Last week I attended a knife making workshop at Scott Kretschmer’s shop in Loveland. The workshop was taught by Steve Rollert from Dove Knives. This was a full day of demonstration and discussion about hand forged knives.
One of the main topics was a the proper heat treatment of knives. Blacksmiths have traditionaly judged heat by color and while this is pretty good it isn’t perfect. Colors appear different in different ambient light. It is also hard to tell the difference betwwen 1100 degrees and 1200 degrees accurately and that 100 degree difference can be important. Hardening at the exact right temperature makes for repeatable results. If you don’t like the results you can easily judge if it should be a bit hotter or a bit cooler. But that is only possible if you can hit the exact hardening temperature you are aiming for every time.
Enter my “new” heat treating kiln. This is an electric oven capable of very exact temperature control. You can set the exact temprature you want, leave the knife or (any other tool for that matter) to preheat and soak – hold at temperature – if needed. You can’t do that accurately with a torch or a forge. This particular kiln is actually a small ceramics kiln that was being used by a silver smith for burning out wax for lost wax casting. It is not ready to be a heat treating kiln yet. I will need to add some higher tech precision controls to make it work the way it needs to. But, since a new heat treating kiln costs close to $2,000 and this one was only $200 plus $100 or so for the controls, it will be a bargan.
Part of my long term goal is to make quality hand forged tools for woodworkers. This new equipment will help me turn out consistent, predictable high quality tools.