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.