The tools determine the methods used, so let's start with tools. To make all of our knives, we use a propane forge, hand hammers, an anvil, a couple grinders, a tiny milling machine, and hand files. We now use a high temp salt pot to do all of our thermal cycling and austenitizing. We hope to have a longsword-sized heat treat forge up and running soon...stay tuned!
We do all of our designing with paper and pencil, and we do our best to match our work to our designs. Sometimes we end up changing things up as we work through a build, but we think that it is a good thing to plan ahead and to stick to the plan when possible.
Our favorites are 1084, W2, and 80CRV2.
We hand forge all of our knives to shape, including tapers, bevels, and tangs, because it allows us to be more creative in our design. And it's fun. During the forging process we start to "heat treat" the knife by working the steel very hot at first and then slowly backing down the heat as we get closer to the shape we want. This stepping down of forging temperatures helps to refine the grain of the steel. The final forging step, straightening, is done at very low temperatures (1200-1300 F).
This step is required in order to refine the grain size (make it smaller) and structure (make it even) and to get the knife into a softer state (annealed) for grinding and sanding. The temperatures and and soak times we use depend on the steel we are using for that particular knife.
Grinding and Rough Sanding
This is when the knife starts to take on its final polished look. We use a belt grinder and a disc grinder for all the rough work.
Hardening and Tempering
With the rough grinding done, the knife looks like a knife but isn't really a knife since the steel is too soft to serve as a knife. So, we heat the knife in the high temperature salt bath and then quench it in the appropriate quenching oil. After quenching, the blade is hard and brittle, so we temper the blade in the oven (and sometimes with a torch) in order to get the blade to the hardness and toughness that is appropriate for its intended use.
Final Fit and Finish
This is the point at which handle material is shaped, guards are drilled and milled, and everything else that goes into the knife is assembled and fitted into place. We typically finish our blades to about 400 grit on the sides and 2000 on the spine to give the blade a little depth and contrast.
Sheaths and Scabbards
We enjoy working with leather, wood, and kydex--whatever is best for that particular blade and intended use.