Monday, December 20, 2010

Pecan-handled pair

This is a pair of knives with some interesting history. They were commissioned by an old friend of mine from public school. One is for himself and the other for his father-in-law. He wanted one to be a bit longer and one to be forge finished and the other satin finished. The steel is leaf spring from his first pickup, and the wood for the handles is pecan because his father-in-law has worked in the pecan business for years.

He changed his mind about which should have what finish after I had already forged them, so I had to leave a few spots of forge texture or grind too much steel away on the shorter one. I also re-forged the long one to get the blade down thinner, where I typically have it for a forge finished blade. This altered the shape a bit, but I liked it and went with it. I haven't done too many trailing tip knives, but think I may do some more now.

I had never used pecan wood as a handle material before and was surprised at how much figure the wood had. It was bit light, but darkened up when I oiled the handles. I like it!

Something I read years ago: "Real Texans know that it's pronounced puh-KAHN. A PEE-can is something that goes under the bed and empties out the winder."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finished up forged copper baptismal font for church

I haven't posted a whole lot lately, but it doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

Among other things, I finished up and delivered the copper baptismal font recently. Here's how it ended up after final shaping:

It's approximately 29 3/4" across the inside of the rim.

After cleaning up with muriatic acid:

And after going over it with a ScotchBrite ball chucked up in a drill:

Although shiny, the basin is highly textured, with ripples left from the raising process and hammer marks from sinking it. The church wanted this rather than a smooth, perfect finish. Personally, I really like the textured finish, particularly the ripples, which mirror the ripples of the water.

A steel stand was fabricated for it at another shop, then plated with a bronze patina at a third. Finally, after many months, it was delivered and installed at the church. If you look to the left of the large doors at the back, you can barely see it in this picture:

In addition to being used as a baptismal font, the basin will stand next to the door and hold holy water.

And here I am, looking dirty but pleased to have it in place.

I have a lot more pictures and footage of the process of making it that will be put together into videos and uploaded to my Youtube channel at some point.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I have an Etsy store!

In time for Chistmas shopping, I have opened an Etsy store! I will be adding more items and a wider variety of items, but for now, check out the inventory I'm starting with:

Forged candle holders! The short ones were upset with my hydraulic press from approximately 2" round bar, and the tall ones were forged on my power hammer and by hand from pipe. Oh, and a steel dish that started out as a 4 1/2" length of the 2" round, but it's already sold to a woman who bought another for herself and this one for her sister.

Pretty exciting stuff! Keep an eye on my store, because I will definitely be keeping it stocked with some interesting stuff.

Helm Enterprises, Forging Division at Etsy

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Luke's Zombie Killer Vs. The Pumpkin

Luke came by again yesterday. The sheath is mostly done, just needs a shoulder strap.

He worked on a companion knife that will ride on the strap across the sheath. Got it forged, filed, and heat treated, and will get a handle on it later.

We also had some cutting fun:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How To Sharpen a Knife Blade to Shaving Sharp...

...The Simple (Not to Be Confused With Easy) Way, in Three Fits.

Fit the First:

Fit the Second:

Fit the Third:

Sunday, November 21, 2010


And the finished product:

With the sheath:

In the sheath:

And a close-up shot of the handle. There's more grain visible in the Filipino ebony and the desert ironwood than my camera can capture.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making it comfortable

Almost but not quite finished.

So here's how it was this morning:

I rarely make a knife where I don't do something new for the first time. One of the things this go-around was using a fairly aggressive (36 grit, I think) sandpaper wheel on my angle grinder to rough out the handle. In this picture, you can see that I have the sandpaper wheel backed with a worn flapwheel.

This really ate it down in a hurry. Saved a lot of time and clogging at the belt grinder. Had to be careful not to mess up the handle, though.

Then, off to the belt grinder.

After getting the end of the handle fairly close to where I wanted it, I drilled the lanyard hole.

I left myself some wiggle room in thickness so I could grind down past any splintering from the drill coming through the wood. There was a little bit, so I worked on the belt grinder some more.

There was a bump in the Filipino ebony where the index finger goes. I took it out with the four-in-hand rasp before smoothing on the belt grinder.

The lanyard hole was going to be lined with a metal thong tube, the second time I had tried this, and the first time I had used "official" thong tube material.

I tried to flare the ends with some flaring tools I had made and used on the other thong tube, but this was much sterner stuff, and actually began to dig into the flaring tools more than flaring! I ended up peining lightly, which did the trick, then grinding over the outside.

After some more time at the belt grinder, this is where it stands now:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Handle work

Time for the handle. First off, I cut out the piece I'm going to use from the main block. The first layer in the handle is Filipino ebony.

Then I smooth up the sides and get everything as flat as I can. I use a variety of tools for this, but primarily use wood rasps and my belt grinder. I did try this Harbor Freight mini-plane for the first time. It actually did all right.

After the ends are flat, I drill the hole for the tang and widen it out with a mortising chisel I made form a hay rake tine.

Once it fits right, on to the next layer: osage orange, a.k.a. bois d'arc or the Texanized "bodark". You can see that it starts lemon yellow and ages to a burnt orange.

The same process is followed. Afterwards, I fitted two stainless steel spacers, which was all kinds of not-fun. I finally got them to work out, though, and moved on to the end piece, some desert ironwood. This is very hard, dense, beautiful, and on the expensive side. I think I actually ended up using a piece out of another chunk that I had, but this gives you some idea.

After some initial shaping to cut down on the work needed done after the epoxy has set, here's everything dry-fitted. I am working with the angled saw cut on the ironwood. It's coming out a bit differnt of a handle shape than I drew, but it'll be nice and comfortable once I've shaped it down.

I went ahead and rasped down some of the bulge on the Filipino ebony with a rasp.

Then I took everything apart and cleaned it with rubbing alcohol. I roughed up the tang with a file, giving plenty of surface area for the epoxy to stick to.

I mixed the epoxy on a slick piece of paper (actually a left-over invitation to an art show for one of the artists at the Hausmann Millworks where my shop is located - it was his suggestion) with a little piece of wood I cut. I made sure that each surface was well-slathered with epoxy, applied epoxy to the tang, and let the epoxy run into the tang-holes of each piece of wood. I popped air bubbles in the epoxy of the end-piece, making sure it was filled before I stuck it on the end of the tang.

Finally, I used two blocks of wood and the cross slide table of my Grizzly benchtop mill/drill to compress everything together and hold it overnight. I've never tried this before. I think I like this approach, although a carpenter's clamp might be easier. I actually saw someone post a picture recently doing the same thing using a caulk gun and a block of wood to clamp.

Alcohol-soaked paper towels helped clean up excess epoxy. Tomorrow I'll work on shaping the handle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Further progress on bushcraft knife

Got the guard pretty much fitted today. It's copper, an electrical bus bar, actually. I ended up using a different bus bar than what is in the first picture.

If you look under the knife, sitting on top of the bus bar, there's a chisel-looking thing. That's a piece of leaf spring cutoff that I made into a blunt-ended punch slightly smaller than the tang/blade transition on the knife.

Using my hydraulic forging press, I cold-punched the slot for the tang. This was the first time I'd used my press and done it cold. Worked pretty well. Then I sawed it off of the main bar.

I hot-fit my guards. I clamp the blade in the vise with a piece of leather wrapped around, heat the guard, and drive it down with what in blacksmithing circles is called a "monkey tool". In this case, a piece of pipe flattened into an oval cross section on one end. Usually I use the piece of bicycle frame in this picture, but I found the tang was too wide on this one, so I quickly made one a bit larger. Driving the guard down is done with a hammer, but having only two hands, I couldn't show that part. I just pantomimed it, then fired up the torch and did it for reals.

And after it is down all the way:

At this point I hold the guard against the anvil with the tang still in it and hammer from the sides to close up any gap. Then I knock the guard off and straighten it. Now it's ready to do the main cleanup. I actually use a couple of progressions of sandpaper flapwheels on my angle grinder first, then move to the drill-held flapwheel as shown.

After that, I re-fitted it and went to the belt grinder to get the rough profile of the guard done before putting any wood on the handle. I try to minimimze the amount of guard shaping done when the handle is epoxied on since copper especially heats very quickly and can make the epoxy bubble out.

That's it for today.