Even More Books…

Well, one more book. I have about twenty knife and swords books in the sights for future purchases, but I am still in the middle of reading the first seven I already have purchased. The flu-like illness that has been bugging me on and off for two weeks is unfortunately not very conducive to reading, especially to reading in a foreign language.

But Marcus was so very, very kind and has sent me this beauty, which I have not seen offered anywhere here. I must say it is a lovely book on first sight and it became a cherished possession instantly.

Now I had not planned on buying a book specifically about japanese knives, because I intend leaving making japanese knives to the Japanese, but there is no denying that they have a reputation of being superb tools so it won’t hurt to know about them. Quite the opposite, I am sure there is a lot of knowledge in this book that will be beneficial to me and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

However this makes me think a little – all the knives that I have made so far and that I intend to make in the future are my own designs and represent my aesthetical preferences as well as my style of using a knife. And whenever I look at works of other knife-makers (which I do not do very often), often I see that everyone develops a distinctive style. For example Bob Loveless has been renown for drop-point small hunting knives, Walter Sorrels sells mostly very pointy and straight, tanto-style all-purpose knives, Stefan Santangelo seems to like knives which have a slight forward angle between the blade and the handle with a little kink in it etc. I have no doubt that all these knives are perfectly functional and comfortable to use. There is no single “correct” knife design.

I find it remarkable how expressive can be a piece of craft that is essentialy just a sharpened sheet of metal with a piece of wood to hold it with, even when looking at just the outline.

Incidentally you can see two things in the last picture. Firstly, my left middle finger is nearly completely healed. There is still slight swelling and an area with tickling-burning sensation when touched, but it gets constantly, albeit very slowly, better. Secondly, in case you are wondering, that is my school pencil-case, about thirty years old by now.

YouTube Video: Tod’s Workshop

“You make one knife, you make another, and you never stop.” True words.

Tod Todeschini has put out a very short lovely video promoting his workshop.

I do not think that I will manage to pull it off with making knives for a living, to be honest. As in every endeavor, a bit of luck is required and the competition is tough. So even if I manage to do everything right (which I won’t, I never do), success is not guaranteed.  But I am definitively going to give it a try, because I am more than fed-up with being corporate drone.

And when I will be forced to seek employment again, I will do my best to avoid US owned shareholder companies like the plague they are.

The Plural of Mermaid is Moremaids

After the little mermaid in the last craft post, I decided to use that idea some more and insert them into landscapes.

To do that you need some larger moulds and tools to shape the result afterwards. I built my single use moulds with thin wood and popsickle sticks, lining them with tape. This worked half- well.

One came out quite nice and shiny, which was lucky, but the other one not so much, which meant sanding. To give you an idea what that means here’s a series of pics demonstarting the process:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is after sanding with a 120 grid to make the surface even.

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A little project on the side

We haven’t had a craft post in a while, and I know some of you are still waiting for your horses (they’ll come). I do have a larger work in progress that I can hopefully show you soon, but for most of this year I hit a creative dry spell with just being too exhausted after work.

Well, I got holidays and I used them for a little fun project. I wanted to do something with wood again and if you hit youtube, you’ll find dozens of “secret wood” tutorials (though why they’re called “secret wood” is a mystery to me, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it?), but I wanted to do something a little different:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

For these I used an old stick that was lying around and cut off some pieces. The bark had already withered away so I only cleaned them up lightly, leaving all the natural signs of withering in place. I then drilled a hole down the middle, starting with a size 5 drill and then going up to 10 over 8. After that I started to make the cuts with my little Dremel tool. In the green one I first tried to make two parallel cuts and then take out the wood in between, but that didn’t work that well, so I just make the cuts as wide as possible and then used other tools to define them. I think it will take a few more goes before I really get the hang of this.

Though this project showed again that my BFF J and I are actually one person leading two lives. I showed here these and said “I’ll need to ask your husband a favour” and she replied “you want to used some thicker wood and have him drill out the middle so you can insert some lights”, which is exactly what I’m planning to do.

And here’s one more thing, a leftover mermaid:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

I still had some green and blue resin left, so I made a pretty pendant. One of the easiest things to do with resin is to print out stuff on a transparency (got to be a laser printer, though) and then insert the result into the resin. Because my resin was starting to cure I couldn’t get the bubbles out, but for once I think they’re actually adding to the whole thing.

The Death of Handicraft

Today’s video is not the main meat of the article, but just an appetizer:

Joe van der Steeg is a blacksmith from Netherlands. I came across his videos a few years ago and I found them very informative, even though admittedly not very entertaining. I did not subscribe, because I do not intend to seriously go into forging at the moment, but I kept him at the back of my mind for future reference should I need plain and to-the-point info about forging techniques. What was clear from the few videos that I have watched was that he is very committed to the craft and that it is his life.

Previous year he announced that he is quitting the craft as a professional and will only continue with it as a hobbyist. When I have noticed that video, I was saddened, because I hate that old crafts are disappearing.

A few days ago I found out that Alec Steele, the youth YouTube blacksmithing star has afterwards invited him for a few days of collaborative work at his workshop, they had a lot of fun together and Alec’s enthusiasm and infectious personality have motivated Joe to continue to make videos. I shed a sentimental tear over that outcome, and I subscribed to Joe, although his videos are still on a back-burner for me, because day has only so many hours.

I know that to make knives for a living is for me just a pipe dream. There is a lot of people in that market, the competition is fierce and getting notorious enough to make a living would be difficult, even more so for a shy and introverted personality (I can pretend self-confident and strong, but not for long).

But overall I think that at a societal level a step back from automation would be desirable. With current state of technology, it is entirely conceivable having 5 hours working days somewhere at a factory/farm and the rest of the day having off to be a weaver, cobbler or whatevermaker to your heart’s desire.  The factories with their automation are perfect for delivering necessities for survival, but to my mind nothing beats handicraft for delivering the beautiful, unique and shiny. Further jobs at factories are soul-crushing and many people afterward have no energy for anything else than to sit in front of TV. Also most people whom I know who do have a creative hobby are mentally much better off than those who do not. There are reasons for arts therapy.

I am not entirely convinced that decline of handicraft is purely due to automation – there are a lot of people who would love to own handmade goods, but cannot afford them.

So why do we as a society insist on having most people do jobs they hate most of the time if that is not, strictly speaking, necessary for the survival of the species?

In my opinion the thing that is killing handicrafts is the same thing that drives the world inexorably towards global warming – insatiable greed of the upper 1% who are sucking money out of the economy only to put it on their bank accounts so they can engage in pointless dick-measuring contests with their fellow parasites. More and more people have to spend 8 or more hours a day in a factory to produce cheap goods, because fewer and fewer people have the means to purchase the more expensive handmade goods. It is a self-reinforcing cycle.


Marcus has mentioned Alec Steele a few weeks ago, but at first I did not like his over-the-top presenting style. Well, he is young and full of vim and vigor, and I am getting old and full of bile, what can you expect.

However Alec seems to be a genuinely likeable guy – his career is essentially built on helping others to learn the blacksmithing trade. And that is something I really cannot object to. I got over my initial dislike of his whooping and now I am binge-watching his videos and learning new stuff. Maybe I get to try some of it in real life.

I am a bit envious that he has found a job he loves, is good at it and it puts bread on the table at mere 16 years age, I managed only two out of three when I was twice that age. Grumble grumble grum….

Making Kitchen Knives – Part 10 – Shaping the Outlines

I have not forgotten or discontinued this project, only when it is cold I have to first heat up my workshop before doing any work – which wastes a lot of fuel and a lot of time. Therefore in winter I never manage to do as much work as I would like to. But I managed to do something in the last two months – like building the tumbler (that has run for five days straight by now btw. and it has made a very nice satin finish on the broken blade).

But I could not do much actual work on the knives themselves, because first I must focus on making the necessary improvements. I managed only one step in the process and one failed improvement in the next one.

The step that I have managed with success is shaping the outline of the blades. Last time I ended up with three stacks of blanks held together with screws. So I took them to the belt grinder and ground the outline of all three stacks. After that I disassembled the stacks and cleaned up any irregularities, burrs etc.

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

I ended up with a stack of 12 knife blanks. They are not all identical, but in three shapes – next time I will have to think a bit more about how to get reliably reproducible results. To save my self trouble when cutting the handle scales I have marked the blanks in each group on the tang with letters T, V and X. Why these letters? Because they are easily distinguishable from each other and can be scratched with just two lines.

This step was not actually very time-consuming before – just 10 minutes per blade, or 1, 55% of the whole process. Theoretically not worth improving. But I hope that having three groups of four reasonably identical handles will save me some time when shaping the handle – which took 110 minutes per handle, or 17% of the whole process.

Nevertheless, shaping four blades at once did bring some minor time-saving in itself – I have spent only 5 minutes per blade now, so I have saved 5 minutes from my process. This has confirmed that this was indeed low hanging fruit – it was a very easy improvement.

Next step is basic grind of the blade – and this is where I have my first failed attempt at improvement to share in my next post.

Lets Get Ready to Tumbleee!

I hope this will work. If not, I am determined to fiddle with it until it works.

I found an old asynchronous motor in our cellar. It is a small thing, mere 140 W, and it lacked wiring, any elements to fix it to something and cam wheel completely with wedge. But I have managed to convince my father to connect a cable and a switch to it, and it was working. So last few weeks, whenever I have got an hour or two, I was building a tumbler. I did not document the building process, because there is not much to it, really.

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

Just like with my belt grinder, I started with a particle board leftover from kitchen renovations, which was the base for my old drill press. It is a nice >2 cm thick board, covered with waterproof plastic on the upper side. Stable, strong, simply ideal as a base for a machine. Because the motor lacked any flanges or wings or whatevers to fix it and only had 4 M5 threaded holes, I took two pieces of steel that had 90° angle, straightened them to about 120°C angle and screwed them onto the motor. This provided me with two ears, that could be screwed on wooden blocks connected to the base plate. The switch was attached to the plate by its standard holes, plus two wooden pieces to better secure the cable.

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

As I mentioned, the motor lacked cam wheel. So I stood in front of a choice – to buy V-belt cam wheels and V-belts, or try something else. I tried something else, because I deemed it easier and cheaper. I bought two PP furniture wheels of different sizes. One got attached onto the motor in the standard way – with a steel wedge ground from a piece of spring steel and a lot of cursing. The diameter of the axis was slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the wheel, but I was able to fill the space with a piece of steel pipe. For the bigger wheel I had more luck – it had inner diameter 15 mm. So I could just buy a 15 mm steel pipe and further I could put to use two old ball bearings that also had 15 mm inner diameter. With a bit of banging and a lot more cursing I was able to fix the two ball bearings and the big PP wheel onto the pipe (the PP wheel is further fixed with a nail, so it dos not hold on only by friction). Next step was to fix the ball bearings on two wooden blocks onto a separate particle board plate.

At this stage I also took a strip of leftover flooring PVC and glued it onto the PP wheels for better traction. It is actually nearly impossible to glue anything on PP with reasonable strength, but there are adhesives on the market that manage this task strong enough for this kind of application (I think). If it goes pear-shaped, I can always screw it on later.

For the tumbling drum I took a 100 mm diameter PP pipe and again I glued on it a few layers of PVC for better traction. The PVC lays directly on the steel pipe in order to reduce the fast rotations of the motor as much as I can.

Two small furniture wheels aid in keeping the tumbling drum in place whilst allowing it to freely spin. The tumbler thus lies between the axis and the two wheels and holds in place purely by its own weight.

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

Last week I cut a piece of thick leather 1 m long, 3 cm wide, and I cut the ends at an angle so they overlap whilst the overall thickness remains the same, and I glued it together with epoxy. Hide glue would probably be better, but the weather was way too cold for messing about with hide glue. Today I took last few hours in adjusting the positions of the two wooden plates against each other to have adequate tension on the belt without it wandering in one direction or the other. As of now, it has been running for an hour without problems.

It has about 120 rotations  per minute, which might be a bit too fast. I put in shredded walnut shells, a soft coarse polishing compound and a broken blade from my failed machete build.

We will see what comes of it.

Tummy Monday Flowers, or something, on Tuesday.

I’m sorry for missing all the regular posts, but on top of the regular holiday business, my cold came back with a vengeance.

But the cold seems to be on the way out (I hope it cannot read this. Last time I said something like that, I wanted to die the next day…), Christmas Eve is over (the big day in Germany) and from now it’s visiting relatives and having them cook.

So, first, have yourself a tree:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Every year, people decorate trees ion the woods. We wanted to do so as well, I even bought ornaments, but sadly it was either always raining or I was sick. But we went for a short walk yesterday and brought birdseed and nuts to the birds in the woods.

As I said, the next days are for visiting relatives. A few years ago we decided that since we couldn’t visit anybody on Christmas Eve without other people being offended and feeling less loved and what have you not (because being 60+ does not mean handling your emotions like an adult), we wouldn’t leave the house and nobody was allowed to visit and that really, really improved our Christmas time dramatically.

On Christmas Day, Mr’s family visits each other. Each year, one of the siblings hosts the whole family. This year it’s my favourite aunt in law. I promised a cake.


©Giliell, all rights reserved.

That’s espresso infused chocolate cake. The first filling is vanilla and espresso buttercream and caramelised walnuts.

The second filling is buttercream once more with oranges that have been marinated in spiced rum and white wine for about two weeks. I also used that syrup to moisten the cake. On top there#s more oranges, some fresh, some marinated, and a few pomegranate seeds. That took most of my time yesterday morning.

Now for gifts. Charly has lamented the obligatory nature on Christmas gifts, and I fully share that sentiment. I love making gifts and I enjoy giving just as much as receiving. I don’t need Christmas for that. Nevertheless, there’s going to be a lot of resin jewellery this year, which gets me to the fuck annoying things. I’m going to give jewellery to all the ladies present today. That includes my mum in law. Who will politely thank me, but never wear it, but who would be very upset and hurt if I didn’t give her something she doesn’t like anyway, because see above.

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

Anyway, here’s all the gifts for friends and family.

I hope I’ll have time and muse for some better shots of certain things between the years, I really need to post an update.

And last but not least, temperatures dropped to December levels over night and I was greeted with ice flowers at the window.

Ice flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

Ice Flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

I hope you all get some rest, a time to breathe, and good food and time with your friends and family.


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

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Metal Magic – part 5

Kestrel finally reveals her finished piece of jewelery and it’s drop dead gorgeous. Before the unveiling, though, there’s still more work to do.

I’ve come a long way with this piece of metal and now it is finally even and thin enough that I can make a piece of jewelry out of it. So let’s get started. 

I’m going to use a nylon mallet for shaping. Here’s the beginning: 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

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