Archive | Tips

Detail knife handle

After reading a request by a customer for information on how to fit these blades I remembered that I haven’t ever shown how to fit small straight blades so put this together today. As it was spur of the moment thing whilst waiting for some Twca Cams to anneal I didn’t have my camera with me or a finished detail blade but used my phone and found a blank that had been used for hardness testing after heat treat- hence the small impressions on one face.

I used some birch for this handle, it wasn’t fully dry but had been in the workshop for a few weeks in a 1″x 2″ section which is turned out well, dry enough so that it will take a good finish but still enough moisture that it didn’t crack and will tighten onto the tang as it dries later. Ash is also good as is elm, harder woods such as yew seem to be prone to splitting.

I took the pictures for this sequence as I did it, it was all by eye, not marked out on a table. This really can a very quick process. If when you get the handle on it doesn’t line up well split it off and have another go,  you may only be 10 minutes in.

As I general rule I make a handle one finger width wider than my palm. So I cut the birch to length and shaped one end, leaving the other end largely untouched. Then lined up where I wanted the blade to be.

I then marked where I wanted to drill the hole for the tang.

 

Rather than drill immediately I then used a bradawl to start the hole to be certain the drill wouldn’t wander. I chose a drill bit to give a hole slightly undersize.

 

The hole was drilled in a press but you could do it freehand, main thing is to be certain that the orientation is good left to right, up and down there is more leeway for error in this blank.  Make sure you drill the slightly deeper that the length of the tang. I then put the drill bit in the hole and used this as a guide to see how well it all lined up. As I have done it this many times is was fine, but if it wasn’t the idea is that you have left enough excess wood in the butt end of the handle to bring everything back into line.

 

If you are using a cordless drill after drilling you can put it in a vice, put the handle back onto the drill bit and spin the handle slowly whilst holding a marker to the other end, it should scribe a circle with the middle being your centre. This trick works well for lots of instances where you need to drill dead central. As it was all I needed to do was mark the centre on the butt and draw on the rough outline of the handle.

 

I shaped the handle, including cutting the face that the tang was going into, I left the butt unfinished. The blade was then put in the vice protected by a wrap of cardboard and then it was tapped gently into place.

 

When I was happy with that is had gone in OK I cleaned up the Butt, no point getting it perfect then marring it by  hammering on it.

 

Finally I gave the handle a coat of oil and as I wanted to use it for something ground the point to a pyramid to make a bradawl.

 

 

Strop

I sell suede to make strops with as it would get pretty expensive posting heavy strops around the world, but I thought I ought to show how to make them. I prefer a thick base as this gives clearance if you are stropping on a bench but also allows you to hold it safely from the back if you are holding the tool (such as an axe) still and moving the strop. Another popular option is a paddle strop, with a handle.

The backing needs to be hard and flat, softwood such as pine will compress over time. I have a strop made from pine that exhibits a wonderful wood grain pattern in the suede from repeated use. MDF is very good for this. Not something that I have in the workshop but I was able to get some from the unit next door, some chipboard was screwed and glued to the back to increase the thickness.

Make sure the backing is a few millimetres smaller than the Suede all the was around. In this case the suede I am using is distressingly white- it was very hard to keep it clean in my workshop for the duration of these admittedly poor photos. I use impact adhesive and you only get one go at fitting this. A glue like this which doesn’t dry hard is better, Epoxy or PVA will work but but can soak into and effect how the strop feels and holds the compound. It is important to get an even layer of glue for the join so you maintain a flat surface.

Then glue the suede down. Or to be more accurate I prefer to leave the suede on the bench and glue the backing down onto it, finding it easier to line up this way. Leave to dry then trim off the excess to get a neat edge.

Strop in use, touching up the knife. Suede is naturally abrasive so will dull edges quickly when you cut it, however this action also means it is ideally suited to use as a strop. It is however better to use a compound, it is so much quicker, even with a fine compound. You can often hear a hiss as it cuts. A thin layer rubbed into the grain cuts best. You can see how very quickly the compound turns black with metal particles, at this stage it is better to scrape it off with a blunt edge and re apply the compound rather than add more on top.

Sharpening Video

After many abortive attempts I have finally got a video together explaining the geometry on my curved blades, the thinking behind it and how best to sharpen them. I would like to say a big thanks to Alex for filming and then editing this, if you watch to the very end you will see the blooper reel that chronicles the mountain he had to climb.

I realise that it is a long film, but there was actually a lot to say; Alex did cut it down to make a shorter version that captures all the essential sharpening information but the longer one is much better in my opinion. I have also put together a sharpening kit that includes everything that is used in the video.

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing

I started writing a long post explaining the minutiae of my working practices with regard to quantity production, a weighty tome provisionally titled ‘ Quantity v’s Quality’  however before it was finished Lee Stoffer posted a video I found truly uplifting, it reminded me why we chose to live in rural Wales. This seemed a much better model to base a post on; my unfinished one was largely a list of processes I didn’t approve of and at points seemed like a bit of a rant; it is so easy for a blog to morph into a series of tirades, especially when comments are disabled. So I have ditched it for something more positive.

I have been meaning to change my profile picture for ages, last one was a hangover from my old site when I sold ornamental ironwork, at shows dressing up to look rustic was more important then. I couldn’t find a photo I liked until my son Jude took this picture of me fishing.

IMG_7917

 

This was taken on a rock mark I have fished for the last 25 years, the water is fairly shallow and the best fishing always seems to be on a rising tide just before you are pushed back off the ledges, in this photo there is about 5 minutes before it is time to move, in the video you see Ade a couple of minutes after he should have moved back. Try as I might to find a fitting metaphor to tie this in to my tool making, I can’t, but its a truly resonant experience for me.

Lee’s Video:

 

 

This is the sort of work life balance I aspire to. But more than that the fishing has a much deeper meaning for me than just a leisure activity. If you look at it as purely a means of gathering dinner it was a pretty poor use of time for three adults ( although we looking up the price of having a line caught Bass that size sent to us – £45!)   If we wanted to maximise our catch we should have bought in the best bait possible, hired a boat to take us to more reliable marks,  and fished multiple rods or baits. A still more efficient way to put food on the table would be to buy to not fish at all and buy it all in.

This mark was chosen largely because it is a hike to get there, which means that we get the beach to ourselves. The view from the cliffs as we arrived early at low tide made my heart race a little faster.  I know this beach well and collecting bait is not difficult, there is always something suitable, but a bonus spider crab and a surplus of prawns meant we also had some food sorted out before we even started fishing. The tide turned and as the water rose the chances of a fish increased. This mark is not that consistent and however perfect the conditions seem you can never guarantee a fish, which made the bass Lee caught, his first ever fish, even more special. The hike back over the cliff is sometimes a bit daunting but the completely different view of the beach at high tide was again a joy. To a large extent this is the approach I have taken with my tool making; its not the easiest nor the most financially rewarding but is the most fulfilling.

Knife handle making – using dowel

I have been trialling this method of knife handle making for a while now, the dowels will be for sale on the site soon but for the moment any Sloyd ( small/ standard/ laminated)  blade will come with one for free. The straight edged blade is another pattern that I used to make that may well make an appearance on the site. I would advise taping up the blade for safety, I haven’t for clarity.

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I make them in a couple of sizes, a smaller dowel still will be needed for my detail blades, still working on those. This is the sort of fit that we are after. It is possible that the slot might be a bit tight on some blades. My approach ion the workshop would be to grind the tang down to fit, but another option is to sand or carve down the inside of the slot until the blade goes in without spreading the arms of the dowel.

 

2

Drill a suitable hole, 10mm in this case, in an oversized piece of wood, I used cherry. You want a few mm protruding from the handle at this stage. If the dowel gets stuck you can put the blade in and rotate and whilst gently pulling. Check that the blade is roughly in line with the handle, if it isn’t try rotating the blade or dowel, if this doesn’t help then your hole isn’t straight and you need to start again. When you are happy with the alignment mark the blade and dowel so they will go back the same way ( I know that if the tang was perfectly straight and the slot centralised this wouldn’t be necessary, but it doesn’t hurt)

3

When you are happy with the fit, glue the dowel in place, use enough epoxy to get a good joint but not so much that it fills the slot for the blade. Wedge the end of the dowel open with a scrap of wood, best to make it narrower than the dowel or it might get glued to the sides of the hole.

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Sand down the tang of the blade, this will make a better key for the epoxy. You can see that the shoulders on the blade are not aligned, the shoulder at the spine needs to be recessed into the handle, leaving the edge shoulder will be slightly proud.

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When the glue is set the blade is held in a soft jawed vice ( or a standard vice and the blade wrapped in cardboard. The handle is hammered onto the tang, it should only be a tight fit as the shoulder is being driven in, if it is tight earlier on then it is possible some epoxy has got into the slot; heat the tang gently over a flame and try again the epoxy should soften enough to allow you to get the blade in, it will grab as it cools, so pull it out and and sand off any epoxy stuck to the blade. You should end up with a flush shoulder like this, the handle is left oversize to reduce the chance of it splitting, but if you are worried you could remove some of the wood with a needle file or alike.

5

Check the alignment of the tang, and mark the centre lines of the blade.

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Pull the blade out, if it is stuck you can hammer carefully on the front face of the handle whilst holding the blade in the vice. I then roughed out with an axe, using the x as the centre for the butt of the handle.

7

I then shape finally with a knife including both ends of the handle, and give the handle a coat of oil to stop the glue staining the wood. Then run some epoxy into the slot, let it settle to the bottom , push the blade in and ideally you should see epoxy drive out of the slot just as the blade goes up to the shoulder, if glue comes out too early I pull the blade out and wipe some epoxy off the tang and try again. If there isn’t enough I either add more to the slot or if it is nearly there run a bit into the gaps down the sides. Wipe with a tissue to get a neat fillet. The woods don’t match that well in this case, but the joint is sound.

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Bowl Knife Handle making

A quick tutorial as to how I fit the handle on a bowl knife;  there are lots of ways to do it and a couple of jubilee clips would do fine, but I like the finish this method gives. It is a bit over the top though, very much belts and braces.

Starting point in this case was cleft dry ash, I left facets on for better grip.

cleft handle

I draw around the blade.

marked out

I cut a rebate for so the blade is inlet flush with the handle.  I found a chisel easiest for this job.

Inlet

I then screwed the blade in place, notice proper slot head screws, I have a stash of these but they are increasingly hard to find.

screwed

I then took it apart, epoxied everything in place.

screwed and glued

When it was set I gave it a quick sand to remove any high spots and started the whipping. First cut off 6″ of thread and put it to one side, you will need it later. It  is a bit fiddly to get catch the loose end, you also don’t want to start to close to the end of the handle. Once you have got a good start of 4 or 5 wraps you can cut the tag end down.

catching the end

I only had very fine cotton so it took a while to  reach the end of the blade,  I then whipped in a loop of the material I had put to one side earlier. after 4 or 5 wraps cut your thread and pass it through this loop, pull on the two ends and your whipping will pass under the  earlier threads, cut the end flush with a knife between the wraps.

catching the other end

I then added a thin layer of epoxy as I was concerned that if the thread frayed it would all unravel. Also want to make sure the thread didn’t come of the front of the tool. The epoxy soaked in and didn’t leave a glossy finish. A coat of oil to seal the wood and it was ready to use.

finished 2

What I do like about this method is that the fixing is very low profile and so less likely to foul on the inside of a bowl in use.

 

 

 

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