Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Heat Treating Kiln

New kiln

Last week I attended a knife making workshop at Scott Kretschmer’s shop in Loveland.  The workshop was taught by Steve Rollert from Dove Knives.  This was a full day of demonstration and discussion about hand forged knives.

One of the main topics was a the proper heat treatment of knives.  Blacksmiths have traditionaly judged heat by color and while this is pretty good it isn’t perfect.  Colors appear different in different ambient light.  It is also hard to tell the difference betwwen 1100 degrees and 1200 degrees accurately and that 100 degree difference can be important.  Hardening at the exact right temperature makes for repeatable results.  If you don’t like the results you can easily judge if it should be a bit hotter or a bit cooler.  But that is only possible if you can hit the exact hardening temperature you are aiming for every time.

Enter my “new” heat treating kiln.  This is an electric oven capable of very exact temperature control.  You can set the exact temprature you want, leave the knife or (any other tool for that matter) to preheat and soak – hold at temperature – if needed.  You can’t do that accurately with a torch or a forge.  This particular kiln is actually a small ceramics kiln that was being used by a silver smith for burning out wax for lost wax casting.  It is not ready to be a heat treating kiln yet.  I will need to add some higher tech precision controls to make it work the way it needs to.  But, since a new heat treating kiln costs close to $2,000 and this one was only $200 plus $100 or so for the controls, it will be a bargan.

Part of my long term goal is to make quality hand forged tools for woodworkers.  This new equipment will help me turn out consistent, predictable high quality tools.

It was too muddy to get the car, with the kiln in it, right up to the shop.  So it went up on the back of the ATV

It was too muddy to get the car, with the kiln in it, right up to the shop. So it went up on the back of the ATV.

The kiln was tranfered to the top of my welding cart, since there was no place else to put it, then rolled in under cover.

The kiln was tranfered to the top of my welding cart, since there was no place else to put it, then rolled in under cover.

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Warm beer anyone?

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A few weeks ago a friend was commenting on a TV show he had seen where someone took what he thought was an old style soldering iron, and used it to warm his cup of coffee.  While I have never actually seen this done, I have heard of a “flip iron” being used to make a hot toddy or hot buttered rum.  I felt pretty smug knowing what he was refering to.

Imagine my surprise when I recieved the following message a few days latter. “I’ve been searching for an iron tool that is used in the upper-midwest during spring bock beer festivals. The solid iron “head” of the tool is heated in a fire and then dipped red hot into a glass of beer. The result is a hot foamy head of beer.”

Here is the picture provided by the customer

Here is the picture provided by the customer

Now I really should learn from the way the old timers did things. It would save me lots of grief.  But not me, I have a 100 pound power hammer.  So why not just make these from a single piece of 1″ round bar?  Even under the hammer drawing 10″ of 1″ bar into 40″ of 1/2″ bar is a lot of work.  I suspect that this took about 3 times longer than the alternate and probably more traditional approach.  I am pretty sure the old timers would have used a shorter section of the 1″ bar with a short stub drawn out and the 1/2″ handle forge welded on.  But, live and learn.  My customer gets a great value and I got a great education.

I suppose I need to make a shorter one and try the hot toddy or hot buttered rum, but I’ll leave the warm beer for more adventurous types.

Here are the 43" long irons ready to make hot beer, Yum ;)

Here are the 43″ long irons ready to make hot beer, Yum 😉

The claw hammer gives some idea of the size.

The claw hammer gives some idea of the size.

Small turning projects for working on other projects

Small wood turnings used in other crafts

Small wood turnings used in other crafts

Yesterday I decided to do something a bit different.  I worked on three small and fairly simple wood turnings.

The smallest is a fid and is used in rope and cord work such as a splice making a loop in the end of a rope.  Historically these were a common item on sailing ships often made from lignum Vitae, a very dense hardwood.  They are made in a wide variety of sizes, this one is about 6″.  Small ones are usually of steel and are called a marlin spike.

The next larger piece is made of maple and is used to burnish the edges of leather.  The different sizes of  grooves are used for different thicknesses of leather.  In use it is rubbed vigorously back and forth to smooth and polish the edges.

The largest piece is a nostepinne.  These are for making a ball of yarn and are remarkably efficient.  I have been meaning to make one for Janet for several months.  The photo below is her first ball wound this way.

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