Hello Fellow Smiths!!
If you’re reading this, hopefully you’ve got a feeling within you that lights up at the sight of a blade, if so…greetings, you’re as crazy as I am! The art of making a tool that cuts is deeply apart of our history and is rightfully an awesome path to explore. Craftsmen, hunters, and warriors for millenia have saught to perfect their cutting tools of bone, obsidian, stone, metal, and steel, and yet still to this day the blade is a popular as ever!
If you have an interest in knife making, understanding the tools of the trade is basic training in our world as bladesmiths. Every tool has a purpose, if you understand what purpose a tool serves, finding alternatives to the expensive hardware becomes much much easier.
The anvil has one sole function in bladesmithing, and that is to be harder than your heated stock. The hardness of the anvil allows for its form to remain constant, thus directing the energy the hammer blows to your softer heated stock, allowing you to manipulate the form of your material. Our forefathers would use large stones as anvils, which is one of the cheapest and most abundent source of anvils out there. However, along with hardness, anvils need to be tough! Meaning they need to withstand force without cracking or breaking.
Finding a hammer for knife making is much easier than finding the anvil. However, I would make the point that your hammer should be a little bit softer than your anvil. Why? Because it is much easier to fix a hammer than it is an anvil! Ideally a good hammer for knife making will have both a round face and flat face, one for stretching material and the other for flattning. A professional blacksmithing hammer can be expensive, but very worth it. I currently use a 3lb Lilie hammer, and it has made my life much easier. However, if you don’t want to break your bank, a cheap functional hammer is extremely easy to find; Yard sales, thrift stores, antique shops, Home Depot… etc.
Moving material is possible when the metal is cold, this is called cold forging, and is primarily only used for smaller material. However, if you want to work with bigger material and maintain the strength of the steel, you’ll need a forge. A forge is simply a tool to get your material up to a temperature in which the metal becomes malible. The most common types of forges are; charcoal, coal/coke, gas, and electrical (convection). The simplest and cheapest forges to make are charcoal forges. Like coal/coke forges, charcoal needs an air source to add oxygen to your fire, which generates lots and lots of heat. This air source is useally in the form of a bellows or blower. The first forge I ever made, was just me blowing through a pipe into a pile of hot charcoals with my breath! There are many plans online on how to make your own forge. Charcoal forges are easiest to make, Coal forges are best for forge-welding, and gas forges are best for large materials. I’ve never used a convection forge so I have no comment on them yet.
The Anvil, Hammer, and Forge are the three fundamental tools that a bladesmith will use in making a knife! Smiths have been using these tools and variations of them for thousands of years. Making knives is an awesome way to learn blacksmithing and the language of steel. Now go have fun!