The Heart of Caine

Yesterday on his blog Stderr, Marcus wrote about the creation of a very special heart in a post titled  Un-Achable, Un-breakable. This is the rest of the story, told by kestrel who used her artistry to create a unique and meaningful braiding for the heart.


Marcus sent me this amazing Damascus steel heart that he had made as a gift for Someone Special, and he asked me to put some leather braiding on it. I was happy to comply and decided a key fob would be good to braid on there. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

That’s how it started out, a beautiful heart with a hole in it. First I went to my stock of hand-cut kangaroo lace. I thought I would use the same color combo that I had used to put a handle on Caine’s knife. I braided the base of the key fob, but I needed some red leather for the knots. The leather I had was too big for this, so I went to my handy dandy lace cutting machine to trim it down. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

When you cut lace, and then think of the shape the leather turns to if you cut it and looked straight on the end, it’s a rectangle. The edges have a nice sharp edge, but in order for the lace to look good and lay well in the braiding, it needs to be beveled or tapered on the edges. Think of a flat-topped pyramid, but upside down – a frustum, maybe.

©kestrel, all rights reserved

Those grooves in my machine allow me to bevel lace at three different angle. You can see a bigger flat part to the left and that is where I skive lace. This cuts the bottom off the lace to make it all even. You don’t want to cut the top of the lace, as the top grain is where the strength of the leather lies. 

Now I’m all ready to tie knots. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

This is what my house is like: razor blades laying all over the place. You can see one in the photo of the beveling as well. That straight metal thing is a lacing needle that I have heavily customized. You normally use a fid for this, but what I did was grind and polish the end of this needle so that it’s kind of like a fid now, except that the end of it is threaded and I can screw the lace into it. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

I love how you can take a messy pile of lace and turn it into something very ordered. Just one more knot to tie and it’s all done. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

And there we have it – a special gift for a special person. 


  1. says

    Amazing job and a great example that a fail need not be fail -- even though that piece of steel could not be made into a blade, it still got made into a truly exceptional pendant.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    Wonderful work. The neat and orderly looking braid, the shape of the heart and the geographical looking grain of the Damascus steel are all gorgeous.

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