Fulleramajig & Joy and Depression of Knifemaking

My friend got the knife I conspired with his wife to make for his 40th birthday. He wasted no time and tested it on a BBQ that very day. Afterward, he called me and thanked me and sung praises of his new toy. I must admit that it made me happy for a moment because this is the main reason why I am making knives – to make the end recipient happy that they got something unique, beautiful, and useful as well. That is the good news out of the way, lets go to the somewhat miserable part now.

In my previous post about that knife, I commented that making the fuller was a pain in the fundament, to which Marcus helpfully replied by reminding me about an old video by Walter Sorrels in which he made a small handheld jig to polish fullers. That has inspired me to make my own jigs for making fullers.

First I made a semi-functional attachment for my belt grinder.

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

The aluminum arm can freely swivel around the rusty screw along the right side of the upper idler wheel. It is held in position by an M8 screw on the back and the brass L- part is an end stop. When grinding, the screw on the back sets the maximum possible depth of the fuller and the brass end stop sets the distance of the fuller from the blade spine/edge depending on how I put the blade on the jig.

It works, somewhat. It does not allow me to make the fuller too deep by accident, which is a definitive plus. But it has the major disadvantage of being asymmetric, whereas blades are (mostly) symmetrical. When grinding one side, the back of the blade lays against the end stop, when doing the other side, it is the edge. That makes it difficult to make the start and finish at the same point on both sides of the blade – I have made two blades with it so far and whilst one is reasonably symmetrical, on the other the fuller is off by about 3 mm towards the tip. I wanted to toss the blade but my mother says I should finish it, so I will. Whether I will attempt to sell it, we shall see.

I intend to polish both of these blades to mirror polish, to see how much work that is and how it will look. And to polish the inside of the fuller I have made a small jig from an old furniture leg.

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

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

It is along the same general lines as the one by Walter Sorrels, only from cheaper materials and less precise. Putting the paper on is a bit fiddly and I will try and come up with a bit better system, but it does work. It is elbow-grease powered of course, so it is a lot of work, but it does allow me to apply the pressure with wrists/palms instead of fingers, so I can put my whole body weight behind it when needed. I got the fullers to 800 grit reasonably fast so I do think that I will manage to get mirror-polish without extreme suffering and pain.

And last update to my workshop is this.

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

I would love to have the grinder in a separate room, but alas I cannot afford that. And the dust was getting on my nerves, as well as everywhere else. So I have bought ash vacuum particle separator for my shop-vac. The inlet is made from a piece of leftover sheet metal held with insane amount of ductape on an extendable tube recycled from another, defunct, vaccum cleaner. It works reasonably well and although it does not catch all of the dust, it does catch most of it. As a result my workshop is a lot cleaner and I need not vacuum every surface as often as before.

And now to the total misery.

I was happy to get my licence to actually sell my knives, but I feel miserable all the same. I need to buy and set up accounting software, set up a separate bank account, contact tax/accounting consultant and buy and set up a webshop. And I am procrastinating all of those things because that is the one actual part that I hate.

I have done almost all of the things above as part of my various previous jobs (exception is setting up webshop, but I do have experience with setting up and maintaining webpages), so the problem is not that I do not know what to do. The problem is that if I do not do anything, I cannot fail, whereas when I do all those things, I can. I know it is totally silly, I know that the only way to actually succeed is to do the things that need to be done, but subconsciously (and partly consciously – the odds are not in my favor) I am just expecting failure and I do not want to go through all the hard work just to toss it after a year or two and get emploeyed at some shitty deskjob again. I want to make knives and I would love to give them away for free. But if I did that, I would not be making them for much longer. Attempting selling them is the only way how I maybe can keep making them . And I hate, hate, hate that.

I am depressed. It is irrational, and I know it, but that does not help.


  1. kestrel says

    Yeah, having to sell what you make kind of sucks in a way. I’d love to just give things away too. I can’t, though.

    I read a book once about trying to make a living selling spinning fiber from rabbits and I think the woman had some good ideas. For example, she asks the reader to imagine they’ve just been injured so badly they simply must stay in bed, immobile, and PAY someone to do what they do every day. How much would you have to pay that person? It would probably be quite a lot. In addition it would be difficult to impossible to explain to some worker how to do all the things you do. It’s just possible you and your time are way more valuable than you realize.

    Also, you are concerned about “failure”. It makes me wonder what “success” is. For some people I suppose it would be making lots of money. For some, maybe just being content. Maybe happy. Maybe it’s making someone else really happy. I don’t know. You would have to figure that out, but if by “success” you mean, “make someone else really happy”, it seems to me you already are a success.

  2. says

    I sympathize with your frustration. Your approach -- pf making your own tools -- is impressive in terms of bricolage and craftsmanship, but in terms of being a pro knifemaker it’s an irrelevant distraction. The knife has to stand on its own merits and it doesn’t matter what kind of grinder it was made with. Because, if you do it right, nobody can tell. A fuller cut in 5 minutes with a milling machine looks exactly like a fuller that was ground by hand, only it’s more precise. The craftsperson’s usual response to that is that they want it to look hand-made, but if that were true, why try to make it look machine-straight in the first place. Meanwhile, you’re tearing up the cartilage in your hands to get that “hand-sanded” look which is, in theory, indistinguishable from a “machine-sanded” look. I appreciate the craftsman approach and the professional’s approach but it seems to me your pain comes from trying to sit at that cross-roads.

  3. Jazzlet says

    Oh Charly i completely understand about not doing things so you do not fail. My mother taught me that there was a right way to do everything and that you should learn it or not bother, I understand where she was coming from, but it has lead me to endless procrastination over the years, and I have had to learn, and learn again that it simply isn’t true, but I still struggle with this.

    Huge comforting *hugs* or whatever else would still the ruminating one the probability of failure.

  4. says

    Charly, I feel your pain. It is the reason why I decided never to make my passion my job. I also understand not being able to do the things you know need doing, because you just can’t. I just realised how badly my depressive moods had gotten when my new contract arrived last week. Turns out I’ve been replacing things that didn’t need replacement just because I was not able to tidy things up, and sort them.

  5. voyager says

    You’ve come a long way, Charly, and I have confidence that you’ll make it past this hurdle. Changing our lives is difficult and it happens in small increments.
    Maybe you could break things down into smaller pieces that are not so overwhelming and build your confidence a bit at a time. I sometimes make detailed to-do lists and then I can ‘lose sight’ of the big picture for a while.
    Putting it in writing is a brave step and I hope it helps you figure out what works for you.

Leave a Reply