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94 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 1997
Jim Hrisoulas has let out information some knifemakers refuse to share, and he is big enough to handle the criticism. He not only knows how to create beautiful knives and swords, he also knows how to write, so the novice to experienced knifemaker can comprehend the content. He also provides excellent diagrams of the subject matter he is addressing at the time. From the steels, tools, and techniques, to some trade secrets, it is all here. For the novice to experienced knifemaker, there is something for you to discover. The forging basics are spelled out in a clear and concise format. Most anything that has to do with the forging of blades is covered thoroughly in this volume. This book is a must for the wannna-be knifemaker. Jim also has two other books in print, "The Master Bladesmith", (Advanced Studies in Steel); and, "The Pattern Welded Blade", (Artistry in Iron). I have all three volumes, and most other knifemaking books in print, the other books being superfluous in contrast. All three volumes are a must for the serious forger of the steel blade, and should be required reading. What an addition to a starving subject matter, not to mention an attractive classic collection of works in the field. These books are really upscale in content in comparison. Why did I give the book a 9 rating if it is so good? You really need all three to have the best, a 10+. Warning: These books are not for the knifemakers that use the stock-removal method for knifemaking, although there is information that any knifemaker would like to read and use, it just may not pay to buy them. I have no personal bias here, as I do both methods. I would be happy to give my opinion of content regarding the other two books. Did someone say light the forge? Nels Nelson - nelsk@azstarnet.co
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
While you can't learn any craft this complicated solely from a book, this one comes pretty close. It's an impressive primer on the field covering everything from laying out your shop to tools/equipment, steels/alloys, grip materials, leatherwork, construction, heat-treating, grinding, sharpening, and tempering. It even covers Japanese heat-treating and polishing techniques and how to forge several patterns of Damascus steel. There are great charts/illustrations too. The author not only knows his craft but he is able to communicate this knowledge clearly and effectively to his readers. His writing is pleasant and easy to follow.

For perspective, I should point out that I know just enough about this field to be dangerous. I apprenticed to master bladesmith Bob Powell for about a year quite some time ago, not to take up sword making as a profession but rather to have access to the tools and education to forge my own blade. Jim Hrisoulas, on the other hand, is a true expert! With more than 17 years working at the forge, he specializes in medieval style blades and Damascus pattern welding techniques. His knowledge and experience really shine through in this great book.

Lawrence Kane
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults, The Way of Kata, and Martial Arts Instruction
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2003
I'm also a relative novice at blacksmithing and bladesmithing. I found Dr Hrisoulas' book to be of great value. True, there's nothing in the basic bladesmithing that hasn't been written before by somebody, or multiple people. However, the sections on the Japanese and Northern European laminated blades are fascinating and valuable.
His beginning section is just that. The begninning. He does most beginning smiths a favor and leaves out volumes of metallurgical data that only serves to confuse the novice smith and compound the difficulties inherent in making the first few blades.
Of the dozen or so books that I've read on just blacksmithing NONE gives the reader an accurate price list. None will tell you how much a good anvil will cost, they will tell you that it's your biggest investment. Even Goddard's standby "$50 knife shop" isn't really $50 unless you have access to a machine shop or the junkyard on "Junkyard Wars" first.
If you want an "anvil" any large piece of steel with a flat side will do. Railroad track isn't great but it'll do to start. Of course, that's in just about every book. For a traditional style anvil, you can sped $100 on an imported Chinese steel one at about 100#. It's face is fairly soft and 100# get moved around easily, even on heavy stumps. Or you can go overboard and spend the aforementioned $1200 and get about 450# of anvil. The average bladesmith, and blacksmith, will only ever need 150-200#.
For beginners, servicable hammers are available for less than $10 (you get what you pay for)up to $50 and all manner of tongs can be had for $30-50 each.
I recommend this book, especially if you're able to get it for less than cover price.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2004
I bought this book with next-to no prior blacksmithing experience. The first few chapters are good primers, but I would strongly advise -NOT- using this book as your only means of learning. As was stated previously, anvils CAN BE expensive. However, keep in mind that, especially starting out, there is no shame in the infamous "Rail Road Track Anvil." Also, a suitable forge can be made out of an old barbecue lined with clay.
However, back onto the main topic: The book is called "The Complete Bladesmith" for a reason. It covers just about everything you need to know (however I cannot stress enough that no blacksmith becomes a master bladesmith by reading) from tangs to making grips and hilts. There is even a chapter on Japanese blade making. It's definately a good read, and worth the price.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2005
The author of this book is an accomplished bladesmith and well respected among his peers. He makes knives professionally and has a web site out there somewhere showing his product. Prices aren't shown, but I think they are pretty high. This book is a good contribution to the field of metalworking.

This book describes how to forge a fixed blade knife or sword and grind it on a belt sander and buff it. And how to make a handle and a sheath. He only talks about the stock removal method when he wants to mildly ridicule it. The title 'complete' may be a tad misleading in this respect. This is not to say that there isn't good information here, even if all you want to do is the stock removal method, since, after the blank is forged, there is essentially a stock removal process that follows to bring the blade to completion; to refine, polish and sharpen it.

This book doesn't really start at the beginning for forging. If you have never forged steel before, you might want to get a book like 'The New Edge of the Anvil', by J. Andrews, or 'The Complete Modern Blacksmith' by Alexander Weygers. In fact, 'Edge of the Anvil' and one of Weygers books is listed in the bibliography of this book as recommended reading.

Besides a drill and a buffer, a belt sander is the only power equipment that the author seems to condone. He doesn't give a brand name, but suggests a quality one be purchased. The only quality brand I can think of is Burr-King, and they start out at around $1600, a pretty hefth price to pay if you aren't sure if this is something you want to get into. (More than I paid for my used Bridgeport milling machine.)Also, this is a hard machine to shop build. I don't see why right angle portable grinders, die grinders and bench grinders couldn't be used instead. At least to get started with. Weygers book might offer some junk yard solutions to grinding and buffing.

There are numerous line drawings in the book, but they are simplistic, stylized and schematic looking. There are some good photographs of making a knife from steel cable, of making a twisted wire handle for a sword, of making a leather sheath, and of attaching a knife handle. Often, while reading the text, I would have liked to have seen a good illustration or photograph, but either found none, or got a drawing which wasn't very elucidating.

In books on craft, I think it essential to have good illustrations. For example, Hrisoulas says that it is important to hold the workpiece correctly when using the buffing wheel, for safety's sake, but then he has no illustration or picture showing how. Weygers explains it well in his book with a few hand drawn illustrations. Also, Hrisoulas depends heavily on the belt sander, but there is not a single photograph showing the use of the belt sander. There is just a few simplistic line drawings representing the belt with a blade being pressed against it.

The book doesn't get much into metalurgy. However, he does go into some rare topics. (I can't tell whether Hrisoulas knows more about metalurgy than he lets on, or lets on to know more than he does.) He mentions some topics that I have never seen in other blacksmithing or metal crafting books. One thing he discuses is hand forging stainless steel. Although the discussion is brief, it is more than I have found anywhere else, which is nothing, and he tells which alloys may be forged best. He says that 440C stainless can be forged on a coal fire, and that charcoal is best.

He also talks about 'aus-forging' I can't find any other reference to this in my metalurgy books. It appears to be the same thing as 'packing', only using a low temperature throughout the shaping process instead of just at the finish.

Hrisoulas seems to take issue at times with Bealer's book, 'The Art of Blacksmithing'. Hrisoulas says that the indentation on a sword is not a 'blood gutter', the term Bealer uses consistantly, and that he hasn't seen a Japanese sword cut a machine gun barrel, which Bealer says 'has been demonstrated'. In fact, Hrisoulas seems duty bound to dispel popular beliefs about blade making that he feels are erroneous, regardless of their source.

One thing he and Bealer both talk about is 'packing', mentioned above. 'The Art of Blacksmithing' gives more detail concerning this technique than this book does. It seems to me to be a form of cold working. But I can't find any information about it outside of this book and Bealer's.(Ironically, he doesn't list Bealer's book in the bibliography to this book.)

This book seems to me to lack some important details. Perhaps what I am really trying to say is; for a somewhat pricey book, it should be thicker and have more photographs and better drawings. I would also like to see a deeper discussion of the metalurgy. The importance of the book is that it discusses topics not found in the general line of black smithing books. I like it for the information it has that I can't find elsewhere.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 1999
As a beginner to the world of bladesmithing I have found this work to be excellent and as complete as you'd need to learn the art of bladesmithing. I'm impressed with the amount of material included with so few wasted words.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2003
The book is simple, easy to follow. The book gets straight to the point and lets you in on all the basics without adding too much techno-jargon. I love the forgework involved and have made two knives already. The appendix is useful, as are the list of steels. It has a great list of chemical names and formula for fluxs etc. This book has given me enough information to follow my own style of knifemaking without feeling I have to stick to the 'rules'.
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103 of 135 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
You too can be a neurosurgeon! All you need are a table, and some tools...as a complete novice blacksmith, I found that you need some basic skills, and probably lots of them, before you are able to make a decent sword. This book is not going to make the sword for you, of course, but it also lacks such basic information as supply sources and costs. When the author tells you that a new anvil can be expensive, does he mean $100, or $1200? (hint: it's the latter!) Various steps in the process are left out, and though they are no doubt clear to the author, you will probably want to see if a swordmaker will let you watch before you get into an extremely difficult and time-consuming project. All that said, this is probably an important reference book that you should own---perhaps after you buy "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" by Weygers or "The New Anvil's Edge" by Andrews, both of which are quite a bit less expensive and much more user friendly, from my extreme beginner point of view. I'm having a good time learning what to hit and when, and you'll probably get a lot out of blacksmithing should you choose to try it, too.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2000
I have always wanted to make custom blades, since most of the ones on the market are so common and are of low quality construction. With this book and the other two he has written I was able to go from no experience to making custom blades in less then a month. I highly recommend this book and his others to anyone who wishes to start forging blades.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
A great book for the beginner, but not to be taken as a metallurgical point of reference. Antiquated theories such as 'edge-packing' and other misconceptions are taught in this text. This is not a problem, assuming the reader does enough research - either before or after reading this book. It offers great explanations of techniques, complete with well-explained drawings, diagrams and pictures, as well as plenty of good information on intelligent shop layout, tool selection, etc.

Certainly worth owning, just BEWARE the dated information!
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