Picture of Forging a Knife From a Nicholson File, Part One
This is the process by which i forged a knife from an old Nicholson file. enjoy.

From this point forward you are forewarned; forging is a dangerous activity. it includes high temperatures, heavy hammers, and lots of smoke. always work in a well ventilated area, use good leather gloves, and wear eye protection. above all use your common sense, and you will be ok...probably.
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Step 1: Coal, or lack thereof

Picture of coal, or lack thereof
maintaining a coal fire can be a challenge. unfortunately, i have no coal. so i use hardwoods and lots of forced air to attain the heat i need. it uses a lot of fuel, but it works.

select your steel now; preferably high-carbon (old files, car springs, (leaf or coil) lawnmower blades,old machete blades, etc. and put it in your coal bed.

Step 2: Forging heat

Picture of forging heat
Apply your forced air. i use a 3000 RPM squirrel-cage blower with a three inch outlet. as you can see my docile coalbed has become a roaring jet of fire. this setup has the capability to heat steel into the oarnge-to-yellow range. add fuel as necessary while you heat your steel.

Step 3: Bevels

Picture of bevels
use a pair of tongs to pull your steel out of the fire, and rush it to your anvil (mine is set at a 90 degree angle to my forge, so i only have to turn my body to get there, very ergonomical.) strike the red-hot steel on the edges, flattening it at an angle and drawing it thinnest at the edge. it is very important to use a good-quality, flat-faced hammer for this job. i have three hammers i use for forging; a three-pound flattening hammer to straighten steel with, a four pound semi-flat for general forging, and a beautiful Vaughan 24-oz. ball-peen hammer. i chose the ball-peen for this particular task because it has the highest weight-to-surface area ratio of all my hammers, allowing me to move the steel more efficiently with each swing, and also its longer handle gives excellent leverage.
I find that most files have too high of a carbon content to actually be functional as knives, but they make great conversation pieces! When you quench a high carbon steel that is as thin (or thinner) as a file the quench needs to be slow and EVENLY controlled. Water or brine quench is a crack waiting to happen; hot motor oil is better, but ambient air is probably going to leave it plenty hard enough to keep an edge.

Generally, the heat treat process is always Harden, then Temper!
The Metal One (author)  backburnerforge2 years ago
I do 3 anneals and 5 heat treats, always quench mine in motor oil. On this piece its going to be a skinning knife. since its not going to be used for impact in any way, shape, or form i mainly desire a superhard edge so i dont waste time sharpening whilst skinning deer or elk.
hjjusa3 years ago
I've found that you should grind the ridge off the file before forging because it cracks along the ridgelines when quenched.
Did you quench it in oil or water?
High carbon steel like files should be quenched in oil, and tend to crack in water.
Any used motor oil should work.
The Metal One (author)  letstormdufield2 years ago
used diesel motor oil, full quench at non magnetic after 3 normalizations
Quenched in oil, Just wanted dome of the rasp details to show. Went through 3 rasps before I got one to quench wthout crackiing.
The Metal One (author)  hjjusa3 years ago
it was a rather fine-toothed file, so it didnt crack on me when i forged it. when i use rasps and double-cut files i do pre-grind to prevent that.
No coal? No problem!
Use lump charcoal.It's cheap, easy to light, burns hot, readily available and you can make it yourself.
Google it to find out more.
The Metal One (author)  letstormdufield2 years ago
way ahead of you. that is my own hardwood lump charcoal in the picture, i just say "wood"
The Metal One (author)  The Metal One2 years ago
i made mine myself, using an instructable on this site
Thanks for the feedback!
hjjusa3 years ago
I'm sorryI meant ridges