I was asked a question about the test knife for the Master Smith performance test today and want to share the question and answer with you as well as the ABS rule on this issue.
I have a question for you on the requirements for the MS performance blade that came up as I was reading the rules.
The rules state that the knife must be a stick or hidden tang construction. By this definition, is a tang that goes through the handle with a pommel nut on the end of the handle as is done with a takedown knife acceptable?
I assume that it is, but the "hidden" part has me questioning this.
It is mentioned twice in the rules and hidden is in " " marks.
The big difference between the Journeyman test and Masterâ€™s is that the Journeyman applicant may use a full-tang blade if he wishes, and the Master applicant must use a hidden tang, which is sometimes called a stick tang, rat-tail, etc. If you want to make it a take-down model, thatâ€™s just fine. It just has to be a narrow tang that inserts into the handle material and is therefore hidden.
Greg Neely, MS
Chairman, ABS Board of Directors
ABS Chairman Greg Neely,MS, wrote a series of three articles for the ABS Journal on MS and JS testing and this is the second article in the series of three and focuses on Master Smith testing. The third article was published in the Spring 2009 issue of the ABS Journal.
Assuming that the candidate has held the rating of Journeyman Smith for a period of two years or more, he or she is now eligible to enter the testing phase for Master Smith. The first step, of course, is the physical performance test, probably more commonly known as the "cutting and bending" test. On this occasion, however, the test blade must be made by the applicant of pattern-welded Damascus steel of the applicant's making. The same maximum size requirements are in force - 10 inches maximum blade length from guard to tip, a maximum width of not more than 2 inches, and 15 inches maximum overall length of the knife.
There are a couple of new twists added. The Damascus blade must consist of a minimum of 300 layers. The blade should be lightly etched, just enough so that the Master testing the applicant can see the layers and make a good estimate as to the layer count. The test blade also must be of hidden tang design. If the tang bends over during this test, the applicant does not pass, so I heartily recommend that a rudimentary handle and guard be firmly affixed to the blade, and held in place by at least one metal pin through the handle and tang. This should give enough support and mechanical advantage to prevent the bending of the tang area.
Finish is not important at this stage. The Master may ask you several questions to get a better picture of your knowledge, and he may, if he wishes, point you toward his forge and require you to either forge a blade or weld up a Damascus billet.
Given that the blade passes the performance test, the applicant must provide the testing Master a copy of the ABS form so that he can affix his signature, certifying that the applicant tested and passed on that date. Keep the form and the bent blade in a safe place until you appear in Atlanta (or San Antonio in 2012) and bring both with you to the Board review. You must bring both or you will not be allowed to pass the review! A successful test is good for a period of three years.