Instructables
Picture of Heat Treating Knives

The purpose of heat treating is to bring steel to a hardened state. The correct hardness depends on the application of the steel being treated. Knives need to be hard enough to hold an sharp edge through continuous mechanical abrasion, yet be soft (flexible) enough to stand up to forceful use without breaking.

Equipment and tools:
- Visegrip pliers or tongs
- small forge or charcoal fire of sufficient heat (search for forge or smelting instructables)
- fire proof quench container with lid (I used an old cookie tin)
- quenching medium such as used motor oil
- BC fire extinguisher (the kind that puts out grease and oil fires)
- Heat resistant gloves and face shield.
- kitchen oven
- fireproof material for regulator block (I used aluminum tube)

Materials:
- one mild or high carbon steel knife blank (forged or stock removal)

The quenching method I decided to use for this knife was the “edge quench”. I learned this method from $50 Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard. Instead of dropping the heated knife into the quenching medium tip first, submerging the entire knife, the edge quench involves submerging one third to one half of the blade's width (cutting edge first) into the quenching medium. A regulator block is used to hold the blade at the correct depth. The quenching medium I used was old motor oil. After the blade has been quenched, its hardness is still not suitable for usage. In its hard and brittle state, the quenched blade will shatter like glass if dropped, it must be tempered before it is put to use. Tempering involves heating the blade to a non-critical temperature (350 – 450 F) to slightly soften the steel (I used a kitchen oven). A tempered blade will hold a sharp edge and still retain strength and flexibility.

 
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curvy772 years ago
you say that in its quenched state it is still brittle. but with the blades i have made after i quenched them they were still very strong.
You might need to use a faster oil or a brine solution for your type of steel. What kind of steel are you using? I often have the same result with steels that only harden on the surface, the core remains tough and supports the brittle 'sheath', but this only happens with some steels that I use. Remember, the quicker you quench without cracking, the finer the grain structure and the tougher the blade will be at a given hardness. Good luck with your blades.
my first blades were made from low-mid steel. (dresser drawer sliding bracket, and a shelving bracket.) the first one (my only instructable) does not bend easily and does not hold a great edge. (like i said low-mid steel) however it works like a child sized machete. the second one from a shelving bracket bends a little easy, but hold its edge and can be bent some distance before diffuclty is hit. and can be bent back without weakining.

only first blades cause im still working on my 3rd one (sword). the knives i could finish in 4-5 hours in my coal/wood fire pit. brick, wood or rock was used as anvil (all broke hehe) but i need anvil or anvil like thing for sword. last time i use a block of wood as one and i split it in half.(freshly cut too, very hard.)
If you can get a hold of a piece of old rail road track or one of those antique irons you should be able to use that as an anvil without it breaking, I've used a railroad track for mine, but since it's covered in divots and dents from people doing the same to it before I had it, I use a smaller iron as a "finishing" anvil to get the final shape. Those will be easier to get if you live in an area with ranches or farms though, they may be harder to find in cities for free. As for the steel, I'd have to say that you'd have better luck making durable knives from a higher carbon steel, I've found a bunch of old files from my family farm and I've figured out a pretty good heat treat on Tool Shop brand files (really cheap where I get them) to where I can chop through several oak boards and still have them razor sharp. I'm trying to get some higher quality steel online though. NJ Steel Baron has some good prices and pretty good quality too, I'll hopefully be ordering some 52100 steel from them, I've seen that steel chop through hardened bolts so that's my new goal as a knifemaker. That's a pretty cool knife you make in your instructable, good luck with any other knives or swords you make. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.
Semper Fi3 years ago
Nice, thanks for the info. I needed it. Here's one i just finished
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makingcustomknives (author)  Semper Fi3 years ago
Handy looking blade Semper Fi. Details on the octagonal pins please?
There small bolts from a pop up canopy that got destroyed in a storm. Just countersunk and ground flush.
makingcustomknives (author)  Semper Fi3 years ago
Nice. Are the ends on the opposite side peened over? Did you heat treat it? The coloration on the bevel suggests it took some thermal abuse.
Thanks, they are flush. no heat treating, thats why i was glad to see your instructable. I think its just a shadow from me taking the pic. I'm not sure what grade of steel this is, i got it at a rock quarry i worked at year ago. But i do know its really hard (Hard). lol it holds its shine and edge very well. Can't wait to see some more of your creations.
teckner3 years ago
The professionality of your work is very inspiring.
I also saw your blog, and it says you created your instructables account only a few days ago.

Do you forge metal by profession, or just a hobby?
makingcustomknives (author)  teckner3 years ago
Thank you for visiting my blog! Although it is not making me money yet, the reward in the craft itself is enormous.
Great instrucatable, Do you mind if put a link to your instructable into my instructable of how to make a bowie?
Sure you can. I saw your "riveted sword of the monkey" instructable, looked like there was fair amount of forge work involved. I'm currently using the gas forged pictured above to draw out a pair of hunting knives from a file, trying to improve my blacksmithing skills.
Nice!

I don't take much pride in my riveted sword of the monkey any more, haha I've been working on a new katana. that's close enough to almost perfect. the only problem is is the the blade is too thin.
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Phil B3 years ago
I have never made a knife and doubt I will ever get around to making one. Your Instructable is very interesting and I appreciate all of the detail.
makingcustomknives (author)  Phil B3 years ago
Thank you Phil B.