Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sniper Aggression and Benghazi Warfighters

Some recently finished blades, all in 80CrV2 steel, with marine epoxy-impregnated paracord over neoprene handle wraps and Kydex sheaths.

This blade was commissioned by a customer that wanted a rig similar to one I built for an Army sniper, as a gift for his dad.  The blade is 12 1/2" long, with a black oxide finish.  The top edge is fully sharpened and shaves hair, and the butt of the tang is exposed to give some hammering ability.  😎

The sheath got a retention strap, a couple of MOLLE locks, and some extra paracord of the same color used for the handle wrap's overlay (the underlay is olive drab, though it looks black unless you look closely).  Give you an idea how much the epoxy darkens the cord's colors.

The paracord is secured, but easily accessible.  Even if the end comes untucked, it's not going to come loose.

And a couple of 7 1/4" Benghazi Warfighters that went off to different customers, one in tan over black and the other with black over black.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Put those blades to work!

I love getting feedback and seeing the blades I make being used.  Here's some pictures that customers have sent me recently.
This fellow in Nebraska has used his o-tanto to cut up boxes, cut an old couch into smaller pieces to be able to fit into a Dumpster, chop up 2x4s, split 2x4s, and make fire starter shavings from seasoned fire wood.  He's been pleased with its edge-holding and toughness when accidentally encountering metal in the couch and cement.
This fellow in Finland had this to say:
"Hi James!
I want to share my experience using Primal/tactical tanto in hunting and fishing trip in Finnmark, Northern Norway.
Knife performed excellent. I used it mainly wood processing. It was used very hard. Batoning wood and chopping smaller branches. It takes some serious blows with baton and it suffered no damage. I clean trout quite easily. Not the best knife for the job, but it was easily done.
I baton juniper roots smaller and small birch logs. (4"-6" wide). Shaving edge was gone but no chips to edge. At home minute with Spyderco Sharpmaker and it shaved again.
Paracord grip was hard to bare hands while batoning as expected. With gloves it was much better. Very good for tactical knife designed for fighting.
My friend tried it too and he liked very much. He liked knifes balance and blade lenght preferring it over Ontario RAT 5 he owns.
Thank you for good knife."
And the pictures he sent:
A Montana customer used his custom tomahawk and knife set to cut the spine out of the Thanksgiving turkey to spread it out in a pan for cooking, something I had not seen before.
Abbott and Costello, the o-tanto twins, have gotten in on the action as well, in spite of going to separate homes.  Costello carved the turkey...
And Abbott opened the corn!

Thanks for sharing, guys!  And a bigger thanks for actually putting the blades to work!

Little Rok, tantos, and Benghazi Warfighters

Some work that went off to customers this past month.  All of 'em are 80CrV2 blades with paracord over neoprene handles and Kydex sheaths.
First off, a Little Rok with exposed butt that went to a Georgia state trooper.  This had a 5.5" blade, longer than usual for that style.
Next, a 6" little black tanto that will be going on a duty belt.
A little 6" kwaiken in tan over black.
Which ended up being bought along with Costello the o-tanto...
... which got used to carve the customer's Thanksgiving turkey.
This black-over-olive drab Benghazi Warfighter went to a soldier.
And this one was supposed to be the one above, but the touchmark ended up getting stamped sideways.  I decided to aggressify the profile and make it a fully sharpened top edge.  I posted a pic of it on Instagram after the cleanup grinding had been done on the profile and offered it up at a pretty good discount (especially since it was a cosmetic flaw), and it ended up getting snatched up literally about two minutes later by a repeat customer in Special Forces.  He asked me to leave the butt exposed for hammering (or skullcrushing!) purposes.  It, too, has a black-over-olive drab wrap.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Double-edged meat cleaver, carcass splitter, short sword re-wrap, etc.

Some of the work that I've completed in the last few months that hasn't gotten posted yet:
This double-edged meat cleaver was built as close as possible to a sketch sent to me by the customer.  I'm pretty pleased (and so is he!) with how closely I was able to get to what he drew.  The blade is 13 1/2" of 5160 steel, the top edge is fully sharpened, the handle is marine epoxy-impregnated blue paracord over black over a foundation of neoprene. The butt is left exposed, and there are Turk's head knots fore and aft.
He also ordered up a Benghazi Warfighter with matching handle wrap.
An idea of scale:
Forged at the same time as the cleaver was this carcass splitter, with a single layer of black paracord over neoprene for the handle.  The blade is 17 1/2" long of 5160.
This was a short sword I forged a few years ago, inspired by Celtic and Chinese ancient swords.  It ended up being bought by my best customer, a Navy SEAL.  A few months ago he asked if he could send it back.  He loved it, but it just was not a practical blade to carry on the battlefield, so it had been on display, unused.  He wondered if I could re-sell the sword and put the money toward something he would actually strap to his gear when in the dangerous parts of the world.  I agreed, and put forth the offer to any interested buyer that I would re-wrap the handle with my improved methods in their colors of choice and build a new sheath, once again since my skills in that area have improved. It ended up getting spotted on Instagram by a customer who had seen it when I first made it and loved it then.  He jumped on the opportunity and laid claim.
His choice of colors was to keep the original black over retina-searing neon lime, but decided to make the three-strand Turk's head knot blue instead of black.  The handle doesn't look a lot different from what it did before, but it fits the hand much better than before.  The blade is 13 1/4" long, again 5160.
And the improved sheath molding is obvious.  The original black one was done by heating about 6" of Kydex at a time with a heat gun.  The new tan one was heated with a T-shirt press.  The T-shirt press is one of the best tooling investments I've made.  :)
 And less dramatic-looking but at least as special to me is this long Little Rok.  It was ordered by the soldier who ordered the first-ever Little Rok (along with Mightor, the big ol' Bowie that went it it) to carry in Afghanistan.  This one was commissioned as a gift for his father, the blade extended to current legal carry size in Texas, 5 1/2".  Wrap is tan over olive drab over neoprene.
He has built a leather sheath for it in addition to the Kydex one I made.
The original Mightor/Little Rok and two mini-prybar rig from 2013:
And a little video showing some of these blades and some others that I've already posted:

Further seaxiness

Some testing video with Tobin Nieto's seax.  A lot of the cutting tests were filmed at my shop.  You may recognize the old clothes dryer.  :D

Friday, October 21, 2016

Survivor's Edge article

My work ended up in a magazine article again!  Thanks to Steven Dick for including me in his article about the Usual Suspect Network Gathering knife show for the winter 2017 issue of Survivor's Edge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Elk-handled seax by Tobin Nieto

My buddy Tobin Nieto (Forged in Fire champion!) is working on a limited run of Viking seaxes with the YouTube channel Forged in Fire.  They did a video on the process of building the seax (part of which was filmed at my shop) and have an upcoming performance test video as well.  Check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Wilderness Survival Knives book by Clint Hollingsworth

Clint Hollingsworth, writer and illustrator of the excellent webcomic The Wandering Ones, recently completed his book on knives.  Some of my work is in the book.  On the cover, for instance.  :D  One of the chapters is an article about a couple of my knives from several years ago that Clint wrote for a magazine.  Thanks, Clint!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tantos, big and less big

In amongst other blades, I continue to play around with tantos with varying degrees of traditional/non-traditional profiles.  These are some of the more recent ones.  All of 'em are forged from 5160 with paracord over neoprene wrapped handles impregnated with marine epoxy.  Also, Kydex.
First off, my donation this year for Knife Rights' Ultimate Steel fundraiser.  Like I told Doug Ritter the other day at the Gathering, I would rather sweat in the humidity and feed mosquitos in my shop than deal with the lawyers and politicians he does.  My wife is a registered nurse and I feel much the way about her job; I would never be able to or want to do it, but I am very grateful that there are people who can and will.
And, of course, they have professional photographers that do much better than I could hope to.  Off the top of my head, I want to say this was about a 13" blade.
Next up are Abbott and Costello, forged for the Gathering show.  They were forged from the same size starting stock, which I did not measure before starting.  Costello came first, shorter and fatter with a 12" long blade and 17 7/8" overall length.  Next was Abbott, longer and skinnier with a 15" blade and 20 7/8" overall length.
Abbott has more power hammer texture than I usually leave, similar to the chubby kwaiken I did for the Blade Show.  Both of these have beefy handles from me using thicker neoprene for the foundation than I usually do.  Playing around with different ways of building 'em.  Abbott and Costello are both stout suckers.
And the smallest of this round, dubbed the "Mean Little Sucker".  It's narrow, pointy, and really wants to be all stabbity stabbity.  It was a bit scary to work on even before there was any kind of cutting edge on it.  Gotta keep an eye on the tip.  Blade length is 7", overall is 12 3/4".

Friday, September 9, 2016


Folks, I'm swamped!  I will be busy well into next year, 2017. 
It's a good position to be in, but I need to get work out the door and whittling down on the stack of orders waiting on me, not adding to the stack.
I have a couple of large group buys, some wedding knives, and a bunch of individual orders.  As well as a growing list of mid-tech projects I want to do that need CAD files to have a chance of seeing the light of day.
There will be some available work posted soon, but I usually don't have work on hand because I am mostly making commissioned orders.
So, if you are active duty military, law enforcement, or first responder, feel free to place an order.  I try to take care of y'all first, but at this point it may still take a while.
If you want a tomahawk (and there are three new designs that I haven't done a solid post about yet), feel free to place an order.  Follow the instructions and price guide here: Helm Enterprises, Grinding Division
If you are wanting a custom one-off and are not one of the aforementioned people, I have to decline at this point.  Thank you for your interest, but I have a pretty full plate already.
If you are someone who has placed an order and is wondering where the heck it is, shoot me an e-mail.  My mind can only focus on so many things at a time, and while I maintain a work list, sometimes people slip into the cracks.  I'm working on catching up from folks who e-mailed while I was getting ready for/traveling to and from the Gathering.
I'm eager to get work to my patient customers.  Please help by reducing the amount of e-mail I have to handle telling folks that I can't take on more work at the moment.  I'll be posting pictures of finished work here, and you can catch in-progress shots on Instagram and Facebook (@helmforge). 
Oh, if you are looking for knifemaking/blacksmithing lessons in the San Antonio area, check with the Southwest School of Art for a class taught by my buddy Tobin Nieto (Forged in Fire champion!).  If you aren't in the area, check with the American Bladesmiths Society.
Thank y'all!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A small look at the Usual Suspects Network Gathering

I just got back yesterday from the Usual Suspects Network Gathering show in Las Vegas.  Here are a few pictures from the show.
My table with my loverly bride.  I was up all night to finish everything for the show, so she drove the first day while I slept.  Thanks, sweetheart! 
 I had some tomahawks, including new designs I'll be posting more about at some point in the near future.  Yep, there's a tactical war hammer on the table.  It was my eye-catcher for this show.  :D/> 
And a goodly handful of forged blades in paracord and Kydex.  Your choice of black and tan or tan and black.
Last year I traded a tomahawk to Pat Pruitt for a bracelet with my touchmark.  He promptly cut himself on the 'hawk, right before the end of the show.  My wife, an RN, with the help of a first aid kit brought by the Broadwells, got him patched up.
Well, this year he showed up with this awesome cuff with my touchmark machined in zirconium.  I'll get it sized and fasteners added and will be wearing it to knife shows from here on out.  In addition to making awesome jewelry, Pat makes some amazing folders.
The very talented Don Andrade split a table with the likewise talented Ben Bawidamann.  Their work on one table made for a nice juxtaposition.
Some of Don's culinary cutlery featuring vintage phenolic handle slabs.
Don had this awesome little neck knife made by the inimitable Tai Goo.  There is no way my photography with a cell phone could begin to capture the transition from the tang to the blade.
I always have to check out Kiku Matsuda's table.
Travis Weurtz (that magnificent bastard!) (Forged in Fire champion!) posing with one of his well-engineered grinding gems.
And finally Larry from Blade Art and Liong Mah hamming it up with a couple of my choppers.
Of course, this isn't remotely all of the show.  It's largely folders, in spite of my pictures.  :D  I got to talk with old friends, meet some new (Tracker Dan!), and see Elvis driving around in a pink mid-'50s Cadillac.  Enjoyed it, glad to be home, looking forward to next year!