A Howlicool Knife

I am still undecided on whether to offer this knife for sale or not. It is a cursed knife, mistakes, and obstacles just kept popping up. I tried to use the oak extract blackening on mild steel fittings and it did not take. So I used heat and linseed oil and the results were great – but they got damaged badly at the last minute when I was sharpening the blade. That damage is irreparable now, although one might not spot it if unaware of its existence. I damaged the blackening on the blade too, but I was able to restore that to an almost new look. It turns out that some paper masking tapes have glue that is damaging to both blackening techniques used. It sticks too strongly after a while and it is nigh impossible to clean it off the metal surface.

Pictures below the fold.

The blade is from spring steel and the handle is from bog oak, black epoxy resin, and pakfong for contrast.

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

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

Initially, I wanted to make a plain black sheath. Then I got an idea to adorn it with a wolf image. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as white leather dye. There also is no such thing as white leather patina and my attempts at making one kinda worked, but not good enough. Thus I could not make the sheath in shades of grey with the black as I thought would be ideal and I had to use shades of brown. (White leather can be obtained but it is chrome-tanned and not suitable for embossing, it does not hold shape when stamped,)

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

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

I chose the wrong stamp for the basket weave, I intended to use a different one. But I only noticed it after I made an impression and therefore I either had to use it or toss the leather piece and start anew. And I cannot afford to toss leather in the garbage just like that so I used it. I did not make a very neat job because I was pissed off. But at this stage, I no longer cared because I was working on this knife with interruptions for two years and I was starting to hate it.

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

I think I did an adequate job on the wolf’s head, however. It could be better, but it also could easily be much, much worse. I had to make another new stamp for making the hair structure.

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

It is a big camping knife, by now a standard outdoor/bushcraft knife in my repertoire.

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

Unlike my previous pieces, I do not particularly like this one. At least it is fully functional and I learned some new things whilst making it.


  1. flex says

    It sounds like you are uncertain about offering it for sale is because you don’t want to sell a knife which you believe is not finished to the quality you think it should have. But aside from the issues with finishing it the knife is fully functional.

    Which leads me to believe that your real worry is that your reputation as a high-quality blade maker would be reduced by putting this knife up for sale. That is a real concern, and not something to take lightly. Especially as I see that it already has your imprint on it. Anyone who owns this knife can find out who made it.

    But I have a couple of thoughts. First, at some point in the future this knife will be owned by someone else. It may not happen until after your death, but it will eventually happen. Your only option to prevent that from happening is to destroy it. If your desire is that all the work you produce and sell is of an extremely high quality (and from what I’ve seen of your work you hold yourself to a very high standard), then if you are not satisfied with the knife you have an option to destroy it.

    On the other hand, the creation of the knife took a lot of time and resources, resources which are scarce. Just throwing them away could not only be painful, but also decrease the quality of your life. Recovering some of those resources by selling the knife would be very beneficial to you.

    Is there a way out? I can think of a couple, and they are both related to your makers mark. First, if your mark is intended as a mark of quality, just obliterating the mark would tell future users that the maker was not satisfied with the work. The other option I would consider is applying a second mark, next to the first, which indicates that the knife does not meet the highest standard of quality you strive for. Your reputation is not diminished if you clearly indicate when a piece doesn’t meet your own standards of quality. On the contrary, making that assessment public will enhance your reputation for the quality of the blades which do not have a second mark indicating it didn’t meet your own standards. Of course, with either of these options, you would have to offer the knife at a lower price. But as it’s a fully functional knife there may well be some people who would be interested in owning some of your craftmanship, but can’t currently afford one of your pieces.

    Those are the options I can see. There are undoubtedly others.

    Finally, while I am happy to give my thoughts on your dilemma, I do so not because I see issues with the quality of the blade, but because you asked for comments. I do not see any issues in the quality of the knife. It looks like a beautiful piece of work to me and I personally think you shouldn’t hesitate to offer it for sale. I don’t see the damage to the linseed oil finish caused by sharpening the blade, nor is the blacking on the blade unattractive, and to me the basket weave on the leatherwork is aesthetically satisfying. If I had a vote (which I do not), I would say offer it for sale as normal. But if you don’t feel it meets your personal criteria for quality there are better options than letting it sit in a drawer somewhere or destroying it.

  2. says

    I go through a lot of electrical tape, covering parts of a knife I want to protect from accidental mild abrasion. Obviously nothing is going to protect against a swoop of angle grinder or sanding belt, but for sharpening or polishing, it’s quite the thing.

    That’s a fine looking knife!

    My experience points toward the idea that there is always a flaw. Even if it’s perfectly machined on a CNC machine in the vacuum of space (in which case the flaw is the inhuman machining accuracy) -- what happens is that eventually someone comes along who doesn’t care about a flaw and cherishes the thing anyway. At which point it doesn’t matter or is, in fact, a plus. I feel that my duty is to work as flawlessly as possible, but it’s a duty only to myself as part of my endless search for improvement. Once I’ve done that, I find a good home for the result, and move on to the next project.

  3. Jazzlet says

    I agree it looks to be a fine knife, but we obviously can’t inspect it in detail. However I know from my knitting and sewing that others are extremely unlikely to see the flaws I know are there, as in it has never happened, even when told there were flaws people looking for them did not find what I saw instantly. If you feel really strongly that it is below your standards I think flex’s idea of marking the knife as a “second” is a good one, but I do have a couple of thoughts.

    One is to put the knife away for some time, months if not a year, do not look at it at all while it is put away, and see how you feel at the end of that time. I have found that doing this gives me time to get over the emotions related to making the mistakes and judge a piece more rationally.

    The second idea isn’t about the knife, but about the sheath, did you know there are red wolves? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_wolf One of my brothers had seen them in the wild, close enough to get decent pictures, and the ones he saw were definitely red, not all over as they aren’t one solid colour, but rather have a pattern of different colours blending into each other -- well look at the pictures on that page.

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