Monday, April 30, 2012

Xtreme Challenge knife

This is something I came up with for the Extreme Knife Challenge on BladeForum's Wilderness and Survival Skills Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More sub-sub-forum. :) Basically, the idea is that a number of knifemakers sign up to make knives that they think will meet the requirements for the challenge and they are sent to one or two judges who put the knives through their paces and post their conclusions about how they performed. The first one that I heard about was the Custom Machete Challenge, but only after it was over. :( I would have loved to participate in that one. There have been several others since then, but this is the first challenge I've participated in. The challenge this time is to build a knife to handle extreme survival situations, which can take place anywhere, including urban environments, and may include what would constitute testing to destruction. I did a rough sketch, then forged the blade from 1 1/2" x 1/4" 5160 steel. I wanted a plenty capable chopping blade with a big belly and the sweet spot dropped below the level of the hand for extra chopping power. However, I wanted the blade to remain straight for general ease of utility (such as drawknife duty and choking up for fine work) and to make it easy to sharpen on a flat stone, so I made the drop come from the curve of the handle and the angle of the blade to the handle. It needed to handle a variety of task sizes, and I wanted it to not be too heavy and to also be somewhat concealable if needed in an urban environment, so I went with a 12" long blade. Big, but it could be slung under a coat or long-sleeved shirt or fit into a backpack.
After forging it out, I decided that although I was quite happy with the profile and that it would make a great brush chopper, the thickness of the blade was a little suspect for some of the suggested activities for the challenge (breaking padlocks and chain, etc.) The spine was approximately 3/16" before the raised clip, 1/8" for most of the false edge, and about 1/16" just back of the point. I knew how it would handle hardwoods and such, but the more extreme end of things had me worried. I decided that I would finish out the blade, but then would forge a heavier version for the challenge.
As it stands now, the Mk II version has been soaked in vinegar to eat off the scale and is ready for stock removal. The false edge area is around 1/4" thick right now, but will thin out a bit. The MkI had a shorter handle than I typically do, making it where I wouldn't have enough room for my usual Turk's head knot at both ends of the handle, so I made the Mk II have my standard handle length.
I chose some subdued olive drab paracord for the handle wrap and two-strand Turk's head knot, sealed in Minwax Wood Hardener. After sharpening, I tested it out on both thin, whippy hackberry branches and a good-sized pecan log. I'm happy with it and will put it on my table at the Blade Show, while finishing up the Mk II version for the Extreme Challenge.
Well, this took a ridiculously long time to finish, and it was largely due to the scabbard. But it's in the hands of its owner now and he's happy with it. The scabbard is padouk wood. The basic work was done some time ago, then it sat around the shop as I worked on it off and on and worked on other projects.
Finally, I finished it up and got the blade appropriately shaving sharp.
I made the scabbard follow the curve of the blade's choil, making it obvious which side is which on an otherwise very rectangular scabbard.
By way of apologizing for the amount of time and thanking him for his patience, I sent the customer this little knife I forged from 1084 and wrapped in hemp and sealed.
The customer has sent me some pictures and description of the blades in use. He commented on how "alive" both blades felt in the hand when he first got them out of the box. The first major task he put the bush sword to was clearing away oak saplings along the bank of a creek to be able to access it for catching trout for breakfast.
He then put the smaller knife to work helping to process out a steer that they were butchering. He said it worked great, and after touching up the edge, he put it to work in the kitchen chopping onions and beef tongue for some lengua tacos.
A few days later, he sent me this story about making use of the bush sword again. He has quite the talent at storytelling, so I'll use his own words: "Figured I'd give you an update on the chronicles of the Bush Sword. Walked in the house last night after work and noticed a box of wine and the Titanic dvd. Not a good sign... Talking with the SheBoss, I confirmed my worst fears - her friends were coming over to drink wine and watch that movie. The trifecta of Team Estrogen, boxed wine, and the Titanic is a sure sign that I should not be anywhere near there - it is also a signal that my dog will likely end up getting dressed up like some city dog that rides around in a purse in New York City. Can't have that - he's a hunting dog! Anyway, I remembered that I still have a turkey tag, so I strapped the bush sword to my pack, grabbed the shotgun and headed out to the woods for the night with the dog. It wasn't all that cold (only about 40 or so), but it was raining so I figured I'd do the dog a favor (he's a hunting dog, but he's kind of soft) and set up the poncho. A couple of whacks with the sword and we had tent pegs. Not only did it make short work of cutting them to length and cutting the point, but it is balanced enough that making the notch for the twine was no problem whatsoever. Excellent! Woke up a little colder than I thought I should be and couldn't understand why until I noticed that the dog had basically stolen my blanket. Selfish mutt. Worked out OK though since I was able to sneak off and get a bird while the lazy hound was still sleeping in my covers. Just in case you ever run into an invasion of turkeys, let me assure you that the sword quite slickly decapitates turkeys. Never know when that knowledge might come in handy! Here's a photo of the sword strapped onto my pack. Really slick with all the attachment points on the sheath - carried great. Again, really enjoying the sword and am astounded at how handy it is."
I'm really enjoying seeing my blades being put to work like that. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Big bunch of bush swords

This is what kept me occupied for much of January and February. It was the largest order I've had to date: ten bush swords for a custom knife dealer in Hong Kong.

All are forged from 5160 steel, triple normalized, triple hardened in canola oil, and triple tempered. All have integral socket handles with hemp cord handle wraps, cotton cord two-strand Turk's head knots fore-and-aft, and shellac sealer (black for nine of 'em, natural amber for one). All were shaving sharp when shipped.

Blade lengths vary between approximately 12" and approximately 17".

And now I'm working on more for my table at the Blade Show. I aim to have six on the table, as well as my other inventory. We'll see what I can pull off. :D

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The shoemaker's children go barefoot...

...or no new knife for James.

This one actually started out as a quick demonstration piece to show my homebrewed 100 lb. ram power hammer Gunnhilda in action for an as-yet-to-be-edited-and-uploaded Youtube video. I grabbed a chunk of 5160 steel that was only 3 1/2" long by 3/4" round and by the time I finished forging, had a nice little EDC with a 4 1/2" blade, a full-length tang (the paracord anchors through a 1/2" hole at the end of the tang), and a spine that was 3/16" thick at the base of the blade, tapering distally to the point. So, a very handy everyday carry size that was plenty stout.

I decided to finish it out using my new paracord wrap and replace my old EDC fixed blade that I made several years ago. I chose neon orange and black because I really dig the combination. My Mama says orange is a crazy person's color. :D

Of course, you need a sheath to carry a fixed blade on a daily basis, and I go busy on other stuff and it never got one made. I put it up on the table at some gun shows with the thought that if it sold I could make myself another one. I kept it in the wooden box that the rest of my Blade Show inventory is in and whenever I would show someone what blades I have on hand, they would of course see it with everything else.

Yesterday was the last night of the simple knifemaking class I was teaching in conjunction with the Southwest School of Art here in San Antonio. A student asked if he could look through the inventory, picked it out, and asked if I would mind losing it from my Blade Show inventory. I was agreeable and he now has it in his possession.

So sometime after the Blade Show is over, I need to make myself a new EDC and then make a blasted sheath for it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Kill Bill" wrapped primal/tactical kwaiken and Bowie

I finished these up this week. Very different blade styles, but basic construction is the same. The steel is forged 5160, triple normalized, triple hardened in canola oil, and triple tempered. The handle wraps are paracord with lemon yellow for the underlays, black stripped of its core for the overlays, and two-strand Turk's head knots of unstripped black cord, all sealed with Minwax Wood Hardener. Both are shaving sharp, of course.

First up is a little quasi-kwaiken that I gave to an artist who had given me a couple of flower paintings as birthday gifts for my girlfriend and mom. She had been eyeing a couple of other quasi-Japanese blades with the Kill Bill wrap (that have yet to be seen on the Interwebz), so I made this for her. The sheath is a simple foldover Kydex afair. Blade length is 4 1/2" and overall length is 9 1/4".

She was quite surprised and happy to get the knife, as my mom and girlfriend were to recieve the paintings. :)

Next is a primal Bowie with a blade length of 7", overall length of 12 7/8", width of 1 3/4", and spine thickenss of 7/32" at the base with a distal taper to the point. This started out as 3/4" round bar, so you can see how much it stretched out. In spite of the large size, it's quite light in the hand. This one was commissioned by a cousin of mine as a birthday gift for his teenaged son. Kydex sheath with two MOLLE locks. It'll go in the mail tomorrow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Temporary Hold on New Orders

With the Blade Show in Atlanta swiftly approaching and current orders already keeping me busy, I am taking a temporary break from accepting new commissions. I have several interesting items I would like to have on the table at Blade that means I need all of the time I have. :)

I should be back accepting orders on the other side of June. In the meantime, I'll still be posting completed work as I finish up current commissions and prepare inventory for Blade, so stick around, please.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My blade, Snakewood's handle

This blade was commissioned by a fellow who posts on the PaleoPlanet froum under the name Snakewood. He wanted a knife blade patterned after the knife I made for the airman to take to SERE training, but with a hidden tang that he could put his own handle on. He's making the knife and a sheath for a customer.

Here's what it looked like before being shipped:

Note the plentifully-stout tang. It's approximately 1/4" thick at the blade/tang transition, tapering slightly to the end of the tang and tapering distally to the point of the blade. The blade is around 7" long, forged from 3/4" round 5160 and given my typical triple normalization, triple hardening in canola oil, triple tempering heat treatment.

And here's how it looks now:

The handle is osage orange (bodark, as we Texans pronounce it) mortised to fit the tang, the guard is copper, the pins are 1/4" brass with bronze flange bushings, and the butt of the handle is Montana big horn sheep held with brass pins.

And for a sense of size-in-hand:

Looking forward to seeing what he does with the sheath and with the other blades I'm finishing up for him. :)