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Heel ends up thinnest?

Kevin Cunningham
Eminent Member Apprentice Bladesmith (5yr)

Howdy ABS 

I am getting confident forging to shape but the thing that gives me the most trouble is pulling down the heel. 

I’d often like to end up with a nice wide blade at the heel. I forge the distal taper first, curved down so the beveling gets me close to shape.

I try to get my spine width and blade shape close before doing the bevel taper but since I try to leave the spine alone as much as possible after forging distal taper I fight with a thin spot just in front of the ricasso. I like to leave a little tiny curved thickness behind the bevel that makes a comfy spot should it contact your index finger. 

When I pull down the heel I usually end up with a ball peen to spread material down and back. The rest of the blade I use a cross peen to draw material down toward the edge in widening & beveling the shape. 

Do I just need to start with a wider billet? Then upset and draw the ricasso & tang as opposed to fullering the heel down? 

Specifically the trouble is in drawing the heel vertically down so I don’t end up with a lot of empty width under the ricasso. 

I’m often dealing with a hard won bar of pattern welded steel- two days of work making a mosaic pattern sometimes dictates how much steel I am working with. Of course more is easier but having a detailed bar to not screw up makes a little stress in a fun way.

Just like everything in forging the answers are experience, planning, and order of operation- there’s no easy button- but any insight into your successful process could be helpful for me! 

Kevin Cunningham

Latest projects and the latest mosaic bar in question are @kevincunninghamknives

on IG

Topic starter Posted : 14/01/2022 12:30 pm
Matthew Parkinson
Reputable Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)

there are a number of ways to handle the forging of this area of a knife. I think I understand what you are describing, it would help to have a photo or two to be sure.  

For my self there are several ways that i handle this transition depending on what i want for the finished knife. This is one of the more difficult areas of the knife to forge well and control the out come.  here are th methods i use. 

I will pinch out a section of the bar to start my bevels. and pull that down leaving the edge a little thick, I will then square up the back the transition from he choil to the ricosso, this will have a some what round heel shape. i tend to use this method on knives that is appropriate on. 

method  2 I will forge the ricosso up slightly before pulling out the heel.  I forge it in 1/8" or so this allows the edge to back fill a little behind the plunges, I will generally forging the plunges in at an angle 60-70 deg tipping forward to the point, this gives me more options in grinding when I and getting my plunges all lines up and crisp. the back of the choil can be left as is and ground in line with the plunges later or upset back in line with the plunges. this gives me a very square heel to the choil and allows much more options in grinding. 

method 3 this is a newer one for me one i have been messing around with for the last year or so. 

I begin the same as method 2  pushing the ricosso up , then 1/8-1/4" in from of that i will pull out the edge and forge in the first part of the bevel.  I set the notch along the edge of the anvil with the ricosso off,  and use a cross peen to pull the edge out even with bevel I already forged. this will effectively extend the ricosso into the blade slightly. in grinding I can sculpt the plunge and this heel to pull the edge behind the plunges. 

method 4 chef knife.. for these i dont really have a defined ricosso, or plunges. but i will set my volume up for the knife my tapering and adding distal taper, then shoulder for my tang. I use the cross peen to pull the heel down following with the flat of the hammer to clean up, I will then square up the heel by sanding the knife up on the spine and upsetting back the choil and edge to square up the transition. once i have that squared up I continue peening in a fan pattern followed by the flat. I do this  in overlapping courses all the way to the point, this will fill out the shape based on the proportions of the initial tapers. 


method 5 this is for a flush choil. For this I will set in a section where I wish the bevel to begin, I will then forge out the blade from this point into a narrow preform with a decent amount of distal taper , I will then pull the edge down even with the ricosso, sometimes this requires the use of the cross peen to fill in the first little bit. the rest of the blade is then bevels to match. 

method 6  carrying the bevels into the tang, this method I mostly use on swords, seaxs or other historical blades that traditionally no not have ricossos . For this method the preform of the blade is set slightly to one side (to account for the growth in forging the bevel the item is beveled and straightened as needed.  

Posted : 14/01/2022 8:07 pm
Karl B Andersen
Journeyman Bladesmith

I just forge that area of the knife out FIRST to its desired width.

Then I push the ricasso down to its desired width.

So many forging methods seem to be based on what people have had to do with fixed-width bars of steel. If you're forging with a Damascus billet then you aren't required to follow any "rules". Forge it however it works.

Posted : 15/01/2022 10:37 am
Kevin Cunningham
Eminent Member Apprentice Bladesmith (5yr)

Matt, Karl

Thank you both so much for your detailed responses! Insight into your processes is super helpful and I am grateful for your time spent helping a new guy. Please look me up if you’re in philly- steak dinners on me!

Sorry my previous attempts to upload pics from my iphone were unsuccessful or I would have included a shot to illustrate.

My mentioning my IG was an attempt to show my progress as a bladesmith- I use it to share my projects and attempts to try and learn new things, not as a for sale gallery. If I was more tech savvy I’d just post pics here with questions or requests for feedback.

My latest billet is my first double 4-way mosaic. I did the kind of standard Ws diamond explosion repeating pattern everybody does but I accordion cut the billet instead of tile welding the last step hoping for a more unique pattern.

I realize most mosaic makers often use more of a stock removal process after forging their bar but I like to party! 

The last billet I made was just high count random and I wanted maximum activity and forging distortion. I got the choil where I wanted it- deep and square. I forged out a sort of integral bolster 14” recurve full tang bowie shape. 

I was able to get the heel profile where I wanted, and the thickness at the back of the choil where I wanted it. The problem was in trying to pull the heel back and down square I ended up with a thinner bevel there than farther up the blade. So the whole thing ended up with a leaner blade than I intended. 

I ended up cutting it down to a nice hidden tang chef’s knife that I am really happy with. Mostly because I can use it every day to evaluate my heat treat and the comfort & utility of the work. The huge integral recurve was pretty but not practical so no great loss. 

but the experience made me wonder how to do a better job pulling down the heel next time. 

Thanks again


Topic starter Posted : 15/01/2022 12:46 pm
Matthew Parkinson
Reputable Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)

Integrals are a little different, the drastic changes in cross section require a little bit more planning as far as moving the volume around. 

These are a lot more like traditional iron work than the forging involved in most blade smithing. 

As Karl mentions you are not constrained by the size of the available bar stock with Damascus, I tend to vary my starting material depending on what sort of integral I am making, as well as what tools I have available in my forging.  (hand hammer vs power hammer vs press ) In my shop I would start for a 8" chef a piece around 3/4" /1.5" by 3", I should mention I learned a lot of this from Mareko Maumassi when he was a part of my shop.  From this starting shape I first off set a small chunk maybe 1/2-3/4" of the length and set this down into a 3/4"sq section the other end then gets tapered in both dimensions stretching out the length but leaving a 3/4 long section at the original cross section.  Next I pinch off the heel, I do this at an angle so that the heel is actually behind the integral bolster. If the design calls for a straight bolster I will pinch the front edge down leaving a short rectangular section over the top of the heel. At this point the rest of the blade is set down to 1/4" or so avoiding forging  down that bolster. From here the shape is forged out more or less as I would forge a chef, other than being sure to keep the bolster off the anvil.  I make liberal use of the cross peen to control the flow of the material.  Once I have the blade forged out I will draw my tang out of the 3/4" sq chunk. I use a power hammer to do a lot of the gross movement, a strong press would also work.  By hand I  would probably start with 1"sq or so but follow essentially the same process. 

hope that helps 


Posted : 16/01/2022 8:58 am