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Focus on the Maker: Joel Tilley

Focus on the Maker: Joel Tilley

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Joel Tilley about his journey into the world of bladesmithing and the paths that he has walked to get to where he is now. This is his story.

Joel comes from a long line of blade makers. You might say that the fire and steel is in his blood. He originally picked up the hammer and tongs working with his grandfather and then later on his father working in their shop. What started out as a multi generational hobby has turned into a small business called "Tilleys Custom Knives" Even though Joel has been making knives for over 5 years he is humble and says that he is just starting out ,though his work isn't that of a beginner, he still learns more every time. Indispensable attitude for progression, I cannot wait to see what he is creating in another 5 years!

For the chosen article piece, Joel showed us this Bowie. Completely hand forged from 5160 the piece was originally made for an outback themed costume. "That aint a knife" doesn't fit for this blade. Clad with a stacked leather handle and curly maple spacers, this Dundee inspired knife sports a brass guard and pommel that work nicely in contrast to the leather. In addition to add character to the blade, Joel finished the handle to introduce a worn look.

A rail road track was utilized as his anvil for his first 30 or so blades before he got access to a "real" anvil. Weighing in at 120 his anvil now has improved his knife making experience with possibly less ringing and more accurate control of his steel. This allows him to forge in him bevels to around the 80% mark which expedites the grinding process and increases his production.

For the grinding process Joel currently uses a 2x72 shop fox belt grinder to finish out the bevels. Joel prefers using Norton blaze belts due to their longevity in the process but recommends getting an assortment of different brands and grits to suit the chosen metal you are working with.

When talking heat treat he still uses a magnet to determine the heat level of the blade while running through his thermal cycles and preparing for the quench. For the bath of fire (quench) he prefers using Canola oil due to the fast nature of the medium. (I still use Canola myself as it pairs great with 80crv2)

Joel has been inspired by many in his life to perfect his art but the first and foremost person on that list was by far his grandfather and also Dwayne Goddard the author of "The $50 knife shop".

In closing, it was great talking to Joel about his journey and where he has been and where he is going in the future with his blades. He does do custom work and you can reach him through Facebook at Tilleys Custom Knives. Thank you Joel!

Joel Tilley

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