First page of the hand stitching archive.

Made a new knife

Posted by is9582 on May 14, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Blade almost completely cut from the original blank.

Blade almost completely cut from the original 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.

 

Blade with it's edges cleaned up at 90-degrees, straight from the grinder.

Blade with it’s edges cleaned up at 90-degrees, straight from the grinder, along with the handle design I made.

 

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.

 

Blade clamped into the Tormek accessory used to help create a consistent bevel (photo taken after the majority of bevel was complete).

Blade clamped into the Tormek accessory used to help create a consistent bevel (photo taken after the majority of bevel was complete).

 

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.

 

Sculpted handle held in a hand-screw, to keep the centerline at 90-degrees to the band saw table. I stopped with this remaining material and hand cut this with my Japanese Ryoba saw.

Sculpted handle held in a hand-screw, to keep the centerline at 90-degrees to the band saw table. I stopped with this remaining material and hand cut this with my Japanese Ryoba saw.

 

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.

 

The knife's handle pieces clamped snuggly, after applying the epoxy, with the blade in position.

The knife’s handle pieces clamped snuggly, after applying the epoxy, with the blade in position.

 

Checking out the knife after the epoxy dried, and I removed the clamps.

Checking out the knife after the epoxy dried, and I removed the clamps.

 

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.

 

I used my small conical diamond file to create 5 divots in the back of the blade, for personal reasons.

I used my small conical diamond file to create 5 divots in the back of the blade, for personal reasons.

 

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.

 

Me and my best bud, each holding some Osage Orange, and a knife I made.

Me and my best bud, each holding some Osage Orange, and a knife I made.

 

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.

 

The new knife on top of the Osage Orange, with a previous knife I made a couple of months ago, with a mesquite handle from my mom's back yard.

The new knife’s blade is on top of the Osage Orange, with the other knife from our testing which I made a couple of months ago, with a mesquite handle from my mom’s back yard.

 

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.

 

The hand-stitched leather sheath I made for this knife.

The hand-stitched leather sheath I made for this knife.

 

Completed knife with a couple of chopstick blanks assisting.

Completed knife with a couple of chopstick blanks assisting.

 

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.

Lee Laird

Leatherwork – knife sheath and QC

Posted by is9582 on April 15, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m sorry its been a while between articles, as it seems I’ve had less periods of contiguous time to knock out a full thought. For those who don’t know, I am (somewhat recently) active on my InstaGram account (@LeeLairdWoodworking) and as it is a more brief scenario,  post quite regularly which hopefully can help fill any voids. Ok, lets get on with it…

I made a small detailing knife, using a repurposed blade, and wanted to make a sheath to keep it (and anyone around it) from getting dinged or nicked. I have a small range of leathers from which to choose, and decided on a fairly thick and supple dark brown piece, that was large enough for my pattern.

 

Knife laid on leather blank, with pattern drawn onto leather with white-lead pencil.

Knife laid on leather blank, with pattern drawn onto leather with white-lead pencil. Red arrows point to almost invisible pattern line.

 

I used a white-leaded pencil to draw the pattern onto the dark leather, so it would be easier to see while following the line with my take-no-prisoners Fiskar shears. Ok, so I cut it out, blah, blah, and marked along the edge on the top side of the piece, where I wanted my stitches to go. I used my multi-tooth thonging chisel to create the stitching holes on one side, and then applied my contact cement on the mating surfaces. After it dried, I aligned the edges and pressed them together with my vise, to activate the cement.

I’ve always used the single-toothed thonging head (from my little kit from Tandy, that came with six heads), to go back through the holes I punch before the cement was applied, so the alignment between the two layers would be spot on. When I used some of the “old standard” basic tanned leather for this type of process, everything went beautifully. With the leather for this current sheath, the soft and supple nature comes with a caveat, which is it can get damaged a bit easier. I noticed the surface of the leather, around the stitching holes (after the second pass with the single-tooth head), looked a little different, but figured it was no big deal.

I put the un-stitched sheath into my stitching pony, and used my usual saddle-stitch pattern to stitch it up nice and secure. After I’d removed the sheath from the pony, I was giving it a good once-over, and I noticed something odd. The stitching, on what was the second surface to get it’s stitching holes, looked great, but on the first side, not so much. The stitches were almost getting lost down in the leather. I thought this was strange, but it was the first time to work with this type leather, so thought it was just a one-off type thing.

 

Completed knife sheath, with visible damage from the shoulder of the thonging chisel.

Completed knife sheath, with visible damage from the shoulder of the thonging chisel.

 

After I’d used this same leather for another couple of projects, I noticed the same issue was recurring, with the stitching on the top surface looking different than on the bottom surface. I finally realized what was causing the issue, and devised a work-around, which is providing a better product.

Since the leather I’m using was fairly thick (about .130″), and the thonging chisel had to go through two layers, the shoulder on the chisel was actually going into the leather (on the top surface of course) and damaging the area between the holes. As the length of the chisel’s tooth was fairly short, it was very difficult to make it pierce the rear leather completely, while also keeping the shoulder from contacting the leather.

 

Comparison between the multi-head designed single-tooth chisel and the solid single-tooth chisel, with red lines to focus on tooth length.

Comparison between the multi-head designed single-tooth chisel and the solid single-tooth chisel, with red lines to focus on tooth length.

 

My solution is a two-pronged, which provides me options. I went and looked at the single-toothed thonging chisels that were one solid piece (read you can’t swap out the head), and saw the tooth was quite a bit longer than the multi-bit counterpart. I bought one of the solid chisels! While at Tandy, I’d also seen a tool that looked sort of like some type of pliers, but had a chisel on each jaw, that came together upon squeezing the handle.  After assessing this tool, I bought this, too!

 

These are two solid thonging chisels I bought at Tandy Leather.

These are two solid thonging chisels I bought at Tandy Leather.

 

Chisel pliers from Tandy Leather.

Chisel pliers from Tandy Leather.

 

So with these two new tools at home, and with a quick sharpening of the single-tooth chisel, I was ready to test my “new work-flow”. Check back in the next day or so, and I’ll update you on the new tools in use.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the article. I really appreciate everyone for their continued support. And as always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Lee Laird

@LeeLairdWW on Twitter

@LeeLairdWoodworking on InstaGram

 

 

Leather Stitchers – improved!

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

In a recent article, I talked about the tools I purchased in order to hand-stitch some of the leather items I make. I also mentioned my family had done some forms of leather working, when I was a kid. The only stitching that we did at that time, or my family did, used leather lacing […]