It seems that there is some confusion regarding the two knives I did for Mike Neal (Pictured above – Photo by Mike Neal) – I did not forge make the ‘Forge Welded’ blades.
The Filleting Knife (At the top in the image of both knives) is a piece of American Forge Welded steel bought unworked, and it is somewhere around 512 layers. I shaped the slug and put an edge on it, an amazing edge, which should hold up well. I used some ‘Curly Koa’ that Mike had sent for the handle.
Mike sent the chopper blade to me (Lower in the image of both knives and the solo image) with some incredible pieces of wood in exchange for making him a knife. He wanted to know whether it was ‘Real Forge Welded steel and if I could do something with it. I tested it with Ferric Acid and ‘Super Blue’. It IS “real”, but I have no idea where it came from so I don’t know the quality of the steel. I re-beveled the edge and honed it to the best edge I could get (I use Japanese ‘Water Stones’ and ceramic rods). It took a half decent edge, but time will tell if it is made with good steel and will hold that edge. I also refinished the surfaces, then made the handle out of some of the Oak Mike sent me. You can’t see it in the picture, but it has a pattern similar to ‘Tiger Stripe Maple’ or ‘Quilted Maple’ which I’ve never seen in Oak before.
I had made 2 of the fillet knives already in ‘440C Stainless’ that Mike saw and decided that was what he wanted. Well, I really wanted to give him a ‘Nice” knife (so he’d send me more of his scraps) and wanted to do it in Forge Welded steel. But I could/can not afford to screw up on a piece of this stuff because it’s so expensive! You buy it by the inch, not foot like “regular” steel. The two stainless ones I previously made were a nightmare for me to do and I won’t be making any more of them (It wasn’t as bad as trying to get 4 bevels on one blade! I went through a lot of good steel making the Defender 01 and quite honestly, it’s selling for less than the cost of all that steel I wasted!
NOTE: Do not let your knives get dull. It is MUCH easier to touch up a sharp blade than it is to put an edge back on the blade that you can’t cut yourself with.
Damascus, San-mai, Wootz, Forge Welded, and Eletro-Etching
There seems to be some confusion as to what is Damascus and what isn’t. Real Damascus can usually only be found in museums. The secret recipe/formula was lost over 200 years ago.
Modern day “Damascus” is actually a steel combination that the original Damascus was made of, and can be found in a steel combination known as ‘Wootz’. What we are calling Damascus today is actually “Forge Welding’. Layers of different types of steel are stacked in together; heated to a critical temperature; then pounded out and folded over and put back into the forge and reheated to critical temperature. This is done multiple times. The resulting piece of Forge Welded Steel can be anywhere from 3 layers to thousands of layers. The more layers, the more expensive the blank will be. This stuff is bought by the inch not by the foot like other steel.
San-mai is a type of Forge Welding that uses a High Carbon Steel center which is sandwiched between more pliable metals. This makes the resultant steel tougher and more flexible than a straight High Carbon Blade. It is often mistaken for Damascus, but if you look at the spine of the blade you will see a dark strip running down the middle of the blade with lighter colored steel on each side as in the image below.
On a Forge Welded blade, if you examine the spine you will see hundreds of tiny lines running the length of the blade spine. These are the layers of folded steel. That is how you can tell a real Damascus blade from a fake one. There are two types of the fake stuff coming out of the Middle East. One looks and feels like the real deal – however, the steel used is very inferior steel that will not hold an edge. The other one again ‘Looks’ like Forge Welded steel, but when you feel the blade it’s surface feels rough and looks crude in comparison to the real steel. I’ve bought some of this stuff from the Middle East and taken the belt grinder to it only to find it is a plain steel that has been etched to look like a Forge Welded blade. There are no layers of different metals. People often ask if my knives are Damascus. They are not, unless I specifically say so in the write up on them. They have been ‘Eletro-etched’ and I do not TRY to make them look like Damascus.
We moved to Omak, WA in December 2021 and it took a few months for me to get the knife making shop set up the way I want it. It’s still not 100% there, but at least I’m able to work and build knives. Which is a good thing because I’ve sold a couple more knives! In fact I’ve sold FIVE in just the past month!
I am so pleased that folks in the area like my work.
I’m working on a couple of new designs that I’ve been tweaking over the last couple of weeks. Some of them are going to be one off’s as they were a real challenge for me – like the dagger – been there, done that, now moving on.
But there is the ‘Just Basic Camp Knife’ and a couple others that are just that. I enjoy making each one because no two are the same. That knife is the ‘Day Tripper’. I’m going to keep making those but my best seller I’m not making any more – I just made the last one. I’ll post pic’s once they are all done and I have the sheaths made for them. This Last One is the last of the PuP series. It is 440C etched with 200 year old American oak and purple heart scales and it comes with one of my hand crafted leather sheath. ANYWAY I’ll post pic’s.
I regard ‘Forging your own steel’ in the same way I regard ‘Casting your own bullets’ – it’s something you can get into if so inclined, but not necessary. There are dozens of companies out there who offer ‘Steel Blanks’ upon which a knife blade can be designed, shaped and cut. From these I choose only high quality steel to work with. My preference is exceptional edge retention over corrosion resistance because corrosion can be prevented with proper care and it can be remove if it occurs. However if a knife can not hold an edge, it is useless and ‘High Carbon Steel’ is my primary choice of medium to work with because of it’s ability to hold a truly wicked edge. But because some people can not be bothered with having to care for a knife, I do make knives of ‘High Carbon Stainless Steel’ as well.
My preferred steel for ‘Art Knives’ is Damascus, however using just that would put the cost of knives out of reach for most people. Damascus is a type of blade material where the steel is heated and folded over and over creating layers. The number of folds can vary from 3 to 2000. Obviously the more folds the more expensive the material and this steel is bought by the precious inch. Damascus comes in many different patterns and types. In an effort to keep my knives affordable and still maintain quality I mainly use 512 fold steel. My preference is a blade with a high carbon center for holding an edge and softer stainless steel layers for strength and flexibility.
For non-Damascus steel I tend to prefer ‘High Carbon’ steels (1084, 1095 High Carbon Steels, D2 Carbon Steel, or 01 Tool Steel) and the ‘Stainless Steels’ that I use also have a high carbon content (440C, CPM154 and 5Cr15). What that means for you the buyer is that you will have to look after your knife. By that I mean that you will need to dry it after use, don’t store it in a wet sheath and keep it lubricated with ‘Rust Free’ or some other product that will prevent rust.
All of my knives that are made using natural materials (bone, wood, antler, horn) for handles, are ‘Stabilized’ using either CA glue, Wood Juice – wood stabilizer or Polycryl – wood fortifier. They are all finished with ‘Renaissance wax’ which is used by museums and historic object restorers and collectors as a conservational material.
The other factors that affect the price of Moondog Knives are the handle materials, ranging from deer or elk antlers, to exotic woods like desert iron wood, to handcrafted Micarta. The other material cost is the sheath materials used. I use lightly worked leather keeping the design simple and functional, but built to last. My goal is to make custom handcrafted knives affordable for the average person.