Hamon Tutorial -LOTS of pics


Well-Known Member
Firstly let's establish what Hamon "is".
Hamon is a Japanese word used to define the pattern that the hardened edge of a properly made sword. A common misconception is that Hamon refers to the hardened area, this is incorrect, the hardened area is known as Yakiba.

In modern knifemaking terms however Hamon has come to define the hardened portion of any knife which displays a differentially hardened edge.

There are many ways to achieve a differentially hardened edge but they all center around the same concept, getting the edge hard while keeping the back soft.

I use Satanite clay to insulate the spine area of my knives, thus preventing the spine from cooling fast enough to form Martensite (hard steel), while allowing the edge to harden. I use Parks #50 metallurgical quenchant with all of my blades but similar results can be achieved with any decent quenchant.
This tutorial assumes that you are using appropriate steel for creating a Hamon, a shallow hardening carbon steel is preferable.
1075, 1095, W1, W2 all do really well, 1084 is a little picky, O1 and 5160 are technically possible but a real bear.
Creating a good Hamon starts in the hammering and shaping phase. It is very important to have an understanding of what each heat is doing to the grain boundaries in your workpiece. If you are doing stock removal you should be pretty well set to go, if not you MUST make sure to properly normalize your work before HT.

I will show the progress of three blades shaped exactly the same, all made from 1095, each piece was normalized 4 times with descending heats.
The first normalization I went just to Non-Magnetic and let the knife cool slowly.
Then to just shy of Non-Magnetic (the magnet still sticks but very weak) and cooled slowly.
Then to a medium red heat and cooled slowly.
Then to a dull red heat and cooled slowly.
Here we have our 3 Blades all exactly the same width, profile and length (actually one is 1/8" longer, whoops) they are all ground the same and have been Normalized


First we will put a thin coat of Satanite over the entire surface of the blade.
It quickly breaks up the vapor phase of the quench yielding a faster and less turbulent quenching cycle.
And it will help the thicker layer of clay stick to the blade surface (I’m not exactly sure why but I have found this to be consistently true.)


So the thin layer is dry and now I will start building up my pattern.


I start by just globbing on teaspoon size amounts of clay





It helps to try and get an even amount all the way down



Now we need to smooth out the clay.










Spend some time getting it nice and even. This is VERY important; if you have thin and thick spots of the clay you will notice a lot of warping problems with your blades.



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Now I have a nice even coat on the spine, about 1/16” thick, you don’t want a whole lot of clay, just enough to keep the quenchant from contacting the back of the blade and hardening it.


Now we go back and clean up the clay from where we don’t want it.





Get you a nice straight line (or wavy if you want that pattern) and remove the excess.


I personally like to let a little bit of the spine at the tip harden. It’s entirely up to you if you want to do this or not.



Again, 1/16th will be PLENTY


Nice and smooth and even.


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Now I’ll start laying out a pattern, from here on the only limit is your imagination. I’m going to show you three patterns that I favor, but the possibilities are endless.
#1 will be closely spaced vertical lines




#2 will be widely spaced humps



#3 will be widely spaced humps but should be more angular than #2


Here’s what we have so far


I should probably show you the tool I use for all of this layout, it’s an oil painters palette knife, available at pretty much any art supply store.


I am assuming that you know how to Heat and Quench


A couple of quick pictures so you can kind of see what we got.





All together (you can kind of make out the pattern on #1 there)


The next installment we’ll go through polishing the blade and bringing out the Hamon to be nice and visible….

Which is really MUCH harder than most would think
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Outstanding instruction. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I'll be looking forward to seeing your next series.


Thanks a lot for this very well done tutorial. 2thumbs

I've got a couple questions for what it's worth.

Do you heat the satanite coating to dry it on the blade before the quench?

How do you clean off the Satanite after the quench?

Thanks again,


Thanks a lot for this very well done tutorial. 2thumbs

I've got a couple questions for what it's worth.

Do you heat the satanite coating to dry it on the blade before the quench?

How do you clean off the Satanite after the quench?

Thanks again,


I put the blade in the forge still wet, never really had a problem with it falling off.

I scrape it off with a crappy tomohawk I made a long while ago, then wire brush it before going to the grinder
I guess I'll try putting it in straight into my HT oven and see what happens.

I've got several crappy old hatchets I can use to scrape off the blade :D

love it Stephen, your hamons are awe inspiring Jaw Drop

I gotta get me a proper HT thingy going on..


how long are you soaking that 1095?
Excellent and consise ,as usual.
Thanks for spending the time to get good descriptive pix as well. Helps a lot when you try and explain unusual techniques .
Makes my fingers hurt



Some tools-
From bottom to top: The knife,
a 1 1/4" wide piece of 1/16" 15n20 that I use for tight spots,

a piece of Ipe wood 1/4 x 1",

my favorite sanding tool a piece of 1/16" 15n20 with a piece of Ford
Serpentine belt glued too it (you'll see a better shot of this tool later

My Don Fogg style sanding tool, it's a 12" long bar of 1/4 x 1 1/4 1065, spring hardened and handle wrapped at each end for comfort

And a piece of Maple with 70 Durometer rubber glued down to it for the final bits


and another useful little contraption -

This is a 1/4 sheet orbital sander that I built a base plate to clamp in my vise, then I replaced the stock sanding cushion with a piece of 70 durometer rubber from MSC


I use it to start sanding my flats and make SURE to get all of the belt grinder marks out.
If you try this make SURE to apply pressure evenly or you can dig divots into the blade or wash out grind lines in a MAJOR hurry


Orbital sanded up to 400g - note the swirly marks, MUCH easier to see and hand sand out than the linear scratches from the belt grinder


Another view


Now we take some Spray adhesive and our Don Fogg sanding stick


Wrap the sandpaper (this if 400g Klingspor paper) around the sanding tool
And we're going to start by pulling lines parallel to the cutting edge, this will quickly show us if there are any divot's, belt scratches, or other problem area's that we need to back up and take care of.

as TEMPTING as it may be, never move to the next grit if you haven't gotten ALL of the scratches from the previous grit out

if you can't polish it out with 220 then it's just harder to get out with 400
if you can't get it with 400 your NEVER gonna get it with 600
if it's not out at 600 then 800 is a waste of time and materials.


Now we take a dandy little tool with the serpentine belt glued to it


And we start working our way up through the grits.

We start at 400 working diagonally to the edge until the entire surface is clean and evenly polished


Still at 400g I pull lines parallel to the edge until ALL of the diagonal lines are gone (goes pretty quick)

if our HT went well you should already be seeing the Hamon (can ya see it in the pic? I can..)

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Now I go through exactly the same process at 600 grit.
first I polish diagonal to the edge until all of the 400g scratches are gone gone gone


then I pull my satin finish parallel to the edge, from here on ALL of my sanding will be parallel to the edge


I usually don't bother with wet sanding below 600 grit, but I find that it REALLY helps at 600 and above.


wet sanded parallel to the edge with 800

wet sanded parallel to the edge with 1200 - I go to at least 1200 before I etch, you can actually get a good finish etching at a 400g satin and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that

I just like the look better when I take it up to 1200, I will etch it and then bring it back down (usually to 800, sometimes 600) when the knife is finished.

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So now I have all three blades polished up to 1200 grit and thoroughly cleaned with windex.

on the right is a 3' tall PVC tube set in a bucket of sand filled with my etchant, it's 3 gallons of water and 1 bottle (a pint) of Ferric Chloride (PCB etchant from Radio Shack)

on the left I have a bottle of windex and some 1200 grit paper


30-45 second dip


spray well with windex and clean off the oxides with the 1200 grit paper


Repeat the dipping and cleaning as many times as you like, I find that 4-5 works well. You can do a long hard etch and get a different look, I just prefer several short dips, seems to look "cleaner" to me.


Watcha think, looking good ehh


nifty nifty


Now we go to the paste polish, almost done
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here you see my wonderful collection of paste and powder polishing compounds


usually these are scattered around various places in my shop, took me a couple minutes to get them all together

try all sorts of different paste polishes, they all work a little differently and each will give you a little different surface finish. I'm going to show you three of my favorite finishes, but there's a nearly endless combination of polishes available


Blade #1

First I'm going to use the Nevr-Dulll wadding polish and just scrub the heck out of it, then wipe with a clean paper towel (use high quality paper towels, I like viva, cheap towels WILL scratch a highly polished blade)

I'll keep going until a clean paper towel doesn't pick up any black marks


then I take a cotton ball and start polishing with Simichrome.


looking very nice


Blade #2

First I'll take powdered pumice stone (4f = the screen size used to grade the powder, very fine) I get this from Woodcrafters it's used to hand rub lacquer finishes

Again, keep going until the paper towel doesn't get dirty


Then I take Flitz on a cotton ball and start polishing,

I prefer to wipe the flitz on, let it dry and then buff it out with the same cotton ball. rub HARD


Blade #3

I take Noxon on cotton balls and work it the same way as the flitz.
it will take a while but eventually you will stop getting oxides off, and your done.


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This is great. Thanks for doing this Stephan. I love the way the clay quench looks when finished. Just amazing. Wow now I have to get the clay and try this on the w2 I have ready for it.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. :D

Excellent tutorial, very clear and concise.

It was like being at your shop while you taught something.