After growing up on the farm in Texas, James Helm knows what goes into a hard day’s work. At only 31 years old, he has pounded out blades since he was 16. For James, the transition from farmer to bladesmith did not happen overnight. He studied as an English and education major while working part time as a blacksmith in college. He also learned a lot from such famous bladesmiths as Tim Lively and Tai Goo. After college, James opened up Helm Forge to make blades full time. Knives, machetes, and even axes and swords are all offered by James. There is even a Helm Forge cleaver for cutting coconuts and wood. His knives have traveled all over the world, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, Okinawa and Russia. The U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, FBI and the Navy SEALs all use his blades. So what is it about Helm Forge’s knives that makes them so indestructible?
“It went through the soft portions of the shell like butter and cleaved the meat to make a stew very easily. It even cleaned up as good as new with a little soap.”
Why is a metal so tough when you pound on it? Without writing a book on the subject, James summarizes: “What forging creates is a chance to refine the grain of the steel more. If you make a blade from a bar stock (stock removal), there may be a chance the grain isn’t as small as you can get it. When working with steel in a forge, you go about thermally cycling it and shrinking the grain down. Also, the pounding helps shrink the grain as well.” James wraps it up by saying, “Everything else being equal, the blade that has the finer grain is going to be tougher, regardless if it was forged or made using stock removal.” That barely brushes the surface of the argument, James humbly admits, but it does make a good reason of why so many swords up until the 20th century were made using forges. Helm Forge triple normalizes the grain, and forges the blades out of ultra-tough 5160 spring steel, to make sure the blades can take a beating.
While there are a plethora of combat machetes, utilitarian swords and other hybrids out in the world, there is nothing like the Helm Bush Sword. To start off, most military-style blades are clunky and unwieldy, weighing in over a pound. The Bush Sword is light, weighing only 14 ounces, which makes it thin. This is probably what one would want in a situation where it would be carried and used regularly. Today’s adversary normally has a Kevlar vest and a helmet on, and a stabbing motion, rather than a slashing attack, would be better. The Bush Sword can do both very well, and in the remote chance that one is engaged in a hand-to-hand skirmish, it is good to know the Bush Sword is there.