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 – 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 40 – Fully Forged Hunting knife

This is the first knife I’m going to call forged. I’ll admit it took me longer due to inexperienced, but not as long as I expected. This is an example of one of the benefits of knowing how to forge a knife along with stock removal. This piece of 1080 would not have been big enough to do what I wanted to do using just stock removal. There was plenty of metal, it just needed to be drawn out and shaped.

I started with 1/8” 1080 steel when making “Knife 40 – Fully Forged Hunting knife”. You will want to use a cross peen or rounding hammer. The flat side is for smoothing, the round or peening side is for moving and forming the metal.

First, I started with the blade. I heated and hammered the blade into the shape I wanted. I started with the bottom curve then alternated between that and the drop point, all the time keeping the knife flat.

I made sure the shape was exactly what I wanted, then moved to defining and drawing out the tang. Again, making sure the knife stayed flat. To define the beginning of the tang I used a combination of the cross peen and the edge of the anvil, using the hammer face to keep it flat as I went.

Once the tang was developed, I started on the bevel. Using the hammer face at a slight angle, I drew out the bevel working from one end to the other on each side. It was actually easier than I anticipated as long as I took my time.

Before stopping I paid extra attention to making sure it was as flat as I could make it and the form was as I expected it to be

I then let it cool and moved to the belt grinder. (I’d you don’t have a belt grinder yet, use what you have, a belt sander, angle grinder, etc.

Using the belt I formed the tang further and evened up the shape. At this point I was using a 36-grit ceramic belt. I decided to try to free hand the bevel, so I added my plunge stop. Slowing the belt down substantially and maintaining a horizontal move. It’s here I discovered it was often best to let the knife slide behind my thumb that was pressing the knife to the belt. Dunking in water served to purposes at this point, it kept the knife cool so I could hold on it and it helped lubricate the knife, so it slides behind my thumb. This allowed me to keep a more even pressure on the bevel. Keeping the belt speed slow enough so the knife doesn’t overheat in a single pass helps a great deal. It’s not a concern for the overheat for the metal, it’s maintaining a temperature you can hang onto.

From here I jumped to 120 grit. In retrospect I should have gone to 80 first. I then moved to hand filing and sanding. There were a few spots I found while hand working that had deep enough scratches that I moved back to the belt to take them out, then back to hand work.

I then made sure the tang had a slight taper from the beginning to the tip. This would allow the finger guard to slide on.

Once this was completed, I moved to making the finger guard. I cut a piece of ¼” x 1” steel. I marked the slot and drilled a series of holes the appropriate size for the tang. I used the mill to finish the cut, but a file or Dremel would have worked as well. I rounded the guard on the belt grinder.

I marked out and cut a piece of aluminum that will be the frame. I cut serrations in it about every ¼” all the way around. This gets cleaned up and roughed up with 80 grit sandpaper to slow the epoxy to stick better.

I then cut out two rosewood scales square and slightly oversized and epoxied black spacers to them. I clamped them together with wax paper between them for easy separation.

That was the end of the day. I would estimate I had about 5 hours in this knife at this point.

See the other Hidden Tang Knives

Finishing the knife happened in small time slots over the next few days. I basically made the frame the same as I did for Knife 34 – Hidden Tang Aluminum Framed on page 47.

With this frame I cut the slots all the way around the frame. I then epoxied the handle together with epoxy tinted black and let the epoxy cure. I then drilled a series of 1/8” holes for the brass pins and epoxied the pins in place. These are for both esthetics and strength holding the frame together.

At this point I heat treated the knife and after it cooled, I started the tempering process. While this was in process, I roughed out the scales.

And here is the mistake. I realized at this point I did not normalize the knife before I heat treated it. I didn’t want to risk anything going wrong with this knife after the work I’d out into it, so back to the forge.


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.

I normalized the knife  three times. Each time bringing the knife to non magnetic and then letting it air cool. I then heat treated it once again and tempered it with the normal two hours at 450 degrees with two cycles.

I debated at this point if I should go further on the handle or wait and get it all together. I decided it would be best (since the finger guard would be flush to the handle) if it was all formed to final shape together.

I decided to add some spacers and epoxy the handle on. Since the clamp was positioned so I could drill for the tang pins, I went ahead and drilled and installed them as well. I then let it cure overnight.



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