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 Post subject: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:44 pm 
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These are a couple of bush swords I forged at the same time that are kind of linked in my mind, though they went to different customers. The top one was ordered up by a fellow on an archery forum who was directed my way by a guy who uses blades extensively, who wanted an 18" blade. The bottom one was a first for me in that the customer had no e-mail or smart phone that I could send him pictures of it before shipping it. He had based his decision to ask for a bush sword from me on an article by Joe Flowers in the final issue of the lamentably-out-of-print Tactical Knives magazine. Since it had been several years since I had made the blades for that article, I let the customer know that what he got would, of course, be a bit different and hopefully better.

Imagetharkforged by James Helm, on Flickr

What links them in my mind is that when I had forged them out and had them laying side-by-side, I immediately saw them as Barsoomian short swords being wielded in the lower limbs of a Thark to ward off any blows that might slip through larger, longer-range weapons wielded by the top pair of arms. Very different blade shapes, but kindred spirits, if you will.

These are also a jumping-off point for me as I have been making bush swords for years now with integral socket handles. While I still feel that they make great handles if done correctly, I think that I have refined my multi-layer cord wrapping technique to the point that it is more comfortable than what I am able to do with the integral sockets. I still built them with Turk's head knots fore and aft to provide a good mechanical lock in the hand.

The longer blade has a black-over-black wrap and a thin false edge that could have a secondary bevel added to sharpen it. The customer initially wanted a 21" blade, but I felt that I could give him better balance at 18" and he let me go ahead.

Imagethark04 by James Helm, on Flickr

We set up his Kydex sheath for baldric carry, with a double-adjustable, quick-detach shoulder sling like I use on my tomahawk sheaths.

Imagethark05 by James Helm, on Flickr

I believe the blade may have picked up a bit of negative sori during the quench as the slight recurve seems more pronounced in the post-heat treatment photos.

Imagethark06 by James Helm, on Flickr

The shorter bush sword has a 15 1/2" blade. The top edge is fully sharpened.

Imagethark01 by James Helm, on Flickr

The wrap is tan over black, with a tan Kydex sheath.

Imagethark02 by James Helm, on Flickr

I have to say that I firmly believe that the customer got a better bush sword than the one in the article that caught his attention. He was certainly happy with it. Couldn't ask for more than that. :)

Imagethark03 by James Helm, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:50 am 
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Pure sweetness!

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:11 am 
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The top one kinda reminds me of a Dacian Falx. It was a two handed sword sharpened on the inside sort of like a Kukari(sp?) used in what's now modern day Romania. Apparently the warriors who used it scared the Romans and before them the Greeks quite a lot. They apparently hated fighting them.
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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:57 am 
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Thanks, guys!

Twizzler - I'd say there's probably more Filipino influence in it, but the basic physics is the same. Got one in the works for a Marine right now that sure makes me think of a kopis.

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:14 am 
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Beautiful blades! Pretty much exactly what I would ask for if I had the cash. Speaking of which, can you tell us about how much a similar piece would run? Love that quick detach baldric. Interesting to see a flat tang for once.


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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 3:40 am 
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They're all perfect! I want one!

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:26 pm 
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Thanks, guys!

Redcabeca - I'm not currently taking orders except from active duty military, law enforcement, and first responders, but I'll send you a PM.

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:43 am 
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Those are nice looking swords.


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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:56 am 
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Storm Crow wrote:
I'm not currently taking orders except from active duty military, law enforcement, and first responders.


I hope you decide to step up your production and start selling to us general public types. You can be serious competition to Miller Bros and Zombie Tools. And yes, I want a Thark in 18".

Can you provide specifics (material, POB, etc.)? Also, do you epoxy the cord wrap?

Thanks.

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 10:31 am 
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BrokkenStik wrote:
Storm Crow wrote:
I'm not currently taking orders except from active duty military, law enforcement, and first responders.


I hope you decide to step up your production and start selling to us general public types. You can be serious competition to Miller Bros and Zombie Tools. And yes, I want a Thark in 18".

Can you provide specifics (material, POB, etc.)? Also, do you epoxy the cord wrap?

Thanks.



Storm Crow, if I say anything that is inaccurate please correct me, and I apologize for speaking for you.

It's not about stepping up production, it's about not lowering standards. James has been on these boards for a long time and many of us have seen his work and his demand grow for a very long time. He let on some time ago that demand soon going to be overwhelming and he would have to close his books. It's not about being exclusionary, it's about serving those who serve us first.

As far as Miller Bros and Zombie Tools, if they work really hard then maybe they can compete with Helm Forge someday,but I don't see that happening. With the exception of his tomahawks and maybe a few knives, everything James makes is forged, handcrafted, completely custom. I don't believe that's the case with those other two companies

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 12:32 pm 
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yossarian wrote:
It's not about stepping up production, it's about not lowering standards. James has been on these boards for a long time and many of us have seen his work and his demand grow for a very long time. He let on some time ago that demand soon going to be overwhelming and he would have to close his books. It's not about being exclusionary, it's about serving those who serve us first.

As far as Miller Bros and Zombie Tools, if they work really hard then maybe they can compete with Helm Forge someday,but I don't see that happening. With the exception of his tomahawks and maybe a few knives, everything James makes is forged, handcrafted, completely custom. I don't believe that's the case with those other two companies



Thanks for your reply.

Not to be contentious and certainly not meaning to diss Storm Crow's products, productivity and quality can and should go hand-in-hand. Hand forging is an inconsistent process that's prone to higher incident of failure. Inclusions, inconsistant distribution of material (see reverse sori noted above), etc. will show up during the tempering process. Much effort has been wasted which drives cost.

Mass production doesn't have to imply an inferior product. Mass production WILL show repeated failures which can be quickly corrected with process tweaks.

Regarding Miller and Zombie, I'm sure they'll stand squarely toe-to-toe against Storm Crow's products (I personally don't like their artistry). The difference being they have a better (more consistent) fabrication process and therefore a better market share.




I really like the styling of the Thark. It looks light with a good blade presence.



Edited to remove my ignorant remark, "Regarding Helm, I could care less." Didn't make the connection between Helm and Storm Crow....

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:55 pm 
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BrokkenStik - The steel is 80crV2, the wrap is two layers of paracord over a foundation of neoprene, the top layer with its core stripped out, all impregnated with West System marine epoxy. Both bush swords are long gone to their new owners, but they are balanced as choppers, blade-heavy. The point of balance is probably a bit ahead of the touchmarks.

When you reach a certain level of recognition as a knifemaker, it's easy to get covered up in work. I'm grateful to be at that point. There are a number of ways to handle the work load, one of which is to stop accepting new orders for a while. There are also a number of knifemakers that completely stop taking orders altogether and just build what they want. Some high-end folder makers hold lotteries at knife shows just to have the opportunity to buy one of their knives.

I closed my books except for active duty military, law enforcement, and first responders because they are the ones with the hard jobs and I want to make sure they have good tools at hand. I occasionally take on an order from outside those groups, but it's usually because I am working on a batch of similar blades and it's more efficient to do several than just one. Most of those are prior customers. I've had enough new work come in even with the restriction that it makes it hard to make headway on the stack of current orders.

I have a pretty active Instagram account (helmforge) where I post pictures of works in progress, occasional shop cat pictures, and finished products. I occasionally have a blade that I forge out that isn't slated for anyone in particular. I'll post it as available after forging and before stock removal, and it is usually claimed before the day is through. I'm going to try to have at least one of those a month.

I also have been in the long, slow process of launching a mid-tech line of knives that are completely stock removal but whose designs are based on blades that I have forged a fair amount, though there will be fresh-off-the-CAD-program designs in the future. My Little Rok, Benghazi Warfighter, and mini-parang designs are the first three I'll be launching with. There's been a few that I've posted here and there as I work out the kinks, and I've been carrying a mid-tech Little Rok as my EDC for a couple of years. Part of the idea is to be able to increase production to meet demand better while keeping quality high. They use the same materials I've been using for a while in my forged work, namely 80CrV2 steel and TeroTuf handle scales.

Forging is a slower process than stock removal, and it isn't something that can easily be handed over to someone else. My buddy (and fellow Forged in Fire champion) Tobin Nieto can forge a blade with the same size starting stock, same forge, same anvil, and same hammer as me, and not only will they be distinctly different, but even the texture of the forge finish will be different from me.

I realized some years ago that most of the knife makers who moved enough volume to hire employees to help in the process were stock removal guys. That's another advantage of the mid-tech line, that most of the process can be mechanized or handed over to workers with a little bit of training and still have the quality high.

"Inclusions" and "inconsistent distribution of material" don't really come into play with quality steel and decent forging ability, and have nothing to do with negative sori. Negative sori is not a negative quality, just something that has to be taken into account and dealt with, something I've posted here in the past with pictures showing how much drop negative sori gave a wakizashi I was working on. Just like positive sori being something that has to be dealt with. Traditional Japanese blades are water-quenched straight and develop their sori during the quench. Oil quenches cause negative sori in the cases where there is a noticeable change in the blade curvature. It depends on blade design and cross section. A lot of blades I heat treat don't have a noticeable change. The longer bush sword did and I commented on it.

I've briefly held Miller Bros. and Zombie Tools blades at the Blade Show. They seem to be of good quality, and I doubt would be moving the volume of work that they do if they were not doing a good job on the performance side. I can't give any personal accounts of their performance because I've never done any work with them. People who own them like them.

Basically, stock removal and forging are two very different ways of making a knife. Both can make awesome blades, both can make unusable pieces of crap. Stock removal lends itself more to production, forging is more by feel and instinct. I am working to do both equally well to make more blades for folks who want them. In the meantime, I am staying very busy.

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:08 am 
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Storm Crow wrote:
"Inclusions" and "inconsistent distribution of material" don't really come into play with quality steel and decent forging ability, and have nothing to do with negative sori. Negative sori is not a negative quality, just something that has to be taken into account and dealt with, something I've posted here in the past with pictures showing how much drop negative sori gave a wakizashi I was working on. Just like positive sori being something that has to be dealt with. Traditional Japanese blades are water-quenched straight and develop their sori during the quench. Oil quenches cause negative sori in the cases where there is a noticeable change in the blade curvature. It depends on blade design and cross section. A lot of blades I heat treat don't have a noticeable change. The longer bush sword did and I commented on it.


Thanks for the reply.

First let me say that I both respect and admire the artist in you.

Regarding inclusions, etc. I was thinking you started with iron sand. Apparently you start with extruded/rolled steel.

I'd be willing to buy a Thark made by stock removal.

Best wishes.

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 Post subject: Re: Thark bush swords
PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:43 pm 
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Nope, never have smelted steel. There's a growing number of smiths out there who are smelting their own steel, but it's a very small number. Very time consuming, very labor intensive, and the control over the finished steel is limited. In those cases, you do have inclusions of silica slag as a factor, and the more the bloom and billet are worked, the more homogenous the alloy and less inclusions are present.

I get my steel from the New Jersey Steel Baron, and these days use pretty much exclusively 80CrV2, a German alloy used in such things as saw blades and wood chipper blades. Clean, high quality, very tough alloy. It's become the go-to steel for a lot of knifemakers working in carbon (as opposed to stainless) steels. Good stuff, but you need a digital furnace to get the best out of it.

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Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

Forged blades: http://www.helmforge.com

Stock removal blades: http://www.helmgrind.com

The Wasteland Crow Project: http://wastelandcrow.blogspot.com

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