Posted on: 21 April 2015
There's something almost magical about taking a chunk of raw steel and transforming it into a beautiful and useful knife. Since it's already plenty of work to shape the blade by hand by spending hours at your forge, you should invest in a few power tools that speed up the other steps in the process. An air compressor is a smart investment because it can serve at least six different purposes in a busy knife making workshop.
While sandblasting isn't necessary for finishing basic knives, it's the only way to achieve some texture finishes and a fast way to etch custom details like initials and maker's marks. Quality sandblasting guns require air compressors that move more cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air than the CFM rating listed on the gun. However, the pressure of the compressor, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), needs to match the gun's PSI requirement to prevent damage.
Grinding and Polishing
After shaping the blade by hand or with a power hammer, finishing is the most time-consuming part of knife making. Air-powered grinding and polishing wheels speed up the process considerably over alternative methods like hand filing and sanding. If you don't want to invest in a forge and prefer to use pre-cut knife stock that only needs shaping, you'll still need polishing equipment to put a sharp edge on your products.
Don't forget the importance of keeping your metal shop and materials clean. Loose metal dust can create serious lung problems, and it's crucial to blow out the debris after each work session even if you already wear a heavy duty ventilator to protect yourself. The air compressor helps with other workshop cleaning tasks like:
- Removing every trace of dust from a blade that needs a dip treatment or fine polishing
- Directing dust and debris towards the intake on a whole shop vacuum system
- Blowing out material trapped in the grooves of drill bits and grinding pads
Forges usually work best fueled by an air blower that produces a high volume of air at a low pressure. While air compressors produce the opposite effect when running properly, small units can still work as impromptu blowers if your main device suddenly goes out when you're working under a deadline. Keep in mind it's a lot more work to turn your compressor on and off as needed to keep the flames stoked to just the right temperature for forging.
Power hammers save a lot of time and energy over hammering by hand, especially if you decide to turn a knife making hobby into a business. While there are plenty of electric models available, the most powerful and efficient units rely on compressed air. You'll likely need a dedicated compressor for the hammer since the amount of PSI needed is far beyond what the other uses require.
Even if you're a die-hard fan of hammering to shape and cut the blade by hand, eventually you'll need to trim a tang or shape the back of a blade without starting a big blaze in the forge. Air-powered grinding wheels also work well for creating smooth and clean cuts in the thickest metal stock. There's no need to heat up your workshop and wait for the forge to get settled just to do a quick cut so you can move on to the rest of the work.
With so many different uses for an air compressor, each knife making shop should include at least one or two reliable units. Buying a compressor and the air tools to match it can save you a lot of money over investing in the same tools running off electric power, especially if those tools would require you to install a dedicated power line for a three-phase outlet.Share