I was brought up around all sorts of crafts and the outdoors. Woodworking and leather crafting seemed to be interwoven into my genes, but really didn’t have much in the way of knife making, although my dad did make a knife or two in his younger days.
I’ve seen some of my buddies making wooden spoons, which for any of a million reasons seems to hit a chord with something deep inside. Rather than buying some of the necessary knives for spoon making, I thought why not see if I could make a decent knife that might get me closer to making spoons.
I initially took an existing X-acto blade and created a handle in which I could house it, which was sort of like making a knife, in some small way. After a few other iterations, adjusting the blade types on each one, I decided I wanted to try making one that was a bit more substantial.
I bought a sheet of metal that was around 1/8″ thick, with which to create the blade on this knife build. I drew out the shape of what I wanted, and then marked it onto the sheet of metal, and used a cutoff wheel in my Dremel to trace most of the shape and then a Milwaukee Sawzall for the majority of the through-cutting on the blade. I finished up some of the connecting cuts with a hacksaw, so I had the most control over the blade as it broke away from the blank.
I took my blade over to the grinder and set the rest so it was 90-degrees to the wheel, as initially I only wanted to clean up the surfaces, removing any jaggedness or ridges. As the blade was still full thickness all the way to where the cutting edge would be, there was less chance of drawing out the temper as long as I didn’t linger.
Next it was time to start working on the bevel(s) for the blade. I began by testing a completely free-hand presentation of the blade to the wheel, but this felt like it was still out of my league (even though I’d free-handed a couple of hatchet heads with decent success), at this point.
I’ve owned a Tormek wet grinder for around 8 – 9 years, but I’d decided I wanted to give my newish Baldor grinder some work, even though I knew it would require a much lighter touch as well as closer attention. One of the things I’ve always loved about the Tormek is the adjustable metal frame on which the accessories ride, and I know some will install the same in front of their dry grinders, so they can use the same gear. One of the Tormek accessories that came with my kit, the SVM-45, is made for sharpening knives. I decided to see if there was some way I could use this jig to make my grinding on the knife blade better. As it turned out, I was able to set my grinder rest at the correct distance away from the wheel, and then keep a ledge on the jig against the outside lip of the rest. This gave me a solid pivot that allowed me to quickly create a good bevel on each side of the blade, with a geometry that looks good to my eyes.
I used a flat diamond Dia-fold hone for the first stage of sharpening, which is pretty easy, as the grinder creates a hollow bevel. The hone just needs to stay in contact with the very edge as well as the other side of the hollow, which most people will feel, or learn to feel in short order. After I had the full length of the cutting edge, on both sides, showing a consistent surface from the hone, it was time to stop. Next I used a 4000-grit Japanese water stone that is about 4″ long and 1/8″-3/16″ thick, and with it soaked in water, use the same motion on the blade. When the edge on both sides is changed, and consistent, it’s time to again stop. The last step I use is a piece of hard wood, about 6″ long x 1″ wide x 1/4″ thick, with some of the Tormek honing past spread over the wood. The wood is then used just like the previous hone and stone, and should result in a completely polished cutting edge. Depending on your steel, this will be shaving sharp or close.
I used a piece of Avodire (white mahogany) as the knive’s handle, which I shaped so it felt good in my hand, and was large enough to contain the tang of the blade. I decided to split the handle on the band saw, and then I marked around the tang on one side.
I used my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 to remove enough wood from the first side, so it was half the thickness of the tang. I mimicked this procedure on the inside of the second half of the handle, and obtained a very nice fit. I roughed up both sides of the tang, to make sure the glue would have the best chance to create a solid bond. I mixed up a fair amount of epoxy and spread it on all inside surfaces, to make sure everything would end up bonded tightly. I used a couple of clamps to keep a consistent pressure across the handle until it was fully cured. I used an X-acto knife to trim away any epoxy that ended up on the outside of the knife’s handle, and then followed up with a very light cut with my spokeshave.
I recently purchased some Birchwood Casey True-Oil, and wanted to use this as the finish for the handle. I found during some experimenting, that using a paper towel to apply this finish, ended up a much thicker application than was needed. Instead a small piece of linen material was the optimum application tool, as it kept the oil very thin, which was perfect. I applied two coats of True-Oil, which ended up providing some good protection, but didn’t get so built up that it was slick in the hand. After the oil dried, I used some 0000 steel wool to make the surface feel as nice as possible, without loosing control.
I decided to take a leap and do a little bit of file work on the back of the blade, as I’d always thought about trying this and this seemed the perfect opportunity. I found some aspects were easier to accomplish after I got going, so this may just be something I’ll do on any knife I make. I used a small conical diamond Dia-fold file as I liked the look and feel of the recess surface. I made five divots on the back, which has some personal reasons I’ll keep to myself at this time.
Yesterday, my best bud was in town, and we had the chance to mess around with a couple of the knives I’ve made, as well as a few of my hatchets (the Plumb, the Sears and the Gransfors Bruks – large carving version). I found a dead ~4″ limb on one of our Osage Orange trees, which I was able to pull down. After cutting a couple of 12″-18″ pieces from the long limb, we used the hatchets to remove some of the bark until we were down to the brilliant colored heartwood.
Now that we were at the heartwood, we used the knives to work on some paring cuts and different hand positions. One of my knives has a single bevel, while the most recent knife has a dual bevel. My buddy was having a little more difficulty using the single-beveled knife, which wanted to dig into the wood rather than providing the easy control of the other knife. As he mentioned the issue, I looked over and knew exactly what was up. My buddy is left-handed, while I’m right-handed. Why is this important? When I used the older knife, the bevel was on the downward facing side of the blade, which allows it to start down into the wood, and swoop back out easily. For my buddy, the flat side was down, and if it even just barely dives into the wood, it will want to keep going deeper. So, if you make yourself a knife, for the most flexibility, make it with a bevel on both sides of the blade. If you decide to make it with a single-bevel, make sure it is on the correct side of the blade, so it is against the wood when you are holding the knife in your most comfortable position.
I also made a hand-stitched leather sheath for both knives, which protects the knives during transit as well as protects those around the sheathed knives. You can use some cardboard, wrapped around the blade a few times, followed by some strong tape, if you just need to provide basic protection to the knife’s edge.
I was nicely surprised at how well the knives behaved, and mostly with the newest knife. It held its edge nicely, even while we were working on some really tough mostly-dried Osage Orange. The surface on the Osage Orange looked completely polished and felt almost waxy. This knew knife was a complete success for both me and my bud.
Thank you for checking out this article and please let me know if you have any questions or comment.
A few days ago I very briefly mentioned about happening across a tool store in Speicher, and I was intentionally vague regarding the location and the tools, solely since the store only had one of a specific tool I wanted to get. I know, you’re probably wondering why mentioning either the store or tool would make any real difference, so I’ll explain in a moment.
So as we were driving around, and got close to the market in Speicher, we saw a store that had really nice looking house goods, from plates and stemware to ceramic knives and scales. As we approached the store, a sign directed customers to the entrance on the market side, so around we went. I really couldn’t believe it when we rounded the corner, and when we finally reached the entrance, we were looking into a well stocked tool store.
Ok, so back to an explanation about this special tool. The tool is the Gransfors Bruks Swedish Axe, which is hand made, and each has the initials of the highly skilled artisan that made that tool. Gransfors Bruks has very few employees, and as their quality has become more widely known, the demand has kicked the waiting list into orbit! It now takes a full year to order any of the Gransfors Bruks products!
Luckily, when I went back to the store, the tool was still there, so all is good. The tool I chose is the Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe, with the standard double-bevel design, which is recommended for those who aren’t already skilled with a single-bevel axe. If you know anything about Gransfors Bruks axes, you might understand just how surprised I was to basically stumble into this unknown tool store, only to find such amazing tools. They had at least three different Gransfors Bruks models, before I bought the carving axe, but I just barely glanced at the others, as I’d already seen my prize! Please stop by and say hello to Martin for me, and make sure to look around, as they have a lot of good tools.
Oh yeah, I guess I should provide the store’s name, which is Zingen Fachmarkt. They are located at am Markt 32, 54662 Speicher. Martin Mertes kindly helped us, was extremely helpful, and did a wonderful job of communicating in english.
This morning, we decided to drive to Wetzler, which is the home of Leica cameras. For those who are not already in the know, these are amazing instruments, and are professional grade. We made it to Wetzler in good time, and followed our Google map information to find it with little issue. Leica offers guided tours of their main office, which is also their factory, but also has adequate information for those that wish to self-tour. We did the latter, and it was both awesome and amazing. In the main lobby, they currently have a display of photos taken by Lenny Kravitz, using Leica equipment. They are nothing but stunning. In a section close to this display, there were a range of special issue Leica cameras and gear. All were beautiful and it was interesting seeing some of the special versions, including one that was almost solid gold (colored; not sure of the actual material) and one that carried the crown on an upper surface.
Nearby they also had a wall with many models of their binoculars, of which I’d love any of them. They just know how to do all things optical, right.
Around the corner, we were greeted by some more of the self-tour material, including a huge display showing detailed slides and video of production processes. There was also a large window immediately to the display’s right, where you can watch an employee applying black lacquer to the edge of the lens to prevent any light from entering except from the true lens surface. It was so cool to watch her using some interesting tools, and using a skilled touch to complete an important operation. While we watched, another employee brought a tray full of different lenses to this same lady, and she pulled a random sample and ok’ed the batch. It seems this lady likely also has Q.C. or Q.A. duties.
A bit further down this hall, there was another display section, but there wasn’t anyone working this part at the time we were there. They did have two lens units attached to the counter, with a sign asking the visitors to please touch them. What a different concept than many companies have. Slightly further along there was a display unit with Leica cameras (or duplicates) starting with their first in 1914, as well as binoculars and rifle scopes.
After exiting the “tour” area, it was a short walk to their internal store. They had most, if not all, of their current product line available to see, and their employees were glad to remove product from the case for us to test.
After checking out all of the new Leica products, we made our way to an authorized Leica seller, that handles consignment gear. On the walk to this store, there were all sorts of interesting architecture, as well as a specialized manhole cover that documents where the first photo was taken using a Leica camera, in 1914.
On our trek back home, there were tons of castles and churches, but some were only seen from the car for a moment as there are lots of trees along the roadways. I saw the church in the photo below, when driving towards Koblenz a couple of times, and finally had enough time to snap a shot. Actually, I took about four different shots while we drove by, but none of them were super sharp. It is cool, even though it is a bit fuzzy.
Well, that’s it for this portion of our exploration. Thanks as always for checking out my article and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.