Hometown Hero build ~WIP~

Josh Dabney

I guess I'll start with a little update since I've seemingly dropped off the knifemaking map for awhile now. :biggrin:

I'm still here in sunny Fl and me and mine are all happy and healthy. My beautiful children are growing like weeds and of course running the show around here. Finding time for making knives is always a struggle for me and over the course of the last 6 to 8 months I've been spending my "free" time on a house project for my inlaws. I won't bore y'all with all the details but the inlaws now have a house a mile from us in a 55+ community fully furnished and fixed up. They're quite comfortable and not missing the Pittsburgh winter a bit. While I'm sure there'll be more projects to come it's for the most part done now.

I've hardly even stepped out into the shop recently but have manage to eek out a couple paring knives for birthday gifts and a small sambar stag hunter with damascus fittings as a christmas gift for my nephew.

Also finally joined the black rifle club by building an AR15. Just got the lower parts and assembled them last week and haven't even shot it yet but thats on my to do list :3: Still need to ditch the A2 flash hider in favor of a YHM5C2 flash hider/comp get a BUIS and a permanent optic but it's a work in progress also. Almost forgot I FINALLY finished my 10/22 stock and checkered the frontstrap on my 1911.

I've also finally begun working on an important project involving a bit of ivory and some scrimshaw.

All things considered I'm well and have not a thing to complain about. Although I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my long neglected knifemaking tools.

I think that pretty much catches us all up on my end.

Having all this stuff to do kept me from signing up for this build way back when Bill posted the maker sign-up thread originally as I knew I wouldn't have the time to devote to it. Now that some of my other obligations have slowed down and I saw this build was about to start I dropped our buddy BillT a PM to see if I could still get in, better late than never :3:

Stay tuned for some more knifemaker WIP content !


Josh Dabney

The first step in the process for me is always with pencil and paper and since we're working with a blank I'll just trace my blank and start tweaking the profile and drawing different grind lines etc until I get something I'm happy with.

This a really cool and pretty "aggressive" design Randy has provided us with. I sorta have a love/hate relationship with thumb ramps. I love them in theory but must have long thumbs or something because I've yet to meet a ramp thats far enough forward for my taste and for my hand this one is no different so I'll be adressing that in one way or another.

Drawing to me is like brainstorming. Just get some ideas on paper and see where it goes-




Josh Dabney

Not knowing EXACTLY what the condition of this steel is I'm starting with Normalizing 3 times-
1. 1625 degrees with a 30 minute soak
2. 1575 degrees with a 30 minute soak
3. 1500 degrees with a 30 minute soak

While the soak probably isn't necessary for the normalizing procedure I figure it doesn't hurt a thing. I'm not concerned about decarb at this stage and like to be certain of a nice even heat.

Here's a peek into the Evenheat. The fire brick on bottom with the slots cut in it is just there to get the blades up near the thermocouple for accurate temps. I didn't care for the slotted brick because it acted as an insulator and kept a cool spot on the spine. This set-up works far better IMHO-

Now we're cookin ! This is my hi-tech heat treat timing device aka- egg timer :)

Here we are after our 3 normalizing cycles with a thin even coating of scale over the entire blade. I like to clean up the scale as good as possible while the blade is still warm to the touch. I go at it with a wire brush scraper then the brush part. Then I'll scrape any stubborn spots off with a utility knife

And here's where we stand with our blades normalized, scraped, and brushed-

The next step is to anneal which I'll do tonight. After that I'll clean'em up and rough grind. then sub-critical anneal to remove any stress from grinding, then clean up and harden

Josh Dabney

Blades are simmerin away overnight in the annealing cycle.

I took me a little bit to get a good grasp on programming an annealing cycle into the oven so I thought I'd run through the program. The oven is an Evenheat with a Rampmaster controller.

I'm following Kevin Cashen's annealing cycle for 52100 which is - heat to 1460 then cool rapidly to 1380 and drop 10 degrees per hour to 1250

~ If you haven't checked out Kevin's website your MISSING OUT ! check out his Bladesmith info page here-

Back to the program.

SEGS- 3 (this is a 3 segment program)
RA 1 - 9999 (Rate in degrees per hour for segment 1, 9999 = ramp up as fast as possible)
DegreeF 1- 1460 (Target temperature for segment 1)
HD 1- .10 (Hold time at target temp for segment 1, I gave it a 10 minute soak just as insurance)
RA 2- 9999 (Cool rapidly to 1380)
DegreeF 2- 1380 (target temp for segment 2)
HD 2- .10 (hold time for segment 2, again gave it 10 minutes just cuz)
RA 3- 10 (Rate of temerature change = 10 degrees per hour)
DegreeF 3- 1250 (target temp for segment 3)
HD 3- 0 (hold time at temp is zero. when 1250 is reached the program is complete)

This is roughly a 14 hour program. Once the program ends and the oven shuts off I'll leave the blades cool inside the oven all the way back to room temp and tomorrow we'll have annealed blades ready for drilling and grinding.


HHH Knives

Super Moderator
Nice Josh, Looks like you have a good plan and have executed it to the tie so far! Thanks for posting the program for annealing the blades!! I just wrote it down, and will give it a try myself on these blades B4 I start on them.

Josh Dabney

No problem Randy, glad it could be of some use to you. I almost didn't bother posting it but glad I did now.

I've got my HT plan together and I'm anticipating a couple fine cutting tough knives.

Take care- Josh

Josh Dabney

Got my blades out of the oven tonight and gave one a light chck with a file... yup it's soft alright-

One of the dang handiest tools in the shop ? Surface grinder. I'm using an old 80grit belt here to get rid of all the scale and get down to clean steel. This is as far as I went on the first side. Just enough to get it flat so it won't bow under the pull of the magnet.

Then flip the blades and grind side 2 clean, then flip back to side 1 and grind it clean

Now all the scale is gone I changed to a 100x norax belt and took a .002 pass on each side of the blade to refine the finish and reduce any possibilty of a stress riser. I like to sketch my plan on the blade with a sharpie just to get a better feel for what I'm after. I'll think about it tomorrow and make sure this is what I want before I do any profile changes. I'm also planning on jimping the spine in front of the scales with a 40 lpi checkering file.

Here's where we stand for tonight-

Please feel free to comment, critique, question, or just plain poke fun fellas.


Josh Dabney

Today I started by drilling all the holes out to 1/4" for the corbys and lanyard tube and followed that with taking the edge off the holes with a countersink bit.

Followed that up at the grinder adjusting the profile a little with an 80 grit then cleaned it up with a 220

I ground off all the notches but one on the thumb ramp so I needed to true that notch up and make it deeper using a chainsaw file

Now I started checkering the spine. I keep my file at a high angle to move down the spine to keep the checkering in-line then cut a little deeper each time until I'm all the way across the spine


And there we are at 40 lines per inch

I've settled on using this Feathering disk adhesive to hold my paper on sanding blocks which works great. Peel off the used stuff and stick the block to the sandpaper then trim it off with scissors.

Here you can see on the blade on the left that I hand sanded the edge with the scratches running the length of the blade instead of across it. It only takes a few minutes on annealed steel and reducing any chance of a stress riser that could lead to a crack during the quench is time well spent

I also sanded all the crisp edges around the blade again just to reduce the risk of cracking during the quench

And here we are with two blades normalized, annealed, suface ground, drilled, profiled, checkered, prepped and ready for the oven and the oil

52100 being a deep hardening steel I'm going to do something maybe a little unconventional with oil quenching steels and harden these blades just like this and grind the bevels after heat treat.


HHH Knives

Super Moderator
Josh, The adjustments you have made look very cool. I like it! Good luck with the HT and quench, Im looking forward to the next installment of this WIP! :)


Well-Known Member
The first step in the process for me is always with pencil and paper and since we're working with a blank I'll just trace my blank and start tweaking the profile and drawing different grind lines etc until I get something I'm happy with.

This a really cool and pretty "aggressive" design Randy has provided us with. I sorta have a love/hate relationship with thumb ramps. I love them in theory but must have long thumbs or something because I've yet to meet a ramp thats far enough forward for my taste and for my hand this one is no different so I'll be adressing that in one way or another.

Drawing to me is like brainstorming. Just get some ideas on paper and see where it goes-




Hi There!
Sounds like life is GOOD! He He!
I have a love relationship with thumb ramps, And long thumbs! :biggrin:
The problem with putting them forward enough is that you end up with your thumb in the middle of what you're cutting!:biggrin: and a bit to far out there!

I've had to explain this to a few customers, Once said they understand that it may not be perfect comfort!
But your not putting your thumb in the middle of what you are cutting or too far forward for protection.
. My Rhino Chop is a great example of the thumb ramp dilemma, That's one of the reasons it's so tall!

I don't have this issue all worked out by any means.
But it sure is fun and a challenge making, learning, Adjusting, Making and hopefully improving my knives!


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Josh Dabney

Randy- Glad you approve of my mods to your design :biggrin:

These builds are alot of fun in a similar fashion to doing an outright collaboration with another maker. Whenever you get multiple makers working on a knife together really cool stuff seems to happen and it's great to see a bunch of different makers put their personal spin on a design.

Laurence- The thumb ramp is a dilema, LOL. I tend to OVER think things alot but I'll share my thoughts on the purpose and use of the thumb ramp. Of course this is my opinion only and others mileage may vary.

For 99% of cutting I don't see where a ramp offers any real benefit over a plain old spine. Cutting, chopping, slicing, wittling, scraping, etc can all be performed just fine with the thumb putting as much pressure on the spine as needed. Where the ramp comes into play is two-fold 1. It allows greater leverage or thrust in a stabbing or punturing type cut. 2. It adds traction to prevent the thumb from sliding forward on the spine.

I think about the placement of the ramp kinda like the height of a bicycle seat. I can ride a bike with the seat too low and my knees hittin me in the chin or with it so high I have to tiptoe to reach the petals but there's just no one size fits all solution. This coupled with my wierd thumbs and the blade length we're working with here is why I chose to grind the ramp down. I think I'd personally be more apt to go with a thumb ramp on a larger blade like 6" + blade length.

Keith- Glad your enjoying the WIP and thanks for following along. Unfortunately for me I have ALOT more time to sit at my computer than to be out in the shop. Such is life though and the kids will grow up and go to school and I just might get down to some serious knifemaking then.

Glad to have y'all following along - Josh

Josh Dabney

Since it seems we've got a few folks following along I thought maybe I should talk a little about my heat treat and why I'm doing things the way I am.

Having never worked this steel before I have to assume that the grain structure and element distribution is either not ideal or not as good as it could be so I'm basically treating my blades as if they are course pearlite which is what we'ld have if this is hot rolled steel.

Perhaps this was Cold Rolled Annealed steel and set-up for hardening already but I didn't want to assume that. Even if it was CRA that doesn't necessarily mean things are as good as they can be either. If a fella has a large supply of steel all from the same batch he could determine through testing just what condition the steel is in from the factory and treat it accordingly but thats not my case here so I just assumed the worst and treated it just like I would a forged blade.

The first thing we have to do is know what condition we need our steel in to have it ready for hardening which is fine grained pearlite with evenly distributed carbon and chrome.

Our first normilizing cycle is going to get us an even grain size and equal distribtion of elements with a high enough temp to get everything into solution.

The second and third normalizing cycles at reducing temps are going to reduce grain size and get us the fine grained structure we're after.

Following normalizing I annealed my blades which makes them soft as possible for ease of machining, grinding, drilling, etc. To me the most important aspect of the anneal is that it takes all the stress out of the steel. This goes a long way to reduce warping during the quench as stressed up steel = warped blades.

Like everyone I've had to deal warping and straightening with varied levels of success. I've tried multiple ways of staightening warped blades and really don't like any of them. The best way to deal with warp is not to have it in the first place so in a perfect world we'll just pick this option, LOL.

I've used this method to prevent warp only a few times so I wouldn't call it a time tested and proven method but it seems to work really well.

This method gets its origin from plate quenching. One thing I couldn't help but notice with plate quenched ATS-34 is that they come out of the plates straight as an arrow every time. Why ????

Steel has memory. Meaning if it's in it's relaxed state and you bend it it'll want to return back to where it was before being bent. The way to change the steels memory is by heating it above austinizing temp and letting it cool or quenching it. Manipulating the steels shape WHILE above austinizing temp is what we call forging - This ability to change or re-set the steels memory is the basis of this method

Now back to the plate quench and what happens during this operation. In a nutshell, the blades are clamped up straight and kept there during the transformation from austinite to martinsite. As my theory goes we just trained that steel to be straight in it's relaxed state.

Now lets consider what happens during an oil quench- In a nutshell- we austinize then quench in oil to get under the nose and reach martinsite start temp then let them cool on the bench until they reach martinsite finish temp.

An important point here is that the martisite conversion takes time. Not alot but just maybe enough.

The question I was asking myself was this- What happens if quench in oil until I'm under martinsite start temp then clamp the blade straight and leave it there during the martinsite conversion ? Can I "train" my blades to be straight.

This is where we leave the big words and exact temps behind. This is certainly NOT exact science but it is my method using Parks 50.

1. Quench for 10 seconds and bring the blade out of the oil
A. If it bursts into flames back into the oil for 2 more seconds
B. If it's got some nice steady smoke rolling off the blade it's just right head for the vise
c. If there's no smoke at all cross fingers it's straight on it's own and skip clamping it up

Something to note- The purpose of the plate quench is to cool the steel and keeping it straight is an added bonus. Clamping an oil quenched blade we don't need or want to cool the blade extra fast so I'm not using thick aluminum plates to clamp in. I'm just using a couple pieces of angle iron from an old bed frame.

This method for straightening blades out of the quench is something I started working on based on my theory of whats happening during the quench so please feel free to correct me, tell me I'm crazy etc.

I will be using this method on these blades though and report the results.

More to follow later on the triple quench and triple temper that I'm going to use....



Well-Known Member
Josh you are not crazy, i do the same thing since i started i dont remember a warped blade since. why dont now but works.
Both knives look great, i keep checking on this and not getting any done on my own lol.

Josh Dabney

I'm going with a triple quench on these blades. While equally good results may be had with cycled normalizing and a single quench there are questions that I don't have the answers too such as- How many normalizations and at what temps ? I will caution you guys that making blades for testing and breaking them is seriously addictive :biggrin: Some of the single quenched blades had grain I felt could've been smaller but all the triple quenched blades had fantastic grain. So this leaves me thinking... does triple quenching do anything that harms the steel or in some way reduces performance ? After seriously abusing 4 or 5 choppers I can't imagine any harm having come from triple quenching so I'm going for it.

I thought I'd show a pic of my HT set-up for quenching. You can see I've got my 5 gallon pail of Parks 50 on the floor right in front of the oven. My HT tongs are homemade jobbies that are an old pair of linesmans pliers with 3' handles made from electrical conduit. Nothing fancy but they work good and are long enough I can reach into the oven get the blade and get it into the without moving my feet at all. Probably takes all of half a second from oven to oil without being in a hurry.

I'm quenching at 1550 degrees into room temp Parks 50. Some of the data I read on 52100 said 1475 to 1550 and use the low side for a water quench and the high side for oil so I went 1550

I came out of the oven and went into the oil for a 10 count then pulled the blade and snapped this pic to show what I was talking about the blade doesn't burst into flames yet has a good amount of smoke rolling off of it still. This lets me know that I'm still hot enough to go ahead and clamp it up without worrying about snapping the blade in two.

After this pic I walked right over to the vise and clamped it up between the angle iron


I don't know that this is necessary but I like to clean all the crud off the blade between quenches.

I'm still a little amazed by how easy it is to clamp a blade like this and keep it straight. These are two blades each quenched 3 times and they're still as flat as the chuck on the surface grinder. Can defeating warped blades really be this easy ???? LOL.

These guys are hardened, cleaned up a bit, and currently residing here-

Now the triple temper. I switched to using 3 tempers awhile ago when I realized... why fool with tempering in an unreliable, unprecise, kitchen oven when you've got a perfectly good Evenheat sitting out in the garage. So my current method for tempering is to put them in the kitchen oven with the temp set at 250 (actually about 285 and it gets worse the higher it's set) and let'em cook for two or three hours then in the morning when the Evenheat is cooled down I'll run 2 two hour tempering cycles at my desired temp.

I'd say the night was a success :biggrin:

Take care fellas, Josh

Josh Dabney

The Evenheat is back down to 112 degrees this morning so I fired it back up set at 375 and will run 2 two hour cycles.

I'll tell ya I cant wait to get an edge on these blades and cut some stuff up !



Well-Known Member
Absolutely riveted to my seat going over this build! If I can manage to pry myself away for a while I will start on mine.
This is great!

Josh Dabney

Not too much excitement tonight but I did give both blades a soft back draw which is an interesting process if your not familiar with it. What I'm actually shooting for here is more of a spring back draw so I want to keep my color in the blue range as much as I can and not get the blade hot enough to get into dark grey or black.

I fully quenched both blades tang and all so at this point I've got a fully martinsite structure thats a consistant hardness throughout. Basically the soft back draw lets us end up with diferential hardess while having no pearlite like we'ld have if we either edge quenched or torch hardened the edge only.

Here we are after the temper. The blade has just a slight staw colored tint which is expected at 375.

Before we do our draw we need to git rid of the color on the blade so it nice and shiny and we can get an accurate read of the color while we heat the blade.

Before we start here's a shot of the set-up. Nothing fancy, just an old cookie sheet with some water in it, a spring clip to hold the blade and a MAPP gas torch. Since my blades aren't all that thick and I want to keep my temp relatively low I'm using the MAPP. If this was 10" 1/4" thick bowie I'd get out the oxy/acetelyne.

I started out just holding onto the blade to do the tang. Just start on the end and heat till you start getting color then keep your flame moving back and forth sorta dragging the color down the blade.

Probably not a great pic but here's an action shot

And here we are after the first draw. I was trying catch the color in this pic to show the spine is a purplish hue. Also thought I had the water just a little deep so I poured a little out after this

Blurry pic but shows the purple color a bit better

I'll draw each blade twice so before doing the second one I'll sand the color back off. It comes of pretty quickly with a little handsanding

And finally here's a shot of the twins fully heat treated ready to be ground and finished out.

Unfotunately for our WIP schedule which has been progressing steadily I'm waiting on some new belts before grinding the bevels and clips. The order probably won't make it here before Monday and the wife is traveling for work Monday through Friday next week so we may very well be on hold till the following weekend :2:

Thanks for following along thus far fellas- Josh

Opps almost forgot, I got a brand new 50 grit blaze on the way and some 80 J flex's too. I'm not anicipating any trouble grinding post HT but if I wear out an extra belt or two so be it :3:
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Josh Dabney


I just got my ABS Journal and saw in Aldo's advertisment that 52100 is listad as decarb free annealed. Just wanted to mention this for others HT-ing their own blades that they should be fine skippping normalizing and annealing.

If I had this info before starting I probably would've Profiled and rough ground then did a subcritical anneal at 1200 for an hour then let air cool.