Knife making 101 - Lesson 6...hardening  the blade

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peanut butter will keep epoxy off your blade

    First we will harden the blade. An extremely hot fire is required. I use an oxy-acetylene torch. A forge will work, and I've successfully done it in woodstove with a fierce draw. 

    Please wear protective footgear and leg wear during this  process, dropping the hot piece can burn you severely.

    The method I'm describing below works only for high carbon steel blades. If you are using stainless consult the manufacturer or a knifemaking book for proper temperatures, times, etc. You can also send it out to be heat treated, this is pretty spendy but you usually get a certificate of hardness and may be the way to go if you are making high end knives.

    Clamp the handle with vise grips, suspend it, clamp it in a vise, hold it with channel locks, any of these will work. (Don't try and hold it in your hand) Keep a magnet nearby. (I use a speaker clamped in a vise) Evenly heat the blade until it is non-magnetic, then quench the blade immediately.

    I heat with my torch starting along  the backbone of the knife, moving the heat back and forth and alternating sides. Try to heat the blade as evenly as possible to avoid warping  the piece. We can fix a certain amount of warpage later in the process but it's best to try and minimize it from the start. When the entire blade is glowing cherry red you're getting pretty close. Hold the hot piece near the magnet, if there is no magnetic attraction (high carbon steel is magnetic at low temperatures) plunge the piece into the cooling bath deep enough to immerse the entire blade. You can use water or oil ( I use vegetable oil straight from the  kitchen cabinet. I use water for thick blades and oil for thin delicate blades.

    You've now made the steel as hard as it can be. Now we must temper the blade to remove enough hardness you will be able to sharpen it. Let the knife cool to room temperature, then take a look at Lesson 7 - tempering the blade

       Lesson 1   Lesson 2  Lesson 3  Lesson 4  Lesson 5  Lesson 7  Lesson 8

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