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How an Oaken Moose Knife is Made

If there is one thing we at Oaken Moose are known for, it's the quality of our hand forged, fixed blade knives. The methods we use to make our knives have been practiced for generations, and there's a reason it still is today. Our blades aren't made using stock-removal or blanks, as these methods don't represent the tradition and quality that we strive for. We do our best to make beautiful items intended to be enjoyed, well used, and handed down.

The Steel

If you own an Oaken Moose Trading knife, it is made of a high-carbon steel. Besides the workability of the material in the forging process, it possesses the qualities that make some of the finest blades and tools in the world. Blades with a high carbon content that have been tempered correctly hold their edge incredibly well, are very durable, are easy to sharpen, and can be sharpened with most techniques. The main drawback of using this material is that they are more susceptible to rust, but with even the most minimal cleaning this isn't a problem. 

The Forging

We start the forging of our blades using either flat or round steel, depending on the shape of the final product. The bevels of our blades are roughly formed in the forging process by hammering, and most blows are smoothed using a flatter. Some products require specialty forging; such as blades with a fuller or "blood groove" or twists that are done in handles such as our Railroad Spike or Nordic Feasting Knives.

Hardening and Tempering

A bladesmith can use the best steel and the finest handle material, but until they harden and temper their work correctly, the final result can rightfully be named useless. Blades can be heated to a specific temperature, varying steel-to-steel, and quenched in either oil or water to acquire certain characteristics. Most carbon steels are quenched in oil, and most "mild" steels in water. Quenching in something aside from a steel's recommended medium risks the cracking of the blade. In knifemaking, heating the blade to "critical" and quenching it achieves a hardened piece. Hardened steel holds its edge and is very easy to sharpen, but is unfortunately very brittle. For this reason the blade is tempered after hardening. To accomplish this it is heated once again to a much lower heat and allowed to cool by itself. Doing this keeps the blade's edge hard, but ensures that the rest of the knife is softer for durability. 

Grinding, Polishing, and Sharpening

After being tempered, our knives are ground by stone and then moved to an abrasive flap disk. This rids the knife of any leftover hammer marks and surface flaws from the forging process. The bevels are defined a bit more using a belt sander, and are sharpened using a fine belt. Any polishing that is done to our knives is done completely by hand, using sandpaper and then progressing to a very fine mesh used primarily by woodworkers. After we're satisfied with the polishing and initial sharpening, they are further sharpened on a handheld stone and then, depending on the knife, a leather strop. 

The Handle

Although each knife handle we make is slightly different, the process we use to make them is fairly uniform. Holes are drilled through the knife's tang for the brass or steel pins later set in, which we usually make out of 1/4" rod. We tend to cut our handle material much larger than the actual handle shape using a bandsaw, and the blade's tang is sandwiched in between the two pieces cut. The same holes drilled into the tang are drilled through the handle, and epoxy is applied to the inside of the handle pieces and to the tang. Time is of the essence at this stage, and the pins are hammered through the holes. Once the assembly is complete it is clamped tightly and left to cure. After curing, the handle is shaped with flap disks and further sanded by hand. Some materials we apply with finishes and glosses, and some we leave as they are after sanding.