Improvipairing mah Belt Grinder

Three weeks ago one of the idler wheels on my belt grinder gave up the ghost with a screech and a puff of smoke. I was wondering why everything was overheating lately – the belts, the platens, the hweels, teh hwole heveryting. As it turns out, one of the ball bearings on one of the idler wheels was probably a bit off and when a ball bearing starts to go bad, it gets only worse from there. I have impromptu repaired the wheel but I have decided to take this opportunity to rebuild and improve my belt grinder.

The first step on that path was buying a bunch of precision-cut aluminum tubing.

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The only downside was that the ball bearings fit too well into these tubes, they could be inserted without any effort whatsoever. And I do not have a lathe to cut grooves for internal snap rings. So I have used stainless steel foil strips as shims for one ball bearing to press it firmly into the tubing with the other ball bearing only inserted and held in place with the nut in the assembly.

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Here you see one of the new wheels before it was assembled on the belt grinder. Aluminum tube with one firmly pressed in ball bearing, steel spacer with a piece of cork to hold it somewhat centered (I have drilled the center of the cork a lot more later on so that the spacer is really loose. The cork is there only so the spacer does not wander too far off center when assembling/disassembling), and the second ball bearing.

I have made three such wheels, and over one I have pressed another aluminum tube to increase its diameter. That one I later fixed in my drill and with the help of my impromptu repaired belt grinder I gave that wheel a barrel-like profile. Because my old tracking wheel was too getting worn and I decided to completely rebuild the spanning arm.

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Here you can see the right side of the spanning arm with the new spaning wheel. I won’t go into technimicical details. Here you have a second picture of the left side, it should be worth a thowsand words.

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This is in part made from new materials. The downside of this assembly is that I had to weld a 30 mm M10 nut onto the arm. Which was not easy. To say that I suck at welding would be to grossly and immodestly overstate my abilities. When I die, the average welding ability of humanity will probably go ever so slightly up. But after a few botched attempts, I have managed to make welds that at least hold in place, even when they look completely craparooni.

The tracking wheel is on an M10 thread rod and thus can be moved left-right with the help of the upper handle. That is necessary to at least somewhat center the belt on the tracking wheel to avoid asymmetric wear of its surface, My previous assembly did not allow for this and as a result, the wheel got really worn on the left side only.

The second screw under that allows for slightly tilting the spanning arm left-right. That moves the belt slightly from left to right, allowing it to center on the platen. This was starting to be difficult with my previous arm, in part because the assembly was a bit too sensitive (short pivot point) and in part due to the asymmetrical wear on the tracking wheel.

I have used the improved belt grinder for a few hours and it seems to work well. When the current batch of knives is in the tumbler, I will coat the wheels with PVC plastic and perhaps start making some other attachments for the belt grinder.


Showing off My Wood – Part 4

My mother continues to get better. I have harvested over 50 kg of plums and about 10 kg of apples this year and she has been removing the pits and making marmalade, compotes, and prunes for over a week. The freezer is full of de-pitted and halved plums, we have 2 kg of prunes in the cellar and a huge amount of canned fruit product, thus we are set up for years. This is good because a harvest like this is exceptional.

My father seems to be well after the reduction of antipsychotics. He is able to move and do something again whilst not getting any psychotic fits for a few weeks by now. Today we were at the psychiatrist for a check-up and his long-term memory is apparently in good shape for his age, but he has a short-term memory problem for which he was recommended to exercise a bit with games and puzzles. Alzheimer’s or any other type of severe dementia is, for now, not an issue. If he continues to do well, the antipsychotics may be reduced again at the next check-up at the beginning of next year. At least he genuinely enjoys cracking nuts with the Nutkraken and is positively eager to do it.

I have so much work in the garden and around the house right now that I have barely time for anything else. However I still have some pretty woods to write about, so lets go to it.

Tamarisk (Tamarix)

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My favorite aunt used to have a big tamarisk tree in her garden but they felled it a few years ago. When I was visiting, she gave me some of the bigger pieces in case I can make something pretty out of them.

The wood has developed a lot of cracks during the drying, it will need a lot of filling with epoxy. But it has interesting color and texture – the sapwood is bright yellow and the heartwood is reddish-pink with orange-yellow streaks like flames. I think that if I will the cracks with red or orange resin, maybe with glitter, I could get genuinely interesting-looking pieces out of it.

It is one of the few kinds of wood that I can smell when I work it and it is not pleasant. It stinks to the high heavens, to be frank.

Thuja (Thuja sp.)

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I only got two pieces of Thuja put aside. I could put aside more from a tree that was uprooted this spring in my neighbor’s garden, but I do not think I will. It is a plain-looking softwood. I will possibly use it for contrast pieces and spacers for darker woods of similar hardness if I ever work with one but I do not think it is worth using on its own.

Yew (Taxus baccata)

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Interesting-looking and reasonably hard softwood. Heartwood is reddish-brown, and Sapwood is creamy-white. It is similar to juniper wood that I have shown you previously. I think it might be interesting for both kitchen and bushcraft knives, but since it is poisonous, I will have to be very careful whenever working with it, especially when sanding or filing it. A respirator is a must, people can get – and did get – poisoned from inhaling its sawdust. I have several pieces big enough to make knife bloc, especially if I economize them and use them as veneers. I did not have a piece big enough to make a longbow. Pity.

That’s it for now, but I still have some nice woods to brag about, so stay tuned.

The Nutkraken

It is the season when the walnut tree is shedding its bounty. We still haven’t eatet yet all the nuts from last year and it will probably take some time to eat them, possibly a whole another year. And this year’s harvest promises to be even bigger than last year’s. Thus I have some nefarious plans with the nuts this year.

Howevah, all plans include cracking the nuts first. We do have a small hand-held nutcracker, but that is good only if you want to crack a few nuts for a snack, not when you need to go through a bucketful every day. I have tried to make a small lever nutcracker from an old drill press. It worked, but not great. So this year we brainstormed some ideas with my father about how to proceed and this is what I came up with later in the workshope when looking for suitable materials to materialize our idea – behold the mighty Nutkraken:

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I made it in about 5 minutes from a piece of board, two armrests salvaged from my father’s old armchair, a 10 cm piece of 4 mm fencing wire, and a bottle cork.

The armrests are connected on one end with the fencing wire. That end not only had pre-drilled holes. The armrests have an S – curve that has a nice short curve on the connected end and a long one on the other, making a nice indentation for the walnut and more than enough space for fingers. The lower arm has attached a perpendicular piece of board to it to stabilize it and to allow for it to be fixed to the table via clamps. After some testing I have added the bottle cork so the nuts do not get totally obliterated, making it easier to separate the shells from the meal. With a bit of additional work it could even be made to look pretty, but I probably won’t bother with that. I usually don’t with tools.

My father enjoys his new toy greatly and he cracked and shelled a bucket of nuts yesterday in no time. Those were low-quality nuts, and I intend to test some things with them first either today or tomorrow before I proceed to mangle the good-quality nuts that start falling next week. I will let you know the results of my sciency experimoments promptly.

The Nutkraken works magnificently. No sprain on wrists and fingers, no over- or under-crushed nuts, no problems whatsoevah.

Not a Masterpiece Sheathed

I have realized that I did not show this on Affinity, only on Instagram. With all that is going on, I haven’t done any actual work in my workshop for weeks now, but this one was finished months ago. In the end, I have decided to make a simple, unadorned sheath for my Not a Masterpiece knife. I decided to do that because I felt in the end that an overly decorated sheath would needlessly distract from the beautiful woodgrain in the handle. The striker and ferrocerium rod have simple stainless steel handles. The bronze caught patina, which was to be expected. It does require some maintenance to remain shiny.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

The full set is for sale in the Knife Shoppe.

Showing off My Wood – Part 3

My mother is slowly regaining the sensitivity and mobility in the knee of her leg, so she is recovering from some of the negative side effects of the hip replacement surgery and she seems to be on the right track. She has no pains and is much more mobile and cheerful than before the surgery. Had it not been for my father’s rapid turn down, things would be swell.

My father has slept well for several nights in a row now, his anti-coagulant medication was adjusted after blood tests and he also finally got his prescription meds from a urologist again. He stopped complaining and takes the antipsychotics regularly. He will probably be never fully OK again, but he seems stable, for now. He was also finally able to do something other than moping, so his obsessive persistent thoughts might be going away and we might be on the right track there as well.

Thus at least for now, I have some piece of mind and I would like to present to you some more of my crafting material collection.

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

I am not 100% sure about this wood. Some of it was given to me as apricot wood, and some of it I think is apricot wood based on its characteristics. Its looks are certainly consistent with the genus Prunus.

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It is very twisted wood, with reddish-brown heartwood and yellow-orange sapwood. It looks very interesting, but like many woods of the Prunus genus, it tends to develop deep cracks that are often invisible on the outside and become apparent only after one cuts the wood to size. So it is certain that it will require the filling of those cracks with epoxy. I do have enough of it to make some splendid-looking knife sets.

I suspect that trying to treat it with ammonia would turn it brown, just as it does with ordinary cherry.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

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This one picture is only the tip of the iceberg. I have several large boxes and a few bundles of longer pieces. I will have to use it as a veneer for knife blocks though, mainly because of its peculiar properties.

Lilac wood has very nice colors – creamy white sapwood, and light brown heartwood with lilac-colored streaks. It is very hard and dense wood, probably the densest in my collection, although not the hardest. However, it has so small pores that it never really dries properly. When cut and formed to size, it tends to develop cracks (checking) on the end grain even when it was drying in the attic for years prior to that. That is an unfortunate property of many kinds of hardwood with small pores. Lilac is really not suitable for some big works because of this. Even big pieces – which are rare – have to be cut down significantly and the wood tends to crack, warp and twist for a looooooong time.

Ammonia turns the sapwood to brown and the heartwood to even darker brown. I do not think it is worth it, this wood is more beautiful in its original form. I will probably need to use some UV-stabilized finishes for it to preserve its color.

Staghorn sumach (Rhus typhina)

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Not native species. Originally it was sparingly planted in parks and gardens as a decorative plant. It started to propagate beyond that and I am afraid it might become an invasive species soon.

I got a piece of this wood from my cousin about twenty years ago and I had some hopes for it. But now I am only including it here for the sake of completeness, I might just use it as firewood. The wood had a pleasant light-green tint when it was fresh, but not only did it develop an unholy amount of cracks during drying, the greenish ting has almost disappeared and the wood has now a dull greyish-yellow color. I certainly do not have high hopes for this small bundle and I am in no hurry to use it.

Plum (Prunus domestica)

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Absolutely stunning wood, one of my all-time favorites. All woods of the Prunus genus are beautiful, but this is special to me. Not for any particular reason, I just really like how it looks.

The sapwood is yellowish and not very interesting, but the heartwood has a gorgeous reddish color. It is hard with small pores and barely visible growth rings. It works well. I do not have a lot and not very many big pieces. I might have enough to make a few blocks with a veneer but not many. I will have to combine it with other woods if I decide to use it for that.

It is a very beautiful wood and I do have big plans for some of the pieces. I really, really do hope those plans will go well. I already have one finished blade that I think is deserving of it. If only I had the time and strength to work on knives.

Eye ain’t done yet. There will be at least one more post of this. Possibly more.

Le Workshoppe Rearangeé

I think I did not show you the inside of my workshop, except for the pieces visible around the various pieces of knives and machinery that I have shown in my crafting posts. And since I have totally overhauled (and cleaned) the shop these last few days, I have decided to give you a quick tour of the new layout. The workshop is a bit ad-hoc and furniture is made from mostly scraps.

So let’s start with the north wall, right behind the door.

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On the right, you can see where my lathe is stored. I do not use it very often. Right next to the circuit breaker hangs my woodcutting helmet and fire extinguisher.

In the middle of that wall is a huge shelf packed with various things. At the very top are old baking trays, then a plastic tray with some pieces of graphite. Neither of those things I need often, thus the upper shelves. Then come abrasive cloths and papers sorted by grit. Under them are some cleaning, flammable and corrosive chemicals, and a little basket with magnets inside to collect steel dust. Next comes the shelf with various fixtures and jaws for the vice, follows shelf with knives in progress and knife templates, and a shelf with big massive pieces of steel and aluminium. The second shelf from the bottom is now filled with various lubricants and the lowest one currently occupies interesting-looking stones for suiseki and bonsai. The various plastic bottles are mostly sunflower oil for quenching and one bottle for cutting oil.

To the left of the shelf hangs a board with various chisels, scrapers, planers, and knives.

Leaning against the shelf are various wooden dowels, staves, bow staves, pipes, and long wooden prisms.

To the very left, you see the beginnings of my first workbench, made yonks ago. It is three meters long and would not fit in one picture.

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Above and below the workbench are cupboards repurposed from kitchen renovations. In the corner, you can see two racks for thin metal profiles and pipes and the motor belongs to my tumbler. I have put it on this part of the workbench because it is somewhat inaccessible to work on and I have nowhere else to put the tumbler where it would not be in the way. I think I will be able to run it from there too, which is a plus.

The red vice is right under a light and in a spot where all the chisels, hammers, saws, rasps, and files are no more than one step away. On the cupboard right above it is also a thermometer so I know how warm/cold it is. Inside the cupboard above the vice are empty plastic containers for when I need them during work (like for example to sort screws into when disassembling/assembling something). In the drawer below it are small files and brushes, in the next drawer various pliers and shears, next wrenches, and the bottom drawer is filled with clamps.

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The forge in the middle is there because it needs repairs – work for tomorrow. Under it is a place for storing the table saw when its not in use, a small stool to help me to reach the upper shelves, a bucket for steel dust, and a shop vacuum cleaner.

Above the forge is a shelf with various writing instruments, gomtry tools like compasses, rulers, curves, the most-often used screwdrivers, and a roll of paper kitchen towels. The papers hanging on that shelf are laminated steel heat-treating charts. I will add in near future data sheets for the steels that I use. Inside the cupboard are nails and on the very top shelf accessories for the greenhouses. Again, the upper shelf is occupied with things that are not used often.

Next, you can see my unbender, now permanently fixed to the workbench. I have also spent one more day making it sturdier and improving the design a bit. Next to it, at the end of the bench, is now permanently fixed my drill press. It is lifted slightly above the bench so I can reach under it with a small broom to tease out the metal chips that collect there. I have also put there a piece of PVC flooring to protect the workbench from dripping cutting oil. The tables hanging on the cupboard above it are a drill-speed table for various materials and a conversion table between trizact and grit abrasive ranking.

Below the drill are various small brooms and seldom-used cutting instruments. In the drawers are some abrasives for my handheld belt sander and some ppe, like gloves.

Above the drill press, right at the end of the picture, you can see a small shelf packed with old cookware for when I need to cook something that is not fit to do in the kitchen. Behind it is a small shelf filled with various drill bits.

Now we come to the south wall.

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You have already seen my abrasive belt rack and my small heating stove. The basket and plastic bucket are for wood off-cuts. Normally they are not this full, but I did not need to heat the workshop for quite a long time now, obviously. The grey plastic trumpet is a vacuum attachment for collecting wood dust from the belt sander. The black barrel beside it with a similar metal trumpet is for collecting sparks and metal dust.

The green shelf to the left has buckets with various chemicals and abrasives on the top, some drums for the tumbler on the top shelf, and various metal offcuts on the rest.

Now we are reaching the newest addition to my workshop, one that has spurred the complete reorganization – the east wall with a new workbench.

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On the right is now permanently affixed my small bandsaw. I hope that fixing it to the bench will reduce its vibrations and improve the lifespan of the saw bands, they were snapping rather quickly.

Below the bandsaw is a small cupboard with bonsaist equipment and various attachments for the belt sander.

The small brown shelf between the windows contains various screws, glues, popsicle sticks, bbq skewers, strings, wooden wedges, metal foils, and a first aid kit. On the right side (out of view except the baseball cap) hang various ppe, like face shield, earmuffs, respirator, and goggles. On the left side hang various bits of wire. Below it is a cordless drill and my two angle-grinders.

And on the left side of the bench is the belt sander. Originally it stood where the unbender is now, and it was a pain in the nether regions. It got in the way of reaching the cupboards and working on the drill press and it ate a lot of the workbench so some manual works were awkward or even impossible. Here it should not be in the way and there is enough space to the right side of it to build various attachments – I plan a lathe, a drum sander, and a disc sander.

The drawers in the grey cupboard below contain various measuring instruments, ball bearings, cork, popsicle sticks, and some other various stuff.

In the cupboard itself are boxes with assorted screws, spacers, springs, locks, keys, handles, and similar small diverse things that do not fit anywhere else.

Between the cupboard and the new workbench is about 9 cm space. I have thought about what to do with it and I have decided that it would be an ideal storage space for all of my knife- and tool-making steels, so I have put them there.

And on the very left of the picture you see where my various electric cables and gas burners hang.

That was the grand tour through my small workshop. Writing it took a lot longer than I have expected, I hope I did not bore you to death.

A New Workbench

Today was lazying-around-doing-nothing-in-particular-day. I needed it, my back hurt as if I were shoveling gravel. Four days in a row I was working as much as I could on making the best of the bad weather and making a new work bench for my workshop, something that was desperately needed for a long time by now.

I have started by taking some ca 5 m long boards from their storage in my garden-shed half of the workshop building.

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These super long spruce boards are reclaimed from attic renovations when a few years ago the old board flooring was replaced with OSB boards. They have some insect damage, but not excessive so they are still strong, and they are super dry. Thus whilst they are straight lengthwise, they are slightly bent across. They also have fitting tongues and groves.

I have cut 10 of 2300 mm long pieces and 17 of 700 mm long pieces and cleaned all the grooves and tongues first with a chisel (they were full of decades-worth of dust) and then with sandpaper. After that I have put five long boards next to each other with the concave side up and I flattened them with my handheld belt sander.

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The concave side of the boards required less material removal than the convex side would have, therefore the belt sander was sufficient. And it has also removed the oil oil/wax finish on the boards.

Flaterooned boards could be glued side-by-side together, forming the base of the workbench. To keep them together I have lashed them with four Spanish windlasses.

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I have used PU-based glue for his bench but I have used PVA for my first one and it worked too. The PVA only needs a longer time to cure and the PU has a further advantage in that it foams up, filling neatly small voids, etc.

I did not wait for the glue to set, however, and I started sanding the convex sides of the short boards straightaway.

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When those vere sanded flat, I started gluing them to the base and attaching them with screws to hold them in place. That was my first workday finished.

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So I have two layers of boards, perpendicular to each other, glued at flattened concave sides. The next day I removed all the screws and then came the hardest part of this whole ordeal – flattening the convex sides of the bords in the upper layer and of the five remaining long boards.

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The convex sides needed to remove more material than the concave sides, thus belt sander alone was not sufficient. I had to take out the one tool that I actively hate – the electric hand planer. I never figured out how to use it properly. It hogs material away quite successfully, but it also makes gouges in the boards no matter what I do and the gyroscopic force makes its movement extremely difficult and tiring. And it is extremely dangerous on top of that. And it makes an unholy mess.

But I have managed to get the sides at least somewhat flat so I could glue on the long boards as the top layer. again using screws to hold them in place. That was the second day finished.

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The next day I again removed all the screws and I filled all the holes and gaps with bbq skewers, popsicle sticks, and/or a mixture of PVA glue and sawdust as appropriate.

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It has cured very quickly so in the afternoon I could flatten this side, using mostly the belt sander, but I had to use the dreaded planer too a few times. I made one unseemly gauge on the surface :-/

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I had to fill in some voids again, but I was able to give it the first coat with strongly diluted acrylic paint that very same evening.

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At this point, I was so physically tired that I could not even sleep properly. Fighting the electric hand planer made my back and neck ache something awful. But at least the 2300x720x70 mm workbench board was mostly finished at this point. It is not tutti flatti perfetti, but it is flaterooni enough.

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The third day was thus finished, the first coat of paint dried overnight.

The next day I have again filled some cracks with sawdust and acrylic paint mixture, gave the whole thing a coat of undiluted paint and I weighed it. It weighs approximately 42 kg. It did take some work to get it through the workshop door and into the workshop, but I have managed it and I managed it solo. I was afraid to ask my father for help because he could easily hurt himself. I was more comfortable with banging the board about and eventually breaking something than with him getting some serious injury. Luckily I did not break anything, nor did I injure myself, I was just very, very tired at the end of that endeavor and I have not made any pictures of what I have done inside the workshop. I just remembered to make this one picture at the end.

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The board is fixed to the wall on the rear edge and supported by two legs on the front two corners. Under it are some reclaimed furniture cupboards that were there even before, just without a nice continuous workbench above them. Because it is fixed to the wall, it is very sturdy and It can take my whole body weight in the middle without bending.

That was the fourth day finished. I was still too tired to even sleep properly, so I did not.

Now that it is in place, it will get two more coats of paint (one is drying right now) and then I will put on it the machinery. Either tomorrow or the day after that, depending on how fast the paint cures and how I feel.

I intend for this workbench to be a permanent home for my belt sander and band saw and also, in the future, a lathe. That should free my first workbench significantly, allowing me to do manual work more comfortably and have more than one vice.

A Big Commission – Part 9 – Da Pictures

Today the customer has picked up his brand new machete. He was apparently delighted, at least he said so. His exact words were “This is much better quality than I have expected, especially the leatherwork.” So today I did not feel like a total waste of space. Here are some nice pictures for you to look at. I did not have to do too much post-processing after all.

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© 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

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

A Big Commission – Part 8 – Photographing

I do not need to make nice pictures for the webshop for this one – unless the customer rejects it, which I hope he does not – but I do want to have nice pictures for myself, for Instagram and, of course, for Affinity. And since it was a nice sunny day today, I took my photography session outdoors. One advantage of that is the sunlight, one disadvantage of that is way too focused light. Shade has, of course, diffuse light, and whilst it is very bright on a cloudless sunny day, it is alas also of the wrong color for this thing and I did not want to spend too much time with corrections in either the camera or on the PC.

So I have rigged up a small thingamajig to make pictures in diffuse light whilst getting the benefit of direct sunlight’s color whilst getting it a bit diffuse. I will have to edit out an occasional ant or piece of debris though, so I am not entirely sure I have saved time in the post-production at all. Well…

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A slightly overcast sky would be best but despite my valiant efforts, the weather still refuses to obey my commands. Mind you, if I could command the weather, I would not command a slight overcast right now, I would command a week of slow, drizzling rains and make the pictures indoors.

Pictures will be posted here and on Instagram after the customer picks up the item. I hope it will be tomorrow, but it might take a few weeks too, depending on circumstances.

A Big Commission – Part 7 – Missed Opportunity

AAAARGHHH! Amidiotextrordinaarggh!

Today I have sharpened the machete, thus de-facto finishing the commission. I have decided to test it in a way that poses minimal risks to the nice surface finish and still tests its cutting capabilities. By cutting milk boxes filled with water standing on a pole. That is a good way of testing an edge because a blunt blade just bats the box away from the pole, a sharp-ish one cuts partly through, tears the rest, and throws both pieces away, and a really sharp one sails through the box, the top falls off and the bottoms stays on the pole. A bad cutting technique may lead to a bad cut, but not even a perfect technique can lead to a good cut with a blunt blade. It does not test an edge’s durability – a well-sharpened bronze sword would perform well too.

I considered filming it and then I thought to myself “Nah, nothing interesting ever happens, waste of time”. Then I cut the first box and I immediately cursed my laziness and stupidity.

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I cut the top of the box cleanly off, and it stayed on! I have cut dozens of these boxes when I was testing my own machete and this has never happened. And since there was enough of the box left for a second cut, I went on and cut it a second time.

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And the blade sailed through like there was nothing there and both cut pieces stayed atop the bottom part. If my hair was long enough to grab and tear out, that is what I would be doing. A rare thing happens and I did not film it because I was lazy to go upstairs and set up my tripod.

Of course, I went upstairs for the tripod in a hope that I will be able to replicate it or at least get some interesting footage from the remaining three boxes that I had at hand. On two I got useless footage because I messed up my cutting technique. Probably nerves. Definitively nerves. On the third attempt, I did manage to get three clean cuts through the box, but the first two stayed on only because they remained connected on a minuscule (~1 mm) strip of paper – I was standing a tiny bit too far from it. After the third cut the top fell off but the bottom stayed on the pole so at least there’s that.

It is a wicked sharp blade, it cuts like a lightsaber. It will be a good tool. But I missed an opportunity for getting good advertising footage. Bigly.

A Big Commission – Part 6 – The Sharpenstone

Today I have made the last piece of the puzzle – a small whetstone for edge maintenance in the field. I expected it to take me two to three hours, it took me twice as much. Partly because it was the first time I was doing it so I did not really have a clear plan on how to properly proceed and what will work best, partly because I screwed up and I had to start all over with one part. But I think that if I were to make another, it would indeed be those two hours that I used for price calculation.

I started with a piece of native, strongly metamorphized phyllite. It has visible big garnet grains and it is very hard.

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I cut a strip off with a diamond stone cutting wheel in my angle grinder. I have used that wheel also to roughly shape it and thin it.

For the second, fine layer,  I have used a piece of old roofing shale. Those can sometimes be found around here on building sites and even in my garden.

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Those are not native stones, they are the remnants of long demolished houses from before WW2. Initially, I wanted to use a different piece of local phyllite, less metamorphized, softer, and with finer grain, but I screwed up and it delaminated down the middle, becoming too thin. So I went for the shale for my second try because it is stronger and I wanted to be definitively done today.

Using five-minute epoxy, I glued both roughly shaped flat stones on a thin jatoba board, making a small stone popsicle.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

After the epoxy cured, I shaped the outline, covered both outward faces with adhesive tape, and submerged it whole into linseed oil for a minute or so to soak the wood.

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After that, I had to grind down the faces a bit again, it was just a bit too thick to fit into the pocket. I ground them down with the diamond wheel and then flatterooned them on granite stone with wet&dry carborundum abrasive paper on it.

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Both phyllite and shale are soft enough so they can be shaped with abrasive cloth or paper, but hard enough themselves to abrade steel.

This is not a stone for serious sharpening work and I have told the customer so. Its abrasive action will be relatively mild compared to modern carborundum-based whetstones, even on the rougher phyllite side. But it should be excellent at maintaining an already sharpened blade and giving it an occasional touch-up during work. I have used pieces of phyllite or shale for exactly that, although those were stones found by the wayside, impromptu flattened and used out of necessity, not nicely crafted like this one.

Thus almost all work is finished – tomorrow I will sharpen the blade and make nice pictures to present here and on Instagram.


A Big Commission – Part 5 – The Stitchening

The original sheath the customer provided as a template has the tip reinforced with plastic. I cannot do that of course. Making a metal cape would be an option, but an expensive one since I would have to make multiple metal templates to press it and then solder it, polish it and all that jazz. So I have convinced the customer that reinforcing the tip with 4 mm thick leather should suffice. Which I think it should.  But I did make an extra step to make that thick leather just a bit harder – I heated it to 70-80°C in water and kept the heat until it shrank to about 80% of its original size.

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This makes the leather inflexible and somewhat brittle in bending, but very hard. Hard as plastics in fact. Caskets or boxes can be made that way. It has several caveats that need to be taken into account, however.

  1. After it is taken from the hot bath, it remains pliable for some time but not very long and it keeps shrinking for a while. If it needs to be formed in a specific shape, it needs to be pressed into the form quickly and left to cool down and dry in form.
  2. Because it shrinks, any decorative carving that is done can only consist of outlines. Any fancy pressing or stamping simply won’t work. And the shrinkage has to be taken into account – as well as the fact that the shrinkage is not completely regular in all directions and predictable.
  3. As it shrinks, it gets also significantly darker, dark brown. So it reduces the possible dyes that can be used to change the color to any shade you wish, as long as it is black.
  4. It needs to be heated up carefully. If overheated, it curls up and becomes way too brittle.
  5. If there is a risk of any bending stress, it should be reinforced with fabric or untreated leather. It is hard and scratch resistant but breaks when bent.

For my purposes, I needed two flat plates, so I left them to cool down and dry under two flat pavement bricks.

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On the top, you can see the already dry pocket taken out of the form. On the right is a glimpse of my impromptu cardboard template for the sheath.

Working on a complicamaticated thingamajig like this the ooo is very important – order of operations. If one glues and sews together some parts it can make some other parts impossible to add or modify, so I had to think carefully about how to progress. For example, on the outside, I had to first sew on the pocket flap, and only after that I could sew on the pocket itself.

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The kukri sheath is wide open on the back and the blade itself is thus held in place with a flap with two snap-fasteners. To avoid rubbing of metal on metal, I have pressed the lower part of the fasteners on an extra piece of leather and glued & sewn that onto the sheath.

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When making the belt strap, I had to form it, glue it and sew it together about 90% of the way, then I had to leave it with the threads hanging, glue the eye shut, and sew the rest. The strap is sewn from two layers for several reasons – I have used relatively thin leather and I was afraid it would not support the weight of the whole assembly, which will be over 600 g, and the way the sheath was cut, on the strap it would be the suede side of the leather facing out, and on this one, it is not particularly pretty.

I have possibly slightly overengineered the whole thing – there is double stitching along the edges as well as stud reinforcements and I have spent several more hours with it than I planned to. I do hope that it bears out in durability, I need satisfied customers to spread the word.

I have now applied some dye to the finished product and it hangs outdoors in the shade to dry. I have also applied linseed oil to the handle and it hangs outdoors in the sun to dry. Tomorrow I will condition the leather, and sharpen the blade and I am nearly finished. All that will be left is to make a small sharpening stone that fits into the pocket. I hope that won’t take too long, a few hours at most. Although I have some funny over-engineering ideas there too…

A Big Commission – Part 4 – Surface Finish & Glue-up

As I said because this blade is supposed to go “only” to 100 grit, that in no way meant that polishing it will be an easy task. I had to polish it on the belt sander to 150 grit in fact, and then remove all perpendicular scratches with 100 grit wet&dry sandpaper manually with scratches that follow the curvature of the blade. It was a bit of work not only due to the steel being hard but also because the surfaces are fairly big and wide when compared to even the biggest knives.

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After it’s been polished, I etched the logo and number and put the whole thing into oak bark extract overnight, then I washed it off, made the handle scales, and put it into the extract overnight again. Today morning it had a nice dark grey color all over.

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You can see the boundary between the hardened blade and soft tang near the sharpening notch. I forgot to tell the customer about that, I hope he won’t mind. In my opinion, the boundary is really neat and it is just another small detail. A good sign is that there are no such sharp boundaries anywhere on the blade. I have tested the whole blade by scratching but this is yet another confirmation that the whole blade is properly hardened and tempered.

Today was glue-up time. You have seen that already, but this time I think I have a nice picture to illustrate the construction of the handle here.

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For kitchen knives, I only use dowels 6 mm in diameter, 2 bamboo ones in the middle, and two metal ones on the front and back. However since this tool will probably encounter a lot of impacts, bends and vibrations, I have decided to use 2 metal pins and 3 beech wooden dowels with 8 mm in diameter (the third pin is there for the lanyard). The wooden pins are there for the glue to have something to really adhere to and the metal pins protect the assembly against shearing forces. And because none of them go all the way through, there are no visible pins on the outside. Except the one for lanyard, which must go through the wood otherwise the end would most likely split sooner or later due to the lanyard.

And so today, after the glue fully cures, the machete is 90% finished. All that remains is apply linseed oil to the handle. But before I do that, I will have to make the sheath otherwise I would have to wait several days before the oil hardens. So tomorrow is leather cutting and maybe leather glueing and stitching day.