Tuesday, August 25, 2015

USN - Knives and Pens galore

My friend Pat has invited me to share his table at the Usual Suspects Network annual show in Las Vegas for Labor Day weekend.

This is intimidating because:  
1. I have never done a real knife show;
2. They are a tactical crowd and I don’t really do tactical;
3. I don’t really like people all that much and have a hard time pushing my own work;
4. I don’t really know how to price this stuff, and general just wing it.

That said, I am interested and very curious if I can sell any of my work – be it classic or tactical.  I’ve also decided I should do some tactical style knives to increase my chances.  I’ve got some designs in mind already – just need to have the time to put them all together.

Then there are the sheaths.  People like to have places to keep their knives, and I can make leather sheaths of various styles.  BUT…tactical people like kydex, which I find to be noisy.  So I need to figure out if I can felt-line kydex to make it quiet.  And figure out if I can make kydex sheaths at all.
Experimentation is expensive and takes time.  So I need to buy a kydex kit.  I want to try wrapping handles, so I need some cord – but not just plain Para cord.  I should probably buy some taps and dies and get some other screws for handles.  I need more leather to build sheaths for the knives I already have.  It may seem like September is a long way away – but it feels like next week. (Update 5 - Now it IS next week).

Update 1: I haven’t made it that far yet, but making some knives has been fun – I think I want to do a couple machetes as well – which are a pain in the butt since they are so big.   I’ve started a kerambit of sorts, and a tanto, and a short bladed stabby knife, and a unicorn shank, ok so the unicorn shank isn’t very tactical – tacky maybe.

Unicorn Shank - Twisted CruForge V with Cocobolo and Ebony Handle.

I’ve looked for better cord than para, but haven’t been very successful, the options seem to be dyneema, spectra, and Kevlar, but they all have some problems, so I may just go with para after all. Boring, but what people are used to. And available in a rainbow of colors…like black…or drab…or rescue orange, because really, who needs any other colors?

Update 2: I want to make the knives black or grey.  Seems like the style for these things.  I was going to use GunKote – which I have used in the past, but my can of it seems to be dead, and although it isn’t hugely expensive, shipping is ridiculous and I haven’t found it locally yet.  I may check a couple gunsmith shops this weekend.  There are a couple of other options.  Bluing the knives, dipping them in acid, mixed mustards, and probably some others as well.

I did pick up some paracord – went with Digital camo.  Should look good with black.
I still don’t want to do sheaths.

I also have an idea for a knife that may take precedence over the machetes – especially since I don’t have the metal for machetes at the moment. Hmm…don’t have enough for that either. Guess I need to buy some steel.

Update 3:
I blued the tanto and the kerambit.  I paracord wrapped the tanto – which I think turned out pretty well, but I may have my friend rewrap it since I am new at this.  The kerambit got M3 Lava macromolecular material, which I think turned out beautifully.  It was my first use, and is kinda pricy, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  I’d definitely use it again. I think it would be pretty sweet on the kind of tactical folder that I don’t make. :/

The stabby knife got an acid-wash, and a coyote tan canvas micarta handle.  I wrapped it with paracord too, for good measure.  I think they all turned out well, but the kerambit is definitely the most elegant.

I started a couple more kerambits since I liked the first one so much.  I may even try to make an inside curve to the blade. I don’t currently have anything particularly good to grind that curve, but I bet I can manage.

I also have ideas for friction folders, which I haven’t done yet.  I keep trying to decide if I want to buy some titanium to use as a liner.  Decisions, decisions.

Update 4:
No friction folders in the short term at least, no time before the USN Show.

The 4 loophole knives are coming along nicely – 2 kerambits and two scimitar bladed.  Cutting ¾-1” holes is a pain in the butt. I’ve got them shaped and quenched and tempered, now I need to spend the time finishing them and putting on the edges.  I have 2 weekends left!

In the meantime I did build 15 bullet pens…

I was also thinking about rehandling AR86.  I don’t like the way the handle turned out.  That is what I get for using man-made materials.  But I have some others – so IF there is time, I will strip it this weekend and shape the replacement.  While finishing the other 4.

I still need to carve in all of the numbers and logo’s also.

Update 5: In taking the handle off AR86, I snapped it in half.  I was in a bad mood and did some stupid things - like cutting myself with a hacksaw. Never work in your shop when you are in a bad mood.  I've turned it into something new now, but that wasn't the plan.

 I did finish AR94 - A Maple handled knife - specs to come later...


Pretty sure I'm not going to have many sheaths for the show...

Another Archery Project

So, since my red oak and fiberglass tape bow broke.  And my salt cedar bow broke. And my at home laminations failed and broke, I decided to try something closer to a kit bow, and as I mentioned in a June post, I ordered a lamination kit from Bingham Projects.  The kit I ordered was: 50#, clear glass, maple outside laminations, Action-boo core laminations, and a strip of core-tuff.  I didn’t order any riser material since I have wood, but I did buy a couple strips of tip overlay.

The lamination kit arrived superfast (USPS Priority) with the instructions and blue prints a few days later.  I started by laminating my riser material together.  I had just purchased a lovely piece of curly maple from Albuquerque Exotic Woods locally, so I cut that down the middle and layered in a strip of Cocobolo that was about the right size.  After glue-up and rough sanding that seems to have gone pretty well. 

Next step was gluing the parallel laminations.  This took a little more work and a little more glue than I expected (I’m using Smooth-On epoxy).  It was a really windy afternoon.  I lay down some non-stick paper, then the fiberglass, added glue, then glued one side of the maple strip, lay down the maple, glued the other side, glued the 1st bamboo…core-tuff…bamboo…paper…then put it in my flat form and clamped it down.  Got back to it two days later and took off the paper and sanded off the excess glue.  Looks pretty good so far.

Step three – Rough shape the riser – So I cut out the curves with my bandsaw then smoothed the curves on my belt sander.  Still looking pretty good.

Glued on the riser, and the last maple lamination and fiberglass back – and put back in the press.  I used the negative riser curves to try to get a good press for the laminations up the sides of the riser.  It worked pretty well, but not perfectly.

After a little cleanup, I put the blueprint over the bow, traced out the design, and rough cut it with my band saw.  I decided that I would make it the maximum length that I could, so it’s currently about 72”.  I hope it works.  More cleanup with the belt sander and its starting to look like a bow.
Did some work on the riser to add a grip and arrow rest. 

Almost the last step – I added a couple layers of phenolic material to the tips to reinforce it for modern strings. Now I just need to shape the tips, carve in the string notches, and then try to string it. I’m afraid it will break.  It stressed me out badly enough the other night that I couldn’t sleep well.  Your hobbies shouldn’t stress you out should they?

SUCCESS! – It’s all put together and finished. Pretty! It’s a little lighter than I had targeted. The kit that I bought (at 68”) was supposed to be #50, but this one (at 72” overall) is #37.5@28 according to my scale.  Nice weight for a target bow.  I’ve got a 68” Flemish twist dacron string that works pretty well, with a brace height around 7.5” to avoid smacking my wrist.  I’ve tried it with the Nice! Archery arrows that Robert put together for me and it shoots them pretty well and consistently.  It doesn’t do quite so well with the aluminum shafts – too stiff I guess.  

I bought a set of test wood arrows to figure out the right spine - but haven't tuned it in yet.  I also had a custom FastFlight flemish twist string put together by one of the local shops.

I’d hoped that finishing one successfully would cure the bug, but apparently not.  I’d like to try something similar with a little reflex and at a little higher weight, but same length.  Maybe a little darker color- or with some fancier veneer, or maybe with some carbon. But it will have to wait a little while, there are higher priority projects.

Friday, June 19, 2015


It’s all Erica’s fault.  Some time ago she started getting a gift box subscription.  It is a monthly box (and payment) that comes in the mail with makeup stuff she likes.  We wondered what other subscription boxes were out there…turns out that there are about a bazillion. I finally found one that didn’t cost too much and looked pretty good…Kinderbox.

Now, if you are German, or took German, or speak German or read it, you’ll ask, why would you want a box of children? I certainly don’t, I have two already.  I don’t really know what the madness behind the name is, but my guess is something to do with a Tinderbox, and really, the packing material inside kind of makes you think of that.

So far its been socks, firestarters, meat snacks, knives, socks, hygiene products, and a few other miscellaneous things - like meat tenderizer brass knuckles!

I think I am on my 6th box now, and although there have been better and worse boxes, they have all been pretty fun. 







Taxes are done! And so is April and May and halfway through June…

Not a big fan of doing taxes, but they aren’t as hard as some folks make them out to be.  I used to use the paper forms every year, but since Erica’s business has been doing so well we started using TurboTax.  Unfortunately, this year I apparently didn’t take enough withholding so had to pay a bit.  C’est la vie.  At least it wasn’t thousands…

Custom Knives
I haven’t made a custom knife by request in a while, but not too long ago I was contacted by an individual who had stumbled across this blog and seen the Custom Kitchen Chopper that I made for my friend Bryan’s mom – an unusual design, and not one that I ever expected to repeat.  But that was the request, for something similar, with different wood for the handle.  On further discussion, we decided to try a stone handle.  I have some beautiful Picasso marble, that was just waiting for this project, so I ordered some steel (15n20 in this case), and have been working away at it. It’s a little thinner than I am used to working, so more prone to warping.  I think I can correct it all…   and it worked!  I think it turned out pretty darn well.

AR91 – Custom Kitchen Chopper Mk2 – 8 ¾” Overall, 15n20 Steel blade, Picasso marble handle with Loveless Bolts.  Leather Thong.

Other Knife Projects
Since I bought some new steel, I started a few more projects.  I started a new drop point hunter/skinner out of 15n20 – along the lines of the series I started last year – We’ll see how close it turns out to the size and shape of the others.
One of my staff members talked about an Ulu knife, and since I’d been thinking about making one of those for a while also, I started one of those as well.
There are also a number of blades that I started a while back…long enough that I have no idea which steels I used for them.  One looks like a steak knife at the moment.  The other… I don’t’ really know how to describe it, basic knife?  I also have some blades that are potential folders, if I ever get around to making them.

And I'm trying a couple of tactical knives...

So, I’ve tried making a few bows now.  My red oak bow with fiberglass backing was pretty good for a little while, and then snapped.  My salt cedar bow snapped the same day.  I started another salt cedar bow, but it broke before becoming a complete bow.  So I thought I would try something a little bit different, a laminated bow.  So, I bought another piece of red oak, ran it through the table saw a couple of times, and then re-laminated the pieces back together, two of the pieces were about 1/16th inch and one about 1/8th inch thick.  I had purchased some carbon fiber tape, so that went between the thick and thin, and fiberglass tape on the front and back.  I had no idea what the draw would turn out to be, but I glued it all together (in a couple stages).  I also put together a couple fancier pieces of wood for the riser: Rosewood, a little strip of Honey Locust, and some Bocote.   After a little prep work I glued on the riser pieces to the limbs (and some extra material for the nocks) shaped the combination, filed the nocks and strung it up…  It’s a little light – maybe 25-30# at 28”.  I need to pull it with my luggage scale, but that is my guess.  It definitely doesn’t have the snap that my recurve does, but it’s pretty consistent.  And, more importantly, it hasn’t broken!   And  I spoke too soon, since it was a bit light I thought I would laminate another layer on, and get creative with some recurve/decurve.  Looked good for a bit but was REALLY STIFF – I used some Ipe for the additional laminations, and then as I was getting it down to a useable weight….SNAP – it didn’t crack, but rather snapped about in half.  It looked really pretty for a little while though.
So, since this failed also, I am still thinking about the next bow.  I’ve ordered a lamination kit from Bingham archery supplies.  Pretty sure I can put it all together. 

Wood Working
Obviously, I like to work with wood, and have griped about wood allergies in an earlier blog.  I may have just moved to the next level. I didn’t do much wood work last weekend, ripped a couple of boards (leopardwood and salt cedar), and that was it for the wood, but I did stop by the Exotic Wood Store in Albuquerque, and the next day my nasty allergic reaction to wood showed up.  I’ve never had a problem with the woods that I worked with, but it is certainly possible that they had cut some that I am allergic to at the store, and just breathing it in has set off my reaction.  I apparently need to wear a respirator and long sleeves at all times now.  This does not make me happy. 

In other news, I’m a Roller Derby referee again.

Not too long ago Duke City Roller Derby split into two parts.  My wife stayed with the original group.  I think at this point she is the skater in the league who was part of it earliest in its existence.  Granted she did take some time off for children, and we did move to Oregon for a year, but still.  I have a long standing connection too, since my friends John and Nan were part of founding it, and I’d come out to practices when visiting.  After later moving to Albuquerque, I would hang out with the Derby people since they were the only ones I knew, and before long I started Reffing.  Since the league split, my wife has asked me to come back and help out – the game has changed a bit, but with a little luck I can manage.  My first game back was April 18th.  It went pretty well, awfully nice to have a full ref crew.  Don’t think I made too many bad calls.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

December through March and a collaboration!

I think its good that I have things to talk about after 3 months.

The skinner collection, started off as six knives that were about the same, and so far is 4 knives that are about the same and two that are totally different:
AR83 – W2, utility knife - sorry for the marginal picture

AR84 and 85 – 52100, Drop point skinner - Presentation knives -Oak 

AR86 – CPM 154, Drop point skinner - Ghost Jade G10

AR87 – CruForgeV, Drop point skinner - Sweet Gum

I also finished up the big Chef’s knife that I started months ago:
AR88 – 1084, 9" Chef’s knife - Walnut

Christmas season is always nice because it is one of the few times of year where people buy my stuff!  It is always rewarding to get rid of stock (old and new).  Although I still dream about getting a fancy belt sander, I’m unlikely to splurge on anything like that.  I’d like to work on my leathercraft skills one of these days (beyond just knife sheaths).  That way I could make my own messenger bag, rather than buying one from Saddlebackleather!  It would probably take more time than buying, and might actually end up costing more, but then I could say that I made it!  And that would be cool.
I could also definitely use some work on my joinery skills, and general blacksmithing (not bladesmithing). 

Maybe some year I will take some classes or something.

I don’t do collaborations often, but I committed to one.  After getting started, I realized that I don’t really know how to collaborate on arts and crafts projects.  The concept was simple, I’ll make the knife and you’ll do some etching and it will go together like bacon and eggs!  Then I started the knife, decided on a style (i.e. the metal decided where it wanted to go and I tried to make that work for me.), picked some wood that I thought would contrast with the copper, heat treated the blade, shaped the guard, shaped the handle, decided how big the copper scales would be… then thought… “wait, I haven’t asked my collaborator for any input at all!”  Then started the sheath, revised it, cut out a window for another copper window… still no input.  I’ve decided that I’ll just turn it over to him in disassembled form, with some assembled pictures and say – its ready, go to town, and hope for the best.

Here is an in progress picture.  It will be AR90.

A friend of mine has a native flute that was missing a totem/reed.  Clan name: White, animal association:Eagle.   I haven’t done any carving in a while.  It’s hard.  But I persevered and ended up with a kinda cute, Northwest style bird that could be an eagle.  I carved it out of Holly.

I haven’t been very prolific so far this year.  Most of my shop time effort has gone into the collaboration knife. But I finished up working on another Puuku style knife.  I know Puuku’s don’t have choils, but this one does, which I guess just makes it a knife J  Not sure why since I still have two that haven’t sold, but nonetheless, it is moving forward.  It’s W2, and was originally going to be one of the drop hunters before it cracked in a few spots.  Not a fancy hamon, but visible.  I need to work on my W2 skills.  Oh well. Still need to engrave the number I think.
AR89. Masur Birch and Brass with red accent - W2 Puuku.

It’s been a little while since I talked about archery.  It was a little frustrating to have my Red Oak Bow and Salt Cedar Bow Projects both fail on the same day.  They have now been combined into a small combination red oak/salt cedar takedown to replace the Pine one that I made for Autumn.  Still not the nicest to shoot, and I worry that it will crack too, but it at least will stick an arrow into the target. I'll see if I can put in a picture next time...

I’ve also been dreaming about a long bow, just not sure if I want to buy an new fancy one, a used fancy one, a partially premade one, or the parts to make one.  I have enough nice wood to make the riser just fine, but I’d need the laminations – since my self-bows haven’t been too successful. 
Part of me wants the bow to be MINE – and I’ve got some ideas, but I want some of the work to be taken out. Bingham and 3Rivers both sell what I need, but Bingham will sell me a package that has the approximately correct draw weight, which I might mess with anyway – because I am like that.  I’d also like to try a little reflex/deflex action, a slightly radiused riser, and a variety of other more challenging things.  We’ll see how it all turns out.  I wouldn’t mind making my own laminations also – so I might do all of these things. 

In my spare time…Did I mention that Erica wants me to start reffing again? I should probably practice that too.

That said, I really enjoy my Sammik Journey, and have been shooting with it regularly in the back yard.  I can get a little more than 20 yards worth, and my grouping is getting better.  I bought some fancy arrows a while back from Robert at Nice! Archery in Albuquerque, and they are DEFINITELY nicer than the cheap (less than half the price) ones I picked up at Sportsman’s Warehouse – fly better, group better, etc…  but I am getting better with those too.  And take-down bows make a lot of sense, since you have the option of not having a 6 foot stick sitting in your back seat/hand/backpack.

I think that's enough for now.