Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Bunch of Knives

Some of these are from the most recent batch, others are as much as 2 years old.  I finally got around to finishing the handles, sharpening the blades, and taking pictures.

But what am I going to do with all of these?

I should explain that I don't work to particular patterns.  I normally make two of any knife I am making because I work two irons in the fire most of the time.  One piece of steel is heating while the other is being forged.  It is efficient use of fuel and time.  Several of these knives, as you can see, are either duplicates or close cousins.  That's just because of how I work.

There are a lot of knives represented here.  Some are experiments, some are just knives I like to make.  I'll tell you about them all.  Don't worry.  You can skip the words and just look at the pictures if you like.

1. A basic drop point all-purpose knife.  Hand-filling birch handle. Blade about 4" long.

2. Clip point with birch and caribou antler handle.  This one is very comfortable.

3. Smaller brut de forge blade, about 3.25", birch and caribou again.  This one was inspired by a Norwegian knife I saw, so the bevel is rather abrupt, but there is no secondary bevel at the edge.  Good wood working edge.

4. and 5. Efforts at simple seax blades from a couple of years ago.  Maple and caribou antler.  These are very pointy and the handles are just a little small for my hand.  I like them, but not as much as I want to like them.

6. Small seax with octagonal handle.  This one feels really good.  When I stamped my touchmark, the hammer bounced and there's a slight double-stamping.  Too bad, because I really like this blade a lot. 4" blade.

7. Forged in the same day as the above.  Very similar, but without the double-stamping.  Both have chokecherry handles.

8. 3.5" blade and a lathe-turned handle.  I was inspired to do this when I saw a medieval knife in one of my favorite books (Knives and Scabbards from the British Museum) with a lathe-turned handle.  This one is my first such handle.  Possibly my last.  Being completely round, it is hard to index where the edge is just by feel.  I don't like that loss of control.

9. Smaller puukko-inspired knife, using smaller steel stock than the previous knives.  Slender birch handle.  This would make a pretty good carving knife for spoons or similar projects.

10.  Almost the same as above, but the handle is a little different.  This one offers a little more variety of gripping options, but slightly less control.  You sort of have to take a choice with carving knives as to whether you want great control in one position or good control in several positions.

11. Detail carving knife.  I've done several spoons with smaller blades than this one, but it is sort of a hassle.  This is better for carving small figures and projects.  I like this one.

 My "Alaskan Puukkos" are not truly puukkos.  I wouldn't claim to make a perfect representation of a particular knife from a different culture.  I love the "blacksmith puukko" and these are some of my recent efforts inspired by this knife form.  Blades are from 3.5 to 3.75 inches.

12. Amur cherry handle

13. Birch

14. Chokecherry

15. Birch

16. Amur cherry

17. Amur cherry

18. 3" blade, Amur cherry. I don't recall where I saw this blade shape, but I liked the look and wanted to try it out.

19. The mate of the above.

20. 5.5" blade, slim, pointy.  I don't remember why I made this one, but it was a fun one.  The slim handle feels really good and that Amur cherry is just pretty.

21. Chokecherry handle, octagonal, 3" blade.  This one feels like a nice little "getting things done" knife.  I really like it.

22. Paring knife.  Forged thin, birch handle.  Nothing fancy, but it will work hard in a kitchen.  As if I needed another paring knife, right?

23. I'm calling this a Peasant Knife.  Blade just over 4".  I don't know if I like it or dislike it.  It feels good, it is very sharp, and the chokecherry handle is really rather pretty.  But the blade is so primitive that I'm not sure whether I love it or want to hide it.  This was me trying out a particular technique that seemed to make more sense in my head than it did when I was at the anvil.  Yesterday's post showed this blade with its mate, which is not shown here.  The mate is actually just bad looking.  I slapped a cruddy handle on it and will destroy it testing for performance.  If I get to that soon, I'll update the blog with what I do to test blades periodically.

For all of these knives, I used salvaged spring steel and almost all of them have handles made of free wood.  The wood all comes from branches or saplings that have been cleared or trimmed and would not make good firewood.  I just love transforming the stuff that would otherwise be thrown away into knives that will last for years and make wonderful tools.

I have not made sheaths for any of these knives.  Don't know if I will keep any.  I might keep one of the seaxes.  I love that blade form.  If I do, I will make a sheath, of course.  I just don't enjoy leather working very much.  I make a very good sheath, I just don't smile while doing it.  But it is an important part of the knife maker's skill set.  Thing is, someone who will pay $100 for a knife without a sheath won't pay the $40 more that the sheath is worth, in terms of time and effort.  The expectation is that the sheath is a freebie along with the knife.  If I were making something that I enjoy, I wouldn't mind that so much.  But I'd rather spend that time and effort working on another knife.

Well, that's a look at some of my recent work in the shop.  Tomorrow I'll be working on homework and trying to get an assignment done that I've been putting off.  Less than a month to go until graduation.  Whee.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Knives in the Works

With the current quarantine, I thought I'd find plenty of time to get things done for fun.  Ha!  The kids are home, too!  What time I have for projects is stolen in bits and drabs where I can sneak it.

However, I am working on getting a few knives finished up.  I recently made a batch of blades.  Here they are right after heat treatment:

The top two were me trying a forging technique that I'm not really happy with.  One of these will be a test blade.  The other, I don't know if I'll do much with it, but I'll get a handle on it, at least.

In the middle, a pair of small seaxes.  I love this blade shape.  I can't really justify it, I just do.

At the bottom, a pair of puukkos.  This is perhaps the most practical all-purpose blade form I make.  It is the Finnish all-around knife and the edge is very good for woodworking, though a puukko is good at a lot of cutting.  It isn't a prybar or a chopper, but just about everything else you could ask of a tool it does well.

I'm not claiming to make actual Finnish knives.  I know the puukko has become very popular lately, with some rather odd examples of non-Finnish made knives calling themselves puukkos.  I'm just going to say that these are inspired by one of my favorite knife forms and leave it there.

I had a few other blades waiting for finish grinding and handles.  I actually added a couple more after taking this picture.  Also shown are some crooked knives, a couple of gouges, and a kiridashi (wood marking knife) that will be worked on in the future.  I just put them in this batch for finish grinding.

For handle stock, I really like to use branch and sapling wood.  All of these knives have wedge construction, which involves drilling out the handle a little oversize and pounding in carefully-fit wedges beside the tangs to fill the holes.  And plenty of epoxy, of course.  The wedges give a nice strong fit and the epoxy makes it waterproof.  What more could you ask?

All of the wood was harvested locally.  It is birch (from saplings that were cleared off some garden space), chokecherry (which was being cleared from an area where it is considered invasive), and Amur cherry (branches trimmed from ornamental trees).  Part of the enjoyment for me in these knives is using free and found materials.  There's something really fun about knowing that there are beautiful handles hiding in wood that other folks throw in the garbage.

Once the epoxy has cured, I'll shape the handles, oil them, then wax them.  Then it is time for a final sharpening and they'll be ready for new homes.

This batch, I plan to just play around and experiment with the handle shapes I can get from a round stick.  Not shown is the one I turned on my dad's lathe.  A fully-round handle isn't the most practical because you can't tell where the edge is oriented without looking at it, but it can be pretty.  I'll include a picture of it with the next installment.  At that time, I should be done with the knives and ready to find them new homes.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Entertaining the little one

And the Castle Blocks make a reappearance.

This is just a fun little video from yesterday.  The enforced social isolation probably hits children the hardest, to be honest.  Adults can retreat into books and projects.  Kids need that interaction with other people.  And they need the play time.

So, because my youngest has recently started wanting to make YouTube videos (she gets to watch a lot of them when visiting my dad - though very few here at home), I offered her a chance to make one with me.

Here it is.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


March 21.  Spring, right?

Well, here's what it looked like today.

Walking the dog.

Approaching home.

The view from the top of our driveway.

I'm about ready for things to warm up and thaw.  We are supposed to see lows below zero next week.  Imagine my disgust.

Seriously, this winter has had more actual cold in terms of freezing degree days than we've had in a long time.  As a result, we've been going through the firewood and the wood pellets at a faster rate than anticipated.  We may need to restock sooner than normal, just to make it through the rest of winter.

Nothing profound today, just me feeling a bit cooped up and grumpy.

Stay well and stay warm, everyone.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Cold Outside

Yesterday, I woke up and checked the temperature.  Here's what I saw:

On March 5th.

This is getting old.  Really old.  I'm tired of the oppressive weather.  So much of what I do for enjoyment has to have the garage door up for ventilation.  That means the inside temperature is very soon the same as outside.  And that's not much fun.  

Last year at this time, my older girl and I were out in the shop making her first knife.  Now, the temperatures are just too cold for that.  

Ah, well, at least the cold temperatures are good for the receding permafrost.  There's some silver lining, I guess.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Forging Nails

When I first learned blacksmithing, I took a class through the local Folk School.  I spent two hours with 3 other students and we each left with 3 nails and a hook.  It was worth the $150.  Not for the nails.  But for the empowerment of knowing that I can actually do this.

Historically, before there were machines that make nails out of wire, every nail that was used to put a house together had to be made by hand.  This is really something amazing to consider.  Blacksmiths with no other jobs to do would be banging out nails.  All day.

I once decided I wanted to see how many nails I could make in an hour.  31.  I can make 31 hand-forged nails in an hour.  Just under 2 minutes per nail.  That's actually pretty good.  Search YouTube for hand forged nail and see how many people there are who proudly show how they can bang one out in 3-4 minutes.  I was really moving fast, I figured.  There are rumors I've heard of smiths being able to make a nail a minute.  That seemed like the upper limit to me, though.  I know I was working fast and really in the zone when I did my 31 nails.

Then I found this video:
Just skip forward a bit if you don't want to watch the smith walk out to his shed and light the forge.  Now watch him make a nail.  One heat, no wasted motion, precise work, and he makes these things in under 30 seconds!  I think he really could be knocking out 100 or more in an hour, even taking into account the time he has to spend maintaining his fire and taking a stretch break now and then.  Economy of motion is something truly elegant.

This man sets a bar I might never even approach, let alone beat.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

And a forge project

Once we were home from our little icicle-hanging outing, it was time to make some supper.  The youngest suggested kabobs.  That sounded great to all of us.  But we didn't have enough bamboo skewers!  Oh, no!  I'm not driving 20 minutes to the store and 20 back.  That sets supper back by a whole hour (including the time I'm in the store finding the skewers and probably seven other things we didn't really need, but I would pick up anyway, more like an hour and a half).

So I made some.

Remember, the weather is warmer!  I can roll up that garage door and run the small forge!  I didn't have time for any really involved projects, but I made four nice, long kabob skewers.  They have an oval cross section (the food can be turned without it simply rotating on the rod like it will with a round poker), they are long enough to hold plenty of food.

Here are the skewers, including what we couldn't eat:

Nothing profound, but a fun little forge project that made it easier to feed the family this evening.