If you make things idiot proof, someone will create a better idiot.
I just learned a new blacksmith demo lesson.  "No matter how much they pay you, if they can't provide you a shade tree to work under, turn down the job"


I Wanna Make a Sword


I decided I want to make a sword that will cut the barrel off a machine gun so I got myself prepared.  I watched the sword casting scene from Conan the Barbarian till I know every frame by heart.  I have watched the entire Lord of the Rings series 47 times and I am mentally prepared for this task.  Now I have to get the necessary items together to make my Super Sword. 


I did a Google Search and was directed to a Blacksmith Site where I asked a simple question about making my sword and was immediately served with over 50 replies telling me I must learn basic techniques first and then in 5 or 10 years I will be ready to make a sword.  Well DUH!  If I wanted to make a sword 10 years from now, I would start on it 10 years from now.  I need the sword right now to impress the girls and help me pick up chicks so I decided to push ahead on my own. Really how hard can it be, a sword is just a really big knife and you can’t swing a dead  cat without hitting a knife maker.  I figure I need to have at least a million layers of steel in my blade and that will take a whole lot of cutting and melting together before I can actually make my sword. 


In order to cut costs, I searched the internet suppliers of quality steel at a reasonable price.  I found one in Bangladesh that had just what I needed.  He told me that they get their superior grade ship hull steel by buying old outdated ships, beaching them and then cutting up as much of them as possible before they rust away.  He said that everybody knows ship steel has to be tough to stand up to the constant pounding of the waves.  He said this steel is then put in a big pot and melted together with other high quality steel from junk cars and old bridges to form a very superior product.  He said that to get the proper contrast between the layers I needed two completely different types of steel so he would send me pieces from two different days production runs.  They said if at all possible they would try to get me some steel from an X-Ray machine because that was the very best stuff.  All those X-Rays passing through the steel really make it tough.


So now that I have my steel, all I need to do is to start melting the layers together and making my sword.  Since the nay sayers on the blacksmith site were so negative, I decided that I would plod ahead on my own.  How hard can it be?  I decided I could make a forge out of an old bbq and blow air to it with the air compressor in the garage.  I couldn’t find any coal anywhere in town so I decided to use charcoal briquettes for fuel.  I poured 25 lbs of charcoal into the bbq and added a can of lighter fluid.  Good thing I tossed the match from about 10 feet away because it made quite a whoosh when it lit up.  Once it had burned down to a nice set of coals, I tossed in my steel and turned on the air.  In retrospect 150 psi may have been too much.  The doctor says that once the blisters on my eyelids heal, I will be able to open my eyes again and my vision has not been permanently damaged.  He also said that my hair and eyebrows will eventually grow back.  Due to my injured condition, I was unable to find the shutoff valve for the air supply and as a result the patio deck caught fire.  The good news is the Fire Marshall said that he thought I was too stupid to be an arsonist and he will not press charges.  The insurance company however, declined to pay for the damages to the house. 


Now that my face has healed and I am able to read again, I have discovered that a shop vacuum will supply all the air I need Iam ready to start again.  I did some reading while I was recuperating and found that I need some additional tools. I need a big pair of pliers called thongs or something like that, a big hammer and something called an anvil.  Once again Google and Ebay to the rescue.  I got a brand new cast iron anvil, it weighs 65 lbs and came all the way from China where they been working metal and making swords for centuries.  It only cost me $200 and I found a 6 lb sledge hammer at the flea market, it also came China.  I Also scored several pair of only slightly used vise grips from Pakistan.  Now all I have to do is start melting my steel together to make my sword.  I stacked up 4 layers of ½ inch thick bars 1 inch wide and 18 inches long.  Everybody assured me that this was enough steel to make a sword.  Somewhere I was told to use a flux.  Some suggested Borax. I found some stuff called Boraxo, must be close enough.  They said to heat the steel before applying the flux.  I heated the steel till it glowed and then gobbed on the Boraxo.  I then put the steel back in the fire and when it was just white and sparkling I took it out, put it on my new anvil and hit it with my almost new 6 lb hammer.  Molten white hot stuff flew every direction.  I don’t have to tell you what part of the male anatomy is approximately the same height as the top of the anvil. I nearly burned down the family tree.  A bunch of smart asses at the Emergency Room are starting to refer to me as Doof the Sword Man.


In spite of my near disaster, the steel all stuck together so now I have 4 layers.  It took a lot of hammering to get stretched out but I cut it into 4 pieces and then managed to melt it together again.  Not sure that Boraxo is working all that well.  I went out to Linweld and got some white pasty stuff that is supposed to work great.  I got the steel glowing again and painted that stuff on, funny smelling white smoke came off the steel and I got dizzy.  When I woke up I was at the hospital again.  I got a huge burn on my thigh from where I dropped the hot steel when I passed out but the doctor said there is only slight damage to my lungs.  Everyone kept mentioning read a MSDS, what the heck it that anyway. 


Got back home and rested for a couple days.  I am determined to complete this project even if it kills me.  One of those smart asses at the ER said something about giving odds on that.  Too bad there is only one hospital in town or I would take my business elsewhere. 


Now I am ready to start again.  I read the label on the jar of flux, it mentioned something about adequate ventilation and some funny chemical name like Hydrogen Fluoride.  Also recommended respiratory protection so I set up a big fan at my back and tied a new bandana across my nose and mouth and I am off to the races.  I got the piece of metal hot and used a long stick to put the flux on it.  That was pretty easy, but it is amazing how much work this is turning out to be.  I will never get to a million layers so I have revised my plan, I quit at 512 layers, that should be plenty of layers, besides somehow the bar keeps getting smaller.  This black stuff keeps flaking off it is all over the floor around the anvil.  If I melt it together much more, I won’t have enough to make my sword.  Now I have my sword all hammered out and ready for finishing.  Someone said to heat it red hot and then let it cool to get the stress out of the blade so I did that.  They said to repeat that process because it shrinks the grain of the steel.  I wonder how many times I can do this before my sword turns into a pocket knife?  Then they said to heat it red hot and stick it in oil.  Since my sword is so long, the only thing I could find to stick it in was a 30 gallon garbage can.  30 gallons of oil would break my budget so late last night I snuck down to the local Long John Silver’s and filled the garbage can out of their used oil tank.  When I got home the can was too heavy to get out of the pickup so I just backed it up to the garage.  They say that you need to stick the sword in the oil 3 times, heating it red hot each time.  The third time I stuck the sword in the oil, the oil caught fire.  Now I don’t know what you think but having a 30 gallon plastic can of oil on fire in the back of your pickup is not a good thing.  Thought I could drive it down to the lake about a mile away and dump it in there to put the fire out.  Unfortunately on the way I met a cop.  He made a big deal out of it and called the fire department.  I had to deal with that snooty Fire Marshall again.  He said that if he ever sees me again it will be through bars.  You bet, once I get my sword done if I have to deal with that snooty son of a gun again he will need bars to protect him.  Lots of them because I will be chopping right through them.  Anyway I have a barrel of used oil, foam and some white powder stuff floating on it that I need to get rid of.  I don’t want to cause more problems so I will just take it home and pour it down the drain.  In retrospect that was not such a good idea.  It took the plumber quite a while to get the drain unplugged and I had to give him $200 extra to keep him from calling someone called EPA. 


Now they say I have to temper my sword.  It’s sort of like baking bread but takes longer.  I was going to cook it at 400 degrees for 3 hours but I got impatient and took it out after 45 minutes.  That should be long enough.  Somewhere I heard something about cryogenic tempering using liquid nitrogen so I called my friends at Linweld.  They have liquid nitrogen but they are sort of fussy about who they sell it to and besides that they want an arm and a leg for it.  I could have scraped up the cash if I hadn’t had to bribe the plumber.  I decided to improvise using some dry ice I bought at the grocery store and some alcohol.  Nobody told me what kind of alcohol to use so I decided to use the cheapest vodka I could find to save money.  I chilled the vodka with the dry ice and immersed the sword.  After it was very cold, I took it out and not wanting to waste even cheap vodka, I got a glass and took a big sip.  You think ice cream will give you a brain freeze, try 50 degree below zero vodka.  The doctors at the ER said they had never seen frozen tonsils before. 


After I got my voice back I set to finishing my sword.  I put an oak handle on it wrapped with stainless steel wire to simulate silver and welded a big ball bearing on the end of the handle.  After a final sharpening it was ready for the test, but I wasn’t sure where to find a machine gun barrel. Fortunately there was a gun show in town that weekend so I took my sword down there hoping to find someone that could point me in the direction of a machine gun barrel.  When I entered the door, the first thing I spied was a machine gun on display.  I took my sword out of the scabbard and just as I was ready to swing, some big ugly dude stuck a huge automatic pistol in my ear and said if I even thought about swinging that sword he was going to turn my head into a canoe.  Then he called for some of his buddies to help him and they proceeded to remove me from the show.  I told them the door wasn’t open but I don’t think they heard me because they threw me right through it.  Thank goodness it was a flimsy wooden one.  When I walked into the emergency room it took the doctor 10 minutes to quit laughing before he could stitch up my forehead.  When I explained my plight to the doctor he said that perhaps I would be able to find a machine gun to test my blade if I went where there was a war.  Off I went headed to Afghanistan, they seem to have a war there so there should be plenty of machine guns to practice on. 


Getting through an airport and on an airplane with a sword is not an easy task.  There was much questioning and several very distasteful searches before I was allowed on the plane.  My sword required several hundred dollars worth of special packaging but at last I was on my way.  Before I departed I was contacted by some sinister looking dude in a black suit and dark glasses who said he worked for The Company, what ever that is.  He said that if I could find some guy named Osama Bin Laden and test my sword on his neck there was Fifty Million dollars in it for me.  I will have to give this proposition more thought. 


After an endless flight I arrived in Karachi, Pakistan where I had a very hard time with Customs and Immigration.  After an even more uncomfortable search by a real ugly bearded dude with a very long fat finger who kept mumbling something in a foreign language that sounded sort of like deliverance velly goud flick squeal likapig. I was finally cleared to enter the country.  When I told the customs guy my plan he said that when I get to Afghanistan to try my sword on a machine gun that belongs to the allies because they have more of them and they are more forgiving than the Taliban. 


After the bus ride from hell, I finally arrived in Afghanistan.  I shared a seat with two sweaty guys who hadn’t bathed in at least a year and a goat that smelled only slightly better than they did.  After crossing the border I arrived at a small village high in the mountains.  I asked where I could find a machine gun to try my sword on but I was told by a one eyed guy in a turban that he couldn’t find me a machine gun but he could get me all the infidel necks I wanted to test my sword.  Before I could ask him what an infidel neck was and how hard they were, there was a bright flash and a loud boom.  I don’t remember much of the next week or so.  Just waking up occasionally with people dressed in white looking at me then I would go to sleep again.  When I finally woke up I was in some Air Force Hospital in Germany, strapped tightly to the bed with an armed guard standing by the bed.  I was questioned incessantly by several of the dark suit and dark glasses crowd who kept threatening to send my goat hearding butt to Gitmo if I didn’t start telling the truth.  They kept applying electrical shocks that they said were to improve my memory.  They also did something with a wet towel and a pitcher of water that was decidedly uncomfortable.  Finally someone found my passport and I was eventually released but my sword was lost somewhere along the way.