It is better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Why are there so many cats and so few recipes?

Singing Pigs, Magical Blades, Unicorns and Cats


Richard A. Hanson © 2006


Foreword:  Of the above, only cats are real.  However, instead of enjoying a delicious meal; cats taste like chicken; many still waste their time and effort in pursuit of the nonexistent.  The signature on my posts on and on my email says “never attempt to teach a pig to sing for it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”  This is not a put down of others, it is a reminder to me to let the misguided saddle their Unicorn and joust with a windmill if they desire.  After they have been unhorsed and landed on their head enough times perhaps someone can get their attention long enough to actually teach them something.  Alas I am reluctant to take my own advice so line up you porkers and repeat after me:  “Do a deer a female deer, Ra a drop of golden sun…………………….”


Dispelling the Myth:  Periodically the blacksmith and knife making community is beset by well-meaning individuals who are lacking in even the most basic knowledge of metallurgy and metal working. Undaunted, these individuals use every piece of junk science, alchemy and mythology available to supplement the gaps in their education concerning the construction of a knife or sword. Lately it seems as if you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of these people.  They have their minds made up and there will be no confusing them with facts. When they are not reading the latest Harry Potter book, totally engrossed in the Lord of the Rings series, playing Dungeons and Dragons or some other fantasy game, they are often engaged in heavy duty research on the effects of mood altering chemicals on the human body, theirs.  They have grazed in the Loco Weed, dined too long on Latin Lettuce and put too much magic powder up their noses. 


Rarely do any of them own any equipment, have funds to buy equipment, or have the knowledge to use said equipment with out causing grievous injury to themselves or others. Granted I am not an authority on blacksmithing or knifemaking, but I do have some of the tools and I did forge a blade once or twice and even managed to get it sharp enough to cut myself with it.   In spite of knowing I am fighting a losing battle, I on occasion try to impart some knowledge to these individuals.  This is a big mistake on my part and I would be better served trying to organize a porcine choir.  However, since my life is lacking a sufficient quantity of aggravation right now, I will once again try to enlighten some of these people.


 This is going to come as a horrible shock to some, but I must inform you that there is no Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny.  Super heroes exist only in comic books, there is no Loch Ness Monster and as sure as God made little green apples, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MAGICAL SWORD!  I know that you have watched every magical sword movie ever made until you have memorized every sword making sequence ever filmed until you can recite everything in your sleep.  That is Hollywood, it is not real repeat not real.  Pattern welding or as we now call it, Damascus Steel, evolved as a way to refine steel before the advent of modern conveniences like blast furnaces.  It may or may not produce a blade that is superior in quality to a blade made from one homogenous piece of steel. (Ya’ll take note of that big word I just whipped in there; I even amazed myself a bit.)  One thing is sure though it does produce beautiful patterns.  In medieval times the pattern welded blades were of superior quality to blades produced by other methods. Technology has advanced considerably in the last 600 to 800 years so any superiority gained by the process may be lost to modern steels.   Now once again repeat after me: “Me a name I call myself, Fa a long long way to run ……………………”



Junk Science:  You can’t line up the molecules in the metal by taping the butt of the knife, nor can you pack the molecules in the edge by hammering.  Jim Hirshoula has covered this expertly in the forums so I will not dwell at length on the subject.  I do suspect that there is a way to line up the molecules in a particular order though, I am sure that one command given by my Army Drill Instructor, would have those errant molecules lined up in any order he so desired.  Any molecule that dallied for even an instant would find its backside firmly affixed to the woodwork.  Once on the Rifle Range at Fort Ord, CA he bellowed 3rd Platoon Fall In and 21 cars on a nearby freeway came to a sliding halt and faced the ocean.  A nearby cat feral ignored the command and was struck dead in its tracks by his steely glare.


You cannot cryogenically temper a blade using dry ice and alcohol.  I know there are those that have touted this for years.  The theory being that the dry ice chills the alcohol which then evaporates causing a further decrease in the temperature of the liquid.  It’s a basic fact of physics that the colder you make a liquid, the less likely it is to evaporate under normal conditions.  Cryogenics are defined as liquids having a boiling point of below -130o F.  That is below 130 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. If you want to cryogenically temper a blade, you need Liquid Nitrogen which has a boiling point of -320o F.  and is best done by professionals who know how to handle the material.  If you insist on using alcohol and dry ice, use the dry ice to chill your favorite type of snakebite medicine and use it to frost your tonsils. 


You cannot forge cast iron all that well.  I was going to say you cannot forge cast iron, but someone would do it just to prove me wrong.  By alloying it with 30% Nickel and 20% Manganese Silicon, (Note: Manganese Silicon does not exist as far as I know) I don’t think you will get material that is suitable for a blade although it should make some really shiny sewer pipe.  Just to be sure, I am going to take my SFC Swage Block, its cast steel, but that’s close enough for the girls we go with, a roll of nickels and since I don’t know exactly what Manganese looks like I will take tropical fruit, Mangos once again close enough oh yeah and for the silicon, a liberal application of WD-40.  I am going to heat these all up and mash them together and see what I get.  Remember; Do not try this at home, I am a trained professional, your results may vary.  At the best I will end up with an interesting alloy, at the worst, I will end up with Mango Salsa that will break your teeth.  Hummmm, West Texas Flat Cat with Mango Salsa, interesting if not tasty idea.  


You cannot sense the grain structure, carbon content and alloy of steel by looking at it.  If this were possible, you would not need to mess around making a knives and or swords, your fortune would be made.  You would be in such demand by steel manufacturers that you would have to beat them away from your door with a crowbar just to get in the house.  If you really have such a gift, please come over to my house so I can rub a leaf spring smartly us side your head and you can tell me if it feels like 5160.  Repeat after me “ So a needle pulling thread, La a note to follow So”


Strange Equipment:  Occasionally our misguided bladesmiths need a tool that doesn’t exist and in the true tradition of a blacksmith they invent the tool. This does not mean that they actually make a tool; they just come up with a name for something that seems to fit the application they are attempting to perform.  This is how we got the “Forge Axe”.  I am not sure what a Forge Axe is; I surmise it is like a hot cut but considerably larger.  I think its function is to reduce large chunks of metal into manageable and forgeable pieces.  However by its name one could get the idea that is used to chop forges into smaller pieces or perhaps turn your forge into a barbeque for cooking cats.  Repeat after me” Te a drink with jam and bread”


After word:  This is by no means to dissuade anyone from attempting to construct any blade that they desire.  It is meant to assist them in making a suitable piece and to try to keep them from becoming discouraged with repeated failures.  So if you want to make a knife or a sword, for the moment park all that you think you know and pay close attention to what the real knife makers and blacksmiths have to tell you.  There are many knowledgeable people out there with years of experience that will do their utmost to help you if you will just listen to them and quit trying to impress them with what you think you know. Remember that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.  He wants you to do twice as much listening as talking. The only thing you will learn with your mouth open is what files taste like.  I would write more, but my neighbors are very distraught that their cat “Fluffy” is missing and I have invited them over for dinner to console them.  I hope they don’t notice that the chicken has 4 drumsticks.  Repeat after me “That brings us back to Do.” 


Very good my little porkers, now if I can get us booked on American Idol, I think we have a winner.  We will call our group “Woody and the Piglets”