Brut de Forge Bowie

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According to the Texas Stat Historical Society:

“In 1838, Rezin P. Bowie, brother of Alamo hero James Bowie claimed that he made the first Bowie knife while the Bowies lived in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. He designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to James for protection after his brother had been shot in a fight. Herzehian Dunham, Notary Public in Avoyelles Parish certified that blacksmith Jesse Clifft, who lived on Bayou Boeuf and was a close friend and neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s, forged the knife according to Rezin Bowie’s design. The original Bowie knife was like a butcher knife in profile, with a thin blade but no silver mounts. Bowie wore it in a silver-mounted black-leather sheath.”

There were several iterations of the Bowie knife since then, and there are countless books written with the Bowie knife as the primary subject matter. Today, almost any large heavy knife is likely to be called a bowie knife.

This Brut de Forge Bowie was forged from a similar tine as Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine. To the right it is being normalized. Notice the groove (or fuller) in the tang. I cut that with the belt grinder. It serves a couple of purposes. It lightens the knife. It makes less surface area of the tang that must be flattened and gives the epoxy some space.

  • Blade – 8 ¾”
  • Overall 13 ½”

I also used the cross peen to hammer a slight fuller across the top of the knife. This gives the knife a little more width from the piece of metal without weakening the blade.

In the photo below I tried the Brut de Forge Bowie out before I put the scales on. This is chopping a stick of hophornbeam to make sure it is performing as expected. It wasn’t even fully sharpened yet when I did this test.

I also found this to be a little harder than I wanted after two tempering cycles, so I wound up tempering it for one more 2-hour cycle.

The handle was finished with the help of the  scalloped belts. I have then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.

Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt

Notice the groove (or fuller) in the tang. I cut that with the belt grinder. It serves a couple of purposes. It lightens the knife. It makes less surface area of the tang that must be flattened and gives the epoxy some space.
I tried the knife out before I put the scales on. This is chopping a stick of hophornbeam to make sure it is performing as expected. It wasn’t even fully sharpened yet when I did this test.

Knife 56 – A Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke cold forging

  • Blade – 4 3/4″
  • Overall – 9 1/4″
  • Scales – Stabilized Spalted Beech
  • Handle Finish – Hand rubbed Tru-oil

I forged Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke from another tine as shown in knife 36. I sound up breaking it. I knew I was not finished forging it but I ran out of time, so I just left it sitting on the anvil. The next day I only had a few minutes in the shop. I picked up the knife and noticed a slight warp. Sure, I should have known better but my experience working with mild steel sort of kicked in and I gave it a couple good whacks with the hammer. Boom! A duh moment.

You will often hear this kind of finish described as “Brut de Forge” or  “Brute de Forge” – meaning “rough and unfinished”. Part of the blade is left in an “as forged” or partial “as forged” state.

I asked if this would have happened if it was already normalized. Thermocycling will help with the coarseness of the grain.

Tempering will give it bend without the break and leave an edge that will hold its sharpness.

And Lesson learned, do not forge below forging temps.

Fortunately, there was enough left of this Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke to turn it into a hidden tang.

Thermal cycling is a process in which material is cooled and heated in cycles.

Normalizing is to bring or return a substance to a standard or normal condition or state.

As knife makers we thermal cycle our steel to return it to a normalized state, so we call it normalizing or normalization.

I needed to make sure this metal would normalize correctly. After straightening the tines, I found just a light hammer blow would cause the metal to break as shown in the photo to the right. So, I ran a test.

To normalize it, I brought it to nonmagnetic three times, and let it cool in the vise. After normalizing a tried several times to break it and it did not break after several hammer blows.

It was then heat treated as described earlier. The normal test all passed after tempering as well.

Stabilized beech handle

Hand crafted, hand stitched 7-9 oz veggie tanned leather sheath



Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine – Cold Blued

Notes: cross peen or rounding hammer would be used

  • forge the point first
  • keep it straight as you go
  • keep refining the profile within each section as you go
  • for the entire blade profile (we’ll do the tang after)
  • after the profile is formed forge the edge
  • forge one section at a time
  • Remember to use the right side of the hammer  to pull the steel (round side or cross peen side)
  • rough profile the length a section at a time
  • go back and smooth it after
  • Keep the knife bigger than the patter
  • Blade is 5 1/2″
  • Overall Length is 9 3/4″
  • The blade was blued with gun blue (cold blue)

This knife was forged from an implement tine.  This should be close to 5150 if the information on the internet is correct. I found it to be a little harder to forge than the 108x.

I drew out the blade first, shaping it as I went. From a forging perspective it was much different than the last knife I forged except this was to be a full tang.

Wetting the anvil and hammer helps get rid of the scale. Just dip your hammer in your water bucket a few times and throw the water on the anvil and continue as normal.

After forging, I started with a 36-grit ceramic belt and worked my way up to 220. I think I’m starting to hit the other end of the learning curve. Grinding is getting easier. I still did some hand sanding, I only sanded to 180 grit then hit it with a course finishing belt.

There are times when I get closer and into finish sanding, I have the belt going as slow as it will go. It allows better control and mistakes become much smaller and easier to overcome. At this stage taking your time and constant focus is the best advice I can give.

This time I didn’t forget to normalize. I almost forgot my makers mark, but added it in between the first and second normalizing cycle.


Normalizing Your Knife

  • When a knife is forged it needs to be normalized. Forging adds stress to the steel. If you research this, you will find it has to do with the grain structure of the steel. But for now, just know it needs to be done.
  • Normalizing is a pretty simple process. Heat the metal to nonmagnetic then let it air cool. For most metals we’ll talk about in this book, doing this three times should do the trick. After annealing you can go straight to heat treatment.
  • Typically normalizing is not required with stock removal but I recommend you normalize recycled steel. If in doubt, normalize.

Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
the original tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
wetting the anvil to help remove the scale
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine

Adding the Jimping

I marked out and drilled the tang holes and added the Jimping to “Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine – Cold Blued”.

I marked the tang for the spline embellishment. I marked about every quarter inch and marked the center line. I drilled holes at each intersection. Then using the corner of a square file, I cut a V in-between each hole on both sides of the spline.

Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine
Knife - 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine

Cold Bluing

The blade of this Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine – Cold Blued was blued using a cold bluing technique. This will help keep the high carbon blades from rusting.

Here is my technique.

  • Polish the blade to the desired finish. A polished blade takes blue better, but it’s not a requirement.
  • Wipe the blue on and let it sit for a minute or so. Buff it out.
  • Repeat the entire process until it reaches the texture you like, or it stops changing.

Knife 22 – 7″ Chef’s Knife Forged from a File

Knife 22 – 7″ Chef’s Knife Forged from a File is a kitchen knife. It was the first one I’ve made with a forging technique. This started life as a worn-out file. When you plan to forge a knife, there is no reason to anneal it. Bringing the piece to forging temperature makes the steel as soft as it will get.

All that was formed from forging on this knife was the bevel. Working from one end of the blade (tip first) to the other while alternating from one side of the blade to the other end (tang end) to keep the bevel as even as my skill level allowed.

The rest was done by stock removal . As was mentioned in Forging a Custom Made Knife, No matter how much you forge, or how good you get at it, there will always be stock removal involved. So, you can forge and file, or forge and grind, either way, you’ll need to remove some stock to finish your knife and you can stop forging and You can stop the forging process and move to stock removal at any point in the process. Starting with just a little forging as you learn and develop, will help add another tool set to your abilities.

Design note: Contoured and formed handles are great if they fit to the users hand, but the more form fit the grip, the fewer folks it will fit. Finger grooves are a matter of personal preference and I really do not like them. They must fit the fingers to feel well and will feel terrible if they don’t fit. Grips with a single finger groove for the index finger are more versatile and capable of fitting many hand sizes. In a natural power grip, the fingers press together, enhancing grip security and stability. Grooves that separate the fingers overpower the natural gripping strength of the grip.

Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File
Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File
Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File - Finished Handle

Forging a Custom Made Knife

Forging a Custom Made Knife is the process of forming metal after heating it to forging temperatures. This can be accomplished with a fire typically controlled by air. It’s then formed by hitting it with hammers or presses. These can be blacksmith hammers, power hammers, hydraulic presses, or other means.

There is not one definitive way to Forging a Custom Made Knife, and different Smith’s will have different methods and opinions, but a few basic rules will help guide you.

I’ve tried to give detailed instructions with the knives I forge.

Being able to forge is not a requirement for knife making but it can have a place in any knife making hobby if one chooses. There are many knife makers who never forge and make beautiful knives. You can decide at what point, if any, you’d like to add forging to your skill set.

No matter how much you forge, or how good you get at it, there will always be stock removal involved. So, you can forge and file, or forge and grind, either way, you’ll need to remove some stock to finish your knife.

If you have experience forging already, then the stock removal become a bit easier. However, if it is yet another skill you need to learn, then start slow.

You will often hear that forging a knife has less metal waste than stock removal. You will need to stop and think about that for a moment. Look at your design and think about what will be removed compared to the time to forge the knife.

On a basic knife design, and even some more advanced designs, I think the waste is somewhat insignificant. There is the corner snips and the bevel grinds, but for these basic designs, the time you save over forging will make up for it.

However, there are designs that forging will save a lot of metal and a lot of time as well, so working this skill into your learning curve will definitely be a benefit at some point in your knife and edge tool making.

You can stop the forging process and move to stock removal at any point in the process. Starting with just a little forging as you learn and develop, will help add another toolset to your abilities.

Forging is simply the process of heating metal to a working temperature and forming it with a hammer. You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to start.

Get a cross peen or rounding hammer and a hard chunk of metal. An anvil is nice to have, but not a requirement. Any heavy solid chunk of hard metal will do. A sledgehammer head or piece of railroad tract are common anvil starters. It’s also a common misconception that you will need to flatten the top of the railroad track, but the curve is quite nice when creating the bevel. If you find the flat easier to use, turn the track upside down, it’s flat on the bottom. You may even like it turned end up.

Now you just need a source of heat.  This can be anything from a campfire, or a hole in the ground, or a real forge. All will work. If you’re not using a real forge, then adding some air helps a lot. A hair dryer piped in, or small blower of some kind works well.

To begin forging a forge of some kind is needed. The basic options are coal or propane. I currently have both.

coal forge
My Coal Forge

I don’t use the coal forge much when Forging a Custom Made Knife. I can’t find a local source for blacksmith coal, and the home heating coal doesn’t perform very well.  I Still plan to continue to use it from time to time, but I find the propane much more convenient for what I am currently doing, and propane is much easier to get.

For fuel for a coal forge you should get bituminous coal. Coal for heating is anthracite, which doesn’t work nearly as well. It needs a lot more air. It will work in a pinch, however. Regular barbecue charcoal does not work well either.

I chose to build my propane forge to save some budget. There are two things I’d change if I had to do it over. First, I would have just bought my burners from a reliable source. By the time I bought all the little parts for the burners, the savings compared to just buying the burner didn’t make sense, and I wouldn’t have put a second burner on. I almost never turn the second one on. It wasn’t necessary.

Keep in mind a forge can simply be a hole in the ground with something to provide some air, like a hair dryer. You don’t need to let not having a forge, stop you from trying on your own.

You can also make a very simple forge by stacking some fire brick. Dill a hole for a propane or map torch to go through. There are many examples and instructions available both online and in blacksmithing books.

You can also just use some good hardwood firewood. It takes longer as you need to let it burn to a hot charcoal like fire.

And of course, if you have a coal or propane forge, that is the optimal setup.

Now just heat the metal to a bright orange, almost yellow color. Using a set of tongs, or long handled pliers, work the metal with the hammer. Heat it often and work from one end of your blade to the other.

This chapter could easily turn into a book itself, so for now we’ll keep it simple. I suggest you start forming the point of your knife then the bevel and then switch to stock removal. After that you can move into other areas. Just keep practicing and researching as you go.