Last updated on July 27th, 2015
I recently received an amazing custom-made hand forged & hammered knife and I want to tell you about it – especially given the fact that it was made in the USA by an individual who is committed to the hand crafted trade (a rare thing these days when so much of our ‘stuff’ is made in ‘faraway’ places).
When I first handled the knife, I immediately noticed (felt) how it balanced ‘just right’ in my hand. It was a natural fit…
First let me credit the knife maker, James Wahls of Indy Hammered Knives (Indianapolis, IN) who first ‘forged’ his interests early in life while learning from his grandfather (a master carpenter) and then eventually having apprenticed blacksmithing under Jeff White (Bladesmith) while also being influenced about knife making from working with Dave Canterbury and his family at the Self Reliance Outfitters – Pathfinder School, LLC.
This particular full tang knife, the ‘Sojourner’ is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel and has a hammered polished blade. My particular knife measures 9.5″ long with a 5″ (1/8″ thick) blade – which was (still is) sharp enough to slice through paper.
According to my digital kitchen scale, the knife weighs 7.9 ounces (call it 1/2 pound). When handling the knife, it feels solid, firm and substantial, but not too heavy. Its strong and stable ‘feel’ adds confidence that this knife will not break. Besides, James’ knives come with a lifetime warranty (who does that anymore?? – good for him!).
It becomes immediately recognizable that each and every knife is unique. There can be no two alike. The appearance of the rivulets (hammer marks) which channel their way along the blade’s surface combine as a signature to the knife itself. The hand crafted handle (in my case, ‘Ironwood’) is yet another unique ‘fingerprint’ of the knife.
Let me talk a little more about the handle. Apparently there are several handle type materials to choose from depending on one’s own tastes. Micarta and Kirinite, or wood like Ironwood and Cocobolo. My chosen knife handle is made of Ironwood, which has a reputation for hardness. Ironwood is a rare and very dense wood (66 lbs per cubic foot) and unique to the desert floor of the Sonora Desert. Working with and carving Ironwood requires unique skills, however the end result is a beautiful and unique work of art.
Okay, back to the blade… According to my best attempt at angular measurements, the blade edge appears to be sharpened at an angle somewhere between 17 and 20 degrees. James uses 1095 High Carbon Steel for his knives, which apparently has more ‘wear resistance’ and holds a great edge. Incidentally, high carbon steel, due to its rich carbon content makes it multipurpose as a fire steel. A high carbon steel knife can be an effective way to start a fire with the use of real flint. The carbon is what actually spontaneously combusts with the ‘strike’ of the flint which causes the spark.
The knife sheath fits this blade snug and perfectly. Obvious thick real leather, with an attractive embossed logo of Indy Hammered Knives. The sheath itself has a belt loop, and you can also add a ‘dangler’ loop (as shown with mine above).
About Indy Hammered Knives
Each knife is hand crafted from start to finish…from the forge to the grinder, each is hammered, shaped, and the edge is ever so perfectly hand ground to reach the sharpest edge a knife can have. The handles are shaped by hand, bringing out the delicate details of the material used that often times gets lost in mainstream manufacturing of knives.
About the Process
When heated to a certain point and cooled quickly, the steel becomes hard – but brittle and full of stress (this is called the quench). When steel is in this form, it is known as ‘martensite’, and if dropped it would likely shatter like glass. The steel is tempered by heating to a lower temperature (typically between 375 – 500 F), which softens and relieves the stress. Steel can be treated so that it is extremely hard, springy, or even relatively soft. Knifemakers utilize the extreme forms of heat treatment to their advantage (for example a blade that has been selectively hardened or selectively tempered). Such a blade can have an extremely hard edge, yet withstand a 90-degree flex test. This is possible because the edge is hard, the center section of the blade is spring tempered, and the back is relatively soft (the process is slightly more complicated and involves trade secrets). There is alot more to the overall process of hand crafting a knife, but this is apparently the method used by IHK knives.
IHK is a supporting vendor with Modern Survival Blog and we are very happy to have them here, being a hand crafted knife manufacturer (made here in the USA) hammering and forging knives the old fashioned way. Once you hold one, you will understand the uniqueness of such a knife.
James has some knives ready made on his website, and he will also make any knife to order – even with your custom shape and specifications. Just look for his ‘Contact Us’ link on his website or email him directly jamesc.wahls (at) gmail.com.
If you’re looking for a quality hand made knife, help support a small business here in America and check out Indy Hammered Knives.
UPDATE: Mrs.J liked my knife so much that she got one of her own:
A Hand Forged, Hand Made Knife Made In The USA