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Lotfong and his pointy sharp things in progress from the frosty northern lands

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lotfong

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BIO

Hi folks, let me introduce myself.

Brace yourselves thought, as there is quite a lot of stuff to read, you can pass on straight downwards to photos instead if this is not your cup of tea.
I simply felt it was important for me to write all these things down so people can understand better what's behind my work.

My name is Ludvig, I am a 27 year old guy from Quebec, Canada, and I am an aspiring bladesmith who has been doing it on and off for 10 years, but did delve seriously into it only a year and a half ago.
I have been also a sculptor by trade, documentary photographer and a circus stage builder for Cavalia, I have travelled quite a bit around the world and I am always curious about many different things of various origins, especially anything that relates to craftsmanship.

It was quite a weird, long path that led me here right now showing my first knives, long story short I wanted to make knives since I was 8 or 9 years old, and it always paced back and forth in my mind.
I had the opportunity to forge and make knives for the first time 10 years ago during my sculpture classes in art school.
As we had access to a forge and a teacher who was also a toolmaker and teached us basics of metallurgy and heat treatments, I got to make my hand at blacksmithing and got alright results under the supervision of my teacher.
In the years following my time there I repeated the experience on several occasions, but always while using very limited equipment and without proper preparation, so I always got mixed results in the end.
As I considered it mostly a small hobby I didn't push much more in that direction even thought I really liked doing it anyway, and the fact was still lurking in a corner of my mind that it could be something nice to do later on.
I got to do photography instead, which was a great passion of mine and became something that could have passed as a beginning of a career in that field then, and indeed brought many interesting opportunities, especially overseas.

But two years ago, a series of weird life events got me quite sick and put me in a pretty f***ed up state of mind, in a zone with a lot of free time and a deep void in front of me .
I wasn't working much anymore and relied on help from family and government and had just enough to get by, and was way too weak physically and mentally to go work as much as I used to do beforehand.

One thing I started to do as a manageable sideline was to do knife and woodworking tools sharpening.
8 years before that in my sculpture classes I learned to do it properly with waterstones, and I worked in restaurants for a good while afterwards to sustain myself and did sharpen occasionally my friends knives back then, who were always pleased with the results.
So as this was quite the only thing that I earned money with, I took as many sharpening and refurbishing jobs as I could, and after a while I got to be quite busy and I was having really good feedback on my work, I decided to push a little more towards that direction.
Surprisingly, my mind and body were geting increasingly better and my mood was getting much more joyful and got to enjoy life again as I was quite happy to do this sideline sharpening thing, sometimes for quite long hours without getting too tired, which was unusual considering my poor health at the time.

Also I got to take on much nicer jobs, like proper japanese handcrafted blades, which I knew about since a really long time but never had one in my hands before.
At first I refused these jobs as I was scared sh*tless of messing these up, but in the meantime I grew increasingly curious about the ins and outs of these type of blades and started to do web searching to be sure not only to quench my thirst of knowledge but also to try to take care of one blade I had in my posession from somebody who had an unusually great amount of faith in me regardless of my inexperience.

That is how I stumbled on this forum.
I have to acknowledge first and foremost the fact that I owe a good deal of my knowledge and motivation to push forward in the craft to this forum and all its members.
Little by little I gathered every bit of information I could like a working bee to make sure I was doing things proper, and fixed that blade for my trustful friend, which turned out quite good for a twisted chipped overground Takeda nakiri.
After a couple months daring to accept these kinds of jobs and sucessfully not messing them up I built myself a small reputation for this specific type of work in my hometown and had a lot of japanese blades passing on my bench for servicing.

And as I really loved working with these kind of blades, I then asked myself if I could try my hand at making one of similar fashion. I did forge knives before but japnese san mai is a whole other leage in therms of difficulty.
At least to do properly I mean.
I then spent at least a couple thousand hours reading various topics here for the last two years, and also got to connect with some makers popular here, who were really helpful with their well advised remarks and explanations.
I am thankful for their patience and willingness to share their wisdom, it is worth a whole lot for a rookie like me.
So that solidified my confidence to put my bollocks on the table and attempt it. I did start to do tests and experimentations with the little gear and materials I had.
And then Covid arrived.

I have since then tried to take the spare time I had that was caused by this global pandemic to put it to good use towards that direction anyway.
So I spent the last couple months to equip myself properly to make knives.
I had some gear and a very basic charcoal forge, but many things that are much more specific to bladesmithing that I had not in my posession were needed, and now I am quite proud to say that a couple thousand dollars, dozens and dozens of failed knives, pints of coffee, sweat and tears, cigarette cartoons, pile of old plywood, old pierced car shelter tarps, tons of sand, hundreds of kilometers on the road gathering stuff, a built up from scratch power hammer, hundreds of hours of help from friends and family and an awful amount of passion and perseverance later I have a functionnal workshop that helps me give birth to little (and not so little) sharp things.

So with all this being said, here is what I do.

Japanese styled san mai carbon steel blades.
Kurouchi, forged geometry (not a whole lot yet but still as much as I can, I am still a rookie), Cold forged, water quenched (or fast oil when necessary), Japanese natural stone polished.
I make my own san mai construction with either reclaimed mild steel or brand new bars of 1018 for the cladding, and use mostly water quenching steels like 26c3.
I do use sometimes Cruforge V for its edge retention and ease to work with, and love it for woodworking tools who don't need an awful lot of polishing.
I am greatly inspired by the likes of Will Catcheside, Bryan Raquin, Yanick Puig, Milan Gravier, Robin Dalman, Comet, the.9nine, Isasmedjan, Halcyon Forge, Jean Jose Tritz, Dan Prendergast, Heartwood forge and TwoSticks Forge amongst others.

This thread will show you what I do so far and will keep updated as I go.
It will also describe my process and reflexions about the craft.
I am not at a point right now where I would dare sell my knives, as I deem myself not mature yet for that, but I must acknowledge that I am extremely curious to have somme feedback from you guys, especially as I looked for info right here on this forum since the beggining and wonder if I did my "homework" well.
So there ya go, hope you guys will enjoy.

Best regards, Lotfong

(Here I am when I dwell in my natural habitat, doing what I must while feasting on my diet of nicotine)
lotforge.jpg
 
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lotfong

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First project : 110mm petty

This is a petty knife that I did forge recently for a friend as a gift for helping me out for carrying materials to build the shack where I am settled right now.
It am making its handle right now, a small octogonal wa handle of wenge and deer antler.

san mai reclaimed mild steel/Cruforge V
110x30mm
Rounded choil and spine.
No way to know for sure but I'd guess it around 63-64hrc, very fine edge albeit quite bitey, tough and it seems to want to last.
Normally that steel is infamous for its abrasive resistance but in a san mai construction I haven't found it worse than aogami super.
okudo asagi for the hagane and uchigomori finger stones for the jigane

it might require further refining as it isn't completed yet without handle and I wouldn't be surprised to pass it on the water wheel to make it slightly thinner behind the edge but it seems good enough to show off for now.
Please feel free to comment and constructive criticism is more than welcome.





So anyways here are some photos

_MG_9691.jpg

_MG_9693.jpg
_MG_9707.jpg
_MG_9697.jpg




... and here is the choil. it does taper quite a bit to the tip which is much thinner than the heel.
_MG_9704.jpg
 

birdsfan

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Fine looking work Ludvig. I love the hammered KU! And I love how your polish highlights the contrast of the core steel. Would enjoy seeing a distal taper picture. The one bit of critical feedback I might provide is that the neck of the blade, between the machi and the heel is a bit long. I am not a smith, but I think I read somewhere (likely on this forum) that particular measure should be about 80% of the width of your middle finger, allowing comfortable placement of that finger in a pinch grip.

I will look forward to seeing more of your work posted!
 

lotfong

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Making of :

Forge welding is hard.
It is quite tricky, but once you get to feel and see, know and recognize every aspect necesary to do it sucessfully it becomes really nice to do.
This was one of the first billets I did sucessfully weld without issues.
Normally I spend a whole day only making billets, and then I simply sort them by core steel type and afterwards whenever I feel like forging a blade I choose which one I'd like to use considering what type of blade I have in mind.
I did it this way as it is quite a tiresome job to laminate and forgeweld by hand on its own and I feel much more fluid in my workflow to just forge the blade or just forge billets.
Doing a blade one shot (laminate, forgeweld and forge to shape the blade) I have done quite a bit but I find the failure rate was higher due to fatigue.
With the power hammer it is a whole different game thought.
This was done before I came into possession of my power hammer, so the lamination of mild steel and core steel was done by hand, as was the whole forging process.

PHOTOS

Here is the san mai billet on the anvil.

IMG_20201124_145902_040.jpg




And here is the tang formed, blade slightly elongated.

IMG_20201124_145906_379.jpg


Pre-curving to anticipate the shaping of the geometry of the bevels with the hammer.

IMG_20201124_145909_968.jpg




Some pretty severe recurving due to hammering the bevels.( EDIT: Also I use reducing temps to mitigate carbon migration while forging. A low oxygen atmosphere in the coal forge helps too.)

IMG_20201124_145913_690.jpg




Hot forging done. The heel part was hot cut with a steel chisel and was cleaned afterwards on a bench grinder.

IMG_20201124_145917_735.jpg

IMG_20201124_145921_658.jpg




Then the blade was annealed, profiled, cold forged, normalized, got through a grain refinement cycle processd and austhenitized and quenched into parks 50 oil.
Then it received a tempering treatment.

Afterwards came the time to make the bevels. I do have a belt grinder, a small 1x42 but with proper belts, but it is infamously fast and I do as little as possible on it. I wildly prefer spend an jhour more and use my old wather wheel grinder from my grandpa who used it in the lumberjack camps in my area 70 years ago. not only for the cultural heritage but also because it doesn't f**k up my stuff.

Here you can see it with the blade.

IMG_20201124_150011_899.jpg


It is quite soft and at around 180 grit, it isn't nearly as fast as a belt gringer or a proper japanese styled gigantic wather wheel sharpening machine but it does work. I then switch to an atoma 140 to flatten the blade road, which takes almost two thirds of the whole knife polishing process in my case ( I spend at least 2-3h on the atoma alone).

Then I switch to proper stones.
My collection of stone is as follows :

Shapton pro 120
JNS 300
King 800
Shapton pro 2000
JNS Red Aoto (the big red synthetic brick that is now sadly no more in production I've heard)
JNS 6000
Aiiwatani Koppa
Naniwa 12k
Okudo asagi
Uchigomori finger stones

These two photos are at the king 800 level

IMG_20201124_150021_333.jpg

IMG_20201124_150024_799.jpg



So yeah that shows a good bit of the process, I'll post in the next few days the handle and the saya too. thanks for looking.
 
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lotfong

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Fine looking work Ludvig. I love the hammered KU! And I love how your polish highlights the contrast of the core steel. Would enjoy seeing a distal taper picture. The one bit of critical feedback I might provide is that the neck of the blade, between the machi and the heel is a bit long. I am not a smith, but I think I read somewhere (likely on this forum) that particular measure should be about 80% of the width of your middle finger, allowing comfortable placement of that finger in a pinch grip.

I will look forward to seeing more of your work posted!
Hey thanks for the good words and the feedback.
That point about the neck is a good one.
The thing is I prefer to do it slightly longer than it needs to be so I can adjust it with a file afterwards when I fit the tang in the handle, to fine tune the fitting a bit more. I prefer to leave more than removing too much, but yeah I can attest that it can look a bit odd otherwise without knowing that !

I will most definitely post pictures that properly show the distal taper ASAP, that is a good point.
Thanks again for your input it is really appreciated !!!
 
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AT5760

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One heck of an introduction! Welcome and I look forward to seeing more of your work.
 

daddy yo yo

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Great photography in the first post, really like the colour tone of the images...
 

WildBoar

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You have had quite a journey. Pics of your grandfather's water wheel, please :cool:
 

Dhoff

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I am not at a point right now where I would dare sell my knives, as I deem myself not mature yet for that, but I must acknowledge that I am extremely curious to have somme feedback from you guys, especially as I looked for info right here on this forum since the beggining and wonder if I did my "homework" well.

If you do not feel comfortable selling, maybe make a pass-around. Maybe two (one in US, one in EU, maybe australia if enough interest is there?)

Or maybe, just send it to me, and I promise to treasure it and make it feel loved.
 

lotfong

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I am not at a point right now where I would dare sell my knives, as I deem myself not mature yet for that, but I must acknowledge that I am extremely curious to have somme feedback from you guys, especially as I looked for info right here on this forum since the beggining and wonder if I did my "homework" well.

If you do not feel comfortable selling, maybe make a pass-around. Maybe two (one in US, one in EU, maybe australia if enough interest is there?)

Or maybe, just send it to me, and I promise to treasure it and make it feel loved.

Hey there !
thanks for the kind words I appreciate.

Regarding what I said about not selling yet, I will keep it that way for several reasons.

One of great importance is that this publication is almost threading on the line of what isn't allowed here (self-selling, I am the only one guilty for that) and I want to respect the rules of this forum. I did ask mods before making this thread to make sure I wasn't violating anything but now I feel like it would be much wiser to suscribe to a hobbyist profile and move on from there before advertising anything else here.

But yea when I see the response here so far I think that a pass-around would definitely be something doable and a great idea indeed once I've figured out how to do it properly in the ways of this forum.
It would be a practical way to get actual reviews from knowledgeable people and really improve my work, and after I could maybe let the blade go in a draw in the end between everybody who participated in it, I guess.

Thanks again for the interest, I am grateful for that.
Best regards,
Ludvig
 
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lotfong

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Great photography in the first post, really like the colour tone of the images...
Thanks !!! I picked the camera for documenting my progress on this project, pretty simpel photos but the evening light with the snow and warmth of the wood does pop well. It was fun to do, I hadn't picked my camera in months before that, 2020 wasn't a really photogenic year for me !! haha
 

lotfong

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In the meantime I finish the handle on the petty, here is a blade I did last summer for a friend who works at ARVI, a restaurant in Quebec City that became #1 new restaurant in the country in 2019 according to the EnRoute magazine of Air Canada.

It is a 180x48mm bunka.
San mai mild steel/Cruforge V.
61-62 hrc
Naniwa 12k and uchigomori finger stones
Oval wa handle, curly birch and purpleheart ferrule.

He loves it so far.
IMG_20200608_153535 (1).jpg

IMG_20200608_153542 (1).jpg



 

Dhoff

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If you have an instagram, please share, if needed in DM. Would like to see more of your work
 

Luftmensch

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@lotfong,

Sorry you had a rough two years. I am glad you climbed out of that hole. Thanks for sharing your work with us. You are coming along!


I am extremely curious to have somme feedback from you guys, especially as I looked for info right here on this forum since the beggining and wonder if I did my "homework" well.
;)

Your work is looking good. Careful though! Everyone has their different definition of aesthetic beauty and their own preferences on profile/grind. You might have to 'average' over community feedback.

It is worth reading @Kippington's back catalogue of posts. You can see the thought process he was going through as he made the shift from professional kitchens to blacksmithing. His insights generated some interesting threads that dissect the subtitles in design choices. To some degree, you can find a community thought process in those posts if you read between the lines.

My last piece of feedback would be to spend time experimenting and optimising your heat treatment. Apologies if that is obvious advice and you have already done so! While people might not agree on aesthetics and geometry... a good heat treat is a good heat treat! Make sure you are getting that nice balance between hardness, toughness and grain size for the target task/application.


Thanks for the post! I look forward to your future work!!
 

lotfong

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@lotfong,

Sorry you had a rough two years. I am glad you climbed out of that hole. Thanks for sharing your work with us. You are coming along!




;)

Your work is looking good. Careful though! Everyone has their different definition of aesthetic beauty and their own preferences on profile/grind. You might have to 'average' over community feedback.

It is worth reading @Kippington's back catalogue of posts. You can see the thought process he was going through as he made the shift from professional kitchens to blacksmithing. His insights generated some interesting threads that dissect the subtitles in design choices. To some degree, you can find a community thought process in those posts if you read between the lines.

My last piece of feedback would be to spend time experimenting and optimising your heat treatment. Apologies if that is obvious advice and you have already done so! While people might not agree on aesthetics and geometry... a good heat treat is a good heat treat! Make sure you are getting that nice balance between hardness, toughness and grain size for the target task/application.


Thanks for the post! I look forward to your future work!!
Hi there, thanks for the kind and advised words. Things are 1000 times better now, health is the key. Gotta stop smoking thought...

Regarding various people's preferences:
Indeed I will have to take some and give some, especially about grind, profile, polishing, etc. and assume certain choices.
I am quite specific in what I aim for my knives stylistically and functionally speaking, and I say it upfront.
I am perfectly aware that some people who favor laser mirror polished honyaki blades without kurouchi and with a western handle might not find my knives to be appealing and I am fine with that, I can't please everybody.

But in the meantime I feel it will potentially appeal to quite some people here anyway, and I am eager to know how my work can compare to other bladesmiths who do similar things generally speaking (san mai, kasumi finish, pronounced distal taper and forged geometry), to know if I did get some things rights and what can be adjusted.
I don't want to copy other's work either, but I feel I must get some sort of frame of reference for my work, to then delve and explore creatively speaking with confidence that I am doing something good and valuable in that market that is within certain technical standards of ergonomy and functionality.
But yeah I can't reinvent the wheel thought !! just want to see if it is round and sturdy !

Regarding Heat treatment:

Even thought I have been working on that part for quite a lot of time already, this isn't a misplaced advice, there is always room for improvement.

Luckily I had some good knifemakers sharing technical tips with me that I had the chance to test in the kitchen, and results from the heat treatment were pretty much on par with what is expected to this level of blade according to my experience based on handling a couple dozens of japanese blades of various steels through my sharpening experience.
This is also where I am eager to see the point of view from people who do have probably a more extensive frame of reference regarding edge stability and edge retention than I do.
But I am definitely still improving my heat treat to reach a good balance of toughness, fineness and ease of sharpening.

So far I tend to make blades a bit unnecessarily tough for kitchen applications and I am working on that, as they are not as crisp as I'd like to deburr on the stones, even at pretty high hardness like hrc 64-65. There is a whole lot of different reasons to this that have no link with hardness, thought.
I am working on this specific point at the moment.
That is one reason why I will work a little more with water quenched steels from now on as I get better results on this aspect with these straight off without much tweaking.

As you recommended I have started to look at kippington's posts regarding its work, it proves to be very informative.
Thanks for sharing, I appreciate.
It is really insightful about the whole process, and it is also interesting to see the progress and explorations he has done.
I do have quite a different style but regardless of that I feel I can definitely learn a whole lot from his experience.

With all this said, I am glad you gave me those advices and I am really happy you showed some interest in my work, I am eager to show you more !!
Best regards,
Ludvig
 

Luftmensch

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No worries!

Indeed I will have to take some and give some, especially about grind, profile, polishing, etc. and assume certain choices.
I am quite specific in what I aim for my knives stylistically and functionally speaking, and I say it upfront.
I am perfectly aware that some people who favor laser mirror polished honyaki blades without kurouchi and with a western handle might not find my knives to be appealing and I am fine with that, I can't please everybody.
Definitely! You can't please everybody. KKF isn't the end of the cutlery, culinary universe either! It is a pretty niche community. People outside of the 'bubble' (those who havent turned kitchen knives into a hobby) may have a different view to the preferences expressed here.

Tool making raises an interesting dilemma for the craftsman. You want to maintain your art/craft whilst producing a maximally functional piece. At times that may raise compromises. But therein lies the challenge and the fun. How to impart your unique style on a common object that already has a well established design language?


As you recommended I have started to look at kippington's posts regarding its work, it proves to be very informative.
Thanks for sharing, I appreciate.
It is really insightful about the whole process, and it is also interesting to see the progress and explorations he has done.
I do have quite a different style but regardless of that I feel I can definitely learn a whole lot from his experience.
For sure! You are quite different. As far as I know, Kip doesn't do san-mai? I just enjoyed his philosophical and thoughtful approach - I think that could underpin any style!

Be well!
 

birdsfan

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Tool making raises an interesting dilemma for the craftsman. You want to maintain your art/craft whilst producing a maximally functional piece. At times that may raise compromises. But therein lies the challenge and the fun. How to impart your unique style on a common object that already has a well established design language?

I couldn't agree with this more! And was typing a similar sort of response last week that was interupted by my days events.

You draw on your experience as a cook while you design, create and finish your pieces. One of the cool things about being an artisan is making your internal vision, the form, into a finished product. I can only speak for myself. but when the finished item matches my vision, I gain great satisfaction. When I am making something, I tend to gravitate towards the styles, and techniques that I personally like and enjoy doing. As a result, I am usually good at executing those same things.

So I guess what I am saying is....don't worry too much about what the masses think. You arent trying to be Shun. Stay true to your vision, do the things that you enjoy and are good at, and make blades that satisfy your your drive for quality, and make you happy. And likely you will find your following.
 

lotfong

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You guys are wise, it feels good to read. Thanks a lot I think I'll just go with the flow and I will see how it turns out. Have a great day y'all !!
 

lotfong

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Merry christmas everybody !!! I hope all of you get to have decent holidays amidst this pandemic we all go through.

Here is a small blade I just finished before christmas, a gift for a friend I used to work with.
No kurouchi this time, all polished convex geometry.

110mm office
45 grams
It was made out of a pre-clad bar of suminagashi with aogami 2 as a core steel.
water quenched and tempered back to approx. 63 hrc
uchigomori finger stone integral polishing, okudo asagi edge touch up
Small octagonal wa handle, masur birch and african blackwood ferrule.
Balance point right at the ferrule.

This guy is THIN, 0.1mm average behind the edge, 13 dps.
It gets from 1.8mm at the choil to 0.6mm at 1cm from the tip, it does have a slight distal taper but as it is so thin it isn't significant.

It has been kinda tricky to forge so thin, even thought it is pre-clad the lamination isn't even on both sides of the blade, I'll work to improve that for future blades. I did mostly low temp forging so carbon migration from the core to the jacket is absolutely minimal.

Overall a really fun blade, very sharp and laser-ish in its behaviour.
My aogami2 heat treatment seems to make it a bit easier to sharpen than what I am used to with japanese blades in aogami2 of similar hardness.
63 hrc ain't soft by any means so I am kinda amazed by this behaviour.
Maybe it is because I do several grain refinement cycles and a proper normalising step to make sure the tungsten carbides are as fine as possible, with a annealing cycle to prepare all those carbides to stay fine during austenitizing prior to hardening in water with a thin clay slurry all over the blade.
It seems also pretty solid for 63hrc, I did a mule to test the exact same heat treat as this knife, the grain came out extremely fine and it had only minimal chipping occuring while testing, even on hard crusty 3day old sourdough bread.
Pretty happy with it, might allow myself to run the next blades a little harder around 65hrc to see how it will behave and see how much I can push the hardness before it becomes too brittle.

Here are some images for you to see.

Curious about your feedback,
Thanks a lot for looking and I wish y'all happy holidays!!



_MG_9718.jpg

_MG_9722.jpg

_MG_9726.jpg

_MG_9727.jpg
 
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birdsfan

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Nice! I can see from the bevel that you really thinned it out at the tip too. Very nice knife for fine detail work!
 
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