Monday, December 28, 2009

Knives - a discussion

Some people are afraid of knives...

There are a lot of misconceptions about knives and types of knives. There are daggers, dirks, hunting knives, folding knives, fighting knives, boot knives, buckle knives, switchblades, machetes, pruning knives, steak knives, scalpels, letter openers, box cutters and the list goes on and on. Then there are the regionally specific names: balisong, jambiya, navaja, bowie, kukri, parang, bolo, ulu, athame, etc… Obviously there are countless names for them, some of which mean specific things, some which don’t. This has resulted in many legal battles trying to define which ones are illegal to carry under certain circumstances, and which aren’t. These battles are still being fought and refought, and overturned and reviewed and revised. The reality is that a knife is any cutting edge or blade, handheld or otherwise, with or without a handle, they have been around for a couple MILLION years. They are tools, and have a multitude of uses. Even knives that are named for a specific purpose – such as a hunting knife, or chef’s knife can be used for so much more. Some shapes might be more efficient at a particular task, but you can use almost any type of knife to carry out the task of any other. Is a paring knife less dangerous than a switchblade? Odds are the paring knife is sharper, sturdier, and easier to handle. The infamous Bowie knife, which is now thought of as a fighting knife, was originally a large butcher knife, and can still be used as such.

The things that distinguish one knife from another are shape, size and materials. Some shapes are better for pruning plants for example, while others for opening boxes, chip carving, slicing cheese, or carving a turkey. Large knives are better for large tasks (cutting through the jungle), small knives for delicate or small tasks (surgery). Folding knives are better for keeping in your pocket (switchblades are not recommended for pockets), while straight knives fit in sheaths or cases or blocks. Knives have been made from bone, stone, bronze, steel and anything else that can hold an edge, or even if it doesn’t hold an edge – some uses don’t need it, like letter openers.

Some knives will never be used to cut a single thing – art knives, for example, frequently sit in a case and are primarily meant to be looked at. Even if they are designed and constructed of the best materials, the owner may choose never to use it. Other knives will be used daily for one purpose or many, again depending on the owner.

As a knife maker, I make knives because I enjoy it, not because I expect my knives to be used a certain way. If I call something a fighter style knife, it’s because it looks like that style to me, not that it will be used to fight with. A person who will never pick up a bow or rifle may still enjoy the look and utility of a hunting knife, but use it for camping chores, or opening boxes, or the mail, or to sit on the shelf and look pretty.

Knives are tools, don’t judge them on a name, don’t blame them for how they are used. If you disagree with the user, talk to the user, don’t ban the knife.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Custom orders are cool!

In my last post I showed you the nice kitchen knife with tulipwood handle that I had just finished. It sold already! Pretty exciting! On top of that I have had a couple of custom orders. Two of antler handled letter openers, and then a friend of mine asked me to reproduce a knife that his mom loves. The letter openers are finished and in the hands of their new owner. You can see them over at acrylicandsteel. The custom kitchen chopper – quite an unusual design- is still in the getting hammered on stage, so no pictures yet.

I think I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I had ordered some metal. Well, it all arrived. I thought that I had ordered CPM 154 but it turns out I just ordered ordinary CM154. What’s the difference? The P stands for Powdered – so it is put together with powdered metal with a very even grain structure. The difference to me though is that when I heated it up and hit the first piece the un-powdered version broke in half, while I had no trouble hammering and forming the CPM. Let that be a lesson to me. That was an expensive lesson to learn.

The wrought iron that I picked up (from an 1800’s grain tower in Lake Superior) is really cool. It will be featured in a hunting knife that is almost done.

OK, it WAS almost done. Now it has moved back a couple phases. It was pretty much finished, and I really just didn’t like the way that it had turned out. It didn’t really look like one of my knives, too boxy, not organic enough. So I changed it, and now it has a little bit of finish work to go again. Of course I didn’t take a picture of it before I changed it.

I’ve also almost finished a paring knife made from an old file. It still needs a little work on the handle.

Someday, I’ll remember to attach pictures to everything. But not today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Kitchen Knife LS1

I finally finished up the kitchen knife that I was working on. It looks a little different than I planned at the beginning, but that is the way it goes some times. So without further ado...introducing LS1, my first Santuku inspired slicer/carver.

Remember, if you are interested in what it looked like before, go to the Acrylicandsteel blog
If you are into recycled goods, the steel for this came from the leaf-spring of an old jeep or dodge truck. It is most likely 1086 or 1095 steel, similar to what I've used on past knives.

Erica gave me the wood for the handle last year, it is Tulipwood, and very pretty in my opinion. The Corby rivets are brass.
The whole thing is about 12 1/2 inches long with a blade of 5 1/4 inches.

I think it turned out pretty well.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Pictures from the lathe

Hmmm... This post was supposed to go to Acrylic and Steel, and the one there was supposed to go to Hangedman....oh well.

I did promise some pictures from my garage projects, so I’ll give you some of the lathe projects.

If you are more interested in the knives, check out the acrylicandsteel page.

The first project after getting the lathe was to build Autumn a table. So I turned a few 2x2’s into legs. Each one is different.

Then I grabbed a small log of Russian olive and started a vase. I haven’t managed to clean out the inside yet due to some wobble. I think I know how to deal with that now, so I’ll have to throw it back on and hollow it out one of these days. Here it is with its base still attached and a layer of finish on it, just to see how it will look later.

I’ve played with a few other pieces, a 4x4 and some purpleheart as mentioned earlier, but the most fun has been this salt cedar root. Here are a couple phases – naturally I don’t have a good before picture. Sorry.

Prior to hollowing

Post hollowing

Here it is with some finish (Mosler Oil/Wax). It’s a pretty and unique little bowl. Still needs the bottom to be finished up, and the base removed, but that shouldn’t take too long.

Oh yes, I did mention that I had cleaned up an old Boy Scout knife from Cousin Chuck – again didn’t take pictures first – someday I’ll learn. But this is how it turned out. I had to rebuild the sheath, but I think that I captured the character, and I reused the front piece to retain the original look and leatherworking. And I didn’t really change anything about the knife – just polished it up, and took away most of the rust, and sharpened it up again. Hopefully the original maker (or manufacturer) isn’t offended.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

AR7 Handle revision and Elk Hunt

Earlier this year I decided that it was time to fix the handle on an earlier knife, AR7. I just wasn't very happy with the way the whole thing went together, and it didn't feel right in my hand. So, despite the effort that had gone into it, I chiseled off the handle, and knocked off the guard.

After some thought, some time, and some more thought I decided to regrind the blade. After several iterations, I ended up with the current shape, which I like a lot better. I also shaped a new, simpler guard. I really liked the old guard, but it was a pain to try to fit a handle around.

I decided to go with redwood burl from northern California for the new handle, it is a pleasure to work with and finishes very well. The new handle feels much better in the hand, is buttery smooth, and gorgeous. I added a corby-rivet in addition to the epoxy to hold the handle on securely. Unfortunately I ground away a little to much of the rivet on one side so the center is visible. C'est la vie. Overall I was very pleased how it turned out.

After finishing it, and resharpening it, I lent it to my coworker Frank to take with him on his cow elk hunt. Above is a picture of the knife on the fresh kill. Looks good so far. I hope to hear good reports on its edge holding and performance in skinning an elk.

Here is the old blade and handle. It was perhaps more exotic, with its tiger-eye and two tone wood, blued blade, and curved guard, but not nearly a cohesive as the revised model.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reduced prices on some of my work

Hi folks,
No, haven't managed to get the pictures up yet for the pieces that I commented on recently. And more are on the way (pieces, not necessarily pictures); but in the meantime I did reduce prices on most of the knives over at by at least 10%, and post a blog over at, so go check it out, and get someone a nice Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Birthday/I love you present :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Revisions and progress

Sorely out of practice, I at least have my forge up and running again, and have several pieces nearly ready to have handles put on. Naturally, I don't have pictures to put up for you yet. I had some issues with quenching this time around, with more warping than I am used to, but despite all that, I think the products will be interesting.

I've also just finished a revision of AR7, which I was never really happy with. The new version is less complex but feels better in the hand, is put together a little better, and is (in my opinion) prettier too. I reshaped the blade some, and replaced the handle - which was very narrow, with a piece of redwood burl. I'll post pictures of that soon.

Thirdly, I bought a small lathe. Not quite sure how I will use it in terms of knife making, but hopefully I will manage to post some bowls and vases before too long. And maybe a walking stick or two, if I ever get around to trying that.

Anyway, I hope to have some new pictures up here and on Acrylicandsteel sometime soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Acrylic and Steel

Hi Folks, if you like what you see here, check out the etsy store that my wife and I have put together. Some of these knives and jewelery pieces are for sale there, as well as her artwork and crafts. Visit us at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Knives AR 22-23

AR22 - 7 ¾” overall, 3 5/8” blade. Blade: 1095 high carbon steel, small utility knife. Hidden tang. Water buffalo horn guard. Myrtlewood handle, mild steel pins.

AR23 - 7 ¼” overall, 3 1/8” blade. Blade: 1095 high carbon steel, small utility knife. Hidden tang. Deer antler bolster. Striped Ebony handle, mild steel pins. 2 pictures.

A letter opener, DSK4, knives AR20-21

Letter Opener 6 9” overall, 5” blade. Blade: Copper. Full tang. Guard: Holly with mild steel pins. Handle: Cholla skeleton w/black inlace. Pommel: Holly with mild steel pins.

DSK4 8 ¾” overall, 3 3/8” blade. Blade: High speed steel from diamond saw blade, small chefs knife. Hidden Tang. No guard. Handle: Mexican Ebony. Nickel silver corby rivet and steel pin. Red inlace filler.

AR20 - 6 ¾” overall, 2 5/8” blade. Blade: 1095 high carbon steel, mini-skinner. Full tang. Bronze guard. Banksia pod handle with black inlace, brass pin.

AR21 - 8 ½” overall, 4 ¾” blade. Blade: 1095 high carbon steel, mini-chefs knife. Full tang. Brass guard. Lignum Vitae handle, with brass tubes and pin.

Knives 17-19

AR17 – 10 5/16” overall, 5 3/8” blade. Blade O1 steel, hidden tang. Guard: Nickel-silver. Handle: Snakewood, Nickle-silver corby rivet. Finished with Teak oil.

AR18 – 8” overall, 3 ½” blade. Blade 1095 steel, full tang. No Guard. Handle: Lignum vitae, marble, mild steel pins. Finished with Teak oil.

AR19 – 13 ¾” overall, 8” blade. Blade 1095 steel. Hidden through tang. No Guard. Handle: Waterbuffalo horn, Stag antler. Pommel: Water Buffalo horn.

Knives 13-16

AR13 – 11 ½” overall, 6 ¼” blade. Blade: 1095 steel, fighter, hidden tang. Mild steel guard. Handle:Vulcanized spacer, mild steel, black and white ebony, Ancient Kauri. Mild steel pins. Finished with clear gloss polyurethane. Pommel: Vulcanized spacer, mild steel, black and white ebony.

AR 14 –sold- 3 5/8” overall, 1 5/8” blade. Blade: O1 steel, hidden tang. No guard. Handle: Desert Ironwood, Brass Corby rivet and pin. No pommel.

AR 15 – 9 1/8” overall, 3 3/4” blade. Blade: 1095 steel, exaggerated scimitar, hidden tang. Guard: Agatized Fossil. Handle: Spalted Curly Maple, Vulcanized spacer, Blue Mahoe, Brass Corby rivets. Finished with clear gloss polyurethane.No pommel.

AR16 –11 ¼” overall, 5 ½” blade. Blade 1095 steel, tanto style, hidden, through tang. Guard: Ground bronze. Handle: Black Palm, brass corby rivet. Finished with clear gloss polyurethane. Pommel: Ground Bronze, Brass eyelet, bronze dust and epoxy, solder.

Knives 9-12

AR 9 - 9 ¾” overall, 4 7/8” blade. Blade 1095 steel, hidden tang, hybrid wharncliffe-drop point hunter. Guard: Copper. Handle: Figured bubinga, stacked leather, dyed epoxy.

Sheath: 8oz folded leather, glued and sewn. Dyed saddle tan. Copper rivets.

AR 10 – made for Amy Raymond. 12 3/16” overall, 6 7/8” blade. Blade: O1 7/16” round stock, exposed tang, ritual knife-scimitar blade. Guard: Sterling Silver. Handle: Myrtlewood with Lapis Lazuli insets. Pommel: O1 with Lapis Lazuli.

Case- Holly sided box with Blue Mahoe top and bottom, Myrtlewood accents. Copper pins. Black silk lining. Finished with Teak oil. Gloss polyurethane coat.

AR 11 – 12 3/8” overall, 7 1/8” blade. Blade: 1095 steel, double edged dagger, hidden tang. Guard: Ebony and coccobollo. Handle: Birds eye maple and ebony. Finished with teak oil.

Sheath: 8oz folded leather, glued and sewn. Dyed saddle tan. Copper rivets.

AR12 – 7” overall, 2 7/8” blade. Blade: 1095 steel, utility knife, exposed tang. Guard: Brass. Handle: Coccobolo, finished with teak oil.

Sheath: 8oz. folded leather, glued and sewn. Dyed black. Copper rivets.

Knives 5-8

AR5 – 10 ¼” overall, 4 ¾” blade. Blade: 1095 High-carbon steel. Scimitar point hunter. Hidden tang. Hand filed work on spine. Handle: Ebony and steel spacers, Lignum Vitae scales around ebony core. Guard: hand filed design in high carbon steel. Stainless Corby rivet holding handle together. Blade and handle finished to 600 grit, plus 0000 steel wool., blade polished a little more than usual. Handle sealed with 3 coats min-wax rub-on polyurethane, with steel wool in between.

Blade refinished with buffing wheel.

Original Handle removed, replaced with: ebony, cow bone, ebony bolster, cholla cactus skeleton, filled with Inlace epoxy resin (black). Ebony pommel with bone plug.

Sheath – Hand stitched 3oz leather at tip and top, edges seared, treated with neatsfoot oil. Middle layer dyed bison leather, suede-side out. Interior – red oak.

AR6 - 8” overall, 4 ¼” blade. Blade 1095 Steel, drop point hunter, hidden tang. Guard: Brass, leather, brass. Handle: Picasso marble scales with laced leather strap (dyed saddle leather brown).

Sheath: Wood core, 5oz leather outer, stitched on both edges, dyed saddle leather brown, Picasso marble teardrop inlay.

AR7 – 11 3/8” overall, 6” blade. Blade 1095 steel. Hidden tang. Guard: shaped mild steel. Handle: Padauk, applewood, inlace, tigereye. Pommel: Paduak, tigereye. Revised and reshaped:

New AR7 (below)- A bit shorter overall, dimensions to come. Revised shape. Revised guard. New handle of redwood burl.

Sheath, 8oz. folded leather, copper rivets, waxed cotton saddlestitch.

New Sheath, 8oz folded leather, steel rivets, natural sinew stitching. Leather dyed prairie tan.

AR8 – 11” overall, 5 ¾” blade. Blade 1095 steel, sub-hilt fighter, hidden tang. Guard: Gibeon meteorite, filed copper with Inlace, ebony with amber inlay in finger grove, copper. Handle: lignum vitae scales with Nickel silver corby rivet. Pommel: copper, ebony, copper, meteorite, with amber inlay.

Sheath: 8oz folded leather, glued. Sewn leather straps for horizontal hang on belt.