First page of the carving knife archive.

Like a Plumb (handle)

Posted by is9582 on September 23, 2017 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been using quite a few different types of hatchets / axes lately, and many of them feel decent enough in my hand, but one of the older handles is top notch for me. The range of handles are from a number of makers that even the casual user would likely recognize, but the one that stands out for me, is a hickory one in my old Plumb hatchet. Other than the handle on my older Sears hatchet, which is fairly round in cross-section and unfortunately feels like it would be in a lower quality hammer, the rest have some aspect of similarity. These all have a cross-section that is somewhat oval (a bit flattened) or perhaps even leaning towards teardrop in shape, which I find much better than a round cross-section, at least for a hatchet/axe.

The handle in my old Plumb hatchet is much more “delicate” in grip girth, but it has been up for the task. I’ve used this hatchet for a number of years, and it was my grandfather’s before it made it to me, and it’s still rocking the original handle. Pretty impressive for a slim little handle!

 

This is my original Plumb hatchet handle.

This is my original Plumb hatchet handle.

 

When I find something that both feels great and works well, I take as many notes as possible, to help determine what it is that lends to the overall excellence. If applicable, I’ll replicate the design to see how it behaves, and how much time it requires to make by hand. This new version can end up as a replacement for the original, if needed, as long as it feels good in the hand. You never know when you might swing and unintentionally damage a handle, no matter how long its previously lasted.

I made a simple pattern for this handle, using a previously used Priority box from the Postal Service, as the box was of decent size.

 

This is the cardboard from which I made the pattern for the handle.

This is the cardboard from which I made the pattern for the handle.

I measured the dimensions of the existing handle, and found an off-cut in my bin that was close enough to call a match. I honestly didn’t know what type of wood I’d chosen (not 100% sure even now), as the majority of the piece had a dark colored and very rough cut exterior. I used a pencil to trace my pattern onto my blank, and quickly cut it out on my bandsaw. This was the only piece of powered equipment I used to make this handle. After cutting the blank close to my pattern lines, as well as then diving in at the pommel, and cutting a very light taper to create some swell at the end, it was obvious the grain was not nearly as straight-grained as the original hickory version.

 

FullSizeRender (49) from bandsaw 1

 

Straight from the bandsaw, so far.

Straight from the bandsaw, so far.

 

From this point forward, I used a draw knife, my flat and curved versions of my Lie-Nielsen spoke shaves, a carving knife I made last year, along with a couple of chisels and  scrapers (one was a purpose-made card scraper, but even though the other was a bit makeshift, it worked wonderfully for very light cleanup).

 

The top is a regular card scraper, while the lower one with the two holes is a replacement blade for a utility knife. I sharpened the portion in the lower left, where the red arrow is located, and used it without creating any hook. It is a very think blade, and this method of preparation is very useful for very fine stock removal.

The top is a regular card scraper, while the lower one with the two holes is a replacement blade for a utility knife. I sharpened the portion in the lower left, where the red arrow is located, and used it without creating any hook. It is a very thin blade, and this style of preparation made it very useful.

 

My flat-bottomed version of the Lie-Nielsen Spoke Shaves. (Dark handles = flat; light handles = curved).

My flat-bottomed version of the Lie-Nielsen Spoke Shaves. (I have mine so the dark handles = flat & light handles = curved bottoms respectively).

 

The shaping is coming along, but there are still some facets.

The shaping is coming along, but it still has some facets.

 

I find I have a tendency to work much more cautiously when performing the first of a given process, and with finding the blank lacked pure straight grain, I made sure I didn’t bite off too much with the drawknife. Even using the drawknife with the bevel down, as I did on this handle, you could dive into the grain, splitting away so much wood that you’d ruin the planned shape. On this handle, I also wasn’t sure whether I might end up going with an octagon faceting rather than the continuous curve of the original, but as I gradually approached the final dimensions, I decided I’d stick to a good likeliness of the original.

After using the scrapers, I applied a coat of Watco’s Danish Oil in the natural color, which provides a small level of protection as well as enhancing the wood grain. I also decided to sit the handle outside on the hood of my car, during the midday sun, to see if it would get a sun tan. Some woods are known to change in color, with direct sun light exposure, but I’m not sure whether this unknown species really changed all that much, if any. I took before and after photos, and it wasn’t completely obvious to my eyes.

 

 

IMG_3022 danish oil

 

I only applied a single coating of Danish Oil to add a little protection and visual depth.

This photo and the one above, show the handle immediately after applying the coat of Danish Oil, and you can see the difference at the end in the vise.

 

IMG_3043 suntan

 

I snapped this outside while I was letting the handle get a suntan.

I snapped this photo and the one above, while I was letting the handle get some sun.

 

Here is the completed handle.

The final handle.

 

I hope this might spur some of you to try making a handle or two for yourselves, and you might just find you can tweak them so they fit your hand better than anything you’ve ever purchased.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for stopping to check out this posting!

 

Lee Laird

LeeLairdWoodworking@gmail.com

@LeeLairdWoodworking  – IG

@LeeLairdWW  – Twitter

 

 

How to get a great finish

Posted by is9582 on October 2, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Knife with curly maple handle clamped in vise, waiting for the finish to cure, before burnishing.

Knife with curly maple handle clamped in vise, waiting for the finish to cure, before burnishing.

 

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.

 

Curly Maple knife with it's belly up, showing the level of finish. White leather and folded Viva paper towel are in lower right of photo.

Curly Maple knife with it’s belly up, showing the level of finish. White leather and folded Viva paper towel are in lower right of photo.

 

Curly Maple knife with belly facing down, again with the burnishing tools in lower right of photo.

Curly Maple knife with belly facing down, again with the burnishing tools in lower right of photo.

 

Curly Maple knife along side one in Cherry and one in Claro Walnut. Curly Maple is the only one of the three on which I used the paper towel and leather.

Curly Maple knife along side one in Cherry and one in Claro Walnut. Curly Maple is the only one of the three on which I used the paper towel and leather.

 

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.

 

Lee Laird

@LeeLairdWoodworking – InstaGram

@LeeLairdWW – Twitter

How I sharpen my carving knives

Posted by is9582 on September 16, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , ,

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 […]