File making

I’m very found of making things from steel and sometimes I just have to ask.. how did they do that? Our rich human history of creation is an infinite pool of knowledge to wade through for inspiration. The wealth of research available is engrossing. I’ve found myself wondering about digital copies of books. Their scans seem dusty and to smell of musk like walking through a damp, gray tomb of knowledge.. Admittedly it could be my imagination. Or more likely the lack of a good shower wafting about. =)
I digress. I’m very thankful to live in an age where knowledge is abundant.

One of mans oldest tools is the file. A cutting tool like the saw. The two are nearly as ancient as the knife and it’s cousin with a little more leverage, the ax. Rocks, gems, bones and fish spines can be used to remove material for crafting. Modern files and rasp are easily recognized as the descendant’s of these ancient tools. Metal working files were known around the world in some form of another. 14th century Europe had a change in architecture and culture lead to more ironwork being refined cold with file work becoming abundant. By the 17th century file making would have been a full-time endeavor for some. A file cutter would take a shaped piece of annealed steel ground smooth with a stone or file. He’d strap it firmly to a work block or anvil with a softer metal between the file blank and anvil. Then teeth were cut into the file by hand on both sides. As many as 60 to 80 blows per minute could be delivered by an experience cutter. The angle of the chisel was dependent on the aggressiveness of the file desired but it could be between 40-65 degrees. Next the file was carefully hardened and tempered depending on the type of steel and file.

The file in history by Henry Disston & Sons, Inc
For more information on files check these out:

The File In History
The Manufacturer and builder, Volume 26 (page 280) 1894
File-Making by Hand and Machinery from “The Manufacturer and Builder” November, 1889
The legend of the knife from a file
update – This is a really nice blog entree about file making)

On a personal note. The studio has been organized, an office arranged and we’ve switched Internet service providers. A faster network has finally reached our neck of the woods here Clayton, NC.
Most recently a lot of my time has been spent organizing photos and a bit of modern file work. I do most of my reading, writing and photo work on a faithful ol’ laptop running Ubuntu; occasionally I migrate toward the desktop as I familiarize myself with google sketch-up so the two are not far from one another.


So hot steel leaves wilt

It’s been darn near a hundred in the shade lately. But I’ve been trying to stay hydrated by the forge. I’ve been practicing leaves. And well I have some more stuff for the ugly side of my next installment the good, bad and the ugly. But I liked these from the other day:

hand forged leaf hooks


leaf hook start
leaf hook start


leaf hook fire welded
leaf hook forge welded


leaf hook hole prep
leaf hook punch prep
leaf, ballpein, tongs, holdfast
leaf hook punch
hand forging leaf hooks
leaf hooks in the works


Dixie Classic Fairgrounds NCABANA

This past saturday was the 2nd quarterly meeting for NCabana at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem, NC. It was a long drive be so very worth it! I love to see blacksmith shops, backyard, historic recreations, modern. They all have something to offer any person interested in any level of metal work. I took lots of photo’s and listened intently to the demonstrations. Hobbyist, professional metal workers and artist were all gathered together with a common goal of building a better and more informed community. The world of steel is better for each of these meeting and I was really happy to be a part of it!
The morning air wasn’t yet thick with humidity or heat when I first arrived and started exploring the grounds. There were many antique machines and aged building relocated to the area that caught my eye. But I took the most pictures of the shop itself.
A few of my favorite simple machines caught on camera:
A hand cranked drill simply stamped No 22, aptly made in Salem, Ohio by The Silver manufacturing company.

These bellows simply looked inspiring, I’d love to make something similar.

A treadle hammer I got a chance to try out!

The first demonstration was luckily enough on leaves and flowers. Something I’ve been working on trying to get develop a style before finishing my mothers fireplace tools. Gail Wall did a great job showing how she works sheet metal into beautiful organic forms.

Keith Roberts followed Gail demonstrating a barley twist, then he stuck around to help out Andy Phillips demonstration hardy tool creation. Giving pointers on working with a striking team. They made quick work of some rather large stock, working together like they’d done it a hundred times.
An example of a barley twist incorporated in a larger design:

Striking while the iron is hot… Very hard:

I learned a bit about annealing copper, spying an impromptu neat little folded form spiral being made over lunch, sorry no photos. My mind was beginning to wander toward the BBQ being served, but I couldn’t pry myself from where the action was!

Mr Roberts was back to wrap things up by giving a demonstration on demonstrating of all things! It was really a sight, his enthusiasm was contagious despite my heavy eyelids. He managed to inform and entertain in such a captivating way that was almost like stepping into the midway of a carnival produced by the History channel.

I stayed ’till well into the afternoon and when it was time for the long drive home. I really hope to post some more. I’ve got a lot of little projects to update and introduce. Writing, like blacksmithing, doesn’t come naturally to me. I admire good writers as much as I do craftsmen and women. Both require technique, style and attention to detail that these poor eyes don’t always have. With dedication and practice I hope to improve. Between poor eyesight, moderate dyslexia and a fumbling level of natural dexterity it sometimes feels like an uphill journey. But it’s on the long roads traveled that the destination when approached seems all the more gratifying!


Drag in the dragons!

My little dragon isn’t finished — But it has turned out better than it could have. Next time I’m going to do things a bit differently, but I learned a lot and I think I’ll be able to do a much better ob next time. I think I’m going to draw out the horns a bit more and turn it into a candle holder. I haven’t done a lot of metal carving or animal heads so this was a great chance for me to use my post vice! Planing out how to do the different parts of the twist was a real bugger =P But it truly gives a great effect in my opinion. What do you think so far?


Hooks n’ Hangers are happening!

I finished up my hooks project. I think the Lee’s were very happy, they bought all the hooks I made! I’m going to get a picture of the lamps mounted at some point I hope. I’m really proud of the second pair of hooks I made. I took some photo’s of the near finished products, but I wish I had time to take more! I need to adjust one still close up the bends on the flat mounting part that looks like an upside down heart.

I’ve been working on my large knife blue print a little bit at a time. It’s coming along nicely it’ll look really good when finished I think I’ve got to finish up my Damascus blade soon too.


NCABANA meeting chisel, charcoal brazier, and tongs

I had a great time hanging out with guys of NCABANA at Eric Campbells shop! He demonstrated his approach to a Mark Aspery style chisel. Anyone who wanted too could make one too! He had a couple crowbars and I had a chance to try my hand at one myself. Here is a picture of it rough forged:

He also gave us some insight to how he makes his charcoal braziers.

Some open forges were set up and I spotted some tong making and had to snap some pictures:

I look forward to next time!


Time to make the donuts.. err cutlass

I woke up this morning and on my way to the coffee maker I could have sworn I saw a familiar face walking by me muttering about the donuts. (I’m not even old enough to remember that commercial, how did it become part of my pop-culture memory bank) Hehe burning the candle at both ends is worth it though!

I can’t wait to share the finished product!
I’ve also got another rose in the works. Wish me luck when I get back to it!


Tiny tongs from RR-spikes.

Here they are polished up a bit. (touched with a worn sanding wheel and wire brush)
They’re more pliers when they’re this size. They’re functional as is but I want to flatten the grooved jaws a bit and give them some more decorative flair. A gift to my grandfather.

They hold 1/8″ round firmly.

Until next time…
To see the finished tongs, checkout the next post on tongs.


Bottle opener self defense tool.

This little spike bottle opener has a nasty point that you want to stay on the right side of!




Shell fishknife bottle opener.

This knife and bottle opener will crack, smack and pry seafood and open your beer in between! I think it looks kinda like a road runner myself =D