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.