Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Blacksmithing/Bladesmithing Classes

A number of people have e-mailed me lately asking about classes.  It has been several years since I have taught classes, but there are two fellow "Forged in Fire" champions in the San Antonio area who are teaching classes in conjunction with the Southwest School of Art and independently.  They are Tobin Nieto of Stonehaven Knifeworks and Alex Ruiz of Volundr Forge.

Sign up for classes via the Southwest School of Art website:

Or make inquiries at the STAB HQ website:

Speaking of which, STAB HQ is the South Texas Association of Bladesmiths Headquarters, a pooling of resources among several San Antonio area knifemakers.  More about that later.

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Knife or Death" Ronin War Sword

I'm sure some of y'all have seen the new open cutting competition show on the History Channel, "Knife or Death".  While I haven't gotten to compete on it (Several "Forged in Fire" competitors, including Rashelle Hams from my episode, have been on.  She did quite well.), I did get to be involved in an interesting way.

I was contacted by Tu Lam, retired Green Beret and one of the three hosts of the show, when he saw some of my carcass splitters on Instagram.  He asked to meet me at Blade Show to discuss a project.

All three hosts of the show were getting blades for themselves to do some cutting for demonstration and promotional material for Season 2.  Travis Wuertz built his own piece of awesomeness.  Bill Goldberg, the wrestler. had a big cleaver built by Wayne Meligan, who had competed on Season 1.  Tu was interested in having me build him a blade for him. 

In particular The Mutant double-edged carcass splitter that was my reaction to seeing the first episode of the show caught his attention.

We discussed what he was looking for, his thoughts, my thoughts, made some sketches, and continued the discussion after I got back home.  What I ended up building was a kind of pan-Asian dao that Tu named the Ronin War Sword.  There are influences from Chinese pudao, Korean hyeopdo, Vietnamese yem nguyet dao, and Nepalese ram dao.

The steel is, of course, 80CrV2, with a 16" blade and 18" handle.  The weight ended up just over 3 pounds, with the point of balance right behind the front Turk's head knot.  The handle wrap is toasted hemp cord over a neoprene foundation, impregnated with West System marine epoxy.

The main edge is a tall flat bevel with secondary bevel, while the spine side and clip are zero-ground convex edges.  Stout, and hair-shaving.

In addition to a forward lanyard hole, I laser-engraved Tu's dragon logo on the blade.

I built an open-backed Boltaron sheath for it.

 A look at the War Sword in my hands...

...and a far more dramatic shot of it in Tu's grip.  It looks better with him!

I know that there has been at least some cutting done with it in association with the show.  Tu made a nice, clean cut on a big fish using the convex side.

The Ronin War Sword and the other hosts' blades have been all over social media in promotional material, but Travis' sword is the only one that I've seen (in very quick shots) actually on TV.

I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up the latest issue of Knives Illustrated to see that in their interview with Bill Goldberg and Tu Lam, that Tu discussed the Ronin War Sword and they included a picture of him with it.  That makes two months in a row that my work has ended up in Knives Illustrated.  :D

In spite of living a nearly hermit-like existence, I sure get to meet some interesting people and do some interesting things.  :D

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Blade Show, months later

It has been a very busy summer and I haven't kept things updated as I should.

Had an awesome Blade Show this year (first weekend in June!  I am way behind!), and two full tables of inventory.  This year had the distinction of the *first* show I've ever had a table where I wasn't having to sharpen blades in the hotel room/at the table.  My wife was happy about that.  :D

One table was dedicated to forged blades and the other to mid-techs.

Ed Calderon, the Taco Ninja, usually works with the small and concealable, but he loves my big carcass splitters.

Filthy Mitch added to his impressive collection of Helm blades with a smaller carcass splitter and my first-ever ginunting, plus one or two mid-techs.

Tu Lam, co-host of the History Channel cutting competition show "Knife or Death" had seen my big blades on Instagram and arranged to meet up to discuss a project for him.  More details later.

Tobin Nieto re-created the pose used by artist Matt Dyck for my T-shirt design, using the wakizashi/tanto daisho collaboration I did with Ben Tendick.

I was quite pleased and humbled when ABS Mastersmith Lin Rhea came over to my table to tell me he appreciated what I was doing in the field of forged blades.  Especially high praise given his amazing skill with a hammer.

Allan Reid of ARctc Knives was grinding so hard he got to the show late, but he came with a good showing.

James Huse earned his ABS Journeyman Smith stamp this year. Congratulations!

A better look at the forged blades.  All wrapped handles.  The cleavers are 5160, the rest are 80CrV2.  The hemp wraps were torched prior to being impregnated with epoxy.  Sheaths are Boltaron.

Especially with the cleavers, I've been working on getting closer to the final shape with my power hammer, Gunnhilda.  The cleavers in particular only had hand forging to straighten them.  The power hammer die texture on those has not been smoothed over with a hand hammer as I usually do.  Just an area of skill I'm currently working on refining.

It's been a while, so any dimensions mentioned below will be approximate.

Carcass splitter with an 18" blade, 22" handle.

Carcass splitter with a 15" blade, 14" handle.

Bush sword, about 15" blade.

The first ginunting I've made, about a 15" blade.  I'm working on my second one right now for inventory for Blade Show West.

This carcass splitter was my reaction to seeing what challenges were on the first episode of "Knife or Death" on the History Channel.  I call it "The Mutant".  :D  Approximately a 14.5" blade, 14" handle.  The "spine" side is sharpened with a stout convex edge that is frighteningly sharp.  The idea being that the main edge would work for most of the cutting tasks, while the convex edge is reserved for particularly damaging tests such as buckets of gravel and huge ice blocks.  I think of the design as a hybrid fusion of a carcass splitter and a Nepalese ram dao.  It balances on the heavy side for plenty of inertia, but is still nimble and *very* powerful!  This was one of the blades that caught Tu Lam's attention.

I initially tried to build a normal Boltaron sheath, but saw that the chances of grievous harm to the sheather was high, so ended up turning it into a split sheath.

The cleaver hole is centered on the blade instead of offset toward the spine, which made me think of a Cyclops and contributed to its name.

While this particular carcass splitter was not forged until after the Blade Show, it was requested by a repeat customer after the other short carcass splitter got picked up by Filthy Mitch at the show.  He was really hoping it would make it through the show so he could buy it, so I ended up making him one as close to the one he had liked. 

I'm currently working on inventory for Blade Show West coming up the first weekend in October in Portland, OR.  It'll be my first time in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm looking forward to it.  Only one table this time, and all of the inventory is forged work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Join the Barbarian Horde!

I just created a Facebook group for folks who own blades I've made, and other interested parties.

Helm Enterprises, Barbarian Horde Division

If you're on FB, feel free to join!  Would love to see pictures of folks' blades, especially pics of them being put to work.  :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Knives Illustrated article

If you pick up a copy of the November 2018 "Knives Illustrated" magazine, you'll see a well-written article about one of my knives by Waysun Johnny Tsai. 

This 7 1/2" bladed variation of my Benghazi Warfighter model got put through a pretty thorough series of tests and did what it was supposed to. 

Thanks to Waysun for the testing, the article, and the good-quality photos.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mini-fridge massacre

Not necessarily something I'd recommend, but apparently my bush swords are mini-fridge rated.  :D

Customer pics.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Pre-Blade Show Carcass Splitter

In the weeks leading up to the Blade Show, a knifemaker's life gets pretty crazy.  One aspect, especially for full-timers, is moving along enough work for customers to be able to stay ahead of the bills while also building inventory for the show.  Add to that equipment breakage, injuries, lack of sleep, torrential rains, high heat and humidity, and general bad luck and it's a wonder any of us make it to Atlanta alive and coherent.

As part of the pre-Blade balancing, I forged out a couple of big ol' carcass splitters.  One was to be a commission, the other table inventory.  I let the customer pick which of the two he liked once they were forged out, then finished it out to his taste.

I'm kind of enjoying shaping the fawn's foot handles on these full-sized carcass splitters.

The blades were forged as closely as possible with the power hammer, with a hand hammer used only for straightening.  The spines are as-forged.

Getting the handle wraps epoxied with some other Blade Show inventory.

The customer picked the blade with slightly more curve to the profile, and requested hemp cord (over a neoprene foundation) and black paracord Turk's head knots fore and aft.

I built a Boltaron sheath for it.

Little hard to see in the picture, but there is more power hammer texture in the blade than usual.

Big blade!

Long handle!

The specs:  Blade is forged from 1/4" 5160 steel, is 18 1/2" long and 3 1/2" wide.  The overall length is 40 1/4" and the weight is 77 ounces, or 4.8 pounds.  It shaved hair cleanly down the full length of the edge.

The customer commented upon receipt, "Pics are great, but you need to feel this thing in your hands to appreciate it."  :)