Forging VS Stock Removal Knives

So what is the difference/big deal between forged and stock removal knives? My answer, while controversial, is this. There is no appreciable difference in the performance of the finished products. I am going to outline some of the essential differences. 

Forged steel compresses the grain near the edge supposedly leading to a tougher tight grained edge. While this makes sense, other factors such as edge geometry, heat treating, and steel type have much more to do with performance.

Some say that slag inclusions or alloy imperfections will be cleaned up by forging, but this really only applies to rough steel blooms and is virtually eliminated in commercially available knife steels. The hardening and drawing (or tempering) has perhaps the most dramatic affect on knife performance. Steel type is also a very important factor. There are many mild steel types that will not make a suitable blade no matter how well crafted. 

Quenched high-carbon steel, polished, etched and viewed at 100 magnifications. This structure is called martensite and is desired when maximum hardness is essential. Photograph by H. S. Rawdon.

Quenched high-carbon steel, polished, etched and viewed at 100 magnifications. This structure is called martensite and is desired when maximum hardness is essential. Photograph by H. S. Rawdon.

     Finally, all cutlery is made by stock removal. Even when knives are forged as close as possible to their final shape, they are ground or filed considerably. If there is a true advantage to compressing the grain of a knife's edge, it may be ground away in the final shaping process. Furthermore, the added "Nth" degree of toughness or hardness would only be noticed under extreme abuse, in which case the knife will be ruined even if forged in the fires of Mordor. Knives are cutting tools only and any attempt to use them as pry bars or hammers is abuse. 

     I love watching blacksmiths at their craft and have the highest respect for the art. It is simply a different art from pure Cutlery. I can guarantee one thing: a well made knife made by hammering or grinding will serve a lifetime of use when well cared for and that is the most important consideration.

The "Join or Die" Snake, Ben Franklin, and America

The Join or Die image is known as America's first political cartoon. Originally published in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette  May 9 1754, the image and accompanying article argued the colonies' strength in unity against both English domination and French expansion. The New England colonies were combined into the head of the snake, while Georgia was absent. Curiously, the curving of the snake's body in reminiscent of the colonies' coastline.  

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

In fact, the article preceding the cartoon was about the French seizing a British frontier outpost and seemed to be more about how the disunity of the colonies was dangerous because of the threat of French expansion. The cartoon was reprinted ubiquitously and has retained relevance through generations.

I chose "Join or Die" as a branding tool for my knife company for a few reasons:

  • The name is a bold statement. This is a company that makes dangerous tools, not body care or textiles.
  • Its not my name. Most people don't want a knife with some other dude's name on it. If anyone's name is on it, it should be their own.
  • Unity with the maker community. It's hard to "make it" as a maker and joining together in support of one another is essential to our survival in business.
  • History. I love history and the lessons it holds. Regardless of what you think about America today, there is no question that we have a fascinating and rich history and are a truly incredible nation of hardworking and creative people.

The Finnish Puukko

The Finnish Puukko knife is an ancient style of knife. Finnish men traditionally made their own knives which were the most essential piece of equipment they carried. The word is derived from the Finnish "puukotta" which mean "to stab" or "knife." This is a 1000 year old design that comes from the indigenous Sami people and is used for skinning fish and game. 

This traditional Sami knife uses Reindeer antler for the handle and scabbard.

The Kalevala, known as the national saga of Finland, describes the mystical origins of the puukko as "bog iron" and emerging from a wolf and bear tracks. I great article on Puukkos can be found at Modern puukkos made by companies like Kainuun PuukkoMora of Sweden, and Helle use high performance steels and fancy wood, but retain the heritage of the nordic knife.

This is a J. Martinelli which is a popular fillet knifemaker

The puukko has been an important influence on me and many knifemakers. The bushcraft tradition of creating tools from what is readily available and the all-purpose utilitarian aspect of the puukko make it especially attractive. For me, as a person with Finnish heritage, they are especially attractive.  

Inspiration from History

     Let's face it, everything we create is a mashup of influences. I feel original, but I know the truth is that I am only recreating. There is something to be said, however, for being a part of a tradition.  I want to explore some of these influences and traditions. We will be looking at everything from knife history, cutlery techniques , and general history to contextualize our place in the heritage. 

This journal will include articles on knife history that has led to today's popular styles, historical knife usage and making, and thoughts on community, the maker movement and craftsmanship.