My first Commission – Part 2 – Conjunction of Projects.

I did not expect to get a commission this early. I am not quite there yet to be able to make a good quality knife in a reasonable time. I am confident I can get the “quality” part right, but time – definitively not. My original plan was to perfect my manufacturing process with the kitchen knives, which, if you remember, I have left this spring at a phase where the outlines of the blades were established, but nothing else.

But I need to work on both projects now because apart from the time I also need to use my resources – electricity, propane gas and charcoal – in a more economically savvy manner. That means hardening multiple blades in one go for example. And that means I have to establish the primary bevel grind on the commissioned knife as well as on the kitchen knives so I can harden and temper all those blades together.

But the whole point of the kitchen knife project was to develop a viable manufacturing process, and establishing the primary bevel was the part where I knew I have to develop and build a fixture first. You have seen my very first attempt. It did work, but not very time-effectively, I wasted about a minute each time I needed to flip or change the blade. That is a lot, considering that for the basic grind I need to go through five belts on both sides. It was clear I need some way to hold the blade steady, but being able to dismount and re-mount it quickly.

The second attempt was this.

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

The idea was that the hinge and two screws will allow me to set the tilt, and the knife-blank can go into the slot where it will be held by the levered screw. It did and did not work. That is, it worked for one knife and then it broke. The problem was moisture which caused the wood to deform and split. But even without that, fixing and releasing the blade was still not as easy as I would like it to be. I got an idea on how to improve this design, and I already bought the materials to try it out, but then I got sick and everything got put on hold for a few months as you know. All I could do was to think about it.

And then my parent’s hard drive died and I got the idea to use those strong neodymium magnets. But for that, I need first to develop a system on how to switch them on/off, and that needs more time than I can spare right now for fooling around. The customer is not in a hurry to get the knife – they know I still have my day job and that I can only do this in my spare time – but still I think I should not strain their patience. So I needed a fixture, fast.

Luckily I got an idea utilizing things that I already have – the first attempted fixture and a few cheap, weak magnets. There is a way to make weak magnets a lot stronger, at the cost of reach – by concentrating the magnetic field to one side with two slabs of iron/mild steel. It is also possible to make longer arrays with this system.

Magnets and pieces of steel. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

So I took six of those cheap magnets and cut nine pieces of mild steel exactly as long as the magnets, but a few mm wider. Then I covered a piece of steel with masking tape and glued the magnets and steel together into three blocks, each consisting of two magnets and three pieces of steel, with the magnets facing each other with the same pole. That means the magnets oppose each other in the middle of the array, forcing the magnetic field of each magnet to the side.

Magnets arrays stacked and glued together. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

The masking tape has stopped the magnets from glueing onto the steel, and the steel was there to get nice alignment on the backside of the arrays. The frontside has the steel pieces overlap a bit, and the spaces were filled with epoxy and sawdust mixture.

Spaces filled with epoxy. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Whilst the epoxy was curing, I took the first wooden fixture and attached a long strip of aluminum to it for the spine of the knife to rest against, and I chiseled out three spaces for the magnet arrays to be glued into. After the epoxy has cured I ground the front faces nice and flat and glued the arrays into the wooden block, again with using a piece of steel covered with masking tape to hold all three on one plane. I used a lot of fast curing epoxy that day, all the while completely forgetting to take pictures of the process. So the next picture is the finished fixture with a knife blank attached to it.

The fixture with knife blank attached. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

To get the tilt the fixture has four screws on the downside (up in the picture, not visible).

And the fixture works.  The magnet arrays are strong enough, but not as strong as neodymium magnet arrays, so it is still possible to comfortably detach the blade by hand. It allows me to apply a lot more even pressure on the blank, for a longer time without cooling it because I do not burn my fingers (temperature not being of concern at this stage). There is still room for improvement – the aluminium stop is a bit too fat for kitchen knives, the screws for tilting do not provide stable enough support and they are a bit finicky to get right. But you can see it allows for making nice, flat and even grind.

Established primary bevel. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Added bonus is, that after two hours of grinding not only did I do more work than before, but also my fingers hurt a lot less because the fixture gives my hands more material to hold onto. I am definitively going to use this a lot, and perhaps there will be other uses for this concept as well. I have an idea for sharpening gizmo in my head for about a year by now…

An Unexpected Treasure

I do not intend to use tropical hardwoods in knifemaking too much. Especially I do not intend to buy and use wood from endangered species, but even tropical hardwoods of not-endangered species are problematic – habitat destruction and all that is unfortunately still a thing, not many tropical hardwoods are grown in a sustainable and renewable fashion (although many species can be grown in a coppice, when handled properly).

I think that local species have very often beautiful wood too, and the high price of some tropical hardwoods has nothing to do with how they look, but with their rarity. However, I will use them if I get my hands on some pieces by accident (for example I received some pieces free of charge with the steel I ordered, as an advertisement gift).

One such accident just happened. I was ordering online wood dust briquettes for winter and when doing that I searched for some wood for kindling. The description on the webpage on one product was something like “Hardwood cuttings from furniture manufacture, size up to 15 cm, 320 kg, extra dry, jatoba and black locust”. And I thought to myself “OK, black locust is an invasive species in Europe, and jatoba is not an endangered species. And anyway these are probably mostly chips and splinters that will be burned regardless, but maybe I get lucky and there will be some 10-15 pieces usable for knife handles in there and that would be nice.” So I bought the palette for the circa 100,-€ it costs. That is a lot for a mere 320 kg of firewood.

This is how the palette looked like in my garden.

Sacks full of wooden cuttings.

Nothing special but you can see a nice big rectangular chunk of wood bulging in there, so I reckoned, “There are 12 sacks on the palette, if in each is one such nice piece – big enough for 2-3 knife handles – then the palette has paid for itself in knife handles already, I will get wood for about 25 knives. Nice!”.

Oh, little did I know. The very top sack was brittle and tearing, I suspect it was standing for a long time in the sun so the plastic deteriorated. I reached into the hole and pulled out one random piece of wood. And I could not believe my eyes.

A piece of jatoba.

This is not what in my workshop counts as “a cutting for kindling”. This is a piece big enough for 4-5 knife handles (circa 25x100x200 mm). Jatoba is not very expensive (for tropical hardwood that is), but even at its cheapest, I would pay 4,-€ for a piece like this when buying it extra. But the price could be somewhere between 10 and 20,-€ as well for this amount of top knife-handle material. And then I pulled out five more pieces – four were like this, only the fifth was really crap fit for kindling only.

I am not exaggerating – I could barely wait and sleep after this. But I had other work to do than to muck about, so it had to wait until today evening when I finally got to taking this wood under the roof. The uppermost sack nearly disintegrated on touch and this is what I saw.

Jatoba bonanza.

My jaw dropped. That is wood for about 50 knife handles right there, in the picture, and twice as much not seen. This one sack alone has set me for life as far as jatoba wood goes.

I did not open every one of them, but by the feel on the surface 6 sacks contain big chunks like this, and 6 contain splinters and small unusable cuttings that I initially expected. So I estimate I have enough material for 600 fat knife handles made from jatoba, enough to start small manufacture if I were so inclined.

Oh, there was one piece of black locust too. That is ordinary and real cheapo wood (except for burls, those are costly), but it is pretty, durable and really environmental-friendly to use, since it is a pest.

A “cutting” of black locust.

To summarize, the ratio between the two species was reversed to my expectations (at least in the first sack) and I need to order some more kindling because I do not have nearly enough now.

I still dislike the idea of using tropical hardwood at all though, it just feels wrong. Although I am not a moral philosopher capable of dissecting the morals and ethics of a situation like this. I should probably heed one Czech saying and “leave these musings to a horse, he has a bigger head.”. What do you think?

YouTube Video: The stropping myth and how to sharpen tools with leather

Today a little video about the maintenance of sharp tools. Unfortunately I am not giving my tools the attention they would deserve, because I am not using them enough, but that should hopefully change soon. I have also bought a thick leather strip to make myself a good strop last year, but then I misplaced it and I found it again only last week.

In a pinch, I have also used following things for stropping a knife blade:

Folded newspaper, paper, cardboard, towel, dog’s collar, wooden board, and even the trouser leg of my worn jeans (whilst wearing them).

And when I had not commercial compound available, for stronger abrasion I have used:

A toothpaste, a bit of fine clay/mud, and fine wood ash (grass ash would probably work even better, it contains silica, but I did not try that one yet).

But the best results are in my opinion obtained with a strip of thick leather and jeweler’s rouge (the real stuff – finely ground haematite made from annealed rust). It is definitively worth stropping kitchen knives, especially if you have knives with an apple-seed edge.

Sorting out Abrasives

I had all my abrasives in one big plastic case, some further sorted in smaller containers, but the abrasive papers and pads were just one huge pile. So now that my workshop is in a state when it is actually possible to do actual work again, I have decided before I start to make knives again to sort out my abrasive materials for good (again, so in reality until the next stack overflow).

For the papers I have made a little portable shelf where I could sort them out from the coarsest (40 Grit) to the finest (7000 Grit) with some room to spare for clean paper sheets and carbon paper sheets – those come in handy sometimes in the shop, so why not. I still have three slots to fill, which is a good sign. It is a lot heavier than I thought it will be, partly because that is a lot of MDF and particle boards packed into small space, and partly because that is a lot of abrasive paper – and that is heavy, of course, it is covered in sand after all.

Abrasive papers, sorted and ready to deploy.

Precision is of the essence in such an endeavor, as is the quality of used materials of course. That is why I cobbled it all together from scraps of old furniture – 1 cm particle board from an old bed for the frame and 3 mm MDF stripped from an old bathroom door. And I took the time – about 2 hours. Joking aside, I could, of course, buy completely new MDF and have it precisely cut beforehand in the shop, but waste not, want not. I never got used to throwing money at something that will work just fine when made from scraps that I have at hand (my shop looks the part), and I certainly am not going to do that when I just quit a job and am about to lose reliable income.

Now the case could be filled again with remaining polishing and abrasive materials, in a more orderly fashion – polishing wheels, pads, polishing pastes, etc. It is just as full as it was before – which is not good – but it is all a lot less cluttered.

A lot of felt and fat and various odds and ends.

I will probably have to figure out something better for the steel wool, it tends to rust and crumble before I get to actually using most of it. But, as it is, it is a significant improvement.

I no longer have to take a pitchfork in order to get to the bottom of the case and find the grit I need. Today afternoon I will make some improvements to my belt sander and after that, hooray – I will start to make knives again!

Bufftoofbrush

I am currently in the process of re-organizing my abrasives and polishing compounds, so when Marcus mentioned the tedium of polishing his silver casts, my mind juped to this.

I have used this method once for buffing up the handguard for the rondel dagger when it was already mounted, so today just as further proof of concept of a procedure for buffing small parts that are difficult or impossible to do on the buffer due to complex gometry (or safety).

This is what I started with – an old rotary toothbrush head that I have saved up for this purpose specifically, an extremely old and corroded mirror holder (probably chrome-coated brass or something like that), a piece of never polished brass with patina (a waste piece from machining) and hard, coarse polishing compound. A bit too hard, this is a high-speed compound, a paste would be better, but I could not find it. Not pictured here are paper towels that I have used to wipe the polishing compound off of the piece after work and the green scrubbing pad (see further).

The corrosion on the mirror holder was extremely hard and resistant, so I had to use a piece of scrubbing pad too – but I only used it on the left (thicker) half of the part in the following picture, not the right, thin part so some of the pitting from the corrosion is still visible there.  A big improvement over the initial state nevertheless.

On the brass cylinder, I did not use anything else than the toothbrush and polishing compound

It is hard to take pictures of the results, but in the end, I found a way – I think you can see which side is the unbuffed part of the brass cylinder, and which the buffed part. The time it took me was about 5 minutes, but it would be mere seconds on the buffer. Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle to using this on a bigger scale is the battery capacity of the toothbrush, but it could be useful for getting into nooks and crannies on small thingies.

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

How to Sharpen a Knife

Instead of writing at lenght, I will let Walter Sorrels to explain it better than I ever could.

This (except the measuring of the angle with a tool, which I was taught to recognize by feel and eyeballing) is how I was taught to sharpen knives and it is essentialy how I do it and teach others to do it.

 

 

At least I had a pretty break

Hello there. I know, I’ve been very absent recently. Work was pretty demanding, the Damokles’ Sword of not knowing whether my contract will be renewed hanging over my head* and life being busy as usual.

Last weekend we first had #1’s “culture workshop”, which is an evening when all the groups in her school can present their projects, including her class. It was an amazing evening and the kids are really damn talented, from the chubby boy with the glasses doing a kick ass rap presentation to the Syrian girls reciting poetry about their home town Aleppo.

The next day was the little one’s school festival, which usually means the very same people working a lot. It#s the same everywhere. My colleague was totally stressed out because she was organising things for her kid’s festival the same weekend. Or as Pratchett noted: if you want to get something done, give it to somebody who is already busy.

And the works in the garden have finally begun. There’s nothing like coming home with a migraine and having people use heavy machinery around the house.

As a result, we used this long weekend (holiday on Thursday, “bridge day” on Friday) to lick our wounds and recover and spend some very quiet time together, going for walks etc.

But I also got some resin art done over the weeks, especially after Marcus’ latest parcel.

Some of this will be up for sale/auction for the FtB legal defence fund, so if you set your eye on something, just let me know.

*I’m pretty positive that I won’t be unemployed come next term, but that’s not the same as knowing and I’ve noticed that it has been slowly wearing me down.

First of all, this is what the garden looks like now:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

In tearing down the old stuff they found tons of unreasonable concrete which they have to get our somehow.

First project: tealight holder:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These look very complicated but are actually dead easy and I’d say the perfect project if you want to do something with resin but not invest a lot of money in moulds and stuff: Just pour your resin onto wax paper, let cure for about 12 hours, fold over a glass, fix with a rubber and cure completely.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The fish are printed again, though I bought the sheet this time.

Next projects are under the fold:

[Read more…]

A Brief Update on the HDD Magnets

I have been mostly working on a shelf this weekend. It is very needed because there is more than enough stuff just cluttering up the house and it is getting on my nerves.

But I also had worked on my little project involving the magnets that I have salvaged from defunct HDD a few months ago.

First I took a piece of 3 mm thick, 20 mm wide galvanized mild steel and I cut off a piece big enough so I could bend it into a U-shape in such a way that the magnets can sit inside with about 2 mm free space between the magnets and the bends. then I also cut two just 3 mm bits of the same stock. When put together as seen on the picture, you get a very strong magnet that only pulls in one direction (up). Plus the way the HDD magnets are magnetized means that this magnet now has four poles N-S-N-S. Also that the magnetic field is very strong, but has a very short reach. I tried to measure the force with which it holds a piece of steel and it was about 65 Newton, which is impressive for such a small thing cobbled together from scraps.

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

After this, I cut a few pieces of brass to fill the spaces as tightly as possible, and I drilled and cut an M5 thread in one arm of the U. Precision is essential here. Unfortunately, we do not get along very well and she is a mere nodding acquaintance, despite my best efforts, so everything was a bit wonky.

I have no pictures of that work because I still did not figure out exactly how my new phone works – I thought I took pictures, but apparently not.

When I had everything cut, I mixed a generous amount of quick drying epoxy and slathered it all around and glued everything together.  And after the epoxy hardened enough I have ground off (manually) excessive material and I trued and polished slightly the magnetic surface.

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

So now I have this strong, one-directional magnet 50x20x10 mm. So far everything goes as planned, and I hope that the next step in this project will go similarly well.

A Marcus Solution for Ronja and Other Hairy Beasts

 

The Marcus Tactical Dog Brush

A few weeks back, Jack and I received a very special gift from Marcus. It’s a dog brush, but not just any dog brush. This little gizmo is the most practical dog grooming tool that we’ve ever used and it has a few little secrets that I hope Marcus won’t mind my sharing. I suppose the best part is the actual grooming surface which is very simply a hacksaw blade. It’s amazing. It pulls out hairs that are still only thinking about coming out and it never clogs. The hair just flies out in a big cloud and I don’t have to stop and de-clog the thing which means that I can keep going as long as my arm holds out and Jack doesn’t have a chance to get restless and wander away. It works so well that it’s an outdoor tool only at our house. I used it inside the first time we tried it and it took days to vacuum up all the hair it set loose. The hacksaw blade also makes the tool useful for lots of other situations such as an unexpected need to escape or sever an artery (hopefully not your own) and I think it’s accurate to call it a “tactical dog brush.”

It’s also a damned good scratcher for an itchy dog. Jack has seasonal allergies and some days his tablets don’t control the itch as well as others. If I see Jack scratching a lot we grab the Marcus tool and out we go for a few passes that send Jack into fits of pleasure. He leans into it, dances from one back foot to the other and gets this sweet, goofy grin that makes me happy, too.

The other good bits of the tool might be harder to replicate. Marcus has taken a beautiful piece of maple shaped it and cut a slot with his bandsaw for the blade. Then he carved a perfect hand-hold groove on the backside. The wood was then smoothed to perfection by the artist and resin impregnated for durability. It’s a joy to hold and sometimes I find myself just stroking the thing because I’m tactile and I like the way it feels. It was then fitted with a perfect silver ‘J’ and sent to Jack.

I’m pretty sure there are easier ways to make a hacksaw into a dog grooming tool, but there are certainly no better ways to do it. Thanks again, Marcus.

Blue as the Ocean in a shallow Bay

The last resin pieces for now:

This set contains broken glass pieces, giving it even more the look of a crystal:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Mr. looked at the box with the glass shards and asked where I got that. It’s a funny story I told him. I turned around and then there was this strange noise and suddenly I found the glass all over the kitchen floor. Our tiles really hide the dirt well, but they show no mercy to any plate or glass dropped.

Next is a cherry flower:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I made three or four of these and I’m not entirely happy about them. First of all, pressing seems to have destroyed some of the structure of the petals and they became see through when I added the resin. Second I added holographic glitter and a black background and that’s too much for my taste, I should have stuck with one of them.

Next one is a galaxy oval:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here the idea is that you cast two separate pieces and then glue them together, giving it dimensions and depth. I quite like the effect. This one is small as I wanted to practise first, but I can definitely see more of them in the future.

And last but not least a terrible photo of a pretty pendant:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Wind came up and it kept swinging so they were all out of focus. Can you guess what’s inside?

Yep, it’s a pine cone in resin, sawed into slices. I have another block with red and yellow, but I need to cut it first.

This concludes this series of work, but I hope there’s more soon.

Eternal Flowers

Some more resin, this time with a pendant I made specifically foe all my black tops with colourful flowers (I’m a sucker for the Spanish label “Desigual”). I still need to wire wrap it because a simple hook doesn’t seem fitting.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Some flowers react with the resin and suddenly you have a totally different colour. Here on the left is a violet, only that now it’s a yellowlet (please, nobody explain to me how to spell “yellow”, will you?). Same with the erica. The violas are holding up their colours well. I’m going to dry a whole bunch of them.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next one is a leaping unicorn. This took me several tries because for some reason the Piñata magenta (a stock brand for resin) kept reacting with the blue and always turned a very dark violet and I needed to get a different pink from the company that also produces my resin.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is one of two unfinished earrings to go with the unicorn. When I cast these bigger pieces and cut them into shape there are often interesting bits and pieces that get turned into earrings.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The final piece is unfinished yet and more of an experiment. I used one of the burl pieces to create a silicone mould. I cast some blue resin and then put it into one of my larger moulds and added the white, only that it’s too much white here, again hiding the burl structure. Currently my idea is to print a bird silhouette and add it, because it does have a sky-feeling to it.

BTW, I totally offer to sell/create piece for the FtB defence fund if anybody’s interested.

The sad Discovery of the Existence of too much Blue

It’s time for some resin. I never catch up with posting all the stuff I create, but I’m doing my best.

I did my first tries with the burl Marcus sent and alas, there is something like too much blue.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The structure of the burl pretty much vanishes inside , leaving only the outside visible. You can also see that I didn’t catch all the scratches, but I left it at that because they’re only visible when seen against sunlight, which isn’t something that usually happens when you wear a pendent.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This one is smaller than the one at the top, cut from the same cast. With a lot of light you can guess the gold I added. I still love the burl and the second attempt is a lot better, but not yet cut and polished.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These ones, OTOH, turned out exactly as blue as I wanted them. Because here the focus is on the contrast between the birch and the resin. I cut this and the second piece from one block as well, both being about 3X5 cm.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Awww fuck it, there isn’t such a thing as too much blue, because, well, blue.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here’s some trinkets that will probably get incorporated into other pieces. They’re cast in silicone moulds for fondant, so the finish isn’t glossy, but I quite like them.