A Day in the Forge
As a big fan of the show 'Forged in Fire' it was hard not to find myself thinking about one day forging my own blade. Well that opportunity came and I couldn't pass it up.
I happened to be on Craigslist looking for some equipment for the shop, when I stumbled upon a post from a man named John who was offering forging classes out of his home. My first thought was, "this can't be legit." But upon a little research I found John's website and watched his 'Forged in Fire' episode. Turns out John is a 'Forged in Fire' Champion. This sealed the deal. I gave him a call and booked my class.
I arrived at John's house at 7:50 AM. The forge was cooking and John was ready.
Big in stature, John made me feel right at home. We talked over a few safety measure, how the day would look and got right to work. My billet of 5160 was prepped and ready. As it heated in the forge, John, a very open man, talked about his youth, how he got into forging and his time as a school super intendant.
We spent almost 2 hours drawing out the billet and getting the basic shape of the drop point blade formed. This included some manual hammer work and the use of a hydraulic press. John helped to coach and guide me along the way, but was sure to step in to ensure I didn't fold the blade over on itself.
The day was just beginning. After we shut the forge off, and the temperature dropped a good 20 degrees, we started on the heat treat and grinding. John has an Even Heat Kiln which perfectly tempers and hardens the blade. We did do a traditional oil quench as well.
We broke for lunch - a delicious lunch at that. John's girlfriend cooked up some homemade fried chicken and coleslaw. We cracked a few Michigan-brewed beers and John actually walked me through his 'Forged in Fire' episode. Was interesting to learn more about the behind the scene action on the show.
After lunch it was back to work.
This is where I met John's 2x72 belt grinder - this baby removes material quickly. The handle, made of bamboo scales, was pinned and epoxied together for a tight hold. The handle was shaped to perfectly fit my unique grip. There was some detailed hand sanding involved to remove any imperfections in the blade. John is a man of detail, as am I.
In the end, I couldn't be happier with the overall experience and the final product. John was an excellent teacher and a better man. Even if you're not forging a knife, he's someone you'd want to grab a beer with.
Check out John's site to book a class for yourself or a loved one today - www.bigdaddyshammerworks.com - you'll learn a lot and come out of the class with a badass knife. The holidays are just around the corner people! Additionally, you can check out John's work and his classes on Instagram at @jrsummerhill. And don't forget to stream John's 'Forged in Fire' episodes via the History Channel - he was on season 6, episode 9 and also appeared on season 1, episode 1 of the 'Beat the Judge' series.