After witnessing my blade survive the normalizing process with little warping (and learning where the thin spots where), I was ready, albeit nervous, to take on the quenching process on Day 4.
For those of you who don’t know, the quenching process is a necessary and risky part of making a blade. You need to bring a blade to a near critical heat and then dunk it into oil or water to cool it down. If the blade was made well, it will survive the process and you will have seconds to straighten out the blade as it hardens. If it isn’t made well, or if you screw up here, you’ll lose all of your work.
This was something I was afraid of, especially knowing how much time we’ve already spent.
Class started as per usual: we met up, we got the fires going, and Sam was asking for all of our swords so he could mark them as we would begin this process.
Sadly, as Sam was explaining what the process would entail, scheduling the quench order and telling us what needed to be done by the end of the day, the power went out. This was at 11am.
Once again, we were playing the waiting game. Since Sam had all of our blades for the quenching process, we just had to sit around and discuss ideas while we waited for our turns. Thankfully our heat treat setup did not require electricity, so we were able to continue on.
One by one, Sam was heating up the blades and would call us over to do the quench ourselves. I know my heart was racing, as I was the second person to quench and had one of the thinnest blades. I was afraid that once it went into the tank, that would be the end. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
Once it was quenched, Sam checked it, straightened it, threw it between two boards and let it cool for a bit before adding it to a vice in the smithy.
Placing between boards is a brilliant idea that I’ll be implementing as soon as possible, as it’s a brilliant way to ensure that the blade doesn’t warp as it finishes cooling down.
We really had a lot of time to kill during this power outage, as rumors were going around that power wouldn’t be restored until 3pm. We were able to quench all of the blades before lunch, and left them to temper during lunch.
For those of you who are curious: when you quench a blade, you make is harder, but also very brittle. If you dropped one of these on a solid surface or struck it with a hammer, it would shatter very much like a clay vase. We had to be very careful here, obviously. When you temper a blade, you take away that brittleness but still leave that degree of hardness. This makes the blade very tough to break while allowing it to hold an edge.
Once the last of the blades were cool enough to not be damaged, we placed them back into oil and heated them while we grabbed lunch.
After lunch, we learned that the new power restoration estimate was 5pm. Joy. . .
I took the opportunity of slow progression and waiting for things to cool to talk to Sam about the guard I made during the previous night. While it was interesting, I made the base too thin, as I didn’t know the thickness was already determined to allow us to simply cut into it and shape the sides. That was a new goal once the power was restored.
Since I had my blade back and no power to work on my guard, I decided that some cleanup was in order, as it was covered in oil. It was back to the sandpaper for me, and I started toiling away to make the blade shine once more.
Shortly after 5pm and not long before we took a break for dinner, the power was FINALLY restored. The instant one of the TAs returned to the shop, I was in there to hammer out a new guard.
It didn’t take long, thankfully. While it didn’t turn out as nicely, it worked out well and got Sam’s approval.
Next up was the pommel.
Unlike some of my peers, I didn’t want anything crazy. Originally, I wanted something more like a d12, but we lacked the correct material to make it happen. Instead, I took the round stock I was offered and decided to make something like an octagon just to have something better than a round, but not as ornate as some of the very elaborate, fluted handles my peers were making.
Once I had the guard and pommel done, I worked with Sam to get the holes milled so the guard would fit the tang, and ended the night by doing a bit of cleanup with the wire wheel. The drilling for the pommel had to wait until the next day, sadly.
We had to close up the shop shortly after I finished, so I called it a night at that point and got some rest, as I knew Day 5 would be a madhouse.