A friend gave me this video, wanting to know what I thought of it.
Well, it's pretty much as good as it gets.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I am very much an advocate of the "lo-tech" school of bladesmithing. I like using live fire, preferably from natural charcoal , I like working with hammer and tongs, and two friends with ten pound sledges are better company than any power hammer. I like not spending lots of money for equipment. I really like making my own tools rather than buying them.
It's a bit old fashion I suppose, and admittedly it is slower going than having all the nice equipment of a modern shop (and our forge actually does have some pretty groovy power tools, which I have been known to use from time to time) but I still end up doing most of my work with hammer and file. But enough philosophy, back to the video!
The DVD holds a full two hours of high quality instruction by people who know their craft very well indeed.
The information includes how to build both a pit forge in the ground and a very nice portable forge from a galvanized tub. They even have a short tutorial on making your own charcoal.
The video takes you through every aspect of knife making, starting with hot cutting a chunk of steel from an old leaf spring, and finishing with how to do the stitching and decorating of the knife's sheath.
The camera work throughout is good, as is the sound. The instruction is clear and concise.
The instructors, Tim and Marian Lively, take their time with their teaching. You get plenty of opportunity to watch Tim's hammer work as he is forging out the blade, which is important. You learn more, in my opinion, watching a smith work than you will from verbal instruction.
From start to finish, the instruction is well organized, without being stuffy. The video actually has the feel of hanging out at a forge and picking up skills from the smith rather than a contrived set of instructions. Personally I rather liked the organic feel of the DVD, it makes learning a bit more natural.
Tim does a very good job of teaching something that is actually rather intuitive, forge tempering a blade. It's a skill that requires a lot of "feel" to get right. He makes it look easy, but it's not, so practice a bunch.
Having Marian Lively teach silver casting and smithing as part of the video was a treat, and seeing the methods she uses for building the fittings that turn a good knife into a great one were very helpful.
Finally, we have a good tutorial on sheath making. This is quite important as no one wants a good knife in an ugly and poorly made sheath. They use some interesting stitching methods, I personally prefer a stitching awl, but I suspect that what is shown here would work just fine if you have the right stuff laying around.
There are a few things I would have liked to have seen added, thought it would have made the offering a two DVD set I think.
I wish there were some discussion of anvils, which is an area that is often neglected. I also wish that Tim would have done a tutorial on the home made anvil he was using. It looks like a sweet piece of equipment and the details of how he constructed it would have been a nice addition.
I would have also liked to see some deeper discussion on the other tools of the trade, including choosing and dressing hammers, and perhaps a tutorial on making a set of tongs for yourself. Don't let these (very) mild criticisms put you off though, this would have just been "frosting on the cake".
All in all this is one of the best videos I have seen on the subject of knife making without electricity. If you are interested in bladesmithing it should be in your library.