Notes on the lost art of blacksmithing (or in the modern vernacular, “machining”).

Blade Material

  • Nicholson files (made in the US) said to forge and be heat treated similar to 1095 (source, source) or even W1 (source)
  • Pferd and Grobet files recommended for their quality (source) as well as
  • Many rasps made from low-carbon steel due to their intended usage (source)
  • Saw blades (source)
  • 1080 with convex grind See also List of blade material

Hunting Knives


  • Havalon Piranta (source)
  • S30V, D2, and 1095 using 20° convex grind (source)
  • Buck Ergohunter Pro (source)
  • Jasper (source)


Heat Treating

  • Old files (source)
    • Control temperature during grinding (already heat treated)
    • Convex grind recommended for heavy use
    • Temper at 400&degF for 1 hour, monitoring closely for color changes, allow to air cool (repeat)
  • 1080 (source)
    • Heat to cherry red and quench in canola oil pre-heated to 130°F (i.e. using burner); will not emit toxic fumes during tempering
    • Immediately temper 425-500°F for 2 hours; allow to cool to touch (repeat)
  • 1095 (source)
    • If forged, first normalize to 1575°F, 5-min soak, air cool (anneal) up to 3 times
    • Anneal: Heat to 1475°F, slowly cool (50°F/hr.) using forge, etc. overnight
    • Harden: Heat to 1475°F (non-magnetic + 1-2 min; do not overheat to 1550-1600°F) then carefully quench in oil (yields ~66RC). Be ready to temper as soon as it drops to room temperature.
    • Snap temper: 300-350°F to reduce stress before cryo treatment
    • Cryo treat: -290 (liquid nitrogen) to -90°F (dry ice) for 8 hours
    • Temper: 450-600°F for 2 hours (repeat)
    • See also process: based on metallurgical principles