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The Newbies Arena Are you new to knife making? Here is all the help you will need.

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Old 03-15-2019, 02:39 PM
SteveinAZ SteveinAZ is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Sun City West AZ
Posts: 3
Knife from old files

About to try my first knife from old files. Videos I've seen, some heat treat file till it's not magnetic then shape it. Others show that they just start shaping a knife without the heat. I realize heat treating 1st should make shaping the steel easier. How many of you don't heat 1st and just start shaping a knife? I've been hitting yard sales and collecting a lot of files and a couple of hedge clippers to work with so I have a lot of material to play with for very little money. I know I'll be wasting a lot of steel in my learning process.
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Old 03-16-2019, 06:54 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Wauconda, WA
Posts: 9,843
First, a little terminology: if you are softening the steel that is annealing. Normally, when we say "heat treating" we are talking about the process used to harden the steel.

I understand the desire to save money on materials, especially during the learning process, but collecting files from yard sales could very easily make your learning process harder if not impossible. The reason for that is that not all files are made of material that can make a good knife blade. Many files are just case hardened which means that after you shape it you cannot harden it again. If you have a piece of steel like this and don't know it you might be very discouraged that your heat treating process isn't working like the guys on YT say it should. We wouldn't want you to give up over something like that. For that reason, we usually suggest buying some good blade steel so that you know what you're dealing with when it comes time to heat treat your first blade. It really isn't all that expensive.

There are several useful Sticky Notes at the top of this forum directed at new knife makers that cover making that first blade. Looking them over might save you some grief.....


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Old 03-17-2019, 04:45 AM
pcpc201 pcpc201 is offline
Steel Addict
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: South Alabama
Posts: 146
What Ray said!!!
I, like so many others, made the mistake of taking an "unknown" steel to make my first knife. Hours and hours of prep and elbow grease turned into frustration and grief when my test time came and I heard the cracks and saw the damage done to my "knife."
Sticky notes are your friend. You will not be disappointed in the information gleaned from this site... all for free!

Good luck with your endeavors. Mine started 8 years ago and I have enjoyed it immensely.


ps I finally joined the site after years of lurking...
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Old 03-17-2019, 06:11 AM
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Crex Crex is offline
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Acworth, GA and/or Hanging Dog, NC
Posts: 3,590
Definitely great advice. Start simple with known materials and learn basics. Mystery steel is a very hard way to start learning. While making knives is fun and forging steel even more so, there are a lot of simple things that make it all go right or wrong. Read the stickies and other serious available information before you jump in the water and you will be able to avoid most the sharks. Sure, if you do it for any length of time, you'll get a bite or two but you can avoid an awful lot of the unnecessary ones and have more fun.
Another thing that can help your learning curve is hookup with an established knifemaker/bladesmith in your area (lots of them in AZ) and get some hands on schooling and advice. Makes things a lot easier. YT is fun to watch but fraught with a tremendous amount of misinformation and left out information......viewer beware.

Carl Rechsteiner, Bladesmith
Georgia Custom Knifemakers Guild, Charter Member
Knifemakers Guild, voting member
Registered Master Artist - GA Council for the Arts
C Rex Custom Knives

Blade Show Table 6-H
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:36 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Now live in Las Cruces NM.
Posts: 1,345
Talking Nicholson Black Diamond files are not mystery steel to me.

I only use old Nicholson files, hopefully Black Diamond ones. I had one analyzed by Peters Heat Treat with a laser analyser, well try 1.7% carbon, 1.2 chrome and .7 tungsten with 1.0 manganese. Basically a superior W2 tool steel, but I wouldn't quench in water. Maybe boiling brine.
I have Nicholson files from the 60s and 70s that I still use including a needle file set. I kept them clean and oiled. I have two files I tempered and I will grind them into a knife, one is 3/16 thick and 12 inches long and will be a fighter. The other is 10 inches and 1/8 thick, I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but both will have through tangs.
I don't anneal Nicholson files, I temper them at 425 for 2 hours which gives me a hardness of Rc59-60 and grind to shape watching heat build up so as not to change the heat treat. With the new lubed ceramic belts it's fairly easy to finish them without any trouble.
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Old 03-21-2019, 11:35 PM
SteveinAZ SteveinAZ is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Sun City West AZ
Posts: 3
What do you guys mean about stickies at top of this page?
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Old 03-22-2019, 07:12 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Wauconda, WA
Posts: 9,843
Stickies are the links to threads (topics like this one) that are permanently posted at the top of this forum. For example, the first one on the list is called "BEFORE You Heat Treat Your First Knife"....


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