I was recently working on one of my hand-made knives, and while finishing my curly-maple handle, I remembered a technique I’d use on some of my smaller wooden products that I don’t think I ever wrote about before. I decided it would be something good to share with my readers, beyond the aspect of it truly working, but it may also push some to start thinking outside the box a bit more. Anyways, lets get into it.
The handles I use on my knives may be of different types of wood, but I usually go with the same finish on them all, which is Tru-Oil by Birchwood Casey. Ok, if you’ve read my other articles, you already know that, but I’m just filling in the blanks for those who haven’t read any of my previous writings. As with most finishes, you apply a thin coat, wait for it to dry, lightly sand and wipe the residue off. Basically repeating this process until you get the desired results. I follow the basic design of this, but will give a bit more specific information regarding what I’m using that helps get a better final surface.
In between the first two coats, I use some 400-grit paper to just very lightly touch the surface, removing any nibs or roughness and then wiping away any residue. Just before my final coat, I use a foam backed sanding sheet that is rated 1200-1500 (their specs, not mine), and again just almost letting gravity apply the downward force on the wood, as I’m not trying to do anything but smooth anything that is out of line.
After the last coat is applied, I make sure to let it sit long enough to really totally dry, which can be 24 hours or even slightly longer. On an inconspicuous spot, I just lightly touch a finger. If it has any feel of stickiness or my finger doesn’t slip like its on glass, I leave it until this occurs. After the finish is completely dry, I shift to something that might seem strange; a Viva paper towel! And no this isn’t just to wipe some residue. I know many of us don’t look at paper towels like they are a type of sandpaper, but they do have some graininess to them (Viva just happens to be our paper towel of choice, but other may work as well, but may not be quite as fine a grain), and one time long ago, I ran out of some crazy-fine sandpaper I’d been using. On a whim, I decided to give these paper towels a shot. I find I get the best results if I apply a bit of pressure and move back and forth quickly. Basically starting to burnish the finish. After I’ve done this to all sections of the knife’s handle, I go one step further. I use a small section of a thick leather that is somewhat soft, but not really what I would call buttery. Using the smooth side of the leather, I use exactly the same routine as I did with the paper towel. This provides a nice burnish to the handle’s surface, which just feels so good in the hands.
Since the burnishing heats up the finish during the process, I again clamp the knife (via the blade) for another 24 hours, to let the finish harden again. This leaves a handle that is super smooth, but unlike some waxes, doesn’t seem to want to slip out of your grip.
If you are working on a smallish wooden project, like a knife handle, or even a little box, you might want to give this a try. You might just amaze your friends/family/customers regarding how “smooth” it feels. Even if you aren’t trying to get the extra response, it’s cool to use a couple of everyday type items to increase the touch-factor of your projects.
I hope you enjoyed this article and may find it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
@LeeLairdWoodworking – InstaGram
@LeeLairdWW – Twitter
Unfortunately the videos on my site were all automatically set with the auto-play switch set to on, and I couldn’t seem to get to the level needed in which to change this. I know this created a wall of audio with my vocals talking on top of one another. This was very frustrating and I’m sorry anyone had to endure this problem. For those that went through and clicked the pause button, and continued to stick around, I’m very grateful!
Last night I updated the video player on my site to Spider 1.5.18, which makes the handling of the auto-play easy and understandable. Beyond letting my audience know this is now resolved and all videos loaded since Friday 9/16/2016 (at this point) and any future videos will play only when the user clicks on the video play button, I thought I’d provide an extremely limited how-to for anyone using this specific video player.
The Spider Video Player 1.5.18 has large number of parameters that the site admin can control to (hopefully) make the end user’s experience better. To actually control the mass of parameters (of course including auto-play), from the Side-bar menu, under the Video Player heading, choose/click Themes. This opens a window that allows you to either select one of the auto-generated themes, as well as the “Add a Theme” button towards the upper left of the window.
Choose/click this button and as you probably expect, you get to name your new theme, but don’t forget to scroll down the page, as this is where all of the detailed control is located. Much of this control is via choosing either “yes” or “no” radio buttons, but others like the volume of video/audio are controlled via a slider you drag from 0-100. The two screen shots below, are just some of the controls provided, which is why I decided to focus attention on the most important areas, related to this discussion.
Some or all of this may be child’s play for most reading this, but hopefully it will assist someone else that was having difficulty with the control of their videos.
Thank you for checking out this article/tip. Please let me know if you have any questions or comment.
@LeeLairdWoodworking – InstaGram
@LeeLairdWW – Twitter
I decided it would be a good idea to make at least one last video relating to the subject of how I sharpen Carving Knives See here for the original article. I always do my best to choose my words so the reader can envision what I’m talking about, but I know that some people are more visual learners. With this in mind, I made a relatively short video this morning and just posted it on Youtube. Just in case the player below doesn’t get along with your viewing system, the quick-link for the new video is: https://youtu.be/QLukWL0wC5Y
There is one thing I want to include, that I didn’t record in the video. Obviously for a knife (or any tool) to be sharp, both sides of the blade must be equally honed, as whichever side is less refined will be the limiting factor in actually getting the tool sharp. Most will have one side of the blade that is the most easy to hone, and its just a matter of finding what works best for you, when working on the “other” side of the blade. You can either leave the actual blade pointing in the same direction as when working the first side, and just flip the knife physically over, but that puts your finger in potential danger (either on one side or the other, in the flipping scenario), as the cutting edge will face them on one of the sides. The other option (which I use) is to hold the handle on the first pass, so the tip of the blade is pointing to my right, with the cutting edge upward. When I work the second side, I rotate my wrist so the tip of the blade is now pointing to my left, while again keeping the cutting edge upward. This is a safety net of sorts, since I might move forward slightly with the hand holding the sharpening media, and even if I were to move so far forward that my rear fingers contacted the blade, they would only touch the spine of the blade.
I hope this helps clarify how I’m sharpening blades with a hollow-grind. As I referenced in the first article, I use a similar process when I am honing other blades that no longer have a hollow-grind remaining, or have flat bevels from the maker. Let me know if there is anyone that is interested in me making a video where I show the steps and specific techniques I use on a knife with flat bevels.
Thank you for checking out this article. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
@LeeLairdWoodworking – InstaGram
@LeeLairdWW – Twitter
In one of my previous articles, I briefly touched on sharpening this type knife, but I wanted to get into greater detail so others can replicate this process, if they desire.
After shaping the blade with different tools, it looks like a knife in form, but is still just as thick at what will be the cutting edge, as it is at the spine. At this point I head to my Baldor 1725 rpm grinder and remove material on both sides of the blade, as opposed to a knife that only has a bevel on one side, while the other side stays flat.
When it comes off of the grinder, it can cut you if you were to run your finger along the blade, but it is not a useful sharp, in my opinion. The grinding wheel is round, and as the side of the blade has metal removed by the wheel, the shape is called a hollow grind. If you can imagine if you were to take a block of clay and press it against a static grinding wheel, when you pull it away you’d see a curved surface. This is ultimately what happens as you present the knife to the grinder, even though it takes more time to take on this shape, as the wheels must gradually abrade away the metal. Sorry if this part is getting too deep, as I just want to make sure you understand the shape of the knife’s cutting edge. On to the “good” part.
With the hollow grind shape, when you want to sharpen the cutting edge, the base of the bevel works with you to make it easier to know you are working at the correct angle. When you put a flat surface (similar to a ruler) up against the bevel, you can feel when both the cutting edge and base of the bevel are both touching. If you had a flat bevel or a convex bevel from the base to the cutting edge, it can be very difficult to actually feel that you are in correct alignment, especially when the bevel is very small.
When I begin to sharpen, immediately after grinding, I use my Dia-Fold diamond sharpening hone. I’ve owned this for 20+ years, and it started out as a Coarse hone, but over the years the diamonds have worn somewhat, and I believe it is now more in the Fine range of grits. If I had to try to pin down a specific grit, I’d see it as similar to a 1000-grit stone. I hold the blade in one hand and the Dia-Fold in the other, and feel for the hone to touch the two high areas, the cutting edge and the base of the bevel. With it correctly in position, I slide it down the knife until I reach the end of the cutting surface. I try to keep it consistent, by working each side in an alternating pattern, but you can also just work each side the same number of strokes, which will provide a similar result. When the knife comes off of the grinding wheel, I can tell when it is finished by the burr along one side of the cutting edge. This burr can be fairly significant from the grinder, so besides working with the first hone until both sides show signs of the grit all the way to the cutting edge, you also work until the burr is either removed, or diminished in size. At this point, I move to the next stage.
The 4000-grit Japanese water stone is used next, and they are best when used with water, as that allows the metal it removes to float off of the stone, rather than imbedding, even though it still builds up over time. If you worked the previous hone until you couldn’t feel a burr on either side of the blade, you just work with this stone until you see the change in the scratches on the cutting edge. It should change to a dull grey, with no real obvious scratch marks. When consistent on both sides of the blade, you’re ready to move on.
Next up is the 8000-grit Japanese water stone, and the procedure is exactly the same as the last, but I use a little less pressure as these stones can be more delicate than the 4000-grit. You still need to use water as it’s lubricant, and this time you’ll look for a nicely polished cutting edge. When both sides are complete its on to the last stage.
I use a honing paste that came with my Tormek T-7 sharpening system, and was included to apply on a leather covered wheel, for final honing. I’ve found I like to use this compound on a small piece of wood, that is similar in size to the Dia-Fold’s honing section. It is comfortable to hold and present to the blade, in a similar fashion. Apply the compound either directly to the wood, or put a small dab on your finger, and smear it onto the wood so there is a very thin layer in the area you plan to contact the blade. If it is too viscous, you can spray the work area of the wood with a very small amount of WD-40, which will allow it to spread easier.
After working both sides of the blade, and seeing they have a highly polished cutting edge, you are working sharp. I take a paper towel, or another sort of rag, and extremely carefully remove any excess compound that has transferred to the blade. The low area in the hollow grind is especially noticeable for catching the compound. When you do this the first time, make sure you start towards the thicker part of the blade, and move out past the cutting edge. Do not move back towards the blade in the same manner or you will likely cut yourself. Just raise up away from the blade and circle back down to hit another area. After you’ve gotten more comfortable, you might do as I will, and “pinch” the blade while removing the compound remnants. If you do not feel totally confidant in this, just stick to the original method, as it is not important to go any faster.
After using the knife to carve wood, you will likely come to a point where it doesn’t seem to cut quite as well. As long as you haven’t hit any nails, or staples in the wood, you can probably get away with just re-doing the Tormek compound process, to refreshen the blade. If this doesn’t seem to do the job, you can go back as far as you deem necessary, potentially all the way to the Dia-Fold. If you touch-up the blade regularly, rather than waiting until it is quite obvious the cut is not as good, you may find the Tormek compound is all you need to use to retain a very sharp knife for a long time.
As time passes, and the knife honed over and over, the hollow grind shape will slowly disappear. This will likely require you to change your process slightly, as the reference “feel” of the hollow grind will no longer be there to guide you. At this point I apply black sharpie to the bevel of the knife, and pay close attention while I work, to see when I am removing the black from the full bevel. I lock my wrist at that angle, and work until I have a consistent scratch pattern again. All of the other steps are the same, except you may need to use the sharpie for each stage of honing.
I hope this, along with the included videos below help all the owners of my knives to continue carving for years to come. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or comments.
In this article I’m focusing primarily on Designer’s Gallery Creator 3, which is the software that we use with our embroidery machine, but I expect other digitizing programs will at least behave similarly.
I went back and was looking at some of the earliest projects I made with our software, and as I was somewhat green, there were some obvious (at least now) things that would make the output much more clean. When you draw an area and close the outline, if you choose any option that creates stitches (line, fill, satin column, …) a green bow-tie (begin point) and a red bow-tie (end point) are automatically generated by the software. What is the relevance of these two points? Lets look at a flower (looks like something a 1st grader might draw, but I wanted to make this simple) that I just quickly drew for this discussion.
In the screen capture above, there are red dashed lines (indication of jump stitches) between the petals. The first petal that will stitch out is the upper left (which is controllable by the designer), leading around the petals clockwise. After the upper left petal is stitched (filled by control), the machine will leap from to the upper right petal, and begin stitching the second petal. The thread between the petals is still connected (unless you have one of the newer embroidery machines, that will clip the jump stitches for you), even though not stitched into the fabric between the petals. The red and green bow-ties I mentioned earlier are about to make more sense.
In the screen capture above, I clicked onto the upper left petal object, and it shows additional details, including the red and green bow-ties, even though they are a bit difficult to see when on top of each other.
Above you can see that I moved the red bow-tie to the small tip of the upper left petal, and by doing this, the red dashed line that was originally showing from the upper part of the left petal, is now drawn from the red bow-tie’s new location. So, the red bow-tie is important as this is where the machine shifts from the completed upper left petal, to the upper right petal (or whatever is next in your design). Now lets see what we can do to completely eliminate the red dashed line from the first petal to the second.
Ok, so by moving the green bow-tie on the upper right petal, down to the narrow tip of this petal, with it’s location basically against the red bow-tie of the first petal, there is no longer a jump stitch between these two petals.
Notice by moving the red bow-tie from the second petal down to the narrow point of it’s petal, we are prepping to remove the next jump stitch, which is going to the lower right petal. To finish the changes to the flower, so there are no jump stitches which looks better and requires less work to clean up, I moved the two bow-ties for the remaining petals so they were at the narrow point for their respective sections. This will allow the machine to stitch most efficiently, flowing from petal to petal, with no unnecessary movements or extra thread used.
The capture above is of a perfectly clean design, where there are no jump stitches. If you plan the order of what you are stitching, and utilize your control of the two bow-ties, you can make your projects as nice as possible. Just so you know, you can’t always get rid of every jump stitch, unless you change threads between every object! (Some newer embroidery machines can cut a jump thread, but I’ve not yet used one and can’t provide any direct info on them.)
Additionally, planning the order you stitch, when you have multiple objects with the same color, can save you a lot of thread changes, and time.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thank you for stopping by.