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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Guide to Knife Metal

All steels are not the same. Even those with the same ingredients are not the same. The time, care, and precision of manufacture that go into making a quality knife are more important than its material. Carbon content is not the only factor, as there is an ideal range for specific uses. The most extreme of these uses is knife throwing. High carbon knives, or knives that are too bendable, or thin fail quickly. Any knife can be thrown, but only good quality throwing knives, or special multiple-function knives can be thrown repeatably. Grades of steel are plentiful enough to be confusing. Just check out the following list.

Blade materials

Of these, only a few are good for throwing knives.
1050 carbon and 440C stainless are among the best for throwing in terms of tensile strength, which lends well to general toughness of the blade. To lend to the confusion there are very inferior 440A, 440B, and those just listed as 440. 440C is the only blade material of the 440 group that is referred to as a supersteel.

 Browning 122BL knives

 A good throwing knife has less carbon than a good cutting knife, at 1% or lower, but generally higher than .4%. Molybdenum and manganese seem to lend these steels toughness rather than a bitingly sharp edge. Cutting edges in throwing knives tend to be duller than other knives, due to the danger to the thrower. Piercing geometry and balance are more important.

A well made knife from 1055 carbon or 420HC stainless can also be pretty good. Plain 420, however is plain awful for throwing. 420 with the low levels of carbon typical of stainless cannot form the tough crystalline bonds of the higher carbon blades. This makes it too pliable to thunk into logs without bending and folding. 420 also can lose its edge quickly, so is inferior for regular knives as well.

AUS 8 and ATS 34 seem to perform well from what I've read, but I have yet to find tensile strengths or comparable values for these. CPM metals would likely hold up well to throwing, depending on carbon content, due to their uniform structures.

Don't throw D2 steel.

D2 tool steel (almost stainless steel) is premium level for holding its edge, but forms carbides in its structure. If you throw this premium knife, you will eventually pay a price. Carbides are strong, but fail catastrophically, by breaking apart like glass. So score and cut away with these knives, but never throw them.

High carbon steels will be similarly brittle, although they are super hard. So don't throw that high priced, high carbon knife. Stainless steels are tougher, usually. (The exceptions being 1050 and 1055, which are strong metals with no real chromium content- therefore non-stainless).

What is good for a hunting, skinning, and all around outdoorman style knife is unlikely to be a good throwing knife. Don't test out the good hunting knives for starting out throwing. Use a throwing knife. If you don't want to buy a good throwing knife  for a hobby that you're unsure about, then just go ahead and buy the cheap throwing knife set from These should come in at under $10. These will last longer than kitchen knives in that log out back. Whetstone Trio

Keeping stainless from rusting.

Many stainless steels rust. Silicone based car-wax will prevent this. The same treatment will work for 1050 and 1055 carbon steels. Grind only lightly... better yet use a whetstone. Over grinding thins the metal, and may make it lose its original heat treatment due to the heat imparted by grinding. Whetstones carry none of these risks, but you should use a quality whetstone for a quality knife. Learn how to use it properly.

How to sharpen a knife with a whetstone

Only sharpen the cutting or piercing edge, and try to maintain the original geometry, unless you plan on converting the blade into a different type or usage. Once a blade loses it's geometry, it's nearly impossible to restore to its original state.

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Science How to Guide

Every once in a while scientific fields become so saturated and mature that progress seems impossible. What is needed is a new science. But inventing a science from scratch would take more than a lifetime and acceptance is unlikely. Fortunately, there is a solution. Areas of science that overlap are often under developed. They are also complex. With the science of heuristics, and isomorphic studies (universalization of patterns and rules, which are applicable to more than one area),  and lots of mathematical and concept based research new sciences are possible.

There is a caveat, however. Young sciences, like startup businesses, must behave differently than mature sciences. What is unproven must be tested, whether it's been done, or is thought to be practical. In other words, rather than the unproven being considered false, it is considered possible, if there is any way of approaching it experimentally left at all. This is one of the only ways to produce scientific progress. Scientific method is good for textbooks, but not an effective way of producing progress. The old empirical method of trial and error is best for producing progress in a young scientific field. This is equally true of the areas of overlap between seemingly mature sciences.

Another point to consider is, for a science to be considered and developed further in society, it must be useful in producing something new. With overlap, a lot of old things can be made more efficiently, but new possibilities produce interest. The science must also be relatively open... with no secrets or expensive textbooks. Amateurs often produce more results (with varying levels of success) than experts because they don't "know" that certain things aren't supposed to work. Whatever works, will work... let's just leave the testing to the experts.

Some work in developing these sciences can be done by putting the applicable math and physics in computer code or scripts. Making computer models is sometimes more possible than multibillion dollar projects for amateurs. If you don't know programming, there are many free resources online that teach it. Even free programming tools. Blender (the 3d modeling tool) is relatively open to being coded.. it seems to use python scripting.

So to sum it up. Invent a new science by doing the following.

1. Pick two or more sciences with interesting areas of overlap.
2. Define the rules or criteria that enable the sciences to work together well.
3. Test new ideas and experiments to try. Or model them.
4. Viable sciences will create new things, and be able to be learned by an amateur community.

Last of all... if the science doesn't seem to be currently viable. Don't waste the effort that you've already put into it. It may make interesting stories, games or short youtube videos. The inspiration from amateur science may just be what we need to pull our little world from its current stagnation.