Saturday, March 27, 2010

Work by a student

This beautiful little camp ax was made with my guidance by my neighbor, who rents space next to my work space. It was his first time forging. It's made from a car axle, forged with a hydraulic forging press for the heavy work and by hand for the rest, quenched in vegetable oil, tempered by eye with tempering tongs, cleaned up and made purty with an angle grinder and my KMG belt grinder. He made the hickory handle on his own, and unfortunately split it as he was putting the edges in. He'll cut it down and re-use it on an adze head he made from the same piece of axle.

It works excellently. I've never had a Granfors Bruks ax in hand to be able to make a comparison, but it'd be hard to imagine it cutting much better. That's a big hunk of mesquite there, and the ax made big ol' chips fly off of it. Mesqite's not the hardest wood, but it sure isn't soft. Absolutely no affect to the cutting edge.

Sure beats the pants off of anything he could get from Home Despot or any of the other big box "hardware" stores.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Neo-Tribal Work Knife

This little knife is one of my Neo-Tribal Metalsmith knives.

It is forged from leaf spring, the cutting edge is filed by hand, and the steel hardened in vegetable oil. I used vinegar to eat the scale off, leaving the forge finish. The handle is wrapped in 20 ga. jeweler's copper wire with cotton cord Turk's head knots and all the wrap sealed up with amber shellac. The sheath is a simple fold-over Kydex job. The blade is approximately 4" long. It will shave hair.

I'm asking $130, plus shipping.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

See? I make things other than blades!

This sculpture just came out of an art show here in San Antonio, the On and Off Fred show hosted by the Bihl Haus.

Name: Stoic
Year: 2003
Medium: Forged and fabricated steel.
Approximate dimensions: 14" x 12" x 24"
Description: Behind an expressionless face lies a tangled, chaotic mass of sharply pointed tendrils. The motion is frozen at the moment that several begin to break through.
Price: $1,000

Thursday, March 18, 2010

These were two pieces commissioned by the electrician who has done all of the wiring work for my new shop.
The first is a knife he ordered based on the one I made for my girlfriend. He liked it, but wanted one that was a bit bigger and not so pink. :-) As before, it is car coil spring for the blade, railroad spike for the guard, ebony for the spacer, but the main handle is bois d'arc (pronounced bodark by us Texicans) or Osage orange. This is the first time I've made a lanyard hole on a knife. The sheath is Kydex again. It makes a nice friction fit. You can hold it upside down and shake it and the blade won't fall out; yet the knife is drawn and re-sheathed easily.

The second is a wire stripper. The electrician was inspired when he saw a kiridashi that I had made, and came up with this blade design. It's also forged from car spring, and the edge is chisel ground. I added a hemp cord wrap, double Turk's head knots at the ends, and a seal of orange shellac. It ends up looking like an artifact from the South Seas, I think. The Kydex sheath stands out in contrast, but it's practical. I'm playing around with other sheath options so I can offer alternatives to Kydex.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hello, everyone!

My name is James Helm and I'm a blacksmith.

I became interested in blacksmithing around age 15. I began researching the subject in the books I could find in the public library of my home town and on Internet discussion forums. At age 16 I got a little rivet forge and a small amount of coal and I started pounding iron.

Among other jobs, I have had the opportunity to work for three metal artist shops in Lubbock and San Antonio, Texas. I put together a small gas forge and started producing knives for sale in my off hours, working in my employers' shops and moving my forge as much out of the way as I could when finished. Finally, the chance came to rent my own work space and begin my own business. I've been in my new shop space since the beginning of October.

My father was a farmer and owner/operator heavy haul truck driver. Whenever he was contemplating some undertaking, whether custom hay baling or trucking, it was always under the name Helm Enterprises. Perhaps not officially, but it was how he thought of it. So, as a nod to him and his incalculable influence on my life, I have named my business Helm Enterprises, Forging Division.

This blog is a temporary means of having a web presence until a more permanent site is built. I'll be putting up pictures of past and recent work, pictures of my shop, explanations of my work methods, and comments on aesthetics, among other topics.
I do many types of work, from sculpture to hand tools. I tend to focus on blades, however. It is what first drew me to blacksmithing, and continues to be where I spend most of my time.
For my first post, here is a study in contrast: my first "real" knife and a more recent one.

This is the first "real" knife I made. I had forged some railroad spike knives before, but this was the first that I would consider something other than a knife-shaped object. It was forged from automobile coil spring using a coal forge and quenched in used motor oil. It's been so long I can't remember how I drew temper on it. The blade is about a foot long. The handle is twisted copper electrical wire. The sheath was made by a local boot and saddle repair shop. I gave it to one of my best friends from high school after we had both graduated (he was a year behind me).

This second knife is one I made for my girlfriend recently. It, too, is forged from automobile coil spring. I used my little home made coffee can gas forge to do the heating and quenched in vegetable oil. Temper was drawn with an oven. The blade is around four inches long and has a false edge on the top. The handle is ebony and a kind of naturally pink wood from Africa called pink ivory. The guard is a piece of railroad spike. The sheath is Kydex.

Check back often. I'll be posting pictures of my work and shop here pretty quickly.