Crafting Perk Unlocked – Hamon

When making the commissioned machete in the summer, I had enuff steel left for one additional blade and two more blanks lying around made from the same steel, thus I decided to try my hand at making a blade with hamon again. So far, I have succeeded only once, with a “mystery” stainless steel, and I had to cheat by carbonitriding it for several hours at ca 500°C. The 54SiCr6 is 0,5% carbon steel, which is not ideal for hamon. 1-1,5% carbon would be better. But I decided to try it nevertheless because if I fail, I can (usually) always harden the whole thing.

Well, I did fail in multiple ways – from three quenched blades, one had to be tossed completely, one I damaged because of unforeseen circumstances, and one turned out OK. This is better than my previous attempts and I think I have a working process now for making blades with hamon. Here is how I did it.

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First the used materials – three blade blanks ground with 40 grit. I went for three different geometries to see what happens. A sample size of 1 per geometry is of course not very indicative of anything, but it is better than nothing. On the left is a bottle of liquid glass, a water solution of sodium silicate, a chemical that is sold cheaply in CZ and is used to waterproof cement, make cement go harden faster, and as a binder for heat-resistant cement. Then there is a receptacle with perlite, which I have bought in huge amounts for use both in my gardening and knife-making endeavors. And the last ingredient is fine-sieved dirt from my garden taken from deep below the topsoil – I have a heap of this too from the building of my sewage cleaning facility.

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The first step was to cover the blades with a thin layer of just the liquid glass mixed with some clay and sprinkle some more clay on top of that to soak up excess liquid glass and prevent cracking of the layer when drying it with a heat gun (a torch and charcoal fire work both too as I found out later).

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Here you see the various phases of the second step, which consisted of adding several layers of perlite. For this, I have used the mixture of liquid glass and dirt again, but I have sprinkled it with perlite. The liquid glass serves as a binder, the clay as a filler to prevent cracking, and the perlite as an insulator. I dried the added layer with a heat gun again and I continued to add these layers until I had about 1 cm thick insulating layer on each blade. To finish it off I have added one more layer of liquid glass and dirt only to make a hard shell that holds it all together.

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Initially, I went for three different hamon lines, but unfortunately, this did not work out. After I quenched the machete and one of these blades (I forgot which one) without problems, I had trouble reaching the required temperature again because the coals got smaller and the blown air did not reach under the uppermost layer anymore. So first quench was unsuccessful on two blades, I had to cover them again and try to quench them again. This time I was using the charcoal fire to quickly dry the successive layers and it worked well. Next time I am preparing blades for hardening this way, I will probably combine it with BBQ dinner, combining pleasant and useful.

As I already mentioned, two of these unfortunately failed.

The first fail was the blade with a fuller – it cracked near the ricasso. That is always a risk with hardening steel and it is higher with this method it happens even to masters of this craft because the blades must be quenched in water which is more stressful than oil. So while I am not happy about having to toss the blade, I do not beat myself over the head over it either.

The second fail is the drop-point blade. And I am beating myself over the head about it because this is completely my screw-up. I have read books, internet articles and watched videos about how blades with hamon are made, but I do not remember anyone ever mentioning that a peculiar thing can happen when the hamon line is parallel with the edge – the steel has developed lengthwise stripes that when polished, look under certain light conditions and from certain angles like lengthwise scratches made with low-grit sandpaper. I have ground the blade very thin trying to grind these phantom scratches out, I messed up the grind completely at the end near the ricasso and I had to remove the ricasso and shorten the blade to “save it”.

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Here you can see it finished. It is still a blade suitable for small outdoor/hunting skinner knife. Maybe. I will think about it and maybe try to make a suitable handle for it. But I do not like blades without ricasso, not only for aesthetic reasons but also because that way the tang actually really is way too thin for comfort near the handle. But I have finished polishing it because I needed to find out the best finishing method on it before finishing the only successful blade. Btw. it still has those phantom scratches near the tang where the hamon is close to the cutting edge. They drive me crazy.

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The best polishing process was pretty standard although very laborious. From 320 grit up I have inserted hand-polishing after each belt-grinder step, removing the angled belt-grinder scratches with lengthwise ones. This leads to very smooth and very flat surfaces and crisp lines and ridges. From 2500 grit upwards it was only hand polishing and only lengthwise. Here you can see the result at 5000 grit, which is the phase at which I left the workshop and went indoors. I have tried buffing the failed blade with buffing wheels and commercial buffing compound but this has led to an interesting effect – the hamon went completely invisible although it could be brought out by etching with oak bark for an hour or two. So for this blade, I have forgone the buffing altogether and went to 7000 grit sandpaper with walnut oil (it is runnier than other edible oils, and does not stink like WD40). 7000 grit is the finest abrasive paper that I can easily buy but it still did not bring out the hamon very well. I could just about see it but it was still nearly impossible to make a photograph of. I etched it with oak bark, but I did not like how it looks so I removed the oak patina again with 7000 grit and I tried another buffing method, one that I have used in my rondel dagger project – very fine hematite.

I put some paper towel cuts in a receptacle with finely ground and sieved hematite dust and shook it a bit so some dust gets caught in the paper towels. Then I dusted the paper towels off to remove the coarser particles that still might be there. I smeared some dubbin on the blades and I tried buffing them manually with these hematite-primed paper towels with lengthwise strokes, using the spine of the blade as a guide. And that has resulted in a nice mirror-polished hardened edge and slightly foggy yet still mirror-polished soft spine, making the hamon really pop out. That way it was not only easily visible but I was also finally able to make a picture.

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Hamon is the white line between the darker hardened edge and the lighter soft back.

I am not planning on making very many of these but it is nice to have the knowledge and skill how to do it. I think this blade is deserving of nice fittings so after I etch the logo and serial number, I will start seriously thinking about what kind of handle and sheath to make for it. I am done making blades for a few months however, I still did not dress all of those from last year’s overabladeance and I have eleven kitchen-knife blades in the tumbler now. Unfortunately, I have longer pauses between knife-making days than I like.

Sciencey Thoats About Tangs

Teh almighty YuTub algorithm has recommended this video to me:

Why military gear isn’t always a good idea…

And whilst I do agree with the title and the overall message of the video, I do have some objections to it. It is not an issue that can be distilled down to a universally true video quip.

First the agreements:

Military gear that is issued to grunts en masse needs to be essentially consumable. The grunts will lose it, steal it and/or destroy it with gross abuse and negligence on a regular basis. I read about conscripts in the Austrian army in WWI breaking their bayonets by opening cans. Stealing was a problem even in former Czechoslovakia, with the UTON  even though that was not issued to every grunt but mainly to paratroopers. The knives disappeared regularly as the soldiers reported them “lost during exercise” even though they had to subsequently pay for them and everyone knew they took them home. Those knives are good, but they are not as excellent as some people think they are “military grade” is definitively not always a synonym for “high quality”.

Now the disagreements:

A good bushcraft knife needs not to have a full tang to be reliable. It is more complicated than that – rattail tangs were and are used in even swords and machetes to this very day and they are not useless. Puuko is a survival knife with hundreds of years long tradition for example. The above-mentioned UTON also has rattail tang, and one that does not go all the way through the handle at that, and still it is a knife that can withstand serious abuse. I have put some of my knives with similarly thin tangs through their paces, both full-length and half-length hidden tang and they withstood serious abuse just OK (although I was only using them as knives, see further). Hidden tang alone is not an issue, the overall construction and heat treatment are.

My biggest beef is with the presented “knife gets stuck and you try to wiggle it out”. Sorry, but if your knife gets stuck in something hard right up to the hilt, then you are probably an idiot for using the knife wrong. A knife is not, and should not be used as a pry bar. But let us say one were to use a knife for making firewood splinters from a log by batoning. That is a legitimate use for a bushcraft knife and it can get stuck that way. It happened to me with my working knife and I had to use serious force to get it out. However, if you try to “wiggle it out” by holding it solidly against the ground and pushing at the handle sideways, you are definitively an idiot for trying to remove it in the least effective and most dangerous way imaginable. Simply put, abuse like that shown in the video does not represent even remotely reasonable and appropriate use of a knife, not even a bushcraft knife that should be sturdy.

Another thing I would like to address is the handle material. It is shown to be natural leather rings and apparently, not overly compressed and not glued together or hardened. That is a problem because it is a soft material that can easily be compressed and give way for the tang to bend. A wooden handle – like on European medieval swords and daggers – significantly improves the resistance of the tang against bending. If the rings were glued together and hardened by hot wax or boiling or epoxy, it would improve the durability and resistance of the handle significantly too.

The thickness of the tang and the blade at the weakest point plays a far greater role than the width. The force needed to bend/break a flat profile rises linearly with width but exponentially with thickness. If you double the width of the tang, you double the force to bend/break it. But if you double the thickness of the tang, the force needed to bend/break it can rise approx ten times (I do not know exactly how much, the calculations are complicated and I cannot pretend to understand them). So a knife with a thickness of 3 mm and full width (~15 mm) tang will be about as strong as a knife with a thickness of 4 mm and 6 mm wide hidden tang.

A role also plays the heat treatment of the tang. A fully hardened tang will be stronger and more resistant to bending and will spring back when bent. But when bent beyond the plastic deformation, it will be more prone to permanent damage and/or catastrophic failure when straightened again as shown in the video. Unhardened tang – that is used throughout history for swords from Europe across Asia all the way to Japan I might add – is easier to bend but can subsequently be straightened again.

And lastly – anything will break if used wrongly or excessively abused. A knife is not bad because it cannot be used as a pry bar and a pry bar is not bad because you cannot cut cutlets with it. When I made the custom machete, I tested it by hitting a brick with it – but I still advised the customer not to do that.

I Wanted to Write an Article Today But…

…quite coincidentally Adam Conover has made a much better job at delivering the message that I wanted to say.

I have seen with my own eyes how high-up and extremely well-paid managers and CEOs think and work and I experienced first-hand three corporate takeovers (which successively stripped the venue of assets and know-how and slowly turned a profitable and respected business into a hollow shell). For about fifteen years now I had no illusions that rich people actually really work harder, are smarter, or both than your ordinary Otto Normal. Quite the opposite in fact, and the word “manager” gained an extremely derogative meaning in my private vocabulary as a result.

And the only good managers were not those who took a hands-on approach with the sole goal of making as much money as possible as quickly as possible, but those who just chose teams of experts in their field and let them do their jobs. Profitability usually followed if the market was there. Those who thought they know better than people who have been doing a particular job for years or even decades inevitably ended up screwing things over, as well as those who preferred short-term solutions over long-term ones. And because big companies have some inertia, it often took a long time for the negative effects of said bad management to be really visible – which is an answer to those silly people out there who insist that Musk is not doing a shitty job just because Twitter has not completely collapsed – yet. Oftentimes it happens that a bad manager is screwing people over at some other company by the time the fallout of his (mostly his) bad decisions really starts to show.

Musk’s biggest mistake is that he started to believe his own propaganda and he really thinks he is a genius who knows better than everyone else. Which is inevitable with sociopathic narcissistic assholes.

International Student’s Day

Today is the day when we should remind ourselves that young people are the future and more often than not, they are at the forefront of progressive movements. 83 years ago today, eight students and one professor were executed without trial after they protested the fascist Nazi regime that annexed Czechia after the Munich Betrayal.  33 years ago today, hundreds of students were beaten to a pulp with truncheons after they protested the totalitarian communist regime that made our country essentially a puppet state of the USSR.

I wish today this year something similarly remarkable has happened, or perhaps nothing at all. Unfortunately, today was a demonstration in Prague. It was comprised mostly of older and middle-aged people (definitively not students) and they were pro-Russian, and therefore pro-totalitarian and pro-fascist. Some were even wearing transparent that alluded to the “good old days” before 1989. I despair at the state of the world.

Semi Regular Apology Post

First, have some Ramen


A bowl of ramen with egg and shrimp

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I’m sorry for dropping dead on you once again. Work is very stressful atm and on top of it my health is not up to the task either, mainly my stupid spinal prolapses. The one thing that gives me serious troubles is sitting down. The recent round of fuck this hurts was triggered by having to sit for  2 hours on hard wooden chairs and it took me 4 weeks to get back on my feet. Literally. But that’s also what I need for both my job and for writing a blog, but of course one of those is optional so I have to safe my strength for work. Sorry.

Now, I’m not fishing for sympathy, just letting you know that no, I haven’t lost interest in all of you. Just temporarily (hopefully) the ability to sit at my desk and read and write.


1918: End of WWI
1919: Bermondt gets his ass beat
2022: Kherson. Oh, Kherson.

Press close to me if you wish to be free
Freedom is slavery even if it cannot be
Help me in unfreedom to liberate freedom
To colour the world without knowing any colours.


Better listen to advice not to speak
Look at me closely with closed eyes
You can still hope without having hope
To experience a bright day in the night


Press close to me if you wish to be free
Freedom is slavery even if it cannot be.

Boosted and Full of Dread

Today we all got our Covid-Omicron booster and while we were at it, we got our flu shots too. I am a bit apprehensive about tonight and tomorrow. I did not have a particularly pleasant reaction to either of the Covid shots but at least I had only one shoulder that ached – this time, both my shoulders are beginning to ache and by evening I will probably be knackered. Oh well, still better than full-blown flu or covid with months-long aftereffects.

Слава Україні!

One of the resident Russofascists has derided the above-mentioned phrase as militant nationalism and thus inherently baddy bad bad. Which baffled me immensely.

I am not fond of nationalism in any shape or form, militant or otherwise. However, we live in a world where most people have some national identity, usually centered around culture – language, art, history, and, sometimes, military power. That is an undeniable fact and nations, despite being social constructs, are undeniably also real entities. And trying to deny a nation a right to exist and engaging in behaviors toward ending its existence is internationally recognized as genocide. Which is arguably doubly baddy bad bad.

Pointing to the usage of the phrase in history and finding some unsavory groups that have used it is historically interesting, but I would argue that it is not particularly relevant to the actual context in which the phrase is being used. There are many phrases throughout history that were used by unsavory groups and it is silly to try and discredit a word or a phrase because it was used at some point in history by for example fascists. For example it is daft beyond measure when Republicans try to discredit the word socialism because Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei contains it, and it is equally daft to try and discredit the phrase Слава Україні! because Bandera was using it.

When it comes to words, context always matters. So lets look at the context in which the phrase Слава Україні! is currently used and how much sense opposing its use because “militant nationalism bad” makes.

One of the given reasons for the current Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the Ukrainian nation does not exist, Ukrainians are just misguided Russians. Unlike other given reasons, this one is probably honestly believed by Putin and his closest circle, possibly even by a lot of Russians at large.  And since Ukrainians are really Russians they need either to accept this or to be killed

In other words, the goal of the invasion is the annexation of the Ukrainian state and either assimilation or genocide of the Ukrainian people. Thus the war did not start as opposition to Ukrainian militant nationalism – Ukraine never posed any militant threat to Russia and Russia (Putin) knows it – it started as a result of Russian aggressive militant nationalism. And that is the context in which the phrase is currently used – to bolster and acknowledge the resolve and bravery of the Ukrainian people when faced with genocide.

Opposing the phrase because “militant nationalism bad” thus makes no sense, definitively not without opposing the Russian aggression too. Without Russian meddling in Ukrainian affairs and without the centuries-long history of Russian genocides (yes, plural, Russians did perform multiple genocides in a few centuries, some more successful than others) there would be no need for militant Ukrainian nationalism. Without Russia constantly threatening Ukraine, the most aggressive demonstration of Ukrainian nationalism would probably be shouting at sports stadiums, like with most nationalisms in current Europe. It is Russia who inserted the need for militancy. It is Russia who unilaterally started the conflict, and it is also Russia who can unilaterally stop it.

Thus I, although I deeply dislike nationalism, say Слава Україні! and I will keep saying it until Russia stops the genocide and lets the Ukrainian people live in peace, choose their allies and decide their own affairs.