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My name is Jason, and I am the blacksmith at HoJ Forge. I live just outside of Traverse City, Michigan. I thought I would answer some of the questions that I get asked frequently, as a way to introduce myself to you.
Q: How did you get started?
I began my journey with a simple goal of learning how to forge Damascus Knives. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a fascination with pattern welded blades, and at the tender age of 45, I decided to give it a shot. So, I got a late start, but I’m doing my best to make up for it.
Q: What kind of Forge Fuel do you use?
I use anthracite coal, because it is what I can get locally at the most affordable price. I am not big on the argument that one type of fuel is better than another. As long as it heats the metal to the proper temperature, then I say, use what works for you.
The definition of Damascus Steel is widely argued. The modern day term , generally refers to pattern welded steel, made up of several different layers, that when etched in a mild acid, will show the unique patterns in the steel. Historically, it can be argued that Damascus steel should be made in a crucible, using the iron ore that was found in the Damascus region. I am not big on arguing over the definition. The meaning of words change, over time, so define it however makes you comfortable.
Using today's definition... No, there is nothing magical about Damascus steel. These days, it is all for looks. If you use quality steel to make it, then you will wind up with quality steel at the end.
The cheap Damascus knives are generally made from Damascus billets that were mass produced with questionable quality. We make all of our own Damascus that assures a quality blade, for looks and function.
To get good contrast, we always use 15n20, mixed with other high carbon steels. Generally we use 1080, 1095, 5160, or O1.
Of course you can. Just get ahold of us, and we can figure out how make you the perfect knife in your budget.
Q: Where do you get your steel?
For my Damascus knives, I buy high carbon quality steels to work with. For everything else, I try to re-purpose as much as I can. I spend a lot of time at my local scrap yards. If I can envision a new life for something, then the old rusty junk comes home with me to start its new life.
Q: Do you take apprentices?
At this point, I do not feel like I have gained enough total knowledge to justify having an apprentice. I am mainly self taught, and by learning this way, I have a long way to go before I know enough to become a teacher. However, I am always open to having people come by... We’ll fire up the forge, smack some steel around, and I’ll help the best I can.
Q: Are you a farrier/do horse shoes?
No. Farriers go to school for a long time. There is a whole world of knowledge about keeping horses healthy, that I am clueless about. Without that knowledge and skill, you risk injuring a horse, or yourself, and I would never take that chance with an animal... Or myself.
Q: How can I get started in blacksmithing?
Make the decision to do it, and then DO IT. Find a local smith that give you some pointers. Join a local blacksmithing group, and attend their meetings and hammer ins. If you include the hobby smiths, there have never been more blacksmiths in the world, and most of them are happy to help you get started.