Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Stainless steel and A. G. Hicks

I'm realizing that I may be leaving some loose ends to tie up, specifically in my flagrant dissing of the high-chromium steels that the commercial knife manufacturers (and their marketing departments) have foisted upon the American public with their claims to their being "stainless". First of all, lets hear from woodworking plane-iron maker, Ron Hock. He says it far better than anyone, especially me, ever could. He also helps illustrate my point that: No tool actually intended to CUT some intractable material (like curly cherry - for example) is ever made from anything but plain old high-carbon. Hock himself makes his irons from 1095. He played around with A2 for a while and a couple of my planes have Hock A2 irons in them and they're great. Sharpen easily, stay sharp a long time and that's really what it boils down to (that to which it boils down - I'm a drop out from Journalism School - I can't help myself).
Many members of knife-breaking clubs other than ABSCOW (gotta change that acronym) are fond of a tool steel designated D2. It's got a fair chunk of chromium in it, about 1.5% which is generally more than a high-carbon steel has of carbon but it's not enough for it to be called "stainless". The chromium helps a lot in its intended use however. It deepens the effect of the quench, adds abrasion resistance and some other goodies that escape my mind at the time. One of its claims to fame is that a piece of D2 with a thick cross-section will heat-treat with a minimum of distortion. Not an attribute knives require in general - but one that is very handy in a material intended for situations where thick pieces of steel, shaped into complex shapes, have to withstand intense heat and pressure repeatedly - like forging dies or injection-molding dies (that's what the "D" stands for). Is it a bad steel for knives? No, of course not. It's possibly harder to sharpen than a "real" blade steel like 1095 but it works. Only because - and here's where it gets heretical, folks - a piece of steel, as a knife blade, doesn't have to work very hard. A simple woodworking cabinet scraper, which has a nearly microscopic edge - it's just a burr or "wire-edge - will keep that tiny sliver of metal sharp while you bear down on it to take out the humps in whatever wood we're talking about. It will get so hot it's hard to hold on to but still cuts. That workout would have to equal - dressing out, I don't know how many, elk - to put a knife edge through a similar beating.
In closing, I recall an online ad from the Union Cutlery Co. AKA Kabar regarding their new and improved D2 version of the venerable M2 fighting/utility knife - forever hereafter known as a "Kabar" even though a half dozen firms other than them manufactured them. The copy read: "The military may have been happy with their blades of 1095, hardened to Rc 5? but the modern knife enthusiast demands better." What? All those jarheads down in the hell of the South Pacific didn't place demands on their blades to equal those of a "modern" user. I don't even want to talk about what's obscene about that statement.
Steel rusting is God's way of telling us to take care of our tools.
In closing, the title mentions A. G. Hicks who I know was a maker of woodworking planes in Cleveland in the 1840's, and who made the occasionsal Bowie knife. What I've heard, but can't remember where, is that he was a free black. (Sorry, PC police, for me to say "African American" I'd have to demand you all call me a "Scottish American"). I just can't confirm it and I like to factual in my little blurbs - and I want to make at least one Hicks knife. Anyway, to close up shop for the day, here's a pic of some of A. G. Hick's shivs.

5 comments:

min said...

the bottom picture on your page of the 3 knifes.i have the bottom knife can u tell me how much they would be worth?

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

If it's a genuine Hicks, many hundreds of dollars. That model is being made for the reenactor crowd so there's a lot of repros around.
http://www.legendaryarms.com/m1aghicknifc.html

Bob Miller said...

Hello! Andrew G. Hicks was white according to the 1860 census.

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Thanks for that, Bob.
I know that Roy Underhill ("The Woodwright's Shop"), at one time mentioned that there was a free, black planemaker working in the North during the period.
Must have been someone else.

Armando Iswahyudi said...

Hi there,I enjoy reading through your article post, I wanted to write a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation.
All the best for all your blogging efforts.

furniture jepara
mebel jepara

Locations of visitors to this page