Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! There is a lot of neat stuff upcoming in 2012 here at Helm Enterprises, Forging Division. I'm working on some of it right now. :)

Also, at the time of writing this I am only 15 views short of having 30,000 page views. Wow! Thanks to everyone out there checking out my work, from down the street in San Antonio to across the world in Hong Kong. I'll be putting up a lot more work as I go!

May 2012 be a blessed year for you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ridiculously Large Bowie

Some time back, Max, the Marine who visited my shop on the return leg to L.A. on his cross-country van trip, saw a Bowie I had forged out earlier that week on a whim. I had a piece of 1 1/2" x 1/4" 1084 bar stock and I wanted to make a wide blade out of it. The Ridiculously Large Bowie was born.

Before he left, Max wrote a check for the Ridiculously Large Bowie. I mailed it to him last week. Its final dimensions ended up being 14 1/4" overall with a blade 8 1/2" long by 2 1/4" wide. The spine was still between 3/16" and 1/4", so I could have pulled it out even wider if I had wanted. In spite of its large size, it is surprisingly quick and not particularly heavy.

Here's the RLB as Max saw it:

Next to the more normal-sized Bowie I forged along with Max as a demonstration of how to make his own:

The demonstration Bowie, by way of comparison, has a blade 1 3/4" wide.

And as it arrived to Max, with shellac-sealed hemp main wrap, three-strand and two-strand Turk's head knots in cotton, and a shaving sharp edge:

In comparison with an EDC-sized knife with about a 4" blade:

Max was quite pleased to have it arrive and described it as "lovely" with a Marine-grade adjective in front of that. :) I've already had a request to make another one from another customer. :D

Here's the Bowie Max made on his visit:

And him enjoying his Bowie and a cigar in my shop:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

San Antonio Gun Show

Tobin Nieto and I will be sharing a table at the San Antonio Gun Show this weekend at the Exposition Hall in the Freeman Coliseum. If you are going to be in San Antonio, come by and see us.

Details on the show are here: San Antonio Gun Show

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dha dah dao: Neo-tribal bush sword daisho

This should be playing in the background:

This is a pair of dha that I made a little while back. They are based on southeast Asian dha, which have a vaguely similar profile to katana, though with very different construction.

Both of these have integral socket handles, which are not traditional on dha (nothing I do is traditional, really). Handles are wrapped in hemp, with cotton cord Turk's head knots, sealed in black shellac. Both of them have spines averaging 1/8" thick.

The big one has an overall length of 27 5/8", a blade length of 19", a three-strand Turk's head knot at the blade end of the handle and a two-strand at the butt end.

The little one has an overall length of 19 3/8", a blade length of 12 3/4", and two-strand Turk's head knots fore and aft.

These two are quite fun. I'm really pleased with them. Here's Tobin Nieto, with whom I share a table at the local monthly gun show, doing his best Chinese demon impersonations with them. :D

Primal utility

I had a fellow stop by my table at the last gun show who liked a couple of knives I had for sale, but wanted something between the two. I wrote down the details of what he wanted and his contact information and told him I'd get started on it Monday. A couple of weeks later, he picked it up, quite pleased with the outcome.

Approximately 4" blade forged from 3/4" round 5160 bar, triple normalized, filed primary bevel, triple quenched, triple tempered, hemp cord main wrap, cotton cord two strand Turk's head knot, amber shellac sealer, shaving sharp.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scavenger blade: bush tanto

I've been busy lately but haven't put up many pics of what I've been doing. I feel like I'm falling behind! :)

This was one I made a while back. It's what I term a "scavenger blade", a stock removal blade that is made from a plow disk from my family's farm. The blade was cut from the disk, flattened out, the profile cleaned up, and then it was normalized multiple times to make sure it didn't try to return to its previous curved cross section. Then the bevels were ground in and it was heat treated.

The blade is 8" long and the overall length is 13 1/8", with a spine thickness of approximately 1/8". The handle has full-length leather slabs underneath a hemp cord wrap and a triple strand Turk's head knot in black cotton, all sealed with amber shellac. I think of this as a "bush tanto", though a couple of people have commented that they think it would make a good barbecue slicer. The texture on the blade comes from rust pitting on the plow disk from years of sitting under live oak leaves.

I tried to figure out how to get a stock removal wakizashi out of a plow disk but wasn't able to. :D

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quasi-khopesh short bush sword

I didn't have a khopesh in mind when I began this, but that's the closest existant pattern to what I ended up with. I like the timeless quality of this one; I could equally see it being weilded by Gilgamesh to hew down the cedars or in the hands of one of the "chig" aliens in Space: Above and Beyond.

Forged spring steel, integral socket handle, triple hardened in veggie oil, triple tempered. The back edge of the clip is fully sharpened. Handle wrapped in hmep with cottorn double Turk's head knots all sealed in black shellac. Blade is 12", overall length is 18 1/2".

The Wasteland Crow Project: Barong and Symbiote

Following the first Wasteland Crow Project collaboration between myself and Noah Legel of Wasteland Leatherwork some time back, we planned to do more. This was the second project I forged for that, to be sent to him at the same time as a third project for him to do the leatherworking portion. The barong and symbiote both have integral socket handles, false edges, and raised clips, with cotton cord handle wraps sealed with black shellac. The symbiote is loosely based on balisong blade profiles I have seen.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley, or so I've heard.

The barong and symbiote, after sitting in my shop for over a year waiting on the other project which suffered multiple setbacks, were purchased by a fellow who saw the pictures on the Wasteland Crow Project Blog. So I took them out of the display case, did some maintenance, made sure they were both shaving sharp, and shipped 'em off to Noah to do his magic.

Here's what they looked like right before getting packed away:

I eagerly anticipate seeing what Noah comes up with.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Interesting visitor to my shop

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where has Helm Enterprises, Forging Division work gone to?

As more of my work gets spread to the far corners of the earth, I thought it would be fun and informative to keep track of the places I have sent my work. So, in alphabetical order, the different countries and states my work has ended up:

Outside the U.S.A.:

the Netherlands

Inside of the U.S.A.:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington, D. C.

Armed forces and first responders/law enforcement:

Air Force
Army Special Forces
Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program
Border Patrol
11th Air Maneuver Brigade (the Netherlands)
Royal Australian Navy

If you have bought something from me and don't see your region listed, just post a comment below and I'll remedy that!

Primal Bowie and sheath - The Wasteland Crow Project

The brown-handled primal Bowie I had listed for sale was bought, and the customer asked if I had a recommendation for getting a sheath made. Of course, I recommended Noah Legel of Wasteland Leatherwork. As usual, Noah delivered!

Check out more pictures, including work in progress shots, at The Wasteland Crow Project , the collaboration of our work.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hunter's bush sword

This one was commissioned by a fellow who goes bow hunting in Colorado. He tells me that it seems every deer or elk that he shoots ends up in the thickest patch of brush they can find. He needed a relatively short, capable blade to aid in extracting them from the tangle, split some firewood, and possibly quarter out a game carcass. He liked what he saw in the Youtube video I shot of this blade:

Taking that as a general starting point, I decided on a blade between 13 and 14 inches in length, with a slight drop for chopping power while still being able to handle the whippy, thorny vines and branches. This is what I forged out:

I checked with him to make sure that he like what he saw, and to see whether he wnted me to take a bit of the drop out or round the top of the clip rather than have it angular. He approved, so today I finished cleaning up the profile, filing the bevels and false edge, and am in the process of heat treating it.

Ready to heat treat after grinding, filing, tweaking, and filing some more:

After triple quenching in veggie oil:

It's currently in its second tempering cycle out of three. The steel is 5160.

I've seen pictures of historical hunting swords built along these lines, though with longer blades. It always seemed to me that it would be easier to dispatch game with a stab than chopping, which is what this design seems aimed at. It occurred to me while I was working on that that perhaps those types of hunting swords were designed for the same purposes as this, namely extracting game from tangled branches and brush, as well as camp chores and quartering the carcass. Anyone know for sure about this?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bush sword put through its paces

This was the bush sword I traded for a bullwhip a few months ago. Tony has been giving his bush sword (and his arm) a workout!

"While out scouting for deer sign, I found the cottonwood that had been blown over the trail earlier this year. It was still alive since the leaves are green and the roots are half in the pond. The way it was laying was the roots are at the pond 20 feet from the trail. The trail is about 10 feet wide with a bank that goes down 10 feet to a small creek. the other bank is a good 30 feet away where the top of the tree is. So, the tree was about 60+ feet.
I thought I would give Stormcrow's BushSword and my arm a good workout. I'll let the pics do the talking.
Here it is just after beginning. I did a few chops before thinking about snapping pics.

After 5 minutes:

After 20 minutes and a small break it started popping and creaking like it was going to give way:

After the 20 minutes and 5 more chops it snapped.

I then worked at it for 10 more minutes to get it all the way down.

Overall, the BushSword performed better than I expected at chopping through a large tree. I did not measure the trunk, but it is the biggest I've chopped through with a machete. Being cottonwood, and green, helped a bunch, but it was no small task for a big bladed knife. I thought that the wrapped handle would tear up my hand, but it did not. The edge held up really well. I ran it across my sharpening steel a few licks and it was as good as new.
Well Done, Stormcrow, for a magnificent blade!

Tony "

I'm quite thrilled to see my work tackle such a big task and pull it off so well. That's what I make 'em for, to be good brush tools. I've never tried to take on a tree this big with my blades before. Cottonwood is soft, but that is still a lot of chopping!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saxet Gun Show

If you're going to be in San Antonio this weekend, I'll have a table at the Saxet Gun Show at the San Antonio Events Center. I'll have some blades, some non-blades, some pictures, and will be sharing the table with Tobin Nieto, another Neo-Tribal Metalsmith.

Hope to see you there!


Saxet Gun Show


San Antonio Events Center

Bush sword in the works

This one is being made for a very patient member of a forum in trade for a Hay Budden anvil.

The blade is approximately 16 inches long, with a false edge, integral guard, and double choils/finger notches. They would be great for choking up for carfully knocking small limbs off of a pole to smooth it up or other similar tasks. Triple hardened in veggie oil, multiple temper cycles. I'm working out a small warp right now. Long blades tend to warp during heat treatment, and the closer you forge to final shape, the more important it is to get it straight without grinding. I'm using a trick that is fairly new to me, flexing the blade a bit past straight with a C-clamp, a flat piece of steel, and a couple of washers for spacers, then give it another tempering cycle. It works well, but sometimes has to be done more than once.

Hopefully when I check on it in the morning, it'll be where it needs to be and I can proceed to wrapping and sealing the handle.

Got other bush swords in the works as well. :D

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dawg Skinner

A member of a forum who goes by the handle Dawgboy approached me with what he wanted in a knife, and we got down to designing it. After he saw my "primal/tactical" knives, he decided that he wanted a cord wrapped handle. He got to see a sneak preview of the scavenger blades that I posted recently (made from plow disk) to see the new style of cord wrapping and decided that he liked it. I used one of the hunters as a starting point and drew out a sketch, widening the blade and giving it an upswept tip. We made one alteration to it, and he gave me the go-ahead.

Here's what it looked like after I had it blanked out from a piece of plow disk. This is a stock removal blade; the only forging done to it was taking the curve out of it from being a plow disk, and stamping my touchmark in it.

I soaked the blank in vinegar overnight to clean the scale and rust off the blade while leaving the beautiful rust texture in the steel. After grinding, heat treatment, and wrapping the handle with hemp cord over leather slabs and a cotton Turk's head knot sealed in amber shellac, I sharpened it to shaving sharp. And this is what it looked like just before I packed it up and sent it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Available Work

This will change depending on what is in inventory.  Prices do not include finalized shipping and handling.  If interested in something here, e-mail me at  NOTE:  I AM NOT CURRENTLY TAKING NEW ORDERS FOR FORGED WORK. 

Mid-tech knives, tomahawks, and ST-1 defense tools are available directly from the dealers listed below:

Blue Line Gear



I am making an effort to have at least one blade a month available to the public on a first-come-first-serve basis.  They are posted on my Instagram (helmforge) and Facebook (James Helm) accounts and tend to get claimed pretty quickly. 
Thanks everyone for your interest in my work and your patience!