With the girls at school for 8ish hours a day I finally got to spend full days in the garage working on knives and it taught me some very important things about process management. There are some things, like drilling holes and doing cutout, that can be grouped together into one day so you can then spend the rest of the week doing processes that are best done in sequence. For instance; shaping a week's worth of rough cut blades so they can all be heat treated in one day allows you to rough cut handle scales for all the knives and rough shape them while your blades are in the oven. Thus, I would group knives into batches with distinct process flow from layout, to cut, to rough shape, to heat treat, to handle work, to grind, to finish work, to sheathing, to sharpen. While my garage looked like general chaos to the casual observer it was actually staged in process batches. And while those batch looked like wild piles for material, they were actually set up so I never had down time during my precious knife making hours.
Since I had some sort of process flow it started to become clear what I lacked in terms of machinery. One old Delta drill press was not enough and I really needed some sort of mill. I was also lacking quality grinding machinery, which really I didn't fully realize until 2013, when I finally got a proper 2x72in belt grinder. I was still rough shaping steel and titanium on a bench grinder, which actually was fairly efficient since I could shape grinder wheels to fit choil radii. But it made edge clean up a nightmare since the finest grinding wheels I had were 60 grit, and that meant I was shoe-shine finishing every edge with sandpaper.
The biggest change in 2012, the one that lead me to making knives full time, was starting to make folders. They dominated my knife making once I sent my first folder to Arizona Custom Knives and orders started coming in. But I didn't send a folder out for sale until May. Between the end of 2011 and May 2012 I made 5 really crappy folders that have basically all been destroyed at this point since they were... well, terrible. But that was how I learned what not to do. I said in the first blog that the story of Ferrum Forge is the story of failure and I did some epic fails in those first folders. I learned the importance of flatness, parallel surfaces, and how to transfer holes with as much accuracy as humanly possible. Then I learned how fix all of those things when inevitably screwed one or all of them up. I also acquired a little Sher-line hobby mill, which was very helpful, but since I was not a machinist, it took me a few scales to figure out how to do what I wanted with it.
By May of 2012 I finally had a folding knife I thought was good enough to sell and sent it to Arizona Custom Knives (pictured below) It sold in a few hours of being posted and the emails started coming soon after. Now, compared with what we make these day it was pretty rough, but back then it was the best I could do.
In my next blog entry I will go into the business side of what happened in 2012 because changing to full time meant I needed to change Ferrum Forge into an actual company. I will also talk about Chris for the first time and his apprenticeship.