Josh Bell: Master Forger


Amanda Mourelatos , Associate Editor-in-Chief

Here is Josh hammering away at his knife!

Josh Bell, a Sahuaro senior, chose to forge a knife for his senior project. His inspiration was from a show called Forged in Fire, which is a forging contest where contestants forge their best knife from scratch in six hours. From there, he continued to watch YouTube videos and grew more and more fascinated. The root of all his forging knowledge is from YouTube and blacksmith books about different techniques and what all the tools were used for. The knife he made is called a bowie recursive knife, which is a type of hunting knife; he didn’t really plan a shape for his knife, but more just “went with the flow.” Overall, it took about two weeks to complete his knife; four to five hours everyday he did work on his knife and 30 to 45 hours all together. “I had a lot of time on my hands and I made sure to use it,”  he said.

In response to Josh’s senior project idea, Ms. Krause said,”I can tell you that I was really impressed when I heard what he wanted to do for his project because it’s creative and different, yet functional.  I also love when students choose to build things because it shows they value craftsmanship.  Plus, Josh is a great person and student, and I knew he would take it seriously and do a great job.”

To make his knife, he first had to cut out a piece of steel to his desired length. Then he put it into the fire until it was visibly yellow and started pounding away with a hammer. Unlike professionals, he did not have the luxury of a powered hammer that delivers harder punches; but the process was repeated until he made the shape he desired. Then he performed a process called quenching, where he had to get the steel to the proper temperature and dunk it in either water or oil. Quenching hardens the blade so it’s less susceptible to bending. After that, he had the option of tempering the blade to improve the blade’s hardness. Then comes the handle, which Josh made by sticking two pieces of wood to either side of the tang (the part of the blade that attaches to the handle) and gluing the wood pieces together with an epoxy mixture. After that, he let it dry for a day and finished shaping the handle and the blade.

The final product!

In the future, Josh plans to make his own set of tongs, which are used to hold a piece of metal while forging it; without them, he says “it’s fairly difficult to forge.” Precautions he took include making sure nothing would catch on fire around his work station and that he was using fire bricks specifically. He used a fire pit in his backyard and if he used bricks that weren’t fire bricks, they would’ve exploded. He also wore safety goggles, a hat, thick clothing, welding gloves, and sometimes a respirator for the smoke. The most difficult thing to Josh was sitting in the heat and waiting for his metal to heat up and pounding it with a hammer. “Moving metal the way I want seems a lot easier when I’m watching it on TV,” he said. The most enjoyable and funnest part to Josh was making the handle, and the handle is what he is most proud of about the knife. Although he hasn’t personalized his knife yet, he plans to use his friend’s dremel to engrave his initials or a signature mark for all of his projects.