I'm not going to lie, I didn’t think anyone would read this blog, but you do and so I shall keep writing it!
By 2010 I had some sort of idea what I was doing when it came to making knives and I had stopped using “found” steels and started buying small pieces of various steel from Alpha Knife Supply. I was playing with N690, Elmax, D2, and 154CM. For the most part I was using G10 for handle scales, but I made a few knives with stabilized wood too.
For tools I had an old Delta 8in drill press, a dremel, an angle grinder, a 48in flat sander/disk sander, a old Craftsman 6in bench grinder (which we still have and use every day), and I had acquired a bunch of fire bricks that served as a modular heat treat kiln with a weed burner as the heat sources. I can still remember fondly the jet engine sound it used to make when I was burning it on maximum output to get up to 2100 degrees.
The process was pretty straight forward: Cut steel with the angle grinder, get to the final shape with various parts of the sander, bench grinder, files, and the dremel, drill holes, rough grind the bevels on the disk sander then get it really hot in the inferno kiln, quench, and hope like hell the blade didn’t warp. Then piss my wife off by tying up our kitchen over for 4 hours to temper.
As you can tell it was very scientific… but using simple checks like heating steel till it lost ferromagnetism I was able to heat treat various steels with working parameters. It certainly was not the level of control we have today with our computer controlled ovens or when we send blades to aerospace heat treaters, but it worked.
Once I had a heat treated knife-ish chunk of steel then came the handle work and finishing work and this part would take days. Because I was working with open flame and oil quenching I would get heavy oxide layers on my blade and it would hours to get off. Then I would have to cut my handle materials with the angle grinder and shape the down much like I had the blade. Then the whole knife would get assembled and final shaping would occur on the handle scales.
Because I was working in “spare” time it would take several day to complete a knife, usually an entire week. The most expensive knife I sold in 2010 took me two weeks to make. I charged $200 for that knife and it was the most expensive knife I had ever made.
Now I didn’t come to knife making without any knowledge of metal or wood working. I had done plenty of welding and general metal work on an industrial level so I knew basic things like drilling and taping steel, how to peen softer metals without messing it up. I also knew about sanding progression, something that is actually very important to knife making but doesn’t get much press.
And so with a little know-how and a lot of elbow grease I was able to make knives that people actually paid for. Granted it was not many people, but my hobby was showing signs that it could be self-funding. So I bought some new tools like a heat gun! That way I could make Kydex sheaths. To this day I still have that heat gun and box of various Kydex and the rivets and screws I used to use.
I also was making leather sheaths by 2010, nothing fancy, usually pretty ugly, but I progressed my leather working skills in 2011 to the point where my leather sheath did not suck.
The biggest lesson I learned in 2010 though, was that I needed a better way to grind. Since my grand total in sales for 2010 was $1,234 the thought of buying a $3000 grinder was way out of the question, but I have a buddy, Big Jon, and he is particularly gifted at finding things on the cheap. He’ll be mentioned a lot in 2011’s post since it was his help that scored me some of the major tool upgrade that came in that year.
Thanks for reading and next week we’ll start looking a 2011, which is where things get far more interesting since I was getting actual knife orders and trying to figure out the business side of making knives and not going broke in the process. I also actually have pictures from 2011 so I'll be putting some in the next post!