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Camp Fire Tongs Forged from a Truck

My interest in blacksmithing started with a desire to learn how to forge knives from chunks of old steel. One of the things I love about blacksmithing is that the skills you acquire in that art come in extremely handy for all kinds of things that most people wouldn’t have the werewithal to attempt.

The skills I’ve developed forging knives have enabled me to do things that just a few years ago I would never have dreamed I could do. Case in point: We have a nice backyard with plenty of outside furniture so that we can comfortably enjoy sitting outdoors with friends and family. One of my wife’s favorite pieces of outdoor furniture is a large two-seater swing with an awning. Recently, the awning snapped off the top of the swing frame during a bad windstorm.

Transferable Blacksmithing Skills

I found the awning the next morning across the yard from the overturned swing. The brackets holding the awning onto the top of the swing frame were plastic, and unrepairable. For most of my life, I have not been an overly handy-man, and until recently I would have most likely trashed the swing and bought a new one because I would not have known how to fix it.

But forging knives has given me skills that come in handy for a wide range of things. I gathered up the bits of plastic and fit them together to see how the bracket was shaped, and realized I could probably make new ones. I dug through my small-but-ever-growing stack of scrap metal and found a bit of suitable steel. Then I fired up the forge and hammered away until the shape was right. After allowing the steel to cool slowly, I drilled the bolt holes, and installed the new brackets on the swing.

The awning fit perfectly, and my home-made steel brackets are stronger than the original plastic ones. I won’t need to worry about it ever breaking in a storm again.

I had a similar experience a couple years ago when replacing the outside dryer vent. The old one was broken and mice were getting into the house through it. (This is, by the way, a common access point for mice. If you’re having trouble with the little critters getting inside, check that your dryer vent flap is closing properly.)

Blacksmithing is a very handy skill to develop

I got a new vent from the local hardware store and proceeded to install it. Unfortunately, the bracket that came in the box that was meant for mounting the vent on the wall wasn’t going to work were the vent had to go. So I made one out of steel. A bit of forging to shape the metal, some filing and sanding, and problem solved.

In today’s blog I want to talk about a set of camp fire tongs I forged from the leaf spring of an F150 Ford pick-up truck. It was my wife’s idea, really. We were sitting around the fire pit in our backyard, and she was using some sticks to move burning logs around when she asked me if I’d make her a pair of tongs.

I always like to do handy-guy stuff for my wife, so I forged a set from the leaf spring of a Ford F150. I designed them to be useful for picking up large logs, as well as small bits. We were happy with the result.

Please enjoy the glamour photos of us using the tongs. If you’re interested in a set, send me a message using my contacts page. I always keep truck leaf spring in stock, because the 5160 high carbon steel used for leaf springs is excellent knife making material.

Our camp fire tongs can be used to pickup and move large burning logs.

Can get small sticks too. The pincers come together close and tight, so they’re great for picking up and moving hot coals and smaller sticks.

BBQ Brisket Knife

Today’s blog will feature our BBQ/Brisket knife. Each one is individually handmade from Canadian and US materials, right here in Ontario Canada. The 8″ blade is top quality stainless steel milled in America. The 5″ handle is large and comfortable, constructed with a full-tang for great strength. The handle material is micarta, almost as strong as the steel blade.

The particular piece featured in these photos was made to order for a customer last Christmas, who was looking for a special gift. I’m personally very proud of how this knife turned out.

The big handle compliments that large, heavy blade that’s perfect for slicing through BBQ. I added stainless steel bolsters to the handle to give it a bit more heft. It feels great to hold and is very comfortable in the hand.

Each knife is made to order, using only stainless steel milled in the USA or Canada. Extremely sharp and very tough, this BBQ knife will make short work of your barbequed ribs and smoked brisket.

BBQ Brisket knife
The stainless steel blade is 8 inches, with a 5″ handle.
BBQ Brisket knife

Questions? Drop me a line using my Contacts Page…

Ready to buy? Send in your order here… and Thanks!

Support Ukraine!

Recently I was doing some research into charitable organizations that are assisting the people of Ukraine. In today’s blog I decided to share these lists. Thank you for reading my post.

The Washington Post and The Globe and Mail have both published lists of reputable charities supporting Ukraine.

Charities supporting Ukraine:

A Handmade Kitchen Paring Knife

Looking for something unique, that one-of-a-kind gift for someone special? The humble paring knife is one of the most frequently used and handiest tools we have in the kitchen. Everyone who likes to cook needs one, and even people who don’t like to cook still need one. What better gift for that cook in your life than a custom, one-of-a-kind paring knife that’s been handmade by a local artisan?

A handmade knife makes a wonderful gift because it’s beautiful, artistic and practical. The perfect combination of function and art that will last a lifetime, (and they will think of you every time they pick it up to use!)

For today’s blog I thought I’d share some photo’s of one of my favorite projects – a paring knife I forged from an automotive leaf spring. I can’t tell you what kind of vehicle it comes from because I found the chunk of leaf spring on the side of the road. Ironically enough, I came across it while I was walking down to my local auto repair shop to pickup my car that was in for some repairs. I think it probably came from a pickup truck, since it is very close in size with leaf spring I know comes from a Ford F150 pickup. But I can’t be certain.

I took it home and forged a paring knife from it. (Pictures are below.) The handle comes from a Honey Locust tree in our backyard. Honey Locust is a beautiful hardwood with a lovely grain pattern. All of my knives are handmade in Ontario, using Canadian and U.S. steel and locally sourced hardwood.

Forged paring knife.

Hand forged from an automotive leaf spring and polished, with a solid hardwood handle.

You can see all my kitchen knives on my kitchen gallery here. If any happen to catch your eye, it can be ordered online here.

Paring Knife and piece of Honey Locust
Same knife but the blade has been treated with an acid etch. Some people like the patina you get from etching the steel.

Got questions? Contact me for inquiries…!

Ready to buy? Order here...

Thanks for visiting!

Forged veggie chopper from reclaimed truck steel

One day while walking to the corner grocer, I found a chunk of leaf-spring on the side of the road. It must have fallen off of a passing car or truck. Being a knife-maker, I knew it would be 5160 steel and makes excellent knives.

I took it back to my forge, heated it up and started hammering on it. I didn’t have any particular shape in mind – I just wasn’t in the mood for serious work and wanted to have some fun. As I hammered away this whimsical form started to take shape, and I decided to just go with it. I’m not sure exactly what kind of knife it is – so let’s call it a cheese knife or veggie chopper.

Steel from car and truck leaf springs make excellent edge holding knives. When forged and heat treated properly the knives forged from this type of steel is tough, durable and stays sharp.

This handmade knife was a lot of fun to forge. I decided not to sand away all the hammer markings, and intentionally left some of them as a reminder of the story behind this knife.

To check on availability, you may use my Contact page here.

We Don’t Have It So Bad, at Least We’re Not Storming France!

Canadian troops storming Juno beach, Normandy, on D-Day

Here we go again, another lockdown! In the province where I live, Ontario, the government has just issued a new round of emergency stay-at-home orders. Among other things, indoor dining at restaurants is completely banned and indoor gatherings severely restricted. Covid infection rates are surging and hospitals are at the breaking point all across the country.

Of course, with every new surge in covid there is a new surge of public outcry over the restrictions. Last week in my city over one thousand people lined a major street to protest the new restrictions on their shopping experience. Nobody enjoys these lockdowns, but as we get through this pandemic I think it will help to try to get some perspective on this.

At Least We’re Not Being Asked to Storm Nazi Occupied Europe

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on what my grandparents went through. They lived through World War 1, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and then just to round things out, World War 2. Nana was a young woman of 16 when WW1 broke out, and by the time she was 47 she’d been through two world wars and the Great Depression, all while raising a family.

Her husband was an army instructor during WW2, and two of her sons, my uncles, were on the front lines with the Canadian Army in Europe. My mother was a child during the Depression, and retained vivid memories of it all through her life. Often at dinner they had nothing but a piece of bread soaked with milk, with some sugar sprinkled on it.

Dad Served in 3 Theatres of the War

My father-in-law served in the U.S. Army during WWII, and participated in the European, North African and Pacific theatres. He landed in North Africa first. When the African campaign ended, we was sent to Italy. He was on the front lines in Italy when the war ended in Europe, and instead of being sent home he was put on a troop transport ship and sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. Dad was still in the Pacific when Japan surrendered, and served as part of the American occupation army in Japan.

It’s No Joke

Two good friends of mine I’ve known for many years got covid a couple of months ago. I’ll call them Heather and Jim. Heather struggles with extreme fatigue and is in bed most of the time, but she’s got it better than Jim. At least she’s expected to live. Jim might not. He’s fighting for his life every day and at the time of this writing, we still don’t know if he will make it. Heather and Jim are not old, and the new variants even have kids and young people on ventilators.

Lockdown orders are not much fun, but we all need to pull together. It will save lives and ease the pressure on our overworked doctors, nurses and hospital support staff. The emergency stay-at-home orders aren’t so bad. We can do this. It’s not like we’re being asked to storm the beaches of Nazi occupied Europe.

Related posts on keeping our sanity: Lot’s of people are taking up hobbies.

More hobby ideas…

You’re never too young to forge!

My grandson Miles forging a knife from hot steel

2020 has been a year for learning new hobbies and skills as we find ways to stay sane during the pandemic. We are never too old or too young to try something new. My 8-year old grandson loves hammering on hot steel. This weekend he was down for American Thanksgiving and we had a lot of fun in the old forge.

And now, here is a slo-mo video. (I love how the hammer ringing on the anvil sounds in slo-mo!)

Your First Knife: Getting Started

Camp knife made from O1 tool steel

I’ve talked about hobbies in quarantine in a few previous posts. Having a hobby during the pandemic is important to staying sane and getting into knife making doesn’t have to be expensive. It has a very low cost entry point – one of its distinct advantages. The other distinct advantage is that it is one of the few hobbies by which you can accidentally set yourself on fire. It’s happened to me twice now, and it always makes for cool stories you can tell your friends. (But it has to be by accident, though, or it doesn’t count.)

Before I discuss my tips and recommendations for starting out in knife making, I’d like to talk about two books that I think any beginner needs to seriously consider:

Wayne Goddard’s $50 Knife Shop and Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects from a Master Craftsman by Tim McCreight. There are a lot of books out there, and as you grow in the craft I’m sure you’ll want to get more. My own library has grown extensively, and I’m sure I will review more of these excellent books in future blogs.

But for someone who is just starting out or wants to do some reading before jumping into the craft, these are the two I’d start with.

Goddard’s book, as the title suggests, is focused on how to get into it on the cheap. He’s done it for $50 bucks (not including the price of his book). It cost me a bit more, but not much, and the point isn’t the exact amount but that it can be done very inexpensively. You can go the expensive route if you want and just go down to hardware stores and spend big bucks, but I don’t recommend it. First, you should make a few knifes before deciding if its really for you. Second, you might annoy your spouse spending too much money on a hobby. Third, its too easy to go to a store and spend money. Personally, I found it much more fun and satisfying to go to yard sales, estate sales, flea markets and find used second-hand tools.

The $50 Knife Shop describes how to do it all on the cheap. You will need a forge. You could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on fancy brand new one, like they have on the show Forged in Fire. Or you could build your own. Goddard tells you how. You will need to do your own heat-treating (you can send your knives out for heat treating to a company that specializes in that – some guys do that – but that’s boring and missing out on half the fun of the craft. It’s much more fun to do your own heat treating and tempering.) Goddard describes how to do that. You won’t go wrong in following his steps on buying and building your own tools cheaply, and his step by step guide in making knives.

Forged blade from a leaf spring, with walnut and deer antler handle

The other book I recommend is Tim McCreight’s Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects. His book is in the format of 10 knife making projects, as the title suggests. I like this book because his projects run from the simple to the difficult, and cover both of the major techniques: forging and stock removal.

Knife making and all the techniques fall into these two broad categories. Forging is the process of hammering hot steel on an anvil into the shape you want it. Stock removal starts with a bar of steel, and removing material with a grinder or file until it’s in the shape you want.

In each of his 10 projects, McCreight describes in great detail how to build a knife. The 10 projects cover all of the important techniques you will ever need to learn as a hobbyist. I’ve done several of the projects, and it is a great way for the beginner to get started in the craft.

In my next blog I will talk about forging, what kind of steel you can scrounge so you don’t have to spend money buying new steel, what you can do for a cheap (or free!) forge, and how to get started forging knives for fun.

I hope you will look into knife making as a hobby. We all need something to keep sane during these crazy times. It’s lots of fun and way better than talking to a therapist.

Stay safe, but above all stay sane.

My First Knife

I happened to be cleaning my shop the other day and found this ugly old thing…

my first knife

It’s the first knife I ever made, forged from an old lawn mower blade. I don’t think it could have been any uglier if I’d planned it that way, but at the time I was pretty excited – not so much with the results but with successfully completing the forging process to make something.

My first forge was as crude as my first knife was ugly. For a forge I used a fire pit in the backyard, with a steel pipe stuck in it and a hairdryer taped to the other end for a makeshift blower. For those not familiar with the art, a simple fire alone will get hot enough to roast hotdogs, but not enough to heat steel so that it can be forged. Forging requires that you heat steel to the point that it will be soft enough that you can change its shape with a hammer. To get a fire that hot you have to blow air into it somehow. Blowing air is what turns a fire into a forge.

With my first ever ‘forge’ I heated my chunk of lawn mower blade to a bright yellow and hammered away. After a few hammer blows the steel cools off and will no longer be soft enough to manipulate its shape with a hammer. Back into the fire it goes, bringing it up to a bright yellow, and then returning it to the anvil for more hammer blows. For forge tongs I used a pair of old plyers and my anvil was a chunk of old ‘I’ beam I picked up for a couple of bucks at a garage sale.

This process went on for a while until I had the shape of a crude knife. I heat treated it, and finished the handle with some chunks of hardwood I found laying around the garage. For pins I used bits of metal from a clothes hanger.

Lawn mower blades are usually made from good tool steel, with enough carbon that it can be hardened to hold a sharp edge if properly heat treated. So while not very pretty, my knife is sharp and very serviceable – but I am not expecting to win any awards with it.

I still remember how exciting it was just to see hot steel move under my hammer blows and realizing I could manipulate and shape it. It was a lot of fun, even if my first few attempts turned out ugly.

I don’t think people should quit if their first attempt, or even first several attempts, don’t work out so well. Don’t be discourage by failure or ugly results. Fortunately, persistence pays off and if you keep at it, you will get better. Here is a picture of a knife I recently made, using the same process of forging. I forged this paring knife from the leaf spring of a car, and the handle material came from the wood of a honey locust tree in my backyard.

Paring knife forged from a car spring