Friday, January 8, 2010

Knifemaker Interviews: Alistair Phillips

How did you get into Knifemaking? And when? What made you want to make Knives?
I had 2 starts into knifemaking. Back in 1991 I was a teenager into
knives and our local butcher was also a knifemaker by the name of
Peter Bennett. He gave me some steel for my first knives and I spent
some time in his workshop. Unfortunately I moved out of the area and
lacking a workshop those knives sat in my drawer until 2005 when I saw
an ad for the bladesmithing course Karim Haddad runs at The Tharwa
Valley Forge. I signed up for the course and finished first my first
knife in Feburary of 2005.

I always used a knife as part of camping in scouts and for skinning
rabbits when we went hunting. I never had much of a need for a large
knife for chopping firewood or bush bashing etc so I have tending to
focus on useful every day carry knives in particular folding knives.
Aside from that there is a real appeal to a well finished hand made
knife. Plus it gives you the creativity to try some really different
things out.

A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
All the books and dvds and information on the internet helps for sure
but nothing beats getting into the workshop and getting your hands
dirty. I have been pretty lucky in that I have lived reasonably close
to some very helpful knifemakers that have helped get me started.

What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
I tend to start with an idea of what type of knife I am going to make -
how big does it need to be and what is it going to be used for? From
there I start sketching out the flow of the knife; how the handle flows
into the blade, how it is going to be held? At this point I don't
worry too much about the dimensions of the knife. If I get something I
like I will scan it in and re-size it on the computer until I get the
blade dimensions I am looking for. Then I will print it out and start
trying to fit the blade into the handle of the folder. I would like to
get started with CAD but at this stage hand drawing with lots of bits
of tracing paper covered in different blades and handle shapes are the
way to go.

Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
Not really, aside from liking to use Australian wood in my handles that
is about the only length I go to to make them locally made. I have
made one knife that was expressly Aussie in flavour with carved Red
Gum handle scales in the shape of a gum leaf.

What's your preferred style of knife to make?
I like making folders. I have been focusing on slipjoint folders at
present but I plan on trying out some locking knives as well. Probably
liner locks or frame locks. I have been using flat grinds so far.

How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
Depends on the knife. A folder with double bolsters etc will take up
to 20 hours. I would say I probably average about 16 hours for a slip
joint though.

What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
I have been using O1 and ATS-34 for my folders. For my forged blades I
have been using either 1055, 1075 or 5160 for a larger blade. I have
really taken a liking to 410/416 stainless liners and bolsters, they
come up with a nice finish either polished or hand rubbed satin
finish. I have been trying some bead blasted finish on my neck knives but I
really prefer a hand rubbed finish, it is part of what separates a
hand made knife from a production knife.

Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
Not really. The weirdest one so far was for a "Big Stabby Knife" as a
present from a friend to her husband. I was really hoping it wasn't
going to be given pointy end first.

What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
I regret waiting so long to get back into knifemaking. The biggest
challenge was learning to make folding knives without a doubt. There
is a reasonable amount of info on copying a knife design but very
little in producing your own design. Of course once you have made 10
or so folders and understand the mechanics of it all the designing
becomes a lot easier.

Do you make anything aside from knives?
Nope, making knives satisfies all my creative urges at present.

Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
More and more folders. Improving on the fit and finish of them. I
would like to diversify the types and patterns of my folders a bit
more. Have some real user knives at hopefully reasonable prices as
well as doing some more damascus blades and higher end handle
materials to show off. I will still be focusing on smaller folders
though; stuff that can fit in the money pocket of your jeans up to
about 4 inches closed length.

What knife do you carry?
The first slipjoint I made. A take apart folder. It is a really nice
size and has sentimental value.

More information about Alistair and his knife making can be found here
Photos courtesy of Alistair Phillips

Knifemaker Interviews: Keith Fludder

How did you get into Knifemaking? And when? What made you want to make Knives?
A friend of mine gave me a copy of blade magazine and I thought I would like to have a go at making a knife - that was 1989. I have always carried a knife since my Dad gave me one for my 9th birthday; very handy on the farm and seeing all those blades in Blade magazine, well that was that.

A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
In 1989 there was no internet! Information was like rocking horse shit and so were publications. I didn’t even know if there were any other knifemakers here in Australia until I attended a gun show in Brisbane. That was late 1991.

What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
Sometimes I will start with a drawing or sketch if you like and go from there. Mostly I have an idea in mind and forge the blade then I trace the shape onto paper and design my guards, handle, even my leather occasionally. I feel it is important to be able to follow a drawing as clients often give you one or show you a knife design that they like. It is a lot less expensive to rub out pencil lines on a drawing than to have made all your fittings, handle etc. to find that it just does not look right when assembled.
Inspiration? Hmmm. magazines, publications, other makers, the forums, art.

Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
I have recently changed my mark to incorporate the Southern Cross. Apart from that I don’t think so.

What's your preferred style of knife to make?
I like fighters, hunting knives and tantos. Most of my blades are flat ground with a convex edge.

How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
To bloody long! No really, some take 2 days - some take 2 weeks. Usually 3 to 4 days if everything goes right.

What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
Would have to be mammoth ivory, walrus tusk, stag antler, oosik, or any really nice figured hardwood. As for blades it would have to be my Damascus. None of my blades touch a polishing buff, so satin finish up to 2500 grit, usually 800g and polished handles, guards etc. I don’t like shiny shiny.

Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
Sure have. There are some out there ideas mostly impractical. Just smile and move on quickly with nervous glances over your shoulder.

What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
Learning patience. My only regret is that I did not get into it earlier.

My biggest regret is not becoming obsessed with knife making like I am now when I was a bit younger.

Do you make anything aside from knives?
I have an order for a smoking hawk (that will be interesting). I do all my own leather work and I make jewellery and do lost wax casting for some of my fittings. I make Mokume also for fittings and jewellery.

Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
I have joined the American Bladesmiths Society. I would like to get my Journeyman’s stamp in 2010 and then my Master Smiths stamp. I would like to see my work improve and create works of art. I would like to promote the art of knifemaking to the wider community.

What knife do you carry?
I have a fair collection of folding knives from custom to factory. I change them from time to time. I am just about to build a folder for myself, so when it’s done I will carry that.

More information about Keith and his knife making can be found here
Photos courtesy of Keith Fludder

Monday, January 4, 2010

Knifemaker Interviews: Jason Burgin

How did you get into Knifemaking?
My father gave me my first Swiss Army Knife as a kid and since then I was amazed at the quality and functionality of such a small package. Since then I was always searching for the perfect knife; a goal I will never realise, I think.

One day in 1992 I thought "I will have to make my own knife..."
I picked up the yellow pages and searched for knifemaking/knife kits and anything else that might help me find my goal.
It was here I found a small ad "Keith Fludder, custom knifemaker"
I rang him and said “can I come and buy a kit knife from you?”
The next day was the start of my journey as a knifemaker.

A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
I was so keen to make knives - it just seemed natural to start grinding and shaping something, but it was only with the benefit of Keith’s experience, his guidance, resources and friendship that I was going in the right direction. These early days were paved with far more pitfalls than now, but I still managed to save money for equipment and scavenge steel for blades and find suppliers of woods and other materials that are just a tap of the keyboard away nowadays.

What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
for a stock removal knife, I will draw a profile on a piece of steel, I will keep changing the shapes and curves until I feel it looks right, then I start cutting the profile and make the shapes flow together as I grind the profile on the linisher.
For folding knives, I will start with a size and style in mind and choose the materials suitable for that type, then I develop the shapes as I configure the geometry of the locking mechanism and go from there.

Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
I try to demonstrate an un-bounded freedom that the canvas of steel can allow but still retain total useability; kind of a form meets function approach.

What's your preferred style of knife to make?
I like to make small liner lock folders and small pocket-able fixed blades, quite often hollow grind but also flat grinds.

How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
Small fixed blades take me 6-12 hrs.
Folders take 25-40 hrs but I am a hobby knifemaker so time is very hard to judge.

What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
I really like using stainless damascus for blades.
Mokume and carbon fibre for folder handles, stag horn and burl woods for fixed blades.

Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
I've been asked to make a bowler hat with a sharp rim, À la James Bond style, which I declined.

What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
Every step of the way there are new challenges and higher goals to reach for. Sometimes I have to temper my enthusiasm with the reality of time, cost and space restraints. I wish my job was more closely related to metalwork/machining.

Do you make anything aside from knives?
I make small carved skull beads from mokume, damascus and other materials and small jewellery/art trinkets and miniature oddities from scrap materials.

Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
Make more folders and streamline the process. I would like to do a large scale, high end, damascus fantasy piece.

What knife do you carry?
I have my 2" keychain linerlock with damasteel and carbon fibre made by myself about 6 yrs ago and my latest folder, a 4 1/4" linerlock with damasteel twist blade, carbon fibre scales and titanium liners.

Photos courtesy of Jason Burgin

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still Here

Just a quick post to say that no, I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth. I'm in the process of moving house at the moment so it'll be a little while longer before I get a new post up but watch this space for 3 more knifemaker interviews, plus a tour of my new workshop.

Thanks for being so patient.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Knifemaker Interviews: Bruce Barnett

So here's the first Interview. I met Bruce back in May at the AKG Knife Show in Melbourne. I dragged Dad along (though I didn't have to drag too hard) and he so impressed with Bruce's work that he bought one of his hunting knives.

How did you get into Knifemaking?
I have always had and used knives as I was raised on a farm on King Island and did a lot of hunting. After moving to WA and taking up drag racing, Max Harvey, one of the founding members of the AKG, donated one of his stunning handmade bowies to my fund raising efforts back in ’92 which really stuck in my mind. I then started to collect a few custom knives and also all the Harley Davidson commemorative blades. Due to busting 2 vertebrae in my neck (amongst other things) in a racing accident back in ’95 a few years ago I got to the stage where I could no longer ride bikes anymore. I sold my remaining road bike and then sat back and said to myself “what the hell am I gonna do now”. Knife making was the answer.

And when?
January 2006

What made you want to make Knives?
I have always loved custom knives, love doing things with my hands, and hopefully a good way to recoup the obscene amount of money I have spent on my collection.

A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
Yes. because I would be classified as a newer maker. The forums, tutorials and the quality and range of DVDs that are available now is just outstanding. I was only discussing this very point with a retired maker a couple of weeks ago and he could not believe the amount of stuff that was available these days for makers.

It was after watching ABS Master Smith Ed Caffery’s DVDs that I decided to spend 8 days with Ed after Blade Show 2008 learning the finer points of forging and making Damascus. I have also been very fortunate to have also struck up a close friendship with fellow forumite Keith Fludder whose wealth of experience has been a great help. Fellow WA maker David Brodziak had also invited me into his shed for a weekend and I have never been shy to ask questions of our AKG members at knife shows.

What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
I am terrible at drawing so I pretty much just get an idea in my head and run with it. I start off forging or grinding and if the idea or the actual work piece changes then so be it. I guess that’s the beauty of custom knife making, unless it’s a specific order then there are no rules.

Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
No, I just make what I like to make unless it’s a specific order.

What's your preferred style of knife to make?
Hunters, skinners and bowies are my favourites and after finishing my 2nd folder I can see a few more of them (folders) getting built. I do flat grinds, preferably with a convex edge. Once I finish my forge and hydraulic press about 75% of my knives will be forged and many of them will be damascus.

How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
Depending on the complexity of the knife, usually between 3-6 weeks; unfortunately I have a day job that keeps me out of the shed during the weekdays.

What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
With stainless blades; for fillet knives I use 440C and for hunters and skinners I usually use 154CM or S30V. For kitchen knives I like to use stainless Damascus from Devin Thomas or Chad Nichols.
For carbon blades I use D2 if stock removing. My forged blades will usually be either 1075,1080,1084 or W2. Damascus blades will be the same with addition of 15N20 for contrast in the pattern.

I prefer to satin finish all my blades to either 600 or 1000grit and if edge quenched I will generally lightly etch the blade to bring out the temper line or hamon. Guards, spacers & caps are generally nickel silver, Damascus or stainless.

My favourite handle materials would be stag and sheep horn, however have collected a lot of mammoth ivory and tooth so will starting using more of that soon. Also use a lot of highly figured timbers as well as Micarta & G10 on working knives.

Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
Not really, not yet anyway.

What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
My greatest challenge is stopping myself from buying and hoarding steel and handle materials. Keith Fludder often calls me a “material pig”.

My biggest regret is not becoming obsessed with knife making like I am now when I was a bit younger.

Do you make anything aside from knives?
I make both leather and kydex sheaths and will probably start making jewelery with all my scrap stainless Damascus, mokume and mammoth leftovers

Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
My plan is to become an ABS Journeyman Smith in 2011 and Master Smith in 2013. I just love making Damascus and forging blades and the good times had with other makers, not to forget the friendly rivalry that goes along with it.

What knife do you carry?
My EDC is an Ed Caffery Progression liner lock folder with an edge quenched 52100 blade, titanium liners & clip with G10 scales

More information about Bruce and his knife making can be found here
Photos courtesy of Bruce Barnett

Forge and Fire: Part 2

Planning the New Forge:
Ever since I started thinking about forging knives I decided that I wanted to build my own forge. This was for two reasons – 1: Because I’m going to appreciate something more if I’ve built it myself, and 2: Forges are EXPENSIVE! I think the cheapest I’ve seen was around $400 for a little farrier’s forge.

I know that I’ve already got an unfinished forge sitting neglected on a shelf but what I’ve had in mind from the very beginning is a forge built out of a propane/compressor tank (similar to the ones here and here). I’ve found a good number of resources online and settled on the design I want to use, and earmarked an air tank off a truck that I picked up at a garage sale for $15

Next, I’ll need to buy ceramic fiber for the lining and something to coat it with (Fiber Coat/Service Coat) so it doesn’t end up killing me (it’s carcinogenic and when left uncoated can shed small fibers).

The forge will also need a burner (or burners) to deliver the gas. I’ve found instructions for building a venturi burner on the Tharwa Valley Forge website and it looks relatively doable.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knife Legality

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently over several emails and a share of Yum Cha. He mentioned he was considering purchasing a Russian navy dress dagger (being that he's a collector of Russian WWII bits and pieces) and wanted to know the best way to legally bring it into the country without it being confiscated by customs and going home to sit on a customs' officer's mantlepiece destroyed.

My friend knows I'm a member of Australasian Knife Collectors (which allows me to purchase certain items that require a lot of hoop jumping for non-members) and asked if it was ok for me to order the item, have it delivered to my address, and then hand it over to him. I explained that I can't do this because even though I have the appropriate paperwork to import the item, I would still be required by law to record the transaction, the buyer details (and proof of identification), and proof that the recipient was not a prohibited person, and had buyer exemption; to which he replied with something along the lines of "Yeah, but who's going to know?".

I declined my friend's request. I'm not interested in handing over restricted knives to “prohibited persons”, not only because it's illegal and the possibility of legal implication would not be worth my time, but also because I have an ethical concern. I know my friend wouldn't do anything with the dagger other than put it in a display case, but the law is the law and it's been put in place for a reason.

This brings about some valid questions.

Even if a non-prohibited, purchase exempt buyer can bring something in to the country, who is going to know if they give a knife away or sell it to somebody that legally isn't supposed to have it? Are there legal measures to prevent this, other than the government putting its trust in the original permit holder? If the knife, once in the hands of another person is involved in a crime, what could link it back to the importer?

Firstly, I don't know if the police do spot checks on knife makers or distributors to make sure they're doing the right thing. Secondly, if the police did randomly appear on a buyer’s doorstep asking about an imported item; what's to stop the buyer from saying they purchased it for their own collection... but then it broke, and it was tossed in the garbage, and that's why it can't be produced on their request? Or they could show them any one of their knives and say "Yep, that's the one".

If I were to unlawfully hand over a knife to somebody, and then they go and (god forbid) use it to cause someone harm, then the only link back to me would be (maybe) fingerprints; but I think there'd be more chance of the crim's fingerprints obscuring my own considering they're not known for wearing gloves.

And there are laws in existence to prevent the wrong people from owning controlled weapons:
  • Police frown upon people wandering up to the shops with their claymore strapped to their back.

  • In certain States of Australia, it is illegal to carry even a pen knife without a valid reason* )though this isn't going to stop someone who has no regard for the law from carrying a concealed weapon).

  • In most states, a person under 16 years of age cannot purchase a fixed blade knife. (NSW local government is barely keen on the idea of these kids buying a sharp edged plastic spatula, let alone a hunting knife)

There are other laws, but I'm not going to list them all.

This has been a long winded way of getting to the point, but after politely explaining to my friend that he could import the knife by first joining AKC, he asked "Why don't they just serialize all the knives and track ownership that way?". Very good question.

When I was studying Forensic Science a few years back I wrote an essay for a Legal Studies class on whether or not it would be beneficial for the Victorian Government to make it mandatory for knives to be serialized and for a regional knife registry to be kept by the police, similar to the Firearms Registry.

This is a moot point, obviously, because local government can't possibly hope to pass legislation that would require manufacturers in foreign countries to provide serial numbers on their products; and it's unlikely that items would be serialized after arriving. Still something interesting to think about though.

This post has been long enough. I'm stopping now. I promise.

Thanks for reading (if you made it this far).

* “Self Defense” is not a valid reason. “Zombie hunting” probably falls under this category also.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Necker Firesteel

This is the second time I've done a Firesteel/Pouch combination and I'm pretty happy with the results. I hadn't thought about making one of these for a while after I made the first one for my father; it just started out as a bit of an experiment (the sheath, not the firesteel), but I recently received an email from a gent asking that I make one and send it off to france. Here are the pics:

For those not familiar with the uses of a firesteel, it's basically a ferrocerium rod (in this case, with a Blister Ooline handle, and red paracord lanyard) which can be scraped with a squared off or sharp piece of carbon steel (square back of a knife or the blade if you don't mind potentially ruining your cutlery).
Think of a flint and stone but somewhat modernized and instead of getting one little spark, there's a shower of them.

Wikipedia explanation of ferrocerium

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

12 Questions for Aussie Knifemakers

I've been fortunate in my knifemaking, in that I've been able to learn a lot of things from online forums that would have taken longer had I been sourcing the information from written material. The advantage with reading "How to" posts is that if you have a question, you can ask the author directly, and you get a lot of varying opinions and perspective rather than the input of one, or several people.
Don't get me wrong, I love printed text and I'm never going to be satisfied with my collection of books, but it's nice being able to have a search engine at your disposal when you want to find out if there's a better way of something you're stuck on.

Over a series of posts, I'm going to be interviewing some of the knifemakers that frequent Laventrix Knife Forum see how other makers approach the craft.

Some of the knifemakers I'll be interviewing have been doing it for some time, and others are (like myself) fairly new to things, so it should provide an interesting dynamic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tang Stamp

I had a tang stamp made recently. It's the same logo I use on the site but significantly smaller - so small in fact that I've actually been having a lot of difficulty testing it out on scrap bits of steel.
I'm not sure if it's actually the size that's the issue, but more the shape.. or maybe I just need to practice a whole lot more before I can get it to look right. It seems to pull to the left or the right whenever I hammer it so I end up with half a logo embedded in the steel.

On the other hand, as a song goes it "looks good in leather" so I've got no complaints if I want to stamp sheaths. I'm considering building a press with a hydraulic jack so I can align it properly and not have to hold it with one hand while using the other to attack it with a hammer.

Another consideration is that I go back to my design and put a little more work into it. We'll see though.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A New Knife

This was one of the timber swap knives I made; for a fella who was kind enough when sending me some beautiful sheoak to include a hand turned pen and awl.
The knife is made from a Nicholson file and I've finished it with a vinegar patina (an experiment that worked out quite nicely). The handle is made from corian, black and white spacer material and kingwood, with a Danish oil and wax finish.

The knife's new owner and I agreed that a sheath was in order and I decided to make up a firesteel while I was at it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Knife...

...and even a spoon. It's a little late to be making this post considering I made these fiddleback redgum butter knifes and a jam spoon for Mothers' Day, but I forgot to take a photo at the time and keep forgetting to take my camera when I see Mum. Until now.

Forgive the B&W photo. I've since learned that using a red and white checkered tablecloth as a background leads to very red, overexposed images.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Makes a Knife a Knife?

As you (the reader of this blog) may be aware, I have been following The Suburban Bushwacker for some time now and recently made him a knife to review. Well this isn't a link to the review (that's to come later) but I'd like to share this informative article he's written on buying the right knife.

If you have a general love of the outdoors, and/or bushcraft I'd also recommend having a look through his other posts. In fact, have a read even if you're not into bushcraft and spent your days in a darkened room surfing the net.. it might help.

Photo Credit: Todd Hill - Primitive Point

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Toy! (If not somewhat pre-loved)

I picked up a lathe last week. I've been wanting one for ages and was fortunate enough to acquire one through a friend.
It's an "Advance" brand, built in Australia around 1960. I haven't played with it much yet but I certainly am looking forward to doing so. A friend is making me a cover for the motor, guard for the gears and a tray to catch swarf (chips).
I'm planning on making a coolant reservoir and pump assembly (thingy) a little later.

A full write up of this brand of lathe can be found here.

Sami, not a Scandi machete

Example of a Sami from Wikipedia
I stand corrected. A diligent observer has noted that "Long blades are not usually used in scandinavia as tools...
.. Lapplanders of course have the "leuku" but it is a different design from a scandi "puukko"."

That said I never knew if the Scandinavians had machete type instruments in the first place so I was hoping to try something that hadn't been done. As it stands I'll be trying something that's been done by the Sami people in Finland for I don't know how long (probably a while, I'm guessing).

So here's my chunk of file which is going to end up looking more or less like a really big Leuko, or Sami.

Thanks for the update, Pun.

Knife for The Suburban Bushwacker

I've been following SBW's blog for some time now and recently asked him if he'd be kind enough to review one of my knives. As a thankyou for taking the time to post a review I've offered to make a knife to SBW's specifications and he's kindly accepted.

After a few emails back and forth regarding the design we settled on making a full tang scandi styled knife, loosely based on Rod Garcia's Skookum Bushtool, though with a deep finger choil and orange G-10 handle.

The initial sketch I sent through to SBW (above) shows the handle with two tubes holding the scales to the tang, and pins arranged in the shape of the Southern Cross (A constellation seen in the Australian skies). The buttcap is to be welded on to the tang.
The design has changed slightly in that the index finger choil will be deeper and (given that I'm making this out of a file) the file markings near the spine of the blade will be ground back to avoid having a rust trap.

I've done the initial grind on the file and now have a blank (once I've removed the rasps) ready for profiling.

More to come later.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BlackRabbit Logo

I know this blog is called Obsidian Rabbit but truth be told, when I started thinking of trading names for my knifemaking the first thing that came to mind was BlackRabbit. Sadly that name is already being used for another blog, which serves another purpose - but that doesn't mean I can't still use the name for my knifemaking.
So now I have a logo.

Scandi Knife

I have a thing for Scandi (Scandinavian) blades, which I think is strengthened by the fact that we don't seem to have a lot of these available in Australia - I've never seen a commercially made one in a store, and from what I've seen (apologies if I'm wrong) Aussie knifemakers move more towards producing bush knives.
I think the styling of a scandi knife is amazing though. The handles are made for comfort and I can't get past how good a Scandi grind looks.
So here is my attempt at a Scandi blade, though I haven't yet put on the final grind - I'll get around to that later.
Handle materials are made of stainless steel, stag antler, fibre spacers and the wood is gidgee.