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Stock Removal Method - A moment to learn, a lifetime to master. Part 2 of 2

Of the different knife making techniques, there has always been a debate comparing forging or stock removal. This is a very passionate subject among many knife makers and each side swears by their method and its advantages.

While stock removal is a method more easily explained as a process where you take a piece of steel and grid it to remove off everything that does not look like a knife, a forging method is defined as one where a bladesmith heats up the steel blade and hammers and shapes it until it looks like a knife.

With the stock removal method a precision ground blade is taken and a knife blade pattern is transferred on to it, by spraying with layout fluid, placing a template made of cardboard or any other material on the piece of the steel and scribbling a shape around the template. The blade is then cut along the lines using a process called profiling. It is then ground along the layout lines and then refined in the grinder or filed. The blade then has to be heat-treated using a commercial oven.

The most important part of the stock removal method is the grinding. This is the part that tests the character of the knife maker and when done in a patient and attentive manner, gives great insight into the metal's characteristic and builds a bond between the knife maker and the blade. The basic idea behind grinding a knife is to provide or restore the gross shape of a blade based on the grind-type. Most of the grinding is done on machines such as grinding wheels. Grinding provides a good cutting edge angle and creates a relief by honing with a secondary angle until a burr appears. The primary angle, i.e. the cutting edge is then created to remove the burr.

While grinding manually on a stone, you need to stroke the knife pushing the knife away from you and then turn it over and stroke it pulling it towards you. You can also user a workbench with clamps and vices to hold the knife blank and use a file to do the grinding. You can then use a disc sander on the drill with sandpaper to smooth things over. Ensure that you wear your safety glasses to protect your eyes. To find out whether you have honed the knife enough, let the blade rest on your thumb nail and try moving it. On a sharp blade the edge will catch making it difficult to move. An easier way would be to hold the knife edge up towards a light source making the light shine across the sharp edge. By tilting the knife back and forth, uneven edges or nicks and chips will reflect strongly, showing you that there is some more work to do.

While comparing stock removal and forging, although many try to compare the outcome i.e. the quality of the knife, the main difference lies in the process of knife making and in the attitude and preference of people over one method over the other. Both are capable of producing excellent quality custom knives that can be personal to the maker and can stand over years of good use.

To make knife using the stock removal method, you might need to invest in a good set of equipment. Basically you'll need files to remove excess steel. A good belt grinder will be of a great help to speed up this process. Investing in a good bench vise would be a good idea as it would help you do the grinding and filing in amore controlled and comfortable manner. You might need a good set of wet and dry sand paper in different grids for giving a good finish to your blades. Very smooth, satin finishes can be attained with constant practice. You'll need some carpentry tools if you are planning on making wooden handles and might need drills and epoxy to attach the knife handle to the blade. If you are an advocate of the forging method of knife making then you'll need a good heat source (i.e. a forge), good set of hammers, tongs and a good anvil to place the hot steel and shape it. A good amount of lighting and a few safety and first aid kits complete the picture.

Many books are available in the market to help anyone start on the process of knife making. These provide ample information for anyone who wishes to start on this ancient art. The internet is another ample resource on knife making information, with many forums that contain hundreds of connoisseurs, experts and enthusiast discussing the various methods of knife making and also helping in clarifying any doubts or providing details to the novice. They are ready to hand down many tips and tricks of the trade that might help anyone starting on the knife making to avoid common pitfalls and to get good results.

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