Monday, February 10

DIY Knife Making - Bushcraft Knives


Can you make a bushcraft style knife without a forge or anvil?

This is the challenge I set up for myself when I started writing DIY Knife Making - Bushcraft Knives earlier this year (January 2020).

The short answer is: Yes, you absolutely can.

The part of the process that usually trips people up is the Hardening.

Hardening in knife making takes quite a bit of heat to pull off correctly.

Forges can reach that temperature very easily and quickly, but the downside is forges can be expensive to buy or build sometimes (time-consuming more than anything).

The way to get around the need for a forge is to simply build a fire in your backyard fire pit or in a woodstove if you have one.

You can reach Hardening Temperature in a campfire.



The toasty coals in that fire grate are perfect for getting a piece of 1084 carbon steel up to hardening temperature.

What is proper hardening temperature for 1084 carbon steel?

The ideal temperature to hit is around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 1500 degrees F.

This temp represents a sweet spot for the metal where it becomes non-magnetic.

The lack of magnetism is a shortcut for knife makers and blacksmiths to know that it's ready to quench.

In terms of color, you're looking for a little brighter than cherry red.

What About the Anvil?

I do 95% of my work at Brown County Forge on either of my two anvils.

However, for this style of knife making an anvil isn't needed.

There is no hammerwork involved. (Sadly for some, but I'll explain why below.)

In the book, we cover the same style of knife making that manufacturer's like Ka-Bar Knives and Buck Knives use: stock removal.


In stock removal knife making, you're cutting away the metal you don't need from the edges of a template (provided as a bonus in the book).

You start with a piece of steel that matches closely to the dimensions of your final knife.

So you're not starting with huge chunk of steel that you need to thin out.

The main reasons I chose stock removal over forging is for simplicity and consistency of results.

It's much easier to get good results doing stock removal than it is hot forging.

If hot forging is more up your alley, I teach an online course where this is included:

DIY Blacksmithing Course

What kind of results can you get with 1084 steel, a little bit of wood, and some step-by-step instructions?





If you follow the steps in the guide and have some patience, you will come away with a knife you can use for years to come.

It will hold up under heavy use (including batonning kindling, cutting cordage, cleaning small game, and all the other bushcraft wilderness skills) as long as you heat treat correctly and set the grind according to the specifications in the guide.

Note: For bushcraft knives, you want to avoid a Full Flat grind in favor of a shorter bevel. The Scandinavian grind is typical of this style of knife.

*This is a brief preview of the Full-Color guide. 

If you'd like to learn more about Bushcraft Knife Making, you can pick up the eBook or Paperback at these online retailers:

Download the eBook: https://gum.co/zNdBO 

 


Saturday, May 18

How Much Do Blacksmiths Make?



Have you ever wondered how much blacksmiths actually make?

Or if it's possible to make a living as a blacksmith?

In this post, I've gathered research and first-hand experience to answer these questions.

Quick Note: I realize that many people consider it poor taste to talk about money. If this makes you uncomfortable, I understand.

I personally enjoy talking about salaries and job growth rates (one of my favorite websites is the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

So for those of you who want to know the answer, let's get into it!

Blacksmith Pay Varies...A Lot

The blacksmithing industry is very very small. And the people who populate it range from small hobbyists who make enough to support their hobby to full-scale metalworking shops with welding equipment and CNC machines who do millions in revenue each year. 

Not to mention the celebrity blacksmiths on shows like Forged in Fire: Judges David Baker and J. Neilson, in particular.

With that kind of exposure, it gets increasingly easy to parlay it into big paydays. 

So, blacksmiths can make anything from $1 to millions depending on their notoriety, their marketing, and their skills.

One Blacksmith's Opinion: To be considered a professional blacksmith, or a professional at anything, you need to have gotten paid to do it at the very least. Strictly speaking, it needs to be your main paid occupation. 

Professional Blacksmith Examples

Farriers

According to thefarrierguide.com, the average annual salary for Full-Time farriers in 2012 was $92,623. For part-time farriers it was $21,153. 

The thing to keep in mind is that this is the average. It's the sum of all salaries divided by the number of farriers working. 

Farriers for farm horses are going to be paid differently than farriers for racing horses.

Architectural Blacksmiths

There aren't a whole lot of these around, but they do exist. Blacksmithing isn't typically their only source of income, but they can earn a considerable amount from the fabrication of indoor railings, iron gates, etc.

With the right clientele, a single very large gate and fence job (think mansion or estate) can fetch upwards of $50,000 or more. 

Teaching Blacksmiths

Some blacksmiths make a portion of their income by teaching others. 

Class rates depend on location and the market for classes in that area. 

If it's a one-person shop and they charge around $100 per person per class and they're able to stay booked, they have a chance at earning a living by sharing the craft. 

The downside is that, outside of its own world, blacksmithing can seem a little obscure. The teaching blacksmith has to compete with ALL of the other options people have for spending their entertainment dollars - vacations, theme parks, really nice dinners out, etc.

Final Verdict

The final answer to "How Much Do Blacksmiths Make?" isn't cut-and-dried.

It's not an in-demand profession since we have machines to make so many of the products a smith would normally make. 

We have more than enough knives. 

We have plenty of hooks.

We don't need any more fantasy weapons. 

BUT people like these things and they like being able to find things that are still handmade. 

If you're looking to pick up blacksmithing as a potential income-earning pastime, it's important to have a few things to rely on:

  • Patience - You won't find success overnight.
  • Desire - Some days will suck. A lot. If you don't have a strong desire to keep making things and talking about it, it probably won't work. 
  • Another source of income - It's hard to scrape out a living as a blacksmith due to the demand issues mentioned above. (Not to mention the current competition that has been ignited with shows like Forged in Fire. Everybody is suddenly a knifemaker.)
  • Verbal Skills - Both spoken and written. It's important to be able to communicate with people.
Skills to pick up and develop (if you don't already have them):

  • Marketing - If you can't find your market (the people who want to buy your thing), you're out.
  • Business Basics - Like budgeting, managing overhead and materials costs, simple accounting, etc. You need to know how much you're investing for the return you're getting.  
You only have one life to try this stuff out. If you're into it, go for it. Just be ready to call it quits before the lights get turned off. 

Cheers!

Friday, May 17

Options for Blacksmith Training in (Almost) Every State



When it comes to blacksmith training it can be difficult to find the resources you need.

In this post, we'll lay out:


  • What types of training are available.
  • Where the closest blacksmith school is to you (in the U.S.).
  • How much you can expect to spend.

What types of training are available?

While there are many different sub-categories of blacksmithing, people usually focus on just a handful.

In my experience, this handful consists of farrier work, artistic/architectural, and knife making. 

Farrier Work

Of the blacksmiths working today, the most common type with the steadiest incomes are farriers or horseshoers. 

You'll find them in areas known for horse breeding, farming, Amish country, etc.

If there are horses around, a farrier won't be far behind. 

Here is a thorough list of Farrier Schools in the United States from California to New York and everywhere in between: 


Artistic/Architectural Blacksmithing

If you're not so keen on working with horses, you might be more interested in learning traditional blacksmithing or what we consider more artistic blacksmithing.

These are the folks who create sculptures, forge iron gates, restore historic ironwork, and keep some of the more obscure parts of the tradition alive. 

On this website you can find a clickable U.S. map of all of the blacksmith schools in the nation (that we've found or have provided their information to us). 


Knife Making

Due to the popularity of knife making, many of the schools on the U.S. schools map also offer it as part of their course catalog.

If you want to dive deep into knife making, I recommend taking a look at your state on that map and any schools in states that border yours/are within a reasonable drive.

How much does blacksmith training cost?

Farrier schools will range in price, but let's use Kentucky Horseshoeing School as an example:

Their 12-week survey course is $9,500.
Their 36-week career course is $25,000.

Financial assistance is available.

Artistic/Architectural/Craft Blacksmithing classes and courses are much shorter in duration and will cost quite a bit less.

Here are a few current examples of what you can expect to spend:

The wide variation in timeframe and class costs are related to a few things:

  • Customer demand and availability - Some groups of people have the time to take an entire week off to go to rural North Carolina for an amazing experience at John C. Campbell. Other people only have a few hours on a weekend to learn some tips and tricks. It varies a lot.
  • Location - You can expect to pay more in larger cities since the cost of living is higher.
  • Notoriety - If the shop is well-known you may experience premium pricing. For example, there's a Forged in Fire champion who works in Pigeon Forge, TN in an open air shop. He and his staff are able to cycle multiple people per hour through a $75/person RR spike knife class due to his fame and the system he set up. Pretty impressive.

What are your blacksmithing goals?

The goals you set for yourself when it comes to blacksmithing will dictate what type of training you pursue. 

If you just want to give it a shot, a weekend class could be the ticket.

If you know you want to devote your life to it and want to secure a stable income, I recommend pursuing farrier school. 

There are very few professional blacksmiths who make a good living at it full-time. It can be a very difficult road to take, but not impossible if you have tenacity, a sociable personality, and some marketing skills (more on the importance of these attributes in a future post). 

If you're serious about giving it a shot, check out these resources: