to demonstrate the process. After taking a break in the evening to eat some pizza and carve some pumpkins with my girlfriend and one of her friends, we got down to the stock removal. We finished that up, hardened three times in veggie oil, then started the blades on their first tempering cycle before calling it a night around midnight.
The next morning we started the second tempering cycle, had a leisurely breakfast of coffee, pork chop, and huevos rancheros at a cafe around the corner, started the third and final tempering cycle, and took a quick trip to see a couple of the Spanish missions San Antonio is famous for. My girlfriend met us back at the shop, where I snapped some pictures of Max and his knife, then shut down the shop to spend the rest of the day with my girlfriend while Max headed out of town. Before he left, Max gave me and my girlfriend, a nursing student, the medical kit he had carried as a combat medic in Afghanistan. We were both greatly touched by this generous gesture.
Here's Max enjoying a cigar and his new Bowie that he made in Texas:
Here's what the Bowie looked like. We turned a missed hammer stroke into a notch for his thumb, and he was very pleased with the result. We established the secondary bevel on my belt grinder before he left, and he will clean off the baked-on oil, wrap the handle, and sharpen it back in L.A. This thing is a working knife, and balanced a bit ahead of the blade/tang transition. It'll chop, but it'll fight well too. Max knows how to handle a blade, and I'd hate to be on the other end in a fight.
I didn't get to measure the blade before he left, but it was approximately as long as the one I made to demonstrate, which is 12" overall with a 7" blade.
Before he left, Max wrote a check for the Ridiculously Large Bowie. I'll finish it up and mail it his way. It's forged from 1/4" thick 1084 bar 1 1/2" wide, and ended up 14 1/4" overall with a blade 8 1/2" long by 2 1/4" wide. The demonstration Bowie, by way of comparison, has a blade 1 3/4" wide.
I was very glad to meet Max, and he is welcome back at my shop any time he's in San Antonio again! :)
P.S. - I was going to wrap the handle of the Ridiculously Large Bowie in neon orange paracord and name it "Subtlety", but Max said he had seen enough paracord for a while and ordered up hemp with amber shellac instead. :D