Baby Boy Fourteen was completed on November 3rd, 2020. I mailed it to my estranged son on November 4th for his fourteenth birthday. Estranged by his mother and our pending divorce, this knife is my way of telling him no matter how I now feel about his mother, I will always love him. It is also an effort to remind him of my partnership with him in building the forge in which it was created.
Perhaps showing him that hard work is good for the soul was a motivation as well. If there is one thing I want to learn from my creations is that few things worth possessing come without hard work. Of course parents want better lives for their children. I question what it is that constitutes a better life. If it is a life without labor, I see such thinking as false. Labor is good for the soul.
The blade began as 7 layers of alternating 15N20 and simple carbon steels. With about 2% nickel, the 15N20 provides a very high contrast to the simple carbon steels of 1075, 1084 and 1095. In all, there are four types of steel side by side, one for each member of his family. After forge welding the initial 7 layer billet of Damascus, I drew it out, cut it in half, stacked the two pieces to either side of another section of 15N20, and forged the stack into a square profile. This brought the layer count to 15, one for each year of his life and one to grow on.
After forging the 15 layers of pattern welded Damascus to a solid billet, I annealed over night. The next day, I ground the surfaces clean. I then rounded the edges but left the flat surfaces at either end to grab when twisting. I figured if it is made for a child of mine, the thing would have to be twisted.
After forging to shape, I again annealed before grinding to a 220 grit finish. The heat treating followed, first with 3 thermal cycles, a quench in warm oil and two tempering cycles each two hours long. I then sanded to 600 grit.
To obtain the high contrast finish, I first so, I first soaked the blade in muriatic acid for depth. I find muriatic acid to be far more aggressive on simple carbon steel than 15N20. The result being the 15N20 portion of the blade comes out of the acid slightly higher than the portions where the simple carbon steel is exposed. I then handed the blade before the first soak and between soaks in ferric chloride. With each soak, more dark oxides built in the low spots. With each hand sanding, the high spots became brighter. When the low spots were as dark as the ferric chloride would get, I finished by soaking the blade in an iodine solution.
The guard is 360 brass alloy. Behind the guard is stacked leather, zebra wood, more stacked leather and a white tail deer antler crown. The pommel is lead free pewter poured in place around the notched tang. This creates a physical connection between blade and pommel, thus adding strength to the epoxy which would otherwise be what holds the blade and multi part handle together.
I finished the hilt with multiple coats of tung oil finish, hand sanding between coats and finishing by buffing with a silk cloth. This has been the funnest knife I have made to date. In part for all the meaning I tried to work into it, in part for who I am making it for, but mainly because it reminded me of when my son and I worked together.
It has also been the most painful knife I have made to date. Emotional pain for being reminded every day that my baby boy has been estranged and physical pain from being on my feet for long stretches. What is left of my right foot opened up, my leg swelled, and the skin kind of slumped off my leg above the ankle. I do not know how many named knives I will be able to create, but I saved one of the end pieces for my second named knives and started a new tradition.
I saved a section of the pattern welded Damascus billet for inclusion in my second named knife. That knife will be made for one of baby girl’s Christmas presents. I will save a section of that billet for the next named knife and so on until I can no longer forge blades. Each named knife will contain some tiny portion of this first.
Happy birthday baby boy! I love you so big.