My most recently finished blade, a small American-style bowie. I started with a farrier’s rasp, cut into fourths, then forged about 95% of the way to final shape, normalized thrice, then ground on the belt grinder. I tend out forging a piece of steel with a bit of an idea of what sort of blade I want to end up with, then tweaking as I go along until I’m happy with it. I then go to paper, trace out the blade, and design a handle off of it.
After grinding the blade to 220, I clayed it for a hamon, and placed it in the forge to reach critical. While I waited for the forge to get it up to heat, I began cutting out some oak burl for the handle, then shaped it on a 36 grit belt on the grinder. The wood piece was a little too short, so epoxied several pieces of leather together for a stacked section, then drilled through them slightly thinner hole than the tang.
Once up to heat, I quenched the blade in motor oil to harden, which succeeded first try, without warping. I then tempered at about 400 fahrenheit for two hours.
While the blade tempered, I went further in shaping the handle. Hardly anyone uses oak burl because of how brittle it is. I just went slow and gradual with the shaping, avoiding using rough files. I finished off with 220 grit. I also began working on the guard, a very simple one this time. Copper sheet textured with a ball peen hammer.
After the blade was done tempering, I got exact measurements of the tang and used that to drill the slots in the guard, leather, and oak. Normally I would use a drill to get close to thick enough in the wood, and then burn the tang in, but being oak I didn’t want to risk it. So instead, I drilled all the way through, which enabled me to use a round file to get it to exact shape. The hole at the butt end of the wood, I used later to house a .223 remington shell. After everything fitted perfectly together, I began sanding the blade, always the most tedious and boring part. Sanded up to 1500 grit, then I tried etching with boiled vinegar, which did not work, either because it was too watered down, or because the steel type. Regardless, I did get a very very slight hamon.
After the blade was completely finished, save sharpening, I fitted and pressed all the pieces together, with a generous amount of epoxy. After epoxy had cured, I sanded the leather and oak flush with each other and smooth on the slack area of the belt grinder, then oiled, hand sanded, and oiled again. Then sharpening and finished!
Things to improve on next knife: Use thinner coat of clay. Polish ball peen hammer before texturing. Line up ricasso better with handle. Use more epoxy with stacked leather. Fully clean up blade /before/ epoxying it all together.