Sunday, November 28, 2010

On the 11th month of 2010, my workshop gave to me…

One month ago I posted the Blackthorn Knife, which is winging its way off to Australia. I can’t believe it’s been a month. I can’t actually believe that 2010 is almost over either, I feel like it just got here. Oh well. It’s been a good year.

These days I have a hard time remembering what I did a half hour ago, let alone a month, but I’ve definitely made some knife progress.

I finished up a few revisions – most notably AR36, which I think will still change a little - I want to do a little wood burning on the handle...

AR36 Pear handled Chef's knife

and AR39,

AR39 - Sycamore and Amaranth Fighter - Leaf Spring Knife

completed a new Kukri-Machete (AR52),

AR52 - Curly Maple Kukri

a set of two chef’s knives(AR53 and 54 and their blocks),

AR53 - 6" Chefs Knife - Marblewood handle, Oak and Coccobolo Block

AR54 Redwood Burl 6" Chefs Knife, Rock Maple and Cherry Block

made Creepy Cleaver Mk II (Monster Cleaver!(AR55)),

9 1/2" Monster Cleaver - Staghorn Sumac Handle

am making slow progress on John from New Jersey’s blue stainless bowie and threw a couple new irons in the fire (Bigger Chef’s knife , probably paring knife, another mid-size kitchen knife and a hunting knife).

I am also continuously amazed at how dirty my hands get, even after washing a few times, using pumice soap and all that, and they still have little tiny metal bits in all the pores and crevices.


That's all for now folks.

Happy Holidays, and hopefully I will have more to share before Christmas!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blackthorn Blade

The Blackthorn Blade is finally finished, complete with a show stand (made of ebony and holly), and a belt sheath (basswood liner, dyed 8oz cowhide back and loop, bison leather front). The concept and the blackthorn of the handle were provided by NRJJ.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)is a tree with an interesting history, being used as the traditional Irish shillelagh, walking sticks, and sloe gin from the berries. I was intrigued by the idea, and had a blade that seemed appropriate, in a sgian dubh style, so, with some discussion we decided to go for it.

It’s been quite a process to get this knife to where it is today. I’ve posted a few pictures of the process, but thought it might be nice to put them all in one place.

The blade is hand forged of 1095 high carbon steel in my charcoal forge and quenched and heat treated by me as well.

I worked on the blade first and, keeping with the blackthorn concept, put some vine and thorns file-work on the spine of the blade. This was my first file-work of that type.

Next I added a stacked water buffalo horn and nickel-silver spacer, to blend from the blade to the handle.

NRJJ sent me a number of root and branch pieces of blackthorn to pick the right one for his knife. One of them stood out to me as the obvious choice, so I shaped the end knob on the sander.

The wood itself is pale for the most part, but this particular piece has some interesting coloration in the knob, which stands out pretty well, and contrasts nicely with the dark bark.

Unfortunately the wood was a little thin as soon as you got any distance from the knob. In order to match the spacer, and provide a sufficiently robust handle, I had to split the blackthorn horizontally, which left a big gap between the top and bottom. I put it together anyway, and smoothed out the transition between the spacer and the handle, exposing some of the pale wood.

We decided that a black material would be the best to fill that gap, and to contrast with the wood. It worked pretty well, but is a pretty messy process.

In cleaning off the excess, some more of the dark brown bark came off. So, I had a situation – how to blend the very pale wood, with the dark bark. I cut the bark near the knob so that it wouldn’t peel, and then started applying layer after layer of finish.

After putting it all together, I decided it needed something shiny to break up the black, so I filed a couple of stainless pins, and that worked out pretty well. After a few more layers of finish, it was about done.

I worked the blade to hair popping sharp, and had a finished knife – except for marking the blade, which fortunately I didn’t screw up either.

An idea popped into my head when I was looking at the knife and its contrasts in black and white. I thought – hey! Let’s turn a ball of ebony and holly. That would be fun. So I glued together some ebony and holly, and spun away. The leftovers became the sides of the stand, and the ball holds the blade. A little arty, but I like it.

Since that was a little odd, I decided to make a sheath as well. I think it turned out pretty well too, and is much more understated than the stand.

Final result: ~NRJJ~ II: 4" Blade, 11" Overall.

And that... is that.

Unusual, but fun.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A few more knives

I've had a little more time now that Erica isn't playing roller derby. And I get to spend a little bit more time in the shop. I also spend a little bit more time at work now that I am the (acting) Director of Environmental and Natural Resources for the Pueblo of Laguna. As usual I am experimenting with a few things, and here are the current results.

AR49 - Redwood Hunter. Nice little drop point hunter, with a blacked out blade. The matte black Gunkote is really easy to work with! Much easier than the Gloss Gun Blue, which you will see in a while. AR49 has a 3 3/4" blade of forged S35VN, and is 9 1/4" overall, the handle is redwood burl from northern California, and brass pins hold it together.

AR50 - Black Mesquite Tanto. Only my second tanto, this one has a slightly dropped point, which might make it a drop point tanto? I don't know, knife naming conventions are a little odd. I'd never used black mesquite before either, didn't even know it existed. AR50 has a 3 3/8" blade of forged S35VN and is 9 1/8" overall. I hand ground the stainless guard, and am pretty happy with how it turned out. It also has a stainless pommel, and the black mesquite handle is held together with stainless pins.

AR51 - Paring knife? Another stab at using file steel. And some slightly bizarre handle material - Saguaro cactus spine. Not quite as dramatic as cholla cactus, but maybe one of the other pieces will stand out more. AR51 has a 2 3/4" blade made from an old file, and is 8 3/8" overall. It has Saguaro cactus spine as the handle, with kingwood accents at the front and back, and a single brass pin to hold the tang in place. Not my standard handle shape, but I like the way it looks. Kind of a Japanese style in my mind.

My kukri isn't done yet, but here is a taste.

Thats all for today.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Knives!

OK, some of them are really old – like AR32 for example (on the right), which I’m pretty sure I started in 2008 – But it’s done now, and even has a sheath.

AR32 – Moonstone Dagger

4 7/8” Blade made of hand-forged O1 tool steel. 10 ¾” overall length. The guard is made from a piece of Gibeon meteorite, the handle is Gabon ebony held together with stainless steel pins. There is a moonstone cabochon set in the pommel end (although you can’t see it in this pic).

With it is AR 40 (on the left), which I think will be a necklace dagger – that is what it was designed as at least.

AR40 has a 2 7/8” blade made of file steel, and is 6 ½” overall. Some of the file cuts are still visible on one side. The handle is also Gabon ebony, and it is held together with brass and mosaic pins.

I also finally finished up the toffee and oyster knives for Teddystartedit. She sent me the English walnut that the toffee knives and their blade guards are made of. The are intended to be used to break up huge quantities of walnut toffee next month.

Walnut Toffee Knives – Both of these are about 6 ½” overall with approximately 3 ½” blades. I turned the handles from English walnut. The ferrules are made of bearing bronze, with a black vulcanized spacer for contrast, mosaic pins, and an onyx cabochon set in the end of each.

The Pear Oyster Knife is also about 6 ½” overall, with a 3 ¼” blade. The handle is turned from fruiting pear – which is very pleasant to work with! Its ferrule is ebony, and has a mosaic pin as an accent.

Next is AR45 – and I’m not really sure what to call it, but it works very well on leather, and has a good mass to it in the hand.

AR45 – unusual kitchen knife.

The 3” blade is has some forging scale left on, and is made of 1080 high carbon steel. It is 8 ¼” overall with a full tang. The handle is cocobolo, with copper pins and tubing. Its stand is also cocobolo.

Then AR46 – Tulip carver. It has a 2 ¼” blade of Cru Forge V, and is 6 ¾” overall. Its handle is tulipwood and is held together with brass Loveless bolts. I haven’t figured out what to do about a stand or sheath for it.

AR47 is sitting in my kitchen working as a paring knife.

It is made from an old file, and the hamon stands out on occasion, but not in all pictures. It has a 3” blade and is 8 3/8” overall. The handle is figured bocote, and it has stainless pins.

Last but not least for this post is the Tactical Hunter AR48. It’s 4 ½” blade is forged from CPM S35VN stainless steel, an is 10 1/8” overall. The blade is coated with a matte black finish called Gunkote. The guard and acorn nuts are copper. The handle is made of black canvas micarta.

And I think that’s all for now. Still a lot left on the bench though!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Novelty and Experiments

A month or three ago I picked up a product called Gunkote by Brownells, as a result of conversations with a couple of clients, and some research. The product is supposed to protect metal (from rust, scratches, general yuck, etc…), and make it look, well, that depends on the color you buy, but in this case, Matte Black. And it is supposed to stick to stainless, which ordinary bluing chemicals will not. Not paying attention when I purchased it, it calls for sand blasting the parts with 120grit al-ox prior to a matte gray before coating. I don’t have a sand blaster.

I’ve also recently picked up some fancy schmancy CPM S35-VN stainless steel from Crucible (through which is supposed to be the sh**, as they used to say back when I swore more. It is a lot thinner stock than I usually work with, but that should play to the strengths of the steel (ie toughness).

Thirdly, once upon a time I bought some Black Canvas Micarta. Generally I use exotic hardwoods, but I thought it might be interesting at some point.

And lastly, I decided that I should be carrying one of my own knives a little more often. I had been carrying Folder 3, but got sick of stabbing myself on its poorly closed blade when I went for my keys. Right now, I am carrying Folder 2, which is a nice little (blade is under 2”) knife that turned out ok, but not really nice enough to sell. I’m not really in the mood to do Folder 4 yet, so a fixed blade it is.

And a fine time to try out all of the above.

The forging, shaping, grinding, or the 35VN went pretty well and I like the shape it turned out. The quenching and tempering seemed to go well, so I decided to move on…

I brought the blade to about 120 grit, then went back and scoured it with 80 in circles, then soaked it in some acid for a little while to etch the groves a little deeper and get rid of any polished bits that might make the Gunkote flake off. Coated liberally with baking powder and scrubbed with that for a bit to make sure all the acid was gone. Washed with soap and water, washed again with degreaser, and more soap and water. Then put it down and sprayed it. With a little too much vigor apparently, since it started dripping. So I scrubbed it off again, cleaned it again, grabbed it with the vice-grip, and gently sprayed both sides, and set it to dry with any dripping headed for the handle, which will be a hidden tang.

After waiting the indicated 30+ minutes for the blade to dry, I stuck it in the pre-heated kitchen oven, and baked at 310F for 60 minutes-ish. Then took it out and let it cool in the shop. Looks pretty (if you like matte black), and all of those 80/120 grit scratches are gone too!

Can’t tell yet how it holds up, but so far so good for the first two experiments.

Experiment three… Micarta. It grinds very easily, smells bad, is very dusty, seems to glue very well. The canvas pattern is interesting, and it feels pretty good in the hand.

I put it all together with a copper guard, a couple of copper acorn nuts and some black epoxy.

It looks very military to me. Not my usual style at all. If I worked in Kydex, I might be tempted to

make that sort of sheath, but I don’t and don’t like it either. So leather it will be, probably with copper fixin’s. I haven’t quite decided yet if I want to do a horizontal or vertical carry sheath. We’ll see.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Late August Bench Update

Updates and progress for late August…

This isn’t really ALL that’s on the bench, but most at least. The picture below has the new Kukri/machete, which isn’t above, and its missing the three oyster/toffee knives, and the Blackthorn blade, which will get its own post soon I think, I think that there are a couple other ones missing too, hard to keep track.

Obviously there are a couple of knives that are almost done. From the top … Paring knife with bocote handle – which is undergoing kitchen testing; Wood carving knife with tulip handle; Revised Santoku with redheart handle (requenching a thin factory blade didn’t well, so it will do kitchen duty at home as well); Odd kitchen chopper with Coccobolo handle; and a smattering of others which aren’t quite as done.

If these don’t look quite the same as the blades on the right side of the first picture, it’s because they evolved a little between the two pictures, under the grindstone. From the top: 1080 Kukri/Machete; CPM 154 Bowie; S35VN Hunter; (right) Small File steel knife; and a pair of utility knives, and they have moved on since this picture too. One of the utility knives is going to be Tanto style now. And the Bowie is looking pretty sweet (if I do say so myself J).

The Blackthorn Knife is progressing well, as are the toffee knives – and I hope to finish them very soon.

More soon...I hope :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Perfect Knife

You’d think that as a knife maker, it would be my goal to make the perfect knife. Or at least the perfect knife for me. But what is that? Do I have the skills?

Problem 1: I like the function of folding knives and generally prefer the appearance of a fixed blade. OK, so that isn’t too big a deal, I can certainly work the ideas together from a design standpoint.

Problem 2: Folding knives are a pain in the butt to make. My shop is pretty basic, and precision machining is not really within my repertoire. I’ve made 3 folders so far, and the first one turned out the best. Isn’t that backwards? 1 and 3 are liner locks, and 2 is a lock back, so it was a different mechanism. I like the solidity of a lock back, but liner locks are easier to make. 3 is my carry knife at the moment, and it doesn’t snap closed right. Reaching into a pocket for a wallet and coming out bloody from a partially opened knife is not a good thing. Otherwise the knife is pretty good. But not perfect.

Problem 3. I like assisted opening knives. And don’t know how to make one. I had a great little knife from SOG , a Flash II ( ($84), and lost it a year or two ago. It had a few issues. A: Partially serrated, some people like it, I don’t; B: The lock wasn’t in the right place to make the assisted opening useful. Grab knife, try to flick open, locked, use other hand to unlock, flick. Not good; C: Not hard enough, so lost its edge too soon; D: Not the most ergonomic handle. Pretty much everything else was awesome, the assisted opening mechanism, the low clip, the TiNi coating, the size. I was sad to loose it, but I never replaced it either.

I think the next step up in a factory knife for me would be a Benchmade 585BK MiniBarrage, an assisted opening, plain edge, harder/better steel, Benchmades Proprietary BK coated knife. $140. (

I’ve thought about buying either a kit knife or a new assisted opening knife, ransacking it for parts, and making my own blade, but that seems like cheating. I did pick up a lockback knife kit, and plan on doing some part mimicking, despite the cheating aspect.

Problem 4. I don’t really know what I want it to look like. That’s really a big problem. I can figure out the blade shape I think, since I like drop points. And I like a relatively short blade – I don’t usually do a lot of big cutting jobs. Should feel substantial, but not heavy. I like natural materials for a handle, but there are so many!

I can usually figure out what I don’t want it to look like. For example, I love the technology behind the diamond blade friction forging, and the function seems spectacular – superhard edge but not brittle, effectively stainless. But I don’t like the appearance of ANY of them. No offense guys – just not my style. I also can’t afford them (this one is $495).

Maybe the real problem is that there is no perfect knife, even for one person, but I think that I might just be approaching the time when I am ready to start trying for it. And, successful or not, sometimes it is the journey, not the finish line that is the real benefit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Temper Temper

I've just learned that it is hard to take pictures of hamons (or temper lines). When they do show up on my knives they are usually pretty hard to see, but this one jumped out at me when I was still down at 120 grit. The blade is made of an old file, so is probably W1 or W2, which are supposed to make pretty nice hamons. It seems to be true in this case at least.

The pictures are a little out of focus, but at least the lines are visible. They did fade for a while at around 800 grit, and then disappeared when I ran the fine polish buffing wheel on the blade. The lines didn't show up again with 1000, 1500 grit or flitz polish, but I remembered reading something about dipping in acid to bring it out. I tried it, and surprisingly out it popped.

I like the lines, they add some interest to an otherwise simple blade. I guess I'll have to try harder to get them to pop out.

Just thought I'd like to share.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the Bench update

It's been a few months since I've had an on the bench update. I think that pretty much all of the ones from last time have moved on to some form of completion. Of the new pieces, some obviously need a lot of work, and some are pretty close.

From the top: New machete - although the old one didn't end up quenching or tempering properly, there was enough interest that I'm trying again. This time with 1080 carbon steel. Not quite as cool as using a old leaf spring, but at least a known material.

Future Bowie - This will be my first bowie, a slightly more advanced version is in the picture below, currently a 6 3/4" blade of CPM 154 stainless steel. It'll be a pretty big knife.

4" Dagger (on the left) - have I mentioned that daggers are a pain? This one is made of CPM S35VN stainless. It is coming along better than expected. I anticipate a slightly more elaborate version of the larger of the two daggers below. (It is the same dagger as in the next picture down).

Light Hunter, backup knife (also see top knife in pic below) - this is also CPM S35VN stainless, which turns out to be pretty good to work with, but still not as easy as high carbon. I understand the desire for stainless stuff though. Anyway, I think that this will be a very pretty piece in the end.

Small Paring knife - This one has been around for a little while, but now it is quenched and tempered. File steel - probably W1 or W2.

Small Utility knife - I decided to turn this little scrap of O1 into a blade also, I think it will make a pretty nice chip carving knife or for art projects or something.

Oyster Knives 1 and 2 - Making slow progress on these, it took a while to draw out the extra steel, but they are getting close, and the handles are making progress too, even if you don't get to see those yet :) One is obviously more polished than the other. They have both been quenched and tempered.

Mushroom knife? CM154 (not CPM) NRJJ suggested this idea, and it is making slow progress, its been quenched and tempered, but needs some grinder work before moving on to next stage.

And finally, the leaf spring fighter - version 3 of the LOR machete, and the last try before I give up on this leaf spring. I left it a little thicker this time, but only time will tell.

I actually made a little more progress after taking the top pic, so here are the backup hunter, 4" dagger, and Bowie as of July 12.

The blackthorn knife inspired by NRJJ and Sgian Dubh scottish knives has made a little progress, Water buffalo horn and nickel silver for the bolster, and the future handle material of blackthorn.

And I'm just putting the last coats of finish on the upper dagger (O1 steel), and working on a neck sheath for the smaller (file steel dagger).

There is certainly more in the shop than those, and I still need to make a lot more sheaths for some of the older knives, and knife blocks, and maybe a presentation box or three. But you get the idea.

Take care all!