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We don't have any secrets at Tharwa Valley Forge and are very excited to be able to share all that we have learned about knives and bladesmithing. In addition to being the largest knife-making school in the world, we employ the largest number of full-time bladesmiths in Australia, so we've got a large base of knowledge to share with you.

Close up photo of Damascus steel blade of a Japanese kitchen knife made at Tharwa Valley Forge

Our Damascus steel is made from forge welded layers of 15N20 steel and 1075 steel. The 15N20 is a Nickel steel and is what forms the highlights of the pattern, whilst the 1075 is a Carbon steel and turns black when etched.

When heat treated and used in a blade this combination holds an excellent edge. The blade will gain an attractive patina with prolonged use as with any Carbon steel based blade. The colour and character of the patina is determined by the type of ingredients and food the blade is used to cut. For example, cooked red meat creates a beautiful blue-grey patina that will be familiar to anyone who has encountered heirloom carving knives.

Caring for your blade

Caring for a Damascus steel blade is much the same as for a Carbon steel blade - moisture is the enemy. Once the blade has built up a patina it is much more forgiving, but a fresh Carbon steel based blade will begin to rust in a heartbeat.

Damascus steel knife blade showing patterns

Making the jump to intermediate level knifemaking

Imagine you are a knifemaker who turns out decent monosteel knives that sell without hassle; perhaps one or two blades a month. You’re past the beginner stage but not quite in intermediate territory.

Most people in this position want to break-out and step their game up, so they’re looking to invest in a big-ticket item like a power hammer. A purchase like this improves productivity and opens up new creative opportunities that are a heap of fun.

Most of all, it helps make more money from your hobby. It won’t make you a gazillionaire, but it will enable you to invest in even more training and equipment down the track.

If you get off on the right foot, you can start making knives and make it a hobby that pays for itself. At first you will be subsidising your knifemaking with a bit more money here and there, but after a short while your knifemaking will probably be paying for itself.

The trick is to view any money you spend as an investment. Everything you spend on training, equipment, services and raw materials is an investment that you’re aiming to see a return on. Most importantly, you’re going to enjoy doing it.

A guide for beginners

Let’s cover the two most common questions first: Where can I get an anvil? What’s the best anvil?

For many there seems to be an aura of mystery around acquiring an anvil. We often encounter people who sound like they’ve expended a lot of effort scouring the Internet for used anvils and never thought to look for a new one. Anvils aren’t rare, you just have to buy one. Read on, we’ve got a list of where you can buy one.

As for the best anvil? Head out to your workshop and take a look at your anvil. That’s the best one - the one you’ve got. You’ll know when it’s time to upgrade your anvil when you don’t feel like asking that question again.

blacksmith and striker forging a hammer head

Want to be an expert? Here’s what you need the most of: luck

It’s not 10,000 hours of experience, it’s not hard work, it’s not the best equipment.

Truth is, no-one really knows.

The secret to becoming an expert could be your personality, the age you started, intelligence, or even something else entirely.

Want to get BETTER at something? Here’s what you need the most of: practice mistakes

Science, geography and warfare have influenced your kitchen utensils more than you might think.

The Sutton Hoo sword represents the state-of-the-art of sixth century sword making. For such an old sword the level of sophistication and complexity of its construction are surprising.

Like other swords of this era, it is a wrought iron sword with a resilient soft core and a sharp hard edge. The soft core consists of eight rods welded together that are themselves made from seven laminated layers twisted in alternating Z and S shapes. The sharp cutting edge is forge welded to the core and is a hard rod made from 180 layers of lamination.

Leather boot on a plateEveryone knows they need to rest meat after cooking so that the juices don't run-out when they cut it. So why do so many people tear their steak apart with serrated knives that leave the juices all over the plate instead of in their mouths?

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