ABOUT GRAHAM CLARKE
Although I haven’t been a Bladesmith all my life I have long been associated with Bladesmithig and I particularly love the metallurgy of Bladesmithing. I’m an Essex Boy but I’ve spent half my life in South Africa (34 years), re-locating to Wiltshire in 2017
My grandfather first whetted my interest in metal when he showed me how to re-harden the tip of a screwdriver using a paraffin blowlamp and old motor car engine oil. That was over 55 years ago.
Between then and now I’ve qualified as a metallurgist, worked on the manufacture of guns, shells, tanks and rockets for the British Armed Forces, diamond drilling bits for the oil industry and processing equipment for nuclear fuels. I’ve always been intrigued by materials (not just metal) and their fabrication. For over 20 of my years in South Africa I provided a heat treatment service to the engineering industry. South Africa is also blessed with many of the worlds greatest Bladesmiths I was privileged to be able to work with quite a few of them.
To me a blade (I can’t mention the “K” word or I won’t be allowed to advertise!!!) has so many different features from its aesthetic appeal to its functionality in terms of edge retention and blade toughness. Being as metallurgist it’s easy for me to determine which material and what properties are ideal for your blade. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for hunting, cooking, or fishing. It’s what you want from your blade that’s important and it’s my goal as a Bladesmith to provide that for you.
Generally I usually make blades from stainless steel. I’ve nothing against carbon steels, they make very, very good blades. However, modern stainless steels are simply better in most circumstances. They hold an edge better, they are tougher and also very corrosion resistant. Are there drawbacks to stainless steel blades? Yes of course there are, most engineering applications using metal are a compromise of one sort or another. Stainless steel is much more difficult to fabricate and heat treat than carbon steel in order to obtain optimum properties. But get it right and the bladee is better. Even more so if using one of the new generation powder metallurgy steels (steel made from powder and not by melting).
In recent years i have spent a lot more time bladesmithing and most enjoy forging blades and axes. This interest has developed further in that I now offer bladesmithing tuition at the Vlakvark Forge Bladesmithing School.
I also have an interest in Lapidary – the cutting and polishing of gemstones and I work mainly with Southern African gemstones. Combining the two interests and making bladees with stone handles is what I enjoy most. Stone is a fabulous material for a blade handle. It’s cool to the touch, impervious to anything you’ll subject it to in normal use and it will outlive you and the blade. However, contrary to some popular belief, stone handled blades do not shatter if dropped. All my blades have a lifetime guarantee and the stone handle will be replaced free of charge if damaged. Stone is, after all, already several millions of years old and has been heated and pressurised to a degree we cannot imagine during its creation. Once polished though, it has a beauty that has to be seen to be believed.
I also use wood and synthetic material for blade handles such as G10 and carbon fibre, again because they are so durable.