When it comes to making knives, bladesmith E. Scott McGhee suffers from a rather severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder. In preparation for his official ABS Journeyman Performance Test, Scott forged and destroyed four practice knives over the last year - one in July, one in October at the ABS Intro to Bladesmithing class, and two last week. In final preparation, Scott forged three knives recently - two practice blades and the candidate. All three blades were forged at the same time; then heat treated separately. Scott set aside the nicest one, then ground out the other two and put them through the paces. The following photos are from the test he did in July (I didn't photo the most recent tests), and you can view videos of these early tests on YouTube.
The ABS Journeyman Smith Performance Test
1. Cut a 1-inch diameter free-hanging manilla rope 6-inches from the end in one pass
2. Chop two 2x4's in half
3. Without sharpening, demonstrate that the knife still shaves after after completing tests 1 and 2.
4. Bend the knife to 90 degrees without cracking it more than 1/3 of the way from the edge to the back
All of Scott's practice knives have passed with flying colors. Of the most recent two, one suffered the 90 degree bend test four times before breaking, while the other blade went to 90 degrees twice, then broke after being pushed to 135 degrees. That, however, was simply not enough torture. Scott gathered up the remains of practice knives, wacked them on steel angle iron for a while, then on each other, and then snapped them in half to examine the grain structure. Here's what an OCD bladesmith can do to two perfectly good blades!
The real trick, however, is performing this feat in the presence of an ABS Master.
Feeling cautiously confident that the remaining knife would survive the official test, Scott ground the knife, crafted a micarta handle, let me snap some photos, and then drove down to South Carolina for a date with ABS Mastersmith Jason Knight.
Almost too pretty to destroy.
Upon arrival, Jason informed Scott that the ABS Journeyman Performance Test rules had recently changed. While the manilla rope test was essentially the same, candidates would now be required to chop through a railroad tie twice and bend the blade into a circle to pass . . . Jason has a wicked sense of humor.
We'll post the video that Jason's lovely wife Shelly took of the official test once it's processed, but for now, here are some photos of the brutalized blade. The candidate passed with no issues, and didn't crack at all during the bend test. Scott is now one step closer to his ABS Journeyman Smith goal. Unfortunately, he has only been an ABS member for a little over a year, so it will be June 2012 before a panel of mastersmiths at Blade will determine whether he receives the journeyman stamp.
Even though Scott can't take the final journeyman test until next year, we'll be at Blade in Atlanta this June (10-11) supporting friends and checking out the scene. We hope to see you there!