Maker Focus: Paul Janzen
I was fortunate to be able to meet Paul Janzen earlier this week and to be able to share his story with you folks here. Paul is the epitome of a “make it happen” sort of guy as you’ll see in his story below.
Paul caught the bug 7 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. He didn’t have the tools to do any sort of knife making at the time but he did have an oxy/acetylene torch and a passion. Using only his torch initially he set to walking on the journey into knife making.
Paul told me that his first knife looked like “a prison shank”. I have to wonder if he’s downplaying it or if he actually sharpened it on concrete and wrapped the handle with a sock. Knowing he could do better than what would someday be displayed in a “keep out of jail kids” shock board he made another, then another, and another. Each time he made a new knife he kept refining his process and his quality.
The drop point hunter knife Paul chose to submit for this article is forged from 5160 and clad in home made paper micarta. If you’ve ever taken on making micarta you know this can be a slow and painstaking process which is another testament to the “make it happen” attitude Paul exhibits. This is Paul’s every day work knife in his profession of being a farmer and rancher. That in itself says a lot about the quality of his blade work as you know that blade gets a lot of use and abuse if you know anything about farming.
Starting out Paul didn’t have an anvil so he went to the impromptu anvil choice of generations. Any guesses? If you said rail road track you were right. (I feel like the railroad could rebrand and make a killing on anvils). He has since upgraded to a 130 pound anvil to handle the forging of his knives.
He didn’t have a forge but he had a torch so with some ingenuity and the Forge Ahead attitude Paul put together a coal forge. He felt he could improve on the design so he built a second one and then finally built a propane forge to round out the collection.
When it comes time to grind Paul uses the old standby 1x30 coupled with a 4x36 on the side and relies on Combat Abrasive belts to achieve the finish he wants. (The 1x30 is a staple in almost every shop and is a great starting point for any aspiring blade maker, I do not condone the 4x36 but that’s only because I made the mistake of getting one myself and they are not idea but can be modified to work ok).
For the heat treat Paul does a 3 thermal cycle normalize process followed by the “bath of fire” (quench) and then finishes it off with a trip to the oven for the tempering process.
Paul has a piece of advice for anyone starting down the path of knife making that I couldn’t agree more with. “Do what you can with what you have. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make it happen. Have fun and enjoy the process.”
In closing, thank you very much Paul for your interview! Its always a pleasure to hear stories about ingenuity, learning and perseverance. As always – Forge Ahead!