Making Kitchen Knives – Part 19 – Two Finished Knives

I have decided to throw the pictures at you piecemeal and not all at once. I want to say a bit about each blade and I think that cramming that all in one post would be counterproductive, it would take too long before I could do it and I might get depressed by writing about all the things I did wrong with every piece all at once. I hope you don’t mind.

Two knives are not only finished already, they are with their owners. I did not get any feedback on their use, because for that was not an opportunity yet, but they were well received, despite their flaws. But, well, they say don’t look a gift knife in the mouth or somesuch…

First, let’s say a bit about this universal kitchen knife for my favorite aunt.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is one of the best blades, strong, straight and stiff. Exactly what I was aiming for, capable of cutting leeks as well as melons. The handle is made from black elder (Sambucus nigra) wood.

You can see tiny cracks on the faces. I personally do think they can add a bit of a character to the wood – especially if the wood is partially decayed, as you will see on some of the next blades too – but that is not always the case and sometimes they are just blemishes. From a functional standpoint, they won’t be a problem. They are filled with the boat lacquer and thus sealed and glued shut. Anything that destroys the wood now would destroy it even if it were pristine. But it is something I have to figure out how to prevent. I will probably have to seal the ends with silicone or epoxy glue before pickling the wood in ammonia next time, or make the pieces a lot longer (I did make them longer prior to pickling, but apparently not enough).

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And pickling black elder wood I shall, that one thing is sure. Untreated elder wood is yellowish, but the color is nowhere near this bright and rich. I have always loved yellow color, and I think this canary-yellow looks just beautiful. Unfortunately, I cannot show you untreated wood for comparison here, but I will at some point in the future.

What I do not like are the dark shadows around the pins. They are not burned wood (they are grey-ish, not brown-ish), but maybe they are dirt from polishing that got stuck in the epoxy. I will have to look into this next time and maybe not go on too high grit polish before the lacquering and maybe carefully scrape it instead. The wood is beautiful, hard, has small pores, and is a joy to work, but it dirties easily.

The second presented today is a fish gutting & filleting knife for one of my uncles.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This was ground from one of the blades that came out curly, but it was my plan to take one of these blades and re-grind it for a fish knife from about November 2019, when my uncle expressed a wish for it. The blade is very thin, flexible, and pointy. It would cut vegetables of course too, but I do not think it is suitable for tackling difficult cabbage.

The handle is made from black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), and this is one of the woods that had a really strong and a bit surprising reaction to the ammonia. You can see in one of my previous posts that untreated black locust wood is honey-yellow/brown with a greenish tint to it. But it apparently contains a lot of acidic components that react with the ammonia and its color got real funky in the process.

When working it, I thought at first that I am burning the wood, and I was trying to sand it slowly and carefully not to do so. It took me a while to realize that whilst I indeed can burn this wood (it is super-hard), I am not doing it. It just looked that way. My subsequent reaction during the work was somewhat “meh” and I thought I won’t bother with this in future anymore, there is plenty of brown woods out there.

And then I have changed my mind.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

What you, unfortunately, cannot see in the picture is a sort of tiger’s eye effect the lacquer has brought out in this wood’s grain. It looks iridescent and it changes color from light brown with a golden glint to nearly black depending on the angle you look at it. So I went from ” I won’t bother with pickling this wood again” to “I am going to pickle this in buckets”.

Regarding flaws, this knife suffers from uneven shoulders, and it won’t be able to correct them with exercise. I only noticed when I was etching the logo, that I ground the forward-facing facets on the scales slightly askew. Nothing major, but it is visible with the naked eye.

Slight asymmetries in the handle scales that I have spotted too late are actually a bit of a theme in this batch and it is something that I too will have to try and figure out how to prevent. Eyeballing the things during grinding until my eyes start to water apparently still is not enough.

And that’s it for today.


  1. says

    I absolutely love the fish knife and you are right about the wood: it is gorgeous and you should definitely use it in the future

  2. voyager says

    I think what you call “flaws” are a beautiful part of the character of the knives. Both knives are gorgeous from design to fit and finish and I hope you’re ridiculously pleased with yourself.

  3. Jazzlet says

    They are lovely Charly, and the pickled black locust is wonderful even without being able to see the tiger’s eye effect.

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