On the northwest edge of Richmond (Glen Allen area) there is a park with an old Antebellum working farm. There is a 'Smith that uses the onsite bellows and coke furnace to make period pieces to maintain the place. Check with him on the practical applications of the hand forge. I recall that he has made a few blades in his spare time, also.
It would also behoove you to check the optimum "heat ramp" and cooling rate for your steel in a a good metallurgy reference, as this affects the formation of certain metaphase crystals and their relative concentration is a key factor in the quality of the final product.
Consider heating and cooling your shaped, ground, and previously oil quenched blade in a 2-3 inch diameter steel pipe. The pipe should have screw-on steel caps at both ends, one of which should have the smallest hole that you can drill through it. The hole will allow the expanding internal gases to exit sedately (ensure you fellow LE buds understand that you're making a thermal stabilization chamber, not a pipe bomb
). Completely surround and isolate the blade from the walls and ends by packing it with finely ground bone (dry) or fine sand with a high alumina silicate content. Heat the assembly to the desired temperature and maintain that temp for several hours to ensure the homogeneous distribution of heat within the chamber. Allow it to cool for a couple of days, preferably in the closed furnace or oven where it was heated. If not left there, be sure that it is not placed on any thing that would create a heat sink or otherwise cause a cooling differential around the chamber surfaces. If you use the bone, the result will be a very hard but not brittle steel that will withstand shock well and has the added benefit of case-hardened coloring.
[This message has been edited by Mykl (edited 10-27-98).]