The Magic Of Forged Steel - Jonas Blade & Metalworks

The Magic Of Forged Steel

Centuries before I was born, blacksmiths were regarded with reverence and wonder by the communities they served. In some cultures, like the Celts across Europe, and the Samurai of Japan, the work of the smith’s craft was perceived as near magic. Hardenable steel was literally the cutting edge of technology, and men who could take a pile of dirt and turn it into swords and plowshares could truly make or break kingdoms. Long before I ever held any ambition to become a bladesmith myself, the ring of hammer and anvil gripped me with mystery and allure. Movies set back in history showed strong, purposeful craftsmen forging strong and purposeful tools. The phrase “forged steel” conjured a sense of resolute durability and power. For huge stretches of history, it was power.

We live in a different world today, one where the power of forged steel has been left behind … or has it? Certainly, we no longer measure power by the number of swords at one’s command, however think about the regularity with which steel of this kind touches your life on a day-to-day basis: food prep, book/magazine/newspaper printing, construction, surgical procedures, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, automotive technology, and on and on and on the list goes.
One thing that most people don’t know is that there is an important distinction between forged steel in general and a forged steel knife. The difference rests in both the material itself–which by definition is a mix of carbon and iron, though the steel used to forge a knife requires a higher carbon content than say a construction girder–and in the processes used to work it. It is these two factors that make a forged steel knife so special.

Another fact that most will probably be surprised by is that forging is actually damaging to the steel! Most steel is made by melting its elements together in a high temperature vessel called a crucible. It is then poured as a uniform liquid into ingot molds. From there it can be drawn out into bars or sheets of various shapes and sizes, and then cut to the dimensions required by a given project. Throughout these processes the material is subjected to enormous thermal and mechanical stresses, so before it leaves the steel mill it will be annealed (heated to a particular temperature, and then cooled very slowly) in order to soften it and release those stresses. 


Once in the hands of a blacksmith, the steel that is forged is subjected to many of those stresses all over again, and a bladesmith has to know just how to handle his material in order to avoid and/or repair any such damage. The good news is that a skilled bladesmith can also use these stresses to his advantage and turn what is in front of him into a knife that is hundreds of times harder, tougher, and more durable than the steel he started with.


As with many modern conveniences, it is easy to take forged steel blades for granted. Mass produced knives of reasonable quality are readily available just about anywhere in the world and can be had cheaply. A handmade knife of high quality forged steel, however, is another thing altogether, offering a level of durability, utility, comfort, and beauty that has literally never been possible until now. What makes these knives special is the workmanship and attention that can be imbued by a skilled bladesmith—but what makes it possible is the magic of how steel is forged.