Shop Dump: Steve Schwarzer

Steve Schwarzer

We Take A Look Inside The Shop Of ABS Master Smith Steve Schwarzer And See How He Makes His Mosaic Damascus Wonders

Of all the forgers of mosaic damascus in the knife industry, none stand out any more than American Bladesmith Society Master Smith Steve Schwarzer.

Steve began forging in the early 1970s. In 1981 he received his ABS master smith rating, his papers signed by none other than one of four ABS founders/BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Bill Moran, and was officially recognized as an MS in 1983. Steve has an intense passion for forging mosaic damascus and his contribution to this steel niche over the decades has been immeasurable. Unselfish to the extreme, he has forged damascus for many custom makers and tutored many on forging and the making of pattern-welded steel over the years—which he continues to do to this day.

His awards over 50 years of knifemaking are too numerous to name, as have his appearances in BLADE®. BLADE is delighted to feature Steve once again, this time in a supersized edition of “Shop Dump” to give readers a deep dive into the equipment this modern-day master uses to achieve his magical works.

Inside Steve’s Shop

schwarzer grinder
Steve rescued his Kent USA precision surface grinder from a knifemaker friend. In the process of retrieving it, Steve almost destroyed it while loading it. However, another friend restored it to better than new.

As you can imagine, Steve has acquired a lot of equipment over his many years of knifemaking and has honed his shop to perfection. We asked the artisan to give us an extended tour of his digs and he gladly obliged. He kicked the tour off with his forging hammer.

“The Chambersburg 2 Hammer was my first real game changer,” Steve notes. “I had owned several mechanical hammers before I found it. The control in forging set me apart from others. It also allowed me to work much larger masses of damascus. I have trained dozens of the current top makers pattern welding using this machine. I built my second shop around it. It’s now in my home shop.

“Next up is my custom-built 50-ton Coal Works computer-assisted C Frame press. This is a recent acquisition and is also a game changer for controlled forging. It has a return to 1/100 of an inch. Basically, it comes with millions of electronic stop blocks. It has the ability to swap dies to any configuration in minutes. I have built many presses over the years; this one has all the benefits and adaptability afforded by all the others combined. I worked very closely with the crew at Coal Iron to bring this beast to life. I’m still exploring its capabilities.”

Grinders are a must-have of any maker’s shop and Schwarzer has a passel of them. 

“I own four Beaumont grinders—one for over 20 years—and they are great machines that track properly,” Steve states. “Three are 2×72 belt grinders, two with controllers. They’re constructed of steel, making it very easy to make tooling and various fixtures for any project. The disc grinder runs perfectly true, making grinding precision angles a breeze.”

Steve Schwarzer’s Forges

Schwarzer ribbon forge
Steve’s ribbon burner is one of several forges in his shop. He designed it and a close friend built it. It’s purpose-built for working very large canister damascus.

Steve brings the heat to his steel with a forge of his design. 

“My forge is one of several I run in my shop. It’s a ribbon burner designed by me and constructed by a close friend. It’s purpose-built for working very large canister damascus. I have built dozens of forges over the last 40 years. This is the latest version. My previous forges were all versions of a Don Fogg design.”

If you’ve read past installments of “Shop Dump,” you know it’s not at all uncommon for equipment to be passed down from one maker to the next. Such is the case with Steve’s mill and surface grinder. 

“My Kent USA knee mill is my go-to for all precision drilling and milling. It was rescued from a retired knifemaker who took excellent care of it,” Steve relates. “It’s variable speed, making it handy for all types of tooling.

“I also rescued my Kent USA precision surface grinder from the same knifemaker. It had a history when I went to retrieve it. I made a rookie mistake loading it. Long story short, I, for all practical purposes, destroyed it. I broke about everything on it. I had in mind to scrap it. I called a friend who owns one and asked if he wanted it for parts. He said, ‘Let me look at it.’ I took it to his shop. He is a true wizard. He totally restored the machine I thought was lost to better than new. He also taught me how to properly grind with it. I will always be grateful.”

If walls could talk there is no telling how many amusing tales Schwarzer’s shop could tell.

“I have a shop full of machines, all with some story attached,” the affable bladesmith said. “My tool rack has dozens of hammers and tongs collected over 40 years. This is my happy place. I love teaching and sharing the stories with students and friends.”

For more information contact Steve Schwarzer through his website at steveschwarzer.com.

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