Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finished Leaves

They're done. It wasn't as difficult as I originally invisioned - though I've still got a long way to go and I'm pretty sure making a knife this way is going to be a lot harder than stock removal. I'm happy with the way the turned out though - and hopefully so will be the ABA.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forges and Fire: Part 1

The Firebrick Forges:
I started this forge about 2 months ago with firebricks and refractory cement I purchased from Consolidated Refractories.
It’s basically 2 heavy firebricks with a chamber of light firebricks built around them. I’ve cut down some of the bricks with a hacksaw to give me the chamber space I was after and to provide a ‘doorway’ in the front for the material to pass through.
A hole has been hollowed out of the side with a blunt chisel to allow for a gas torch.
This didn’t work from the beginning and it still doesn’t. One of the issues is that I know very little about forges, let alone building them from scratch. I’ve done some research on this and although the information I’ve found has been very useful, some things are difficult to interpret from words and pictures alone so I think this is going to be another trial and error exercise on my part.
I think the main problem with the forge is the chamber. It’s too big – and it’s square. This means that not only is the little MAPP gas torch (guessing here) not pumping out enough pressure to flood the chamber with heat, it’s also firing directly into the opposite wall, which is… a flat surface – so when the flame hits this wall it just sort of bounces back towards the torch.
I think that if I had made the chamber cylindrical, and a little smaller, the flame would have had an opportunity to swirl towards the front of the chamber and disperse the heat evenly. I’m either going to shape some of the remaining firebricks to put in as inserts to give me the shape I now think the chamber needs, or use refractory lining (kaowool, ceramic fiber) to do the job – but either way; Forge Mark I is going on hold for the time being.

After the failed attempt at the first forge I’ve made a temporary one out of a single firebrick. I got this idea after reading Wayne Goddard’s $50 Knife Shop, and subsequently reading Blade’s Guide to Making Knives where Wayne goes into slightly more detail about the forge.
The forge is basically a hollowed out firebrick with a hole in the side for the gas torch to poke through (similar to the design of my first forge but on a smaller scale) and the firebricks I have access to are smaller than Wayne Goddard’s so it gets really hot because of the narrow chamber - though it doesn’t allow a lot of space for billets. It’s great for annealing and it was big enough to accommodate the Tree Project leaves while I was forging them, but I can’t see it being used for anything much bigger than that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Copper Leaves

I fired up the forge yesterday and heated the copper rod I picked up at the scrapyard and this is what I've come up with so far after a bit of persuasion with a hammer. It still needs a little refining but it's getting there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Tree Project

I found this link on a knifemaking site a little while ago and I've been turning over in my head whether or not I should participate. It's not that I don't want to - it's more that I don't want to make something that looks like a dog's breakfast. I haven't done a lot of forging before, at least not without someone there to tell me if I'm doing it right or wrong, so if I'm going to forge something in memory of someone -- or in this case, many -- I want it to be something that looks like time and skill has gone into it.

That said, I went to the scrapyard yesterday and bought some bronze rod to have a go with. I'll post again later with the results.

"The Australian Blacksmiths Association (Victoria) Inc. is asking blacksmiths worldwide to help us create a forged gumtree. This tree will be a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the 7 Feb bushfires, to honour the tireless people who defended others and to stand as a symbol of regeneration for the community"

"Blacksmiths worldwide are helping us grow a tree from their forges and fires; creating gum leaves from stainless steel or copper to be added to a forged gumtree. This gumtree is to be erected in one of the affected townships as a memorial of these events, for the loss suffered and for the spirit of renewal."
Source: ABA

Monday, June 15, 2009

Knives for L & S

I made a few knives recently my best friend and her fiance.
L's a stay at home mum with a shoemaking background and general creative and artistic flair so I thought a utility/craft knife would be suitable. I wanted to make a wharncliffe style blade with a hidden tang for a left hander.
I made the blade out of the other end of the file I used for SBW's knife and the handle is nickel silver, tin, reconstituted stone, black and white spacer material and curly birch finished with Danish oil.

S is a whiz in the kitchen so a chef knife was the obvious choice - or at least obvious after asking L for ideas and having her suggest it. I freely admit that I cheated with this knife and actually bought the blade as a blank, rather than grinding it myself. I was concerned that I'd grind too much off making such a thin knife and simply didn't want to take the chance. So rather than this being a custom knife it's more of a 'customised handle' knife, as all I had to do was fit a handle and give the blade a bit of a quick sharpen and strop.
The blade is a 440c stainless Santuko that I purchased from Jantz Supply in the US. Handle is made from red spacer material and Fiddleback Redgum. I finished it with a few coats of danish oil and sealed with wax.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Knives by Dave Myhill

I met Dave Myhill about 7 years ago when I was at the home of my best friend (Dave's daughter, L) having a bit of a catch up, and he dropped over for a visit.
At the time, Dave was a little apprehensive about the boys his daughter spent time with, and had the misconception that this young lad sipping tea with his only female heir must be her boyfriend, or at least a potential candidate - so he offered to take me hunting, and said he'd even give me a 3 day head start.

Dave also took the time to explain that he could lodge a knife, bullet, or arrow in me from 30 yards with very little difficulty on his part.

We had a few chance encounters shortly after that (helping L move house, the occasional shared meal, birthdays, etc.) and we gradually began to warm to each other. On several occasions I even made the trip to Dave's place on the Mornington Peninsula with L to help out with some yard work.

A few short years later Dave and I really started developing a friendship. He'd tell me at great length about knives and damascus steel and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him in the shed getting a crash course in forge-welding.

Sadly, Dave passed away at the beginning of last year after a lengthy battle with cancer. This was pretty hard to take considering Dave had become very much like a second father to me.
I'm not sure if this is the right choice of words but maybe the one good thing to come from this was that it prompted me to start making knives on my own. At some point in the future I hope to start my first forged knife and give the finished product to L as a tribute to her father's dedication to the craft of knifemaking.

While recently attending the knife show I ran into a friend of a friend and she introduced me to her partner A, who happens to be a knife collector.
We got to talking and it turns out A rarely missed an opportunity to wander past Dave's stand at shows past and usually walked away with one of his knives.

He offered to let me come over and look at his collection, and was kind enough to donate some of Dave's unfinished blanks, agreeing that as payment I would put a handle on one of them for his partner.

A's Collection of Myhill Blades
I've decided that I'll finish the large trade blade and keep that for myself, but the large dagger will be redesigned into a tanto style blade for an old friend and the smaller utility knife will be finished and one day be given to my godson - who happens to be one of Dave's grandchildren.

Knife Blanks

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bushwacker - No Longer Just a Concept

It feels like a very long time ago that I emailed SBW asking if he wanted to review a knife. We had a great deal of emails go back and forth, nutting out the details of the design and materials to use, and most of the time having a good chat too.
This was a huge learning curve for me. Firstly, I had to make something to somebody's specifications - everything I've made so far has been my design and I've been able to allow the blades to evolve as I either make mistakes or change my mind. So this time around, every time I did something wrong my shed would be filled with colourful language as I tossed aside something I'd broken, bent, burned, gouged, melted, chipped, or just generally been unsatisfied with, and then started making it again.

This was the first knife I've made out of a file, and I quickly found that annealing it with a blowtorch just isn't enough. This required annealing several times before I could get it to a workable hardness (or softness).

G-10 is an incredibly unforgiving material. Try shaping it with anything other than a brand new belt and it turns black and starts smoking before your very eyes. I used an entire block of material before I managed to figure out the right pressure when grinding.

The welded buttcap was the last straw - even with the welder on it's lowest setting, I managed to melt part of the tang into a small V indent (which is still there) and simply couldn't fix without risking more damage. This was after the first welding attempt saw the buttcap fall off after it was welded on, shaped, and sanded back to a smooth finish. I actually consider myself to be a fairly passable welder, but arc welding something so small is pretty tricky stuff.

Still, it's all experience and I can finally say that the knife is finished. I just hope SBW finds it to his liking.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Considering I'm not yet accepting payment for my work I've been trying to keep my costs down, so obtaining something for little or no charge is pretty appealing. With that in mind, about 8 weeks ago I put a post on WoodworkForums introducing myself as a relatively inexperienced knifemaker seeking timber offcuts for use in knife handles (or, my version of a stray dog dancing for scraps out the back of a restaurant).
There was pretty great response too - thanks very much to those who contributed.

(I'm not sure if the generous users who helped me out would like me showing their usernames in this post so I'm just going to list some of the timber I now posess.)

Osage Orange, Fiddleback Redgum, Walnut, Cooktown Ironwood, Eucalyptus burl, Yellowbox, Wattle, About 7 varieties of Sheoak, Raspberry Jam, Turpentine, Tuart, Curly Eucalyptus and Queensland Walnut

I also purchase a few bits of wood from the knife show recently. Found some really nice Blister Ooline, Flame Bulloak and Ivory Needlewood.

I don't think I'll need to restock the timber shelf for some time.