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[from newsgroup] traditional quick-and-dirty method for tempering axe heads

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by ddean, Jun 22, 2002.

  1. ddean


    Mar 26, 2002
    This message appeared recently on alt.crafts.blacksmithing
    Interesting to compare to what we know of the kami's technique.

    "Douglas Neukam" <[email protected]com.net> moved upon the face of the 'Net and spake thusly:

    > After hardening you must temper the steel to
    > make it less hard,if you don't the knife will break.

    I was reading a book last night on Australian traditional bush crafts,
    and in a section on blacksmithing, they related this traditional
    quick-and-dirty method for tempering axe heads and crowbars.

    Not really applicable to knives, as there's not enough mass behind the

    * Head the item to red

    * Quench the edge and remove from the water, scrape the blade with a
    file to remove scale and reveal the steel

    * Hold the (still very hot) axe head above the water, and watch the
    colours of the filed steel. When you see the blue/yellow colour
    move down the piece to the edge, quench the entire thing.

    This is basically using the residual heat in the non-blade portion
    of the metal to do the tempering, rather than re-heating it.

    --cjb "
  2. Bill Martino

    Bill Martino

    Mar 5, 1999
    Interesting and thanks.
  3. Sylvrfalcn


    Jun 4, 2002
    Interesting, the more I find out about bladesmithing, the more I learn how little I know.
    Speaking of quenching hot steel, I read somewhere that the graceful curve of old katana blades was originally a result of the way they were quenched.
    It's a pity most blades are nowadays made by machines. Primitive cultures thought blacksmiths possessed magical abilities. I guess that puts me in the primitive category, because I'm convinced they do.

  4. Hibuke


    Mar 28, 2002
    Oh yes, I was in exactly the same boat! :)

    You are exactly right, the graceful curve that appears in all Japanese Blades comes from the quenching. The blades were traditionally coated with clay of a bizarre recipe. This was scraped off the edge. When heated, the clay insulates the back, spine and tang of the sword, so the edge gets hotter. The whole Blade is then quenched and when it does so, the edge cools faster than the rest of the blade, so the blade curves! :)

    It is really very interesting. The same thing is done, albeit in a different form, by Western 'smiths. They carefully monitor the tempering, so the edge is heated more than the rest of the blade. The results are similar, IMOHO, but nowhere near as traditional.

    As to blades being made by machine, yes, I agree that 'smithing is a dying art. However, the debate still rages on between the merit and demerits of forging Vs stock removal. Interestingly, some fantastic Japanese-styled blades are made using stock removal. Canadian Mastersmith Wally Hayes and American Steve Corkham are two that spring to mind. Wally makes even full-sized Katana-styled swords by stock removal!
  5. Bill Martino

    Bill Martino

    Mar 5, 1999
    We are headed down the road which ends in the place where nothing is handcrafted. How long it will take to get there I'm not sure.
  6. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster www.kosterknives.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    True. However, it's hard for me to imagine a big industrial machine shop with a bunch of kamis behind the wheels...;)
  7. Ferrous Wheel

    Ferrous Wheel

    May 16, 2002
    Well, maybe the machines they use are handmade? Or the machines that made those machines were handmade? Humans still gotta enter the cycle somewhere, and even stock removal blades have to be human-ground and human-tempered and human polished. You can't ever separate man from his tools, they are interconnected, and have been for a while...

    I have a buddy who smiths, but it is more for the art and joy than it is to produce like a kami.

    I'm okay with stock removal, as long as the source steel is good and the heat treat is correct. Most forging on blades that included folding (like wootz and pattern welded steel) was done to get a good carbon content and to remove impurities, both of which are addressed in modern steel making. Modern steel rocks. Even the kamis are using Mercedes benz leaf springs (good recycle!) which is modern steel.

  8. Bill Martino

    Bill Martino

    Mar 5, 1999

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