Ok, sorry again for the lack of recent posts, but my last post hopefully informed everyone as to why I’ve been away from the site.
I bought some more material for knife blades, even though it wasn’t quite as thick, and had a different “feature”. The blanks I bought had some holes in them, and the location of the holes presented an issue, where I would need to either make the tang much more narrow or include a section of a hole. I decided on the latter, which had some positive aspect (stronger), and not quite negative, but I suppose challenging (tang shape other than rectangular adds some extra work) aspect to it.
As I do regularly now, I placed the tang of a blade on the inside of one half of the handle, and trace around the tang with a pencil. As this batch of knives is a little bit smaller than the most recent knife I wrote about (here, in case you haven’t yet read about it), the tang isn’t as wide. Both the width of the tang, as well as the shape (with the small portion of a circle), changed my work strategy a bit. On the last knife, the tang was wide enough to comfortably use the standard iron in my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 (Large Router Plane) to excavate the waste wood, and providing a flat and level “floor” which the tang rests upon.
The smaller tang on the current knives is too narrow to effectively use the No. 71, unless I was to shift to one of the small blades made for the Lie-Nielsen No. 271 (Small Router Plane), but I currently only have the 3/32″ Pointed Tip blade which wouldn’t really be very efficient. They do offer a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, and with the area nearest the hole/circle pinching in to even more narrow width, it would still fit nicely.
I don’t presently have a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, for my No. 71, so it was time to improvise. I recall seeing an old home-made tool, that used a small block of wood for its body, and a narrow chisel as the blade, to create a router plane. I quickly went through my off-cuts and found a small piece of white oak (this could have been a section of 2 x 4, or other softwood, as well), and an old Stanley chisel. I made sure the chosen chisel would fit into the tang recess areas, and then compared the chisel’s dimensions with my drill bits, and made sure the bit was just slightly smaller than the chisel. On a regular router plane, the blade is made from an “L” shaped piece of steel, and the cutting portion of the blade is held so there is a clearance angle between the heal of the blade and the work surface. Knowing this, I held the chisel I planned to use as my router plane’s blade, and when I saw a similar clearance, I set my adjustable angle gauge so it mimicked the angle of the chisel’s shaft. I held the angle gauge up against the side of the oak body, making sure to pay attention to where the blade would come through, which I wanted to have just behind the leading edge of the body. After determining where the blade would exit, I again used the angle gauge to locate the entry point for the blade, and the drill bit. Before I started drilling, I placed the angle gauge off to the side of the entry point, so I could use it as a visual guide to make sure I drilled the hole at the correct angle, similar to what Peter Galbert does when drilling into his Windsor seat blanks.
With the hole drilled (which is the basic path the chisel will follow), I used the same chisel planned as the blade, to remove some of the excess wood, but also used some narrow Japanese chisels to speed up the process. I worked mostly from the top side of the body, but as it got closer to coming through the bottom of the body, I sighted in a few well placed strikes with my most narrow Japanese chisel, to create an opening much closer to the size of the chisel. This helped prevent the wood breaking out, when the main chisel first came through the sole, and the location of the smaller chisel cuts made sure I didn’t create a loose fit. The chisel/blade will only advance with a firm strike, which gives me confidence the “blade” won’t shift either in or out, during use.
After I had the blade all the way through, I traced out an area surrounding the blade, which I removed so it wouldn’t jam up as quickly.
Using the new tool
After I chiseled away bulk wood in the tang-waste area of the knife handle, I used this new tool to make sure all of the tang area was the same depth. When I shifted to the second half of the knife handle, I decided to see if I could get the tool to behave decently, with it already set to full depth. I simply rotated the whole tool up on it’s leading edge, which raised the cutter away from the wood. I slowly pivoted the tool down until it was lightly cutting, and went over the whole tang area. I pivoted the tool’s sole down closer to the work, removing material until even again, and repeated until I was at final depth. This made for a fairly rapid process, without the need to stop and change the projection of the blade.
While this purpose-made tool worked decently, I still prefer the blade presentation the adjustable metal router planes provide, as I noticed more chattering on my new tool. One thing I did, after I was finishing up, was to take another similarly small chisel and use it as a scraper. I held it almost vertical, then tilt it slightly towards myself (around 15 degrees), making sure the flat back of the chisel was facing me, and pull this “scraper” towards me, to take super-controlled “cuts”. You really don’t need to create a hook on a chisel’s cutting edge that you put into use as a scraper, and I think you’ll find it amazing just how much control you have, and how fine the resulting surface is. One must, and this is for both the router plane build as well as when using it for scraping: make sure your chisel is sharp! It truly makes all the difference.
Thank you for stopping by to check out the article, and I hope you will find the information useful. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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.