Simple Finish Knives

I have made twoo puukko. To be honest, I was not a fan of this type of knife at all. I have only decided to make them just as a part of my ongoing knifemaking education. But now I am totally a convert.

The first one has a handle made from birch bark, cow bone, and white brass. It looks a bit like a stacked leather handle but it feels different in the hand. Birchbark can be flattened by boiling it in hot water and pressing it between two boards to cool and dry off, making it into flat hard sheets. They are slightly more brittle than wood, but they do not have any preferred failure direction, so they do not split and break easily.

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

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

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

The second one has a handle from birch wood with a small burl in it. It is not proper burlwood, it was just a piece of firewood that I thought will be interesting. I think I was correct in that surmise. The endcap and bolster are from pakfong.

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

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

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

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

Both of these knives have just a simple finish to them. The blades’ primary bevels were ground only up to 120 grit and then tumbled after quenching in sand as long as it took to take all the scale off. Bolsters and end caps are not highly polished, as well as the handles. In fact, I took a steel brush to them to roughen the surfaces a bit. And the finish is just several layers of ordinary boiled linseed oil.

I was aiming for a simple, rough-looking sturdy knife as well as a simple, easy-ish manufacturing process. I think I have managed both. I really like these knives and I will make at least somewhat fancy sheaths for them. And I will definitively make more puukko in the future. I also think that this design is ideal for recycling old files into knives, so I will probably do some of that too.

Have Some Gingerbread

I’m not an artist with these things like Charly’s mum, but I love making them. It’s the first time I made a gingerbread house that wasn’t just assembled from a box. I probably should have trimmed the still warm edges again with the cookie cutters, but the result was nice nevertheless.

I looked at the kids with my evil mum stare and forbid them to touch them for about 5 days, which is a perfect time for the gingerbread to get soft again, but not so long that it would go stale. There’s a few ruins left that I expect to disappear within the next days or so.


Tree made of stacked gingerbread stars, decorated with icing and sprinkles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Gingerbread house on a glass plate with a marshmallow roof, front view

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Gingerbread house on a glass plate with a marshmallow roof. Side view.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Gingerbread house on a glass plate with a marshmallow roof, view of front and side

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Relativity of Value

In accordance with Czech law, my house must be visibly marked with my business identification number, my name, and the trade(s) that I am running here. So there is a small sign on the garden gate that says “manufacturing, sharpening, and repair of knives, shears and gardening tools and manufacture and repair of leather goods”. I have expected to get exactly zero business that way, because not very many people come by since I live at the end of a dead-end road, in the middle of large meadows. But my elderly neighbor has noticed it and she came by asking if I would sharpen her some shears, and two pruning shears ((large -loppers –  and small). I have told her it will cost about 20,-€, which she accepted.

The pruning shears were modern tools and not in very bad shape. I had to disassemble them in order to sharpen them properly, but there was nothing interesting about them and sharpening did not take too long. But the ordinary shears were in very bad shape indeed.

Those were tools over fifty, some possibly even a hundred years old. They were extremely dull and battered, most did not even close fully at the tip due to excessive wear and lack of proper maintenance for decades. The protective nickel or chrome coating has mostly worn off and they were covered in patina instead. But they were made in times when things were made to last, so I got to work.

Thus I have sharpened all the edges and I bent the blades and the handles and peened the rivets so they close and cut properly all the way from the base to the tips. I did not attempt to remove the patina, since that could destroy them. But I have restored them to full functionality and, given the quality of their manufacture, they will now probably last several more decades. And I managed to do all this in just over an hour of work since it was not my first time I have so I knew what to do and how, otherwise asking for money would be a bit cheeky.

Even so, I was in for a surprise when I brought them to my neighbor, who was so thrilled with them that she offered twice the agreed price, which I had to decline. I would feel like a thief taking the price of several new shears for sharpening old ones, although I am convinced that these old ones are better now than many of the cheap new ones she could get for that price. But I have told her that I will gladly accept any pretty pieces of wood if she fells some of the sickly fruit trees in her garden.


Look at the Grinding Noise!

I have been contacted by my previous employer, which has led me to remember the various works I used to do. One of which was measuring and evaluating noise. That has meant that I was making and interpreting pictures like this.

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

Of course, this was only done with my phone, whereas at the laboratory I had various kinds of fancy equipment and software available. But back then I did in fact check whether this phone app measures reasonably accurately, and it does.

At the very top, you can see that grinding handles is a very noisy work indeed. When the equipment runs idle, it emits over 78 dB, which is very near to a level when the noise becomes truly dangerous (80 dB). And during work, it exceeds 89 dB. So I am indeed diligent about wearing hearing protection since that noise level would damage my hearing pretty damn fast.

Whoever knows how to interpret the above picture, can tell that when the grinder runs idly (those parts with green at the top), most of the noise – and indeed the loudest noise – is below 500 Hz. And whenever the wood touches the belt, another very loud component is added, between 5 and 80 18kHz (those parts with red-magenta stripes at the top). There is nothing I can do about the noise that is emitted during the grinding, but I could if I were inclined to spend my time on it, try and identify the spots where the loudest frequencies are during idling and try to do something about that. For example, I suspect that a significant source of the low-frequency loud noise is the tensioning wheel.

However, as much fun as it might be, I do not think I will spend a lot of time over this anytime soon. It would be fun though. I liked my previous job, the work was not the reason why I quit.

The Myth of Self Defence

I wanted to write this for some time, but it was Marcus’s recent post that prompted me to finally do so. It will probably be a bit rambly, I am not Shakespeare after all.

As is not unexpected for someone who was really badly bullied in my childhood and even in high school, I have dabbled in martial arts a bit in an attempt to learn how to defend myself from bullies. It started with a bit of karate, then a bit of aikido, and then I gave it a pass because I have come to the conclusion that it is mostly useless and way too much effort for way too little gain. I still have some interest in them, purely theoretical, so I do occasionally watch youtube videos about martial arts and self-defense. And they have more or less confirmed this belief.

You see, in order for any martial art to be any practical use whatsoever against a dedicated – even untrained – attacker, one has to spend an inordinate amount training them and keep oneself in good physical shape. And even then, in an actual confrontation, there still would always be a huge luck factor that can completely do you in and that is a fuckt. Especially when weapons get involved. Any weapons.

I am glad to live in a civilized country that regulates weapons sensibly, not too little like the US, but also not to a ridiculous degree like UK or Japan, or AUS, so I have never encountered the level of threat that Marcus is describing. I have also successfully avoided the military draft, thus I have never had the dubious pleasure of encountering a loaded weapon of war by having to handle one, let alone to be in the presence of a maniac handling one. The closest I got to a firearm was when I was a kid and could shoot a varmint rifle for one day and that was it. I never needed a gun, never was threatened with one either. The only violence that I was threatened with was a physical altercation that would, at its worst, probably result in a black eye and perhaps a concussion. Not that those are pleasant, but this level of risk does actually allow one to employ the best self-defense there is – running away.

Occasionally when I mention this in comments on YouTube, someone answers that that is a great way to get shot or stabbed in the back, which always makes me LOL. Being shot is not a great risk around here. It is not zero, but it is not on anyone’s radar. Even a mugging is most likely to involve at worst knives. And getting stabbed in the back while one runs away is just ridiculous, try to sprint and stab a target that moves at the same speed away from you if you do not believe me.

One of the self-defense and martial arts YouTube channels that I occasionally have watched in the past, hard2hurt, has made a whole video criticizing the strategy “run away whenever you can” which I have considered completely ridiculous. AFAIR, his main argument was that it is not easy for an untrained person to outrun an assailant. Well, duh? However, the untrained person still has better chances to outrun him than to subdue him in a fight, since there are fewer variables involved. And if you train martial arts, you are most likely fit enough for running faster than Joe Schmo too.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, do your best to de-escalate and/or comply (hand over the valuables). If that fails, do your best to get away. If, and only if, that fails, is the time to fight – and at that point, you have probably lost anyway because you were caught unawares and were harmed before you could actually do any of the previous steps anyway.

That’s not to say martial arts are completely useless. They can be a great exercise if you have a body that benefits from one (I don’t). Visiting a martial arts club can also be a great opportunity to meet with people and make friends. Some people do enjoy competitions and that is fine too. Some people like all of those things and some more and that is just dandy. But any student of martial arts should not kid themselves that what they are doing is learning how to be invincible in a confrontation. And any responsible sensei should and would drill into their students that avoidance of confrontation is far superior to martial arts mastery.

All that said, I have used my minuscule martial arts skill a few times in my life, from that twice to get out of an assailants’ grasp and get away from the confrontation. If I were trying to “stand my ground and teach them a lesson” I might have won, but I also might lose. I would definitively suffer some damage. By running away I may not have “won” in the macho sense of the word, but I also suffered no damage, which is a win for me. But a bit of knowledge of martial arts did allow me to run away in the first place.

Last I would like to say that MMA is in this context just a useless as all the other “traditional” martial arts. In my opinion, in most cases, the useful parts of all martial arts are not the subjugation levers, armbars, chokeholds, kicks, and punches.  Outside of the controlled and rules-governed ring, those are useful to the assailant, not to the defendant. To the defendant are useful other things – the dodges, pressure points, evasions, safe falls, and, above all, being in good enough shape to run for it. And getting those is possible even in martial arts that are not well suited for competitive fighting.

I Made a Shoe Rack

I took a break from making knives and the last three days I have spent testing my new circular saw by the means of making something with it. My mother has requested a small shoe rack that would fit between a wall, an open bedroom door, and a washing machine. That meant the rack has to have a bit funny shape, as you can see.

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

It was made mostly from recycled materials. All the shelves and the sides are made from old kitchen cabinet doors. The sides are covered with adhesive wallpaper and the tops of the shelves themselves are covered with pieces of PVC flooring leftovers from house renovations. The upper one has a different color in the photo due to additional light from the window, they are all the same IRL.

Doing this kind of work with my new table saw was a joy, but the saw has one design feature that I think is done extremely poorly in comparison to my previous one (and in fact even in comparison with my home-built belt grinder and tumbler) – the design of the on/off switch. The old one had an extra emergency switch that could be easily pressed with an open palm, or a knee or whatever body part is near. This one only has an elevated red off button that is not very big and not readily accessible, it requires a bit of fumbling about under the table edge to find and a firm and relatively precise push is needed. I must say that as much as I love the tool, this particular feature would earn the designing engineer a clip around the earhole from me because it is very, very daftaroony. Everything else – the dust collection exhaust, the folding legs, the extendable table supports, the adjustable cut depth/angle works very well and easily, the ergonomy of all those parts is great. But for that bloody daft on/off switch alone, I would take it one and a half star out of five if I were writing an official review. A beast of a machine like this just must have an emergency off-switch that even a panic-stricken and/or injured person can immediately find.

I may be overly strict in my expectations, but this one is a real bummer for me. If it did not violate the warranty, I would change it for something more suitable straight away. I might build something with an extension cable that would allow me to have an easily accessible emergency switch without compromising the integrity of the machine.