How I Create a Hamon (walkthrough)

So, I recently did a walkthrough for a client and his kids who were curious to see the blade making process and I figured I'd share a bit of it with the OG since I've been asked a number of times. This thread will focus solely on the hamon aspect of the process.

To start off, we have below the blade, guard and handle all finished with pre-heat treat work. At this point, the blade has been forged from a bar of W2 steel and ground to a rough 60 grit belt finish.

Up to this point, we're on the same path we'd take for any given knife. And this is where this particular type of knife diverts from the normal path. From here, I normalize the steel via thermal cycling. Thermal cycling consists of bringing the blade up to a hair below its critical temperature and then allowing it to cool in the air until it can be touched barehanded. This is done three times. The purpose of this process is to ensure that the internal grain structure of the steel is back to its normal state after forging and grinding. This relieves any stresses caused by the forging and grinding processes.

I then move to clay-coating the blade with high-temp refractory clay rated up to 3000deg Farenheit.

Here we have the coated blade. Everything looks a mess, no? That'll change shortly.

The clay is left to start curing overnight. The next day, the blade gets placed with a metal clamp very carefully in the tempering oven at 200deg F for 2 hours to fully harden the clay before heat treatment. The time spent at 200deg F impacts the the normalization process exactly none due to the low temp at which it sits.

Cont'd...

 

 

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From there, we heat treat the blade. I don't give this process away, so I'm not mentioning the times or temperatures.

After heat treatment is complete, we grind the blade down to a rough 120 and 220 grit. The hamon starts to reveal itself.

If you look closely, you can see the hamon line in this photo.

From here, we move on to the fun part... hand finishing. Everything on the blade from this point forward is done entirely by hand with a mix of polishing stones, sandpaper and loose abrasive powders, shown below:

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cool dude

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The stones and abrasives shown above are then used to go over the vertical belt scratches and lay down a horizontal finish. We start with 120 grit and then proceed through the grits all the way up to 800.

After a couple of hours of handwork, we come to a 220 grit hand finish:

Here, the hamon is really starting to pop out. Clearly visible on both sides with nothing but hand polishing. We have yet to touch a single drop of acid. This is a VERY good sign that the process has worked perfectly.

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Thought this was about you making mexican ham.

You can use that sweet Hamon to slice some thick cuts of delicious jamon.

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After a couple more hours of hand work, we sit at a beautiful finish a few steps below a full mirror polish. We don't want to go all the way up to a full mirror, otherwise the finish will resist the acid etch that we'll use to fully reveal the hamon.

Again, we're starting to see more and more activity in the hamon with each passing grit.

This is where we stop. The next part in the process is the acid etch. For W2 steel, I use a mix of distilled white vinegar(the kind you find in the grocery store) and dish soap. The dish soap acts as a surfactant, allowing the acid to come into full contact with all parts of the steel.

This process is actually a bit painful. Reason being, the vinegar is brought up to a rolling boil, and to ensure full contact with the steel, the blade has to be rubbed down by hand with the boiling vinegar. For this, I use a large cotton ball. It hurts, even with the tips of my fingers being almost deadened, but it's well worth it in the end.

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Immediately after the knife comes out of the etch, this is what we're left with:

A fucking mess. All of our hard work has been ruined!

That's what most people think the first time they try this process, anyway. Thankfully that isn't the case. From here, we move on to polishing with loose abrasives. 1500 grit silicon carbide powder mixed with oil, to be exact. This mixture is applied to a felt polishing pad and used to polish the blade by hand some more.

What we're left with is this:

This is one step shy of the final finish, which will be handled after the rest of the work on the guard and handle is complete.

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From there, I move to attach the guard and handle. Once they've been secured, I do all the handle finishing work with a mix of machining and hand finishing and move on to a final polish of the blade with the same silicon carbide mixture.

And what we're left with is this beautiful piece of weaponry, the High Plains Fighter:

 

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And that's that! Any questions at all about the process, let me know and I'll be happy to answer.

The only information I don't give away is my heat treat regimen. Outside of that, I'm an open book.

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Awesome!

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Awesome OP, I have wanted to make my own knife for a long time, one day I will I get around to it.

I have a couple of questions.  

1: How did you get the colouring on the handle?  (The colour doesn't show in the 1st pic)

2: How does the pattern of the Hamon come out?  It is done by the grinding process and allowing one side to blue while oiling the other side? (No idea what I'm talking about really).  

I have an old bastard file laying around that I want to try this on.  Great thread mang.

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Really interesting to see your work flow. You're a spectacular craftsman Alto.

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That’s exquisite!   It’s amazing to see a step by step on the process of crafting a beautiful hamon! 

I'm interested in why you prefer not to talk much about heating times and such. Is it a big secret? I mean, is it like Colonel Sanders recipe where every knife maker has their own special times and temps? Honestly this was a very good read and a cool thread but the fact that I can't know those times and temps is driving me nuts! I must know!

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That handle is a BEAUT

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Dashabox - 

Awesome OP, I have wanted to make my own knife for a long time, one day I will I get around to it.


I have a couple of questions.  


1: How did you get the colouring on the handle?  (The colour doesn't show in the 1st pic)


2: How does the pattern of the Hamon come out?  It is done by the grinding process and allowing one side to blue while oiling the other side? (No idea what I'm talking about really).  


I have an old bastard file laying around that I want to try this on.  Great thread mang.


The color that comes out in the handle is natural. Stag antler has natural layers to it. So the outside(bark) portion typically has a darker color than the inside portion. The inside gets exposed in certain areas when grinding the antler down to match the size of the guard.


The differing colors above and below the hamon line are also natural. The darker portion above the hamon line is soft steel where the lighter portion beneath it is hard steel. Visually, I do work to accent the difference by focusing the final polishing towards the bottom portion of the blade, closest to the edge. I find it gives a more pleasing look.


The benefit of having two portions of steel soft/hard is in the use of the knife. For instance, if you take something like a Kabar and stab the tip into a piece of wood and pry the knife laterally... you're running a huge risk of that knife snapping. That's because all the steel in those blades is uniformly hardened. Having a blade where the spine is soft and the edge is hard prevents this sort of snapping. If you do the same thing with one of mine, the blade will bend rather than snap. That's a byproduct of durability in steel. And the best way to get that durability is selective heat treatment, as in a clay-quench.

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Freaky_Hibiki - I'm interested in why you prefer not to talk much about heating times and such. Is it a big secret? I mean, is it like Colonel Sanders recipe where every knife maker has their own special times and temps? Honestly this was a very good read and a cool thread but the fact that I can't know those times and temps is driving me nuts! I must know!

 

It's not really any secret in the overall sense. You get the steel hot and put it in something cool. That's the basis of it all.

 

The times and temps though... those have to be tested ad nauseum in order to reliably sell a product. Over the years, I've spent hundreds of unpaid hours testing various steels at various times and temps during the heat treatment process. Then, each piece of steel gets broken to reveal the internal grain structure. This is what heat treatment is all about. When you break that piece of test steel, you need to see a smooth uniform crystalline grain structure. It's a long and time consuming process to get to the times and temps that I utilize. That's why I don't give that information away.

All of that information is written down in a book of mine. When I die, that book will either be passed down to someone who shares my family name or burned. :)

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Have you ever considered starting up a YouTube channel Alto?

 

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PeteyWheatstraw - Thought this was about you making mexican ham.

You can use that sweet Hamon to slice some thick cuts of delicious jamon.

Now I'm hungry, you fucker.


Cowsgomoo - 

Have you ever considered starting up a YouTube channel Alto?


 


Years back, I considered it. I don't have the time or the patience to do videos like that, nor the ego required to stand in front of a camera lol.