It all starts with a bar of Steel and an idea.

We'll be walking through the steps of creating an integral (one piece) Ulu, this is my take on a traditional Inuit utility knife. Keep in mind that this process is extremely simple (taking roughly 3 hours start to finish) compared to my more advanced work, some of which I will spend 80+ hours creating.

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Step one: Turning a bar into a point

The normal operation temperature of my forge is between 1900 F and 2000 F, high carbon steel moves like incredibly stubborn clay at these heats. It takes roughly an hour of high speed, high impact hammering to turn a bar in to a smooth point of the correct length for a handle.

 

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Preparing to forge the blade bevels

I often forge blades two at a time. It normally takes 30-45 seconds of heat to get an already hot blade up to workable temp. Once at that temp. I have maximum about 10-15 seconds of time to forge my piece before it needs to go back to the fire. This requires me to plan what I will be doing, where I will be striking, and what I'm trying to form before I take the piece out.  

When I do this two at a time, it is constant motion and planning, ensuring neither piece overheats, and keeping in mind two separate projects simultaneously. It is a state of Satori, or Zen for me. My mind is solely focused on the blades.

 

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The bevels have been forged in.

The geometry of the blade is absolutely key in how it performs. A 3 Degree difference in angle on one part can be the difference between your blade being keen as a razor, or barely able to cut butter. The discoloration on the blades at this point is caused by oxidization from the forge. I forge the edge down to about 1/16th of an inch.

The blades have been ground clean on a specially built 2x72 belt sander. I grind the edge down to roughly 1/32nd of an inch before heat treating. The next two steps are forming the handle, and stamping my name in to the blade, I unfortunately have no pictures of this, so just imagine it. 

The blades have been ground clean on a specially built 2x72 belt sander. I grind the edge down to roughly 1/32nd of an inch before heat treating. The next two steps are forming the handle, and stamping my name in to the blade, I unfortunately have no pictures of this, so just imagine it. 

These have been heat treated. This involves getting the entire edge up to at least 1450F, but no more than 1550F, by eye (which is to say I have trained myself to be very good at distinguishing various colors of orange) If the blade is not forged and ground evenly, it will warp, if I don't normalize it (a process involving repeatedly heating and cooling the steel at a certain rate) it runs a high risk of cracking during the quench.  At this point, the blade is the hardest it will ever be, and is brittle until I've tempered it.

These have been heat treated. This involves getting the entire edge up to at least 1450F, but no more than 1550F, by eye (which is to say I have trained myself to be very good at distinguishing various colors of orange) If the blade is not forged and ground evenly, it will warp, if I don't normalize it (a process involving repeatedly heating and cooling the steel at a certain rate) it runs a high risk of cracking during the quench.  At this point, the blade is the hardest it will ever be, and is brittle until I've tempered it.

The blades have now been tempered. I do this with a tempering oven first, then follow up with a MAPP gas torch, I keep the flame on the spine of the blade, steadily moving it back and forth, to get a deep purple/blue on the spine, while keeping the edge at a harder straw gold color.

The blades have now been tempered. I do this with a tempering oven first, then follow up with a MAPP gas torch, I keep the flame on the spine of the blade, steadily moving it back and forth, to get a deep purple/blue on the spine, while keeping the edge at a harder straw gold color.

The final product. I've ground the edge to its final form. In order, I use these grits of belt: 60, 80, 120, 220, 400. after sharpening, you can shave with these blades. All in told, each blade takes roughly 3 hours from bar stock to this.  To reiterate, these are the most simple blades I make. This should give you a basic idea of what I do.

The final product. I've ground the edge to its final form. In order, I use these grits of belt: 60, 80, 120, 220, 400. after sharpening, you can shave with these blades. All in told, each blade takes roughly 3 hours from bar stock to this.

To reiterate, these are the most simple blades I make. This should give you a basic idea of what I do.