Focus on the Maker: D & T Forge
This evening I had the great pleasure of talking with Devon from D & T forge about his journey into the world of knife making. Devon's story starts like many new makers stories undoubtedly do, that singular inspiration and fascination that has inspired and sparked creativity the History channel series, forged in fire.
Devon and his son came across the show one day and they were immediately hooked and binge watched a couple of seasons of the show. This lit the spark that would one day fuel both of their passions of blade making.
Devon and his son weren't able to begin just then but they made a pact to start beating steel as soon as they were able. A move from the mountain state of Idaho to the deep south Georgia made this possible with an outbuilding. Devon and his son soon began to set up shop.
With no background in bladesmithing or blacksmithing, Devon didn't have any tools of the trade but he did have an 18 year background in body work which gave him insight into metal fabrication and a "figure it out" attitude and quickly began to build his own forge. Using fire brick he was able to source from a friend of his, he built a shell purely of fire brick and then cased it in with angle iron. His son had a hand in helping him build it and ran his first of many welding beads on this project. With the case completed, Devon drilled a hole into the forge and inserted a propane burner and was ready to beat steel.
Given Devons profession in auto body he initially had access to tons of spring steel so he naturally began with it. Through trial and error he began learning to shape and heat treat his knives and finally had one he was proud of enough to post up on facebook. Soon thereafter someone asked him if he was going to sell it and Devon had a lightbulb moment or as he said "I was shocked someone wanted to buy it." (I think my 3rd ended up as a door stop)
Devon set to work making more and more until after 20 blades he looked at his 1x30 HF grinder with a scowl and grimace and punted it into next tuesday. No not really but he did get a 2x72 at that point. Devon picked up a OBM 2x72 belt grinder with a 1hp motor and no VFD with the intention of upgrading it later. Though the grinder made a huge difference he wasn't happy with it and wanted to add on a VFD but discovered to his dismay that he had to buy another motor. Almost an additional thousand dollars later he continues his love hate relationship with his OBM.
The next step for Devon was to start in on forge welding steel (damascus). For this he didn't want to wear out a hammer ( i don't blame him) and built a press from a 6 ton log splitter. This worked great for awhile but limited his capabilities due to the lack of dies the manufacturer supplied with the log splitter so he upgraded to a Coal Iron 16 ton press. Devon worked on this press for 2 weeks until a defect caused the pump to start spurting oil. He called up Coal Iron and to their immense credit they shipped him a new pump no questions asked. That is a testament to their customer service level and standing behind their products at Coal Iron.
For the heat treat, he relies on a Hot Shot 360 heat treat oven and says "it works fantastic". Devon typically works with 80crv2 and performs 3 thermal cycles at 1600 degrees for 10 minutes then anneals at 1400 degrees, then finally gives it a heat bath at 1525 for 10 minutes before dunking it in a medium speed quench oil.
After the blade sits in the oil for a few minutes it comes right out and cools in a vice to prevent warping. Contrary to most methods Devon then removes the forge scale and thins the bevel down to just below a dimes thickness. As he explains and I'm inclined to agree, "Not a whole lot is going to change molecularly within the blade in the temper oven and you won't ruin your temper by doing it before hand". This is the point in which the blade goes into the temper oven for 2 cycles for 2 hours each at 400 degrees.
For belt progression he follows a 36, 60, 80, 120 then goes to hand sanding at 180, 220, 400, 600 and finally 1000. Since most of his blades are etched he doesn't worry about getting a total mirror finish on his blades but does remove grind lines and imperfections leaving a smooth finish. When the blade is ready to etch he dips it in Gator piss for about 20 minutes to bring out the contrast in the blade. Then off to a soak in wd40 for about 6 hours to help seal the etch, wash it, oil it, and admire.
Devon and I talked for about an hour so I know there are many things I'm probably forgetting in here but one thing that I think most of us can agree and relate to should be mentioned. Without shows like forged in fire there are many craftsman that wouldn't have been inspired to pick up a hammer. When you go to a job faire you won't find a bladesmith or blacksmith there. Many arts have been lost in the age of technology but tech can't replace the meaning behind each piece, each blow of the hammer, and each moment smiths put into their work. Children and adults alike still find magic in this sometimes mystifying trade. So if you're a smith don't be afraid to inspire a child. Teach an adult. Get people involved and share your passion.
The featured blade is a beautiful san mai hunter hand made by D&T Forge and is composed of 80crv2 core wrapped in 15n20. Clad in dyed maple burl married with epoxy, complimenting red liner, and mosaic pin, this blade stands apart from the pack.
You can find D & T forge on facebook currently here.
It has been a great time speaking with Devon. I hope someone gets some value from hearing his story and maybe some inspiration. Be safe, have fun, learn and as always Forge Ahead.