I have a moral/ethical question on forging.

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Just to further complicate the matter. If I forge a billet of San-Mai and then do a stock removal knife from it how should it be categorized? That knife has been through forging process and stock removal. Forge removal?
Yeah, I was really trying to point out the futility of the issue here. At times my wit is only understood by me. In my experience, the people who make the biggest deal out of such things have never made any knife or forged anything. They are the kind of people who will sit in the crowd at your demo and tell you how to hold a hammer. Just do what I do and invite them to place their pinky finger on the anvil and I will see if I can hit it holding the hammer my way...
 

springer82

Well-Known Member
The only real immoral thing to do as a knife maker in my opinion is to buy someone elses knife/blade and mark it as yours. And then tell everyone you did it. You did forge the blade.
Buy a knife kit put your makers mark on it. It's all good. Maybe we need a new name for people who forge a blade then finish grind it to shape. ???????????? How about ????? knife maker! lol,,,
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
This is an old question that rears it's ugly head every so often. So that everyone know this is my opinion! Not one is better than the other! There I said it persecute me!

I have seen completely forged knives, except there are no completely forged knives, not in todays world. At some point someone took that forged knife and put it too a grinder or at least a file to create something that the buyers want today!! If you forge to this point then you have forged to "near finish"! Does that take talent, of course it does and many practice hours. Knowing how to make the blow land and make that blow move the steel in a finished direction Vs just beating on a piece of steel. I have nothing but the upmost respect for anyone who can forge to near finish! It show how much you have learned and accomplished!

However there is a flip side to this. That is the maker who only uses reduction to make a knife. I have seen some makers that in there lifetime do little to no forging! There reasoning is that they can take that same bar of steel, the man forging starts, from and they took there years of experience to form a knife. They created a knife that most of us can only dream of!!

Then there is the man in the middle! As expressed by Ken H. He has forged. San Mai, therefore he has forged. OK so maybe not to finish but the knife was made from a forged sandwich which is then called a San Mai billet. An accomplishment in anyone's books!
Also for the middle man, is the forged knife that appears to be forged. Back when I carpentered that was called the rustic look! However when it comes to forging, unless you are looking for the rustic look, you will sand down enough to get thru the impurities!!

One thing I haven't mentioned is that whether it you forge or use reduction it takes talent and years of experience to create a finished piece that is gonna sell for high bucks in this day and time. So why take the time to look down your nose at either side as to how they got there. It is the finished piece that you will be judged on. And the consists of many factors. I am not a great fan of FIF but have watched the winners of previous shows going against each other and the level of the playing field has been raised. Now it comes down to the little flaws that matter!!

If you have a problem with telling the truth about a knife. Well then tell it like it is! This knife was forged and finish ground to the beautiful knife you see before you. Or say this knife has been made through the process of reduction and then explain it or not!

But quit perpetuating the myth of one is better than the other. Anyone can forge a knife to a near finished state always has my attention and respect. However anyone that can do reduction to a finished state also has my attention and respect as a knife maker!
That finished knife got to the point it is because someone used everything they knew about making a knife!! Without the use of every bit of knowledge they had the knife shaped object is just that a knife shaped object. To become a knife you must know and utilize everything you have learned about knife making!! And sometimes a little luck or holding your mouth just right don't hurt either!!!

As I am still quite busy handling health issues on the home front and to do not have time to respond to all.

So address all replys to this subject too, idontreallycare.com! I am sure it will be addressed in a timely manner! 5f7.jpg
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
Yeah, I think we could go back and forth on that for eternity. Pretty much any bar of steel has been forged somewhere down the line. A stock removal guy can purchase a san mai billet or a damascus billet then grind the knife out. I highly doubt he would advertise that knife as "forged" even if he bought it from a fellow bladesmith that made that damascus by hand. I have even sold a bar of damascus that I made and the stock removal maker wanted me to forge the point in, which I did. What then?

In many cases with damascus, people try not to forge it too much in order to not distort the pattern more than they want. But they may have spent 10 hours forging a very complex pattern in that damascus. I think that is one particular case where the line is a bit blurry.

Everyone has their own opinion on this topic it seems. For me, a forged knife has forged bevels. And the reason that's my personal criteria is that forging in the bevels makes my life a lot easier on the grinder and I don't like grinding. Having a nice already set bevel that I can lay up against the flat platen and work off of, makes the whole process much easier and reduces the amount of grinding significantly. It is a big reason for me forging in the first place.

Even with that being my criteria, someone could have blanks waterjet/laser cut then forge just the bevels from that point. I think we could go round and round on this topic. There just isn't a single definition that determines whether something has been forged or not. At the end of the day, if the customer is really that interested, he will ask and the maker, hopefully, will be honest and explain the process to him. And that's really all that matters.

Edit: This brought up a memory I had. I was selling some knives a local arts/crafts show and some guy walked up and asked me if I "cheated" forging my knives. I told him I didn't understand what he meant and he said he was sure I did. Eventually he got around to telling me what he meant was if I forged everything by hand or if I used a power hammer at all. In his eyes, using a power hammer was "cheating." :rolleyes:

Cody
I have a woodworking friend who won’t use power tools.

And somewhere there is an Amish guy calling my buddy a heathen slacker.

We’re getting way off track.

Windom, it was a good question- as you can see from all the interest it got. The main thing is you won’t find many knifemakers anymore who care that much about anyone’s process so long as the maker isn’t trying to misrepresent anything. (beating hammer marks into a nearly finished blade, for example.)

Heck, (does anyone say heck anymore? Gee whiz, Wally! They gotta!), I don’t forge anything hardly because just about every I do is stainless.
 

Windom Armory

Active Member
While I started this thread with a serious doubt of what I was doing and what I was calling my work, I have enjoyed reading the conversation and getting into people's heads more than I have hearing that people in the business won't look down on another for not doing it the way they do it. This is truly a great community.

EDIT: I don't want to imply that one way is better than any other, but I also don't want to misrepresent what I am doing due to sheer ignorance of what is expected.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
EDIT: I don't want to imply that one way is better than any other, but I also don't want to misrepresent what I am doing due to sheer ignorance of what is expected.
Look while there was a lot of truth in what I was saying, my intent was to take a tongue in cheek approach to the question. As stated you are probably going to get as many answers to this as their are smiths!

In the end the only one you have to be true too is yourself! There are no forge or reduction police that I know of!!

If your hung up on a black and white answer, I am sorry because I do not think their is a black and white answer to the question you ask!!
 

AkWildman

Well-Known Member
The only bone I have is when someone puts a few or a lot of hammer marks on a obviously cut out blade and claims its forged.On my forged knives I forge the blade to include the bevals and the tang ,then clean it all up and finish the bevals on the grinder.The main advantage of forging versus stock removal at least for me is I'm not limited to size and shape of the knife by the size of my starter stock. If you forged it you forged it if its stock removal its stock removal. Be honest about your method and produce a good product in the end. Dont call it forged if you didn't actually forge it just be proud enough of your work to be honest about it . It takes skill to forge a quality knife and it takes skill to produce a quality ground or stock removal knife.
 

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
Sorry but I just can’t resist complicating this even more by asking how much the steel knows of its shaping via forge or grinder. But, hopefully, by adding this complication it will make it easier just to say “to heck with it I like my knife regardless!”

Anyhow, years ago I stop listening to what other makers were saying about the process and started listening to what the steel had to say. If this where a Damascus blade the signs of forging entirely to shape would be all over it and plain to see. And the sobering truth is that I can walk through a knife show and see numbers of damascus blades, many with that coveted “M.S.” stamped on them, that could not have anything more than basic profiling done with a hammer of any kind. There are times when I like to see irregularities, or certain distortions, in Damascus blades that are said to be completely “hand forged”, and if they are not there well…

But what about mono-steel blades? The average observer will not normally see the difference. Let me take it into my lab and I should be able to tell if the profile was done with hammer on a piece of traditionally mill produced steel. The more flaws and artifacts from the mill it has, the easier it will be for me to tell. This would include the concern of forging the tang. The trickier one is noticing whether the bevels were forged or ground, and I would need a lot more goobers in the steel to spot this. Alloy banding effects would make the task easier but proper heat treating would do more to hide this than the hammer or grinder could.

It really does come down to how you yourself feel about it. Structurally the effects are just not enough to worry about on a tool that is still pretty much the same shape as the parent stock. Now with something like an ulu or other tool that has 90° changes in profile we can wring our hands about the structural effects, but on the average knife, it is all good so long as the shape is right and the heat treatment is spot on for that shape.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
Thank you for your input Kevin - I think "most" everyone now realizes a stock removal blade is the same as a forged blade as far as quality of steel. If anything a forged blade has more chances to have micro-cracks and interior problems from forging too low a temp, etc. I do think that thanks to you and other metallurgists the myth of "packing" atoms at the blade's edge from forging have been laid to rest.

To me, the big question of "forged blade" is the skill it takes to actually forge a blade, complete from profile to bevels and tang. It's up to the knifemaker to define what forging was done to the blade to showcase his forging skill. Making San Mai & Damascus is one set of forging skills, while profiling a blade, forging the bevels, or forging the tang are all steps in the forging skill.

Ken H>
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Let me take it into my lab
Wait....you have a lab?.....Maaaaan I thought I was cool because I have a forge but a lab....now that is cool. Kevin's response, in my opinion, puts the final nail in this coffin. As long as you do the work, well most of it (some send out for HT which is cool) it does not matter, even structurally. Question answered.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Kevin is da man,th.jpg when it comes to all things metal!!!! Goggle Kevin Cashen and if you can't learn from his work, http://www.cashenblades.com/heattreatment.html Well, you just can't learn!! LOL

Look I would never take away from anyone that can forge a knife or forge to a near finish!! That in itself is an absolute accomplishment!! Most of us don't forge or forge well. OK so I am at present talking about myself!!

The point I was trying to stress to Windom Armory was just this! While some get offended for calling an operation forged or for that matter reduction! Just be true to your self.

If you say your knife is forged and then you ground in the bevel. The portray it that way. IE This knife was forged from BLA BLA steel and after forging to shape the bevels were ground in!! Some clean up of hammer marks was also done on the grinder at this time as well!! To me this would just complicate things. Clients like details but to much details muddy the water for the average consumer! They are less concerned with how the knife got to the final stage but the fact that it looks like it does and preforms as it does!! As stated as far as I know there are no forge police out there!

The big point for me with this kind of discussion is that it takes away from the real point. Without the knowledge of "how to" you have a knife shaped object. That to me is one of the downfalls of FIF! Little joey sitting out there in TV land sees the show and says well making a knife is easy!!!
What little Joey doesn't understand is if you take one factor out of the finished knife and it is just an knife shaped object.

Forging doesn't mean anything if it is done improperly! Neither does reduction mean anything if done improperly!! The mark of a good knife is how it got that way. You can hit all the mechanical marks you need to when making a knife but if the fit and finish is improper. You have a properly made knife that is ugly!!

OK last time! Worry less about whether you need to label your knife as forged or reduction and worry more about the finished product, and all the factors it takes to get it too that point! Sorry Windom Armory I don't know how to explain it any better than that!!
 

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
Since the most important part of life as that we keep learning, all the way to the very end, I must say that I am not as quick to dismiss some of the benefits for forging a blade as I used to be. I have a hard time saying that, because of how overboard many people in our business can go if you give them a bit of red meat like that, but honesty forces me to concede that there are exceptions. No, we can't pack atoms or make steel denser, and those claims make our craft look rather silly to the world, but very often these days we are supplied with steel that has some quirks and artifacts from the mill which can be alleviated by the repeated heat cycles of forging. When given one of these less than optimal bars of steel a competent smith could very well produce noticeably better results than a ground blade that was simply hardened from its as received condition. With an optimum quality piece of steel, yes most of the specious claims of bladesmiths are just that, but the steel supply of today is actually making some of those claims come true. It is sort of full circle, the ancient bladesmith had to process the bloom material in a forge, perhaps even carburize or fold it, to make it the best it could be, and now in our modern times the raw materials are taking us back there.

C Craft, your words on making this whole knifemaking thing look easy to the public are good ones. I have been thinking about it a bit lately and tend to want to be encouraging to beginners when I do a demo, so it will be bang, bang, bang 1, 2, 3... there you see, it is easy! But I need to remember that it took me 30-40 years to make it look that easy. As in my previous paragraph, at this point I am still just learning how much more I have to learn.

The truest goal of learning is to eventually reach the point where we know enough to understand how much we don't know, it is only then that our mind truly opens to the possibilities.
 
Last edited:

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
Is the drop in quality due to mills trying to run smaller batches of steel-du-jour in response to knife making demands? I've been buying flat ground sheets of A-2 toolsteel thinking that by buying ground stock I am possibly getting the cream-of-the-crop...And that by using a steel that is made in large batches for mfg industry I eliminate the niche steel issues....perhaps I am mistaken? On the complete other end of the spectrum I have always wondered how many guys are forging that shouldn't be...?
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
I'd be surprised if any steel manufacturer was catering small batches of steel to knifemakers anywhere......for any reason.

Many knifemakers think steel suppliers cater to us and we matter. It is quite likely most of them barely even know we exist and to the ones that do, we are almost insignificant.
 
Last edited:

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
The thing that makes me think that is the difficulties that makers have finding certain steel...perhaps I am way off? Some of it may be import issues? My "reading between the lines" is definitely suspect...lol. But WHAT is the reason for lower grade steel coming from the mills?
 

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
The steel supply condition is such a big topic that is could easily hijack this thread, so I will be as brief as possible here. Some things are not a flaw in the steel but rather processing that makes it more particular in how we treat it, but other issues are a matter of knowing what we really have. I get around these issues by requesting full certs on the very bar of steel I am buying. I am hearing rather shocking stories about documentation in the supply lines, and am seeing the results. When I ask for certs from the big suppliers, they react as if I am asking for the obvious and have full documentation waiting for me. This includes the exact chemistry of the piece, its exact origin, its ASTM grain size when shipped, its annealed condition, the amount of inclusions etc... and I let them know that I CAN verify it all on my end.

John is spot on with his comments about the scale of steel pours. We don't even register on the gage of the steel makers at our level. They work in massive tonnages and are in the business of making money. We are little more than an inconvenience to them, and anything they do for us is little more than charity because they may find us quaintly interesting. Take every piece of steel, in every knifemakers shop in the U.S. and pile next to the pile from GM, or any modest construction project, and you get the picture as to what is a winner, and what is a loser, for steel makers. Then when the knifemaker asks them to cut 3 feet off just a single standard 12 foot random, it makes it even harder to justify dealing with us. Mind you, I am referring to the people who make the steel, not the resellers who buy it with the idea of selling it piecemeal, but it has to come from somewhere.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
No, we can't pack atoms or make steel denser, and those claims make our craft look rather silly to the world, but very often these days we are supplied with steel that has some quirks and artifacts from the mill which can be alleviated by the repeated heat cycles of forging. When given one of these less than optimal bars of steel a competent smith could very well produce noticeably better results than a ground blade that was simply hardened from its as received condition.
Kevin, when you say a blade might improve "by the repeated heat cycles of forging", do you mean the actual hammer blows of forging does the improvement? OR - perhaps the repeated heats of forging, as in normalizing would be the effective part?
 
Last edited:

KenH

Well-Known Member
Wait....you have a lab?.....Maaaaan I thought I was cool because I have a forge but a lab....now that is cool.
Chris - you don't know about Kevin's lab? That man has a lab, complete with electron scanning microscope (did I say that right?). Kevin has a lab to rival most any research company's lab.
 

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
Chris - you don't know about Kevin's lab? That man has a lab, complete with electron scanning microscope (did I say that right?). Kevin has a lab to rival most any research company's lab.
Well, it would probably be much more accurate to say that I could rival a research company's lab from about 30 years ago. I am just a bladesmith and am no where near wealthy enough to afford any of the equipment that you would find in a modern lab. So I have gotten good at finding, and refurbishing, old equipment that those labs are done with. It really has no practical application in bladesmithing, but it is really handy in my side hobby/obsession of ferrous metallurgy.

Kevin, when you say a blade might improve "by the repeated heat cycles of forging", do you mean the actual hammer blows of forging does the improvement? OR - perhaps the repeated heats of forging, as in normalizing would be the effective part?
The safest part of that question to answer is the surest- it is all about the heat, and those extra cycles, when done right, can make some definite changes. Now on the hammer side of the equation I must be much more cautious, interesting things can happen but it would be irresponsible to make any sort deeper connections, when it is still all about the heat, even when the hammer is doing things; beating on steel without heat only induces needless strain, both in you and the steel.
 
Top