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Philip Montgomery




Location: Houston
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Nov, 2008 1:52 pm    Post subject: making an historically accurate knife         Reply with quote

I hope this is right forum to post questions about making arms. A friend and I are planning to make a reproduction of a medieval knife capable of being used as originally intended. I am seeking advice. We have access to a large machine shop and two forges. The machine shop belongs to my friend. Neither of us have done this before, but we both have a strong interest in historically accurate arms. My thought is that a knife might be the best place for us to begin the learning process.

I am inclined to use the method of stock removal. My friend wants to try forging.

I am also wondering what type of knife to make: the aunlaz dagger style, rondel, or a dirk-style.

I also need to know what types of steel to use.

If you can point me to any resources online or on this site, I would appreciate it. Recommendation, comments and questions are welcome. By the way, I am the historian and my friend is the machinist/tool-die guy.

Philip

Philip Montgomery
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"A broken sword blade fwipping through the air like a scythe through rye does demand attention."
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Mick Czerep




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Nov, 2008 9:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It depends on how accurate you want to be - originals in good condition usually have fire-marks from forging, so that's the real way to go. Steel and technique would depend on historical period (early medieval, high middle ages, late medieval) you want to immitate and the degree of authenticity you wish to attain.

Cheers
Mick

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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Nov, 2008 10:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don Fogg has a very nice forum for knifemaking in general.. http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?

Replicating the steels used in the past is the tricky part, you have to make them yourself, pretty much.
However, modern low alloy, high-carbon steels make very good blades that can be heat-treated with minimal tools. The 10xx series steels (1050, 1095, etc...) are a good place to start. The last two digits stand for carbon content, 1050 having .5%, 1080 having .8%, etc... You will want a steel with at least .5% but no more than 1% carbon for a big knife. As far as tool alloys go, O1 and w1/w2 are good steels if a bit high in carbon, maybe best for smaller blades where edge-holding is more important than toughness. L6 is a favorite for toughness, but has a more complex heat-treatment than the 10xx series. 5160 is also a good tough steel that excels as a big blade. All of these steels mentioned forge well, or can be used stock removal.

Forging is a bit more historically accurate, and, IMO, more fun... It will still need stock removal after forging to perfect the surfaces. Polishing and fitting the handle often takes more time than shaping the blade.

If it was me, I'd go with an early dirk... rondels are fairly simple to make, might not be a bad choice for a first. Double edges are a bit trickier to forge and grind, single edges would be easier for someone new at this.

You have no idea the can of worms you are opening, I warn you, it is addictive...
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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Nov, 2008 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

another good site is http://www.britishblades.com/forums/index.php
you'll find loads of tutorials, and lots of info not only on knifemaking, but also anything else remotely associated.

as for design, specs and the historical aspect tho, you have come to the right place:)

just bacon...
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Nov, 2008 11:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally I would start the process in a way that will give you a good result with some time and care and I would start with a simple eating knife as this will introduce you to most of the technical aspects of knife making in a bite sized chunk that you can acomplish to a high standard if you put the time in.

If you were to start with a rondel say, I think there is a high chance that you will make mistakes that will mean that you won't be happy with the finished piece in probably a number of ways.

I would also start with stock removal as this is a major part of forging anyway as you always have to clean up a forged blade by stock removal in the end so get some practice in early.

Eating knives are single edged which are easier than double, have a bit of rivetting in the handle and of course have all the hardening, tempering aspects, but it is all on a smaller level so your inevitable early mistakes won't be too disheatening as you can always start again. Make a couple and then move onto daggers. Personally I love making eating knives and the scope for creativity is huge especially if you look at the 1300's where pretty much anything you can think of has historical precendent.

For steel use 01, it is easily buyable in small amounts, you can buy (ground flat stock (well its called that in the UK) in pretty much any size you want so minimising grinding and outlay and it is dead easy to harden and temper and was the standard small knife steel for years and often still is.

For attaching a handle and making a medieval scabbard there are instructions on www.todsstuff.co.uk under instructions.

Good luck and yes it is addictive

Tod

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Michal Plezia
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Nov, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For the first knives I recommend steel from old files, saws ,bearing balls,leaf springs.I don't know what types of steel exactly are used in those items outside Europe(there are different norms, names, etc.) but I am sure the main characteristic would be quite similar:
steel from old files are hard but somewhat fragile...I wouldn't recommend it for longer blades
knives made from springs are hard to break,but quite easy to blunt(and to sharpen again as well Wink )


When you gain some skill you can buy better steel, more expensive, harder to form but with better characteristics...

www.elchon.com

Polish Guild of Knifemakers

The sword is a weapon for killing, the art of the sword is the art of killing. No matter what fancy words you use or what titles you put to
it that is the only truth.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Nov, 2008 8:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michal Plezia wrote:
For the first knives I recommend steel from old files, saws ,bearing balls,leaf springs.I don't know what types of steel exactly are used in those items outside Europe(there are different norms, names, etc.) but I am sure the main characteristic would be quite similar:
steel from old files are hard but somewhat fragile...I wouldn't recommend it for longer blades
knives made from springs are hard to break,but quite easy to blunt(and to sharpen again as well Wink )


When you gain some skill you can buy better steel, more expensive, harder to form but with better characteristics...


If you heat the blade made from a file in a household oven to 500 / 600 degrees F. and leave it at that temperature for a while and let it cool slowly you should be able to get the hardness down to the point where the blade won't break like a piece of glass if you drop it on something hard or hit something: Even more important if the blade is more than a foot long.

Since the oven heat can be chosen and limited to the degrees wanted it's a much more reliable way that heating the blade using a propane torch. Oh, the polished blade should turn a deep blue at 500 / 600 F. if you want to keep it a bit harder 350 degrees should give you a straw/golden colour.

Repolish the blade after or leave it blue if you like to colour. Wink Big Grin

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Michal Plezia
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You are right Jean,but steel used for files are usually more brittle even after proper heat treating than spring steels.
I didn't write that it would be brittle like glass and break when dropped Wink
Anyway before starting to work with and old file you should heat it at least to 800-850C(circa 1500F) and let it cool .500/600 F is good for tempering after hardening but not for 'unhardening'.I don't know if I use proper english terms for those process but ou should be able to understand what I mean Wink

www.elchon.com

Polish Guild of Knifemakers

The sword is a weapon for killing, the art of the sword is the art of killing. No matter what fancy words you use or what titles you put to
it that is the only truth.
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For me, the difficult part is not the making of the knife. There are several books and hundreds of websites that will fill in the details of knifemaking rather quickly. The difficult part is making one historically accurate, one that could at a glance pass for one made hundreds of years earlier. We have already discussed the steel, all modern steels look pretty much the same, but the steels used in the past have a unique character not easily duplicated with modern materials. Using old steel types quickly puts a premium price on the knife, due to the rarity of material or the labor necessary to recreate it. Unless it is extremely high polished or etched, most won't be able to tell the difference...

Study the type of knife you wish to replicate, note the way it is constructed, find as many of the type as possible and carefully study the form. Look carefully for tooling marks, these can tell you much about the methods used to make them. I strongly suggest using only hand tools to make them, forget the machine shop. Do not use a south-american hardwood for the handle of a 13th century Flemish eating knife, it's just wrong... Happy Limit yourself to the materials used on the originals, the materials available to the early cutler of the period you wish to copy. This can mean recreating the glues used, if you wish to take it that far.

I agree strongly with Leo's advice, try something simple first, then work your way up to more difficult projects.
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D. Austin
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 3:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michal Plezia wrote:
You are right Jean,but steel used for files are usually more brittle even after proper heat treating than spring steels.
I didn't write that it would be brittle like glass and break when dropped Wink
Anyway before starting to work with and old file you should heat it at least to 800-850C(circa 1500F) and let it cool .500/600 F is good for tempering after hardening but not for 'unhardening'.I don't know if I use proper english terms for those process but ou should be able to understand what I mean Wink


The English term for 'unhardening' is 'annealing'. To anneal a piece of steel properly, it should be heated to red and allowed to cool slowly, the slower the better. This means hours, maybe a day or more. Without a kiln, this can be done by plunging the hot steel into vermiculite and leaving it there until cool. Having said this, old files are really not the best for making knives. If you're going to put the effort in to make a nice knife, it's worth buying some decent steel to make it from.
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 6:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have made blades from Nicholson files, they are actually quite flexible if you hit the right hardening temp. and quench in a medium-slow oil instead of water or other very fast quenches (water hardening tool steel such a W1 or W2 is typical for files, and is what Nicholson uses according to a company rep.). The ones I made back in my early forging days were quenched in olive oil and are hard enough to support a nice, thin cutting edge and are still suprisingly tough, after seeing them flex you would never think they came from a file.
The file should be thoroughly annealed and the teeth ground off before forging however, the teeth will create cold shuts in the surface as they are forged flat.
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 7:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally I'd go to one of the knife making forums to ask about the technical side of knife making. There are several people who are regulars there that are into historical reproductions. Forge or stock remove as you wish, each method has advantages and disadvantages, you'll have to decide what is best. I'd take a pass on unknown steel, aka mystery metal. It's much easier to learn the heat treating part of knife making if you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time you get a new bar of steel. Just an FYI, if you want to temper a blade a little on the softer side, go above 600 degrees F.; between 500-600 degrees F the steel can actually be hardened. weird but true. There are also some rather inexpensive books that can help also. They're cheaper than making a bunch of mistakes until you break down and ask for advice.
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 10:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have made a lot of knives from old files. They seem to be made of plain high-carbon steels (1.0-1.2 % carbon and iron, maybe a little manganese). Should harden in oil pretty well, though I always used water. I never performed any destructive tests on these knives, but they hold an edge pretty well and are easy to sharpen. I usually temper them to dark brown or purple color (sorry, don't remember what temperature it is). Straw color makes a little bit too hard and therefore brittle knife, while blue color makes it a little too soft. I tempered sword blades made of 1080 steel to blue color, and this steel is not much different from file steel). I would not use files for making a sword that I plan to use for reenactment, but if you need a knife to cut with-go for it. If you want a dagger-also use files without hesitation, just temper to blue color or even slightly higher temperature. But consider that if you quench the steel in water it is more likely (for a large knife VERY likely) to warp during quenching. Make sure you do not overheat the metal. Add a little soap into the water to slow down the cooling process, and try heating the water to let's say body temperature. Just make sure you stir the liquid really well during quenching or move the blade around so that it is cooled down uniformly, otherwise soft spots may develop. Oh, and consider hardening cutting edge only. I tried clay-hardening knives made from files. The result was a very hard cutting edge and soft back, but I never managed to make hamon visible, even with etching. Though, frankly speaking, I never tried really hard.

One easy way to make knives from files is to temper a file to desired hardness (hey, you don't have to do the most difficult part then, quenching!) and make the blade by stock removal. Angle grinder eats hardened and soft steel with equal ease. Just make sure you do not overheat the cutting edge during grinding.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michal Plezia wrote:

I didn't write that it would be brittle like glass and break when dropped Wink
Anyway before starting to work with and old file you should heat it at least to 800-850C(circa 1500F) and let it cool .500/600 F is good for tempering after hardening but not for 'unhardening'.I don't know if I use proper english terms for those process but ou should be able to understand what I mean Wink


Oh, you didn't mention the breaking like glass but a home project I made from a file broke like glass when I tapped the blade lightly on some firewood. Eek! Laughing Out Loud

After heating and quenching we brought up de heat up of a toolsteel centre punch to blue using a heated block of steel on which to roll the centre punch until it became blue: This was decades ago in machine shop classes and I may have some of the details misremembered. Wink Oh, and it wasn't file steel.

The heating in the oven trick is better than not tempering at all but the results may not be good ? Hitting something hard may prove the finished blade to be tough enough or if not it will break ...... sort of annoying if one has put a lot of work into the piece. Oh, and this is more for the case where one hasn't the means to harden the steel and one attempts to soften it after it's been ground to shape. ( Sort of improvised technique that may not be optimal ? )

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Michal Plezia
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe I'll write how I would make a knife from an old file step by step. Most files around are probably made from NC6 steel or similar.

1.To make the file soft again (annealing process-thank you D.Austin )I heat it to circa 830-850 degrees C(the temperature of austenizing for NC6) and let it cool slowly.It would be hard to grind the tool that itself is used for ginding.

2.Than I would forge it and than grind (you can use stock removal technique too)

3.To make it hard again I would heat it again to the temperature of austenizing (830-850 C) but this time rapidly quench in the oil.

4.Tempering- to reduce stress and make the knife much less brittle I would put it in the owen.For tis type of steel for 1 hour in 175 deegres C.After those actions a blade should have 60-62 HRC.

5.I would now finish the surface, make it satin or mirror, make the handle and finnaly sharpen it.

www.elchon.com

Polish Guild of Knifemakers

The sword is a weapon for killing, the art of the sword is the art of killing. No matter what fancy words you use or what titles you put to
it that is the only truth.


Last edited by Michal Plezia on Wed 26 Nov, 2008 2:01 am; edited 2 times in total
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Michal Plezia
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 1:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. Austin wrote:
Michal Plezia wrote:
You are right Jean,but steel used for files are usually more brittle even after proper heat treating than spring steels.
I didn't write that it would be brittle like glass and break when dropped Wink
Anyway before starting to work with and old file you should heat it at least to 800-850C(circa 1500F) and let it cool .500/600 F is good for tempering after hardening but not for 'unhardening'.I don't know if I use proper english terms for those process but ou should be able to understand what I mean Wink


The English term for 'unhardening' is 'annealing'. To anneal a piece of steel properly, it should be heated to red and allowed to cool slowly, the slower the better. This means hours, maybe a day or more. Without a kiln, this can be done by plunging the hot steel into vermiculite and leaving it there until cool. Having said this, old files are really not the best for making knives. If you're going to put the effort in to make a nice knife, it's worth buying some decent steel to make it from.


I agree that files are not the best for knives.But good enough to practice.When you make your FIRST attempt there is no need in my opinion to pay for the steel.And old ,used files, springs, saws etc can be found for free here and there Wink
If the person is skilled enough (in his own opinion), feels confident ,it is certainly better to buy a type of steel you choose.That is what I do now.But first blades I've made were from old springs and files, just to lower the cost of learning Wink I still have those blades and they do their job Cool

Hmmm annealing..good word:) Thank you for help.I sometimes feel ashamed that I try to take part of discussion and don't know many terms in english.

BTW I use gas forge and fom my personal experience I can tell that anneling is in the most cases sufficient when it takes only circa 6-8 hours Wink


BTW2 I also find it somewhat difficult to find good sources on medieval knives.That is why I've started this topic:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p...ht=#147009

www.elchon.com

Polish Guild of Knifemakers

The sword is a weapon for killing, the art of the sword is the art of killing. No matter what fancy words you use or what titles you put to
it that is the only truth.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 2:53 am    Post subject: Re: making an historically accurate knife         Reply with quote

If you plan on making eating knives, definately get a copy of "Knives and Scabbards": http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.php?ASIN=0851158056

Then you'll find that even such simple knives are pretty involved if you want to make them fully accurate. But when you do, it's all worth it Happy
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Philip Montgomery




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Apr, 2009 1:19 pm    Post subject: follow up on making a knife         Reply with quote

After many delays, I have acquired the steel to make my knife....1095 carbon steel. I have a bar that is nine inches long and 1/4 inch thick and a four inches wide. I want to thank everyone for all their suggestions. I ordered a copy of Knives and Scabbards from Amazon and when that arrives I will start to determine the design for this first knife. I am planning to pick a style from 1343 to 1400 A.D., which was Geoffrey Chaucer's lifetime. This will be a common or eating type of knife.

I have been carrying this bar of steel with me to work and keeping it by my computer so I can touch it and heft it. I never thought I would fall in love with a piece of steel like this. I am taking this project slow, but I will post photos when I have something.

Philip

Philip Montgomery
~-----~
"A broken sword blade fwipping through the air like a scythe through rye does demand attention."
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Philip Montgomery




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PostPosted: Sun 03 May, 2009 1:51 pm    Post subject: pictures of blank after first stock removal         Reply with quote

I thought I would add a follow up to my first knife. It based on a general form from "Knives and Scabbards: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 1". I decided to do a scale tang knife the first time. I have some questions about what I am doing, since this is my first attempt. I included two pictures of what I have done so far.

The spec are as follows:

The metal is 1095 High Carbon steel stock, basically the same stuff as the old K-bar US Marine Corps knifes in WWII.

My knife measures approximately:

1/4" thick x 1 1/2" wide x 8 7/8" long.

The handle is 4 inches long and 1inch wide.

The blade is 1 1/2 inches wide.

I ground out the shape using a 10-inch electric grinder. Maybe, maybe, one of these days, I will try my hand at doing this manually, but I am already learning a lot about how hard making a knife can be. This is a humbling, but exciting experience.

My next step is to start shaping and grounding down the blade, because the blade seems to be too thick at 1/4 inch. Do you all think that is advisable? If so, do you have any suggestions about how to proceed? Any and all advice is welcome.

"A man who holds a cat by the tail, learns something he can learn no other way." Mark Twain.



 Attachment: 95.23 KB
MK- viewing blade edge 1.jpg
this shows my scale tang knife after the first session of stock removal.

 Attachment: 99.29 KB
MK-flat blank cut out.jpg
Here is the flat profile of the scale tang knife I ground out.

Philip Montgomery
~-----~
"A broken sword blade fwipping through the air like a scythe through rye does demand attention."
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 03 May, 2009 2:07 pm    Post subject: Re: pictures of blank after first stock removal         Reply with quote

Philip Montgomery wrote:


My next step is to start shaping and grounding down the blade, because the blade seems to be too thick at 1/4 inch. Do you all think that is advisable? If so, do you have any suggestions about how to proceed? Any and all advice is welcome.


This is very thick. Look at one of your kitchen chef's knifes to get an idea of how thick a big knife for hard duty would normaly be. Depending upon your final decision on thickness, the taper for the edge is something of a science in itself. I like angles around 10 degrees as a compromise for toughness verses sharpness.

There is a fair guideline regarding thickness, angle, and relative toughness versus sharpness here. http://www.navaching.com/forge/design.html

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