Tuesday, January 25, 2011

E. Scott McGhee PASSES ABS Journeyman Performance Test!

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!

Monday, January 17, 2011

E. Jacob's First Paring Knife

Scott's eldest son Jacob (almost 13) began forging with his dad over coal at age of four, and he recently began making knives. The following paring knife is Jacob's third finished blade. He ground the knife out of 1080 tool steel, triple-qenched and tempered it, and then dressed it out in Desert Ironwood handles with nickle-silver pins. I think he did an amazing job. See what you think.

Steel: 1080 tool-steel
Finish: Hand-sanded to 800 grit
Handle: Desert Ironwood
Overall Length: 7 1/4
Blade Length: 3 1/4
Weight: 3.1 ounces

Monday, January 10, 2011

Traditional Archery - A Family Pastime

About a year and a half ago I decided to make a longbow out of a piece of black locust I'd been saving for years. I tillered it at 50 lbs, but after 3 months it began to develop a hinge, so I retillered it to 35 lbs and gave it to my wife. Shortly after making the bow, I took my 7-year-old son Conner stump shooting. Here are a few pictures from that day.
I have since upgraded to a very nice 60 lb Turkey Creek longbow, but still have plans to hand-craft another bow out of hickory, bamboo, and epay. I just have to find the time somewhere between forging knives and arborist work. Here are some detail pics of the locust bow that Lydia snapped today. The riser is black walnut.
Building the bow was a great idea because it led to archery becoming a family pastime. My teenage son Jacob purchased 45 lb Bear Montana last year, and Conner got a 40 lb Greatree recurve for Christmas. Bonnie shoots too when she's here, and we even got cousin Sarah out shooting over the holidays.
Conner modeled the locust bow with his EMc knife that he got for his birthday in December. He's grown a lot in the past year and definitely needed an upgrade from his beginner bow.
Lydia and I built a new target over the holidays, and we've had a lot of fun practicing. She's a good shot and beats me more than I'd like to admit. Putting together a new deer stand for fall hunting season is next on the list.
Well, back to the forge.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting Primitive

Scott received a Bushman order just before the holidays. He forged that Bushman and a few other blades out of CruForgeV over Christmas. We have dubbed these knives the "Primitive Series". The Bushmaster, Bushman, and Pygmy are pictured below. The Native, which is smaller than the Bushmaster, but larger than the Bushman is not quite finished and will be completed at a later date.

Handle: Hammer-marked steel
Finish: Rustic
Blade: Recurve
Overall Length: 6 3/4 inches
Blade Length: 3 1/4 inches
Weight: 3.7 ounces
Sheath: Leather

The Pygmy is the smallest knife in the series, has a hammer-marked steel handle, and comes with a leather shealth. The sheath pictured below is a horizontal crossdraw, but a verticle sheath could be made as well. We tried Kydex with this model, but the Pygmy prefers leather due its curvaceous nature. A similar knife with a spearpoint or droppoint blade could be crafted and dressed in Kydex at a reduced price.

This Pygmy with stamped and dyed leather crossdraw sheath is available for $195 plus shipping.

Steel: CruForgeV
Handle: Hardened cord wrap
Finish: Rustic
Blade: Recurve
Overall Length: 10 inches
Blade Length: 5 1/4 inches
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Sheath: Kydex or leather
The Bushman is a true tactical knife. This one easily handled the one-inch manilla rope cut test; then chopped through a section of 4-gauge copper wire and hacked into an epay railing multiple times without damage.
While the Bushman might not cut as well as a blade with a thinner profile or chop as well as a true chopper, it has the ability to do both quite effectively, which is impressive for a medium-sized knife. The Bushman is also extremely tough. This blade shipped out to a law enforcement officer recently, and we look forward to receiving some performance feedback.
The Bushman comes standard with a hardened cord-wrapped handle and a Kydex sheath, but Dario commissioned this knife in black leather; I think he made a handsome choice. To see the Bushman in Kydex, check out our Knife Shoulder Holster post.

This Bushman is SOLD, but Scott is itching to forge more.

Steel: CruForge V
Handle: Micarta
Blade: Recurve
Overall Length: 16 inches
Blade Length: 10 3/8 inches
Blade Width: 2 1/4 inches
Weight: 1 lb 7.3 ounces
Sheath: Stamped and dyed leather
The Bushmaster is a true chopper. Scott forged this blade hoping to claim it for himself, but it can be purchased if you act fast. This Bushmaster comes with a black and burgandy Micarta handle and a stamped/dyed leather sheath, but other options are available. To see this knife in action, check out our previous post - "Love That CruForge V".

Bushmaster with pictured sheath - $585 plus shipping

The Native is still in a very primitive state, but here's a sneak preview. Specifications and the completed blade will be available in a few weeks. The Native is bigger than a Bushman, but smaller than a Bushmaster.