Pushing Yourself

So you've learned how to make a basic knife. You know your tools, the techniques, the science, heat treating, the lot. But, an interesting thing about bladesmithing, and likely many many other crafts, is no matter how much you know there's always more to learn. Eventually you may perfect some technique, or become an expert on patternwelds, but there's always something else in the knife world you could be better at.

Of course, there arises the question on whether you need to push yourself and learn something new. After all, once you become an expert, or at least highly competent at a particular knife, and maybe you can make a living doing just that, why try anything else? Well, the whole reason most anyone starts bladesmithing is to try something new, or get good at something cool (forging hot steel to make a blade? Who doesn't want to know how to do that?).

Another reason is, especially if you plan on doing custom projects, pushing yourself to do new techniques and styles will prepare you in the case you need to know them, for say a custom project or contest (forged in fire anyone?). New techniques or styles take at least two tries for me before I can start to get it down beyond a newbie level.

So how does one push oneself to learn something new? Hands-on instruction is really the best way to go, any mistakes you make will get corrected immediately, and you'll get all the information you need as you go. On the other hand, if you always got hands-on instruction every time you wanted to learn something, you wouldn't have subscribed to the Broke Bladesmith now would you?

My whole knifemaking career so far has been one long learning curve, occasionally doing the same style multiple times because I like them, and I've found the best way to learn something new is to have fun with it. I don't sit down and think "Learning how to peen a domed pin could be useful. I'll do that next.", or "Making a kris would refine my grinding skills. I'll practice a few of those." 
Far from it. That might be the result, but usually it's more along the lines of seeing some new piece by a bladesmith on a forum or social media, and suddenly get the desire to do something like that. Maybe it'll be a pommel cap on an antler handle, with the cap shaped to match the ridges in the antler. Maybe it's a sanmai construction bowie, or an integral forged guard construction. 

That's right, one of the biggest ways I've pushed myself and learned new things, is because of a single thought: "That's cool. I want to make one of those." Fancy people prefer the term "Inspiration". 

Second thing I do, is have fun with it. Doing a completely new type of knife I've never tried to do means I'm unlikely to get everything right, so I'm really just there to enjoy the process. I'm shooting for an end point, success, and at the very least, be able to say that I did it. Then a little later, I might just try it again, and the second attempt is usually a huge improvement on the first. 

The third thing, is commitment to perfection, which I'll cover next.

Caleb Harris

I’ve always fooled around with tools and hardware, but I think my passion with blades started far back in my childhood: wooden swordfights with the neighborhood kids. I became the neighborhood “blacksmith”, using my grandfather’s tools to hammer little crossguards onto wooden sticks. I always tried to find the best scrap wood: lightest, strongest, trying to get the perfect length and shape for each “customer”. This started my passion with blades.
When I was ten years old, I joined a local rock and gem club, learning stonecutting and cabbing, and through that came to take silversmithing lessons from a local jeweler. It wasn’t until around the age of 13, that I turned my attention to bladesmithing, which has captured my heart. 
 My personal obsession with bladesmithing, as I’m sure you can relate, isn’t just the joy and passion of the making: the musical clang of the hammer on steel, the shower of sparks on the grinder, the whisk of the blade over the sharpening stone, but also of the fulfillment in creating something that is twofold: that of beauty, and that of function. It’s trying to make something that is as much an art piece, as a tool that you can trust your life with. That’s what caught my heart, and the pursuit of that perfect combination still drives me.