Whoomf! Fire When You Do Not Want It.

I did not expect this to happen, which is probably why it did happen. I was cutting wood for handles and stand and one piece started giving me some grief. Either the saw is a bit dull or that particular piece of birch was exceptionally hard (birch is amongst the hardest woods, contrary to what many books say). It smoked a bit, but not much. So I paused the work, tried a different cut when suddenly there was a lot of smoke. Like, a lot lot. In seconds, the workshop was full of it.

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

Luckily I tend not to lose my head in emergency situations. I noticed the smoke going from the vacuum collecting dust. I have immediately unplugged it and the saw from electricity and I dragged the vac outside. The paper dust filter inside was on fire and it was impossible to put out because it was windy. I have barely managed to take it off and leave it to burn safely on the concrete pavement. The wooden dust was smoldering a bit but I have managed to scoop it out and toss it in the oven where it could burn safely.

I do not know how this could happen, I have been using this setup for about a decade by now with zero problems. Either the saw was so dull that the friction started the fire – birch is much more flammable than other woods – or a metal splinter or something somehow got in the cut and it struck a spark. Visually, the blade does not seem dull and I cannot find any damage on any of the teeth, so I am baffled.

Tomorrow I have to go and purchase a new vacuum for my shop. This one could be repaired, but it would take a really long time. I will probably not bother. But it can be easily converted now into a dedicated blower, so I shall probably do that.

I had to take a few hours rest, I was in a bit of a shock afterward.

Eye Yam on Insta Gram

It is not as if somebody complained, but I do not wish to constantly “knife up the joint” at FtB anyway, so I have finally, reluctantly, made an Instagram account to share pictures of knifemaking and knives. If nobody minds, I will still post longer written articles about knives and knife-making here, but only for bigger or more special projects, whereas on Instagram will be snippets and pictures and off-the-cuff thoughts. Probably mostly about knives. There may be some garden pictures in due time too.

There won’t be any sexy photos of my beautiful body in lingerie or insights into my lavish lifestyle with expensive gadgets, that I can promise for sure.

If you are interested, here is a link – click -.

I Got Nuts

Last year I made a tool to pick up walnuts, but I had no opportunity to really use it. Just when the tree was in full bloom, late frost came and destroyed everything. Well, at least the tree got some rest and it is not like we are wanting walnuts – we still did not eat all we had.

And this year’s humid and cold-ish summer seemed to agree with the tree mightily. You can try and count the nuts in this picture but it would not be easy for they are difficult to spot and there are many, many, many.

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

And this picture was taken after we already have several kilos of shelled and peeled fresh walnuts in the freezer, several kilos drying in their shells for long-term storage, and giving several hundred grams of low-quality ones to birds in the feeder each day. Which I suspect that a squirrel takest, for I doubt tits make them disappear this quickly.

So these last few days I go twice a day with the ladle and pick the nuts. The first that fall still have some green stuff on them (as seen in the picture) and are usually of lower quality.

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

The tool works like a charm. No aching back and legs, no effort. I can easily scoop any nuts that fall in the nettle patch, or in the raspberries, or on the tarpaulin covering pool at the end of the sewage cleaning facility. After I pick them, my father cleans them, and in the evening when watching TV he and my mother crack and sort and peel them.

Yesterday most of these mixed-quality nuts were already down and what is falling now are mostly those where the husk cracks on the tree so the nut falls first and the husk eventually follows, so no additional cleaning is necessary. From experience, these are usually of a higher quality and when dried and stored properly, they last for years in their shells. However, I am a bit at a loss as to what to do with them. I no longer have colleagues to whom I could try and sell the excess, and it seems I will have more than enough to satisfy the whole family’s needs for years. Like I said, we still haven’t eaten all we had from two years ago.

I wish potatoes grew this way.

Women Artisans on YouTube – Woodworker – Ashley Harwood

I haven’t watched any other of her videos yet, and I must say that I do not like her choice of accompanying music very much*, but her handiwork is beautiful.

  • I do in fact enjoy woodturning videos most when they only have the sound of the lathe and the chisel crunching the wood. I do not know why.

T’was Tool Making Day

I did not feel like working on knives today, so I have decided to make the measuring pin from brass. It took me rather longer than I expected because I had to work out several things on the fly and there were therefore several failed attempts and repairs. But I managed it in the end and the result looks kinda cool. And it works just as well as the wooden one, in addition to being ever so slightly more precise.

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

The bent brass pin on the right is screwed and glued into the lower half of the pin and goes through a hole in the upper half where it has slight (several tenths of a mm) clearance.

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

Here you can see the upper jaw, where a ground wood-screw holds the spring tightly in place. In combination with the bent brass pin, this holds both jaws fixed against each other so the tips do not misalign (too much) when used.

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

On the underside is no screw. Originally I thought that two bent brass pins in the back portion will do the trick. But it did not work at all, it turns out that make something like that precise enough by hand is impossible (for me at least). When you look closely at the pictures, you will see that there are plugged holes where that second pin was. If I were making another one, I would try to ditch the guiding pin altogether and fix both jaws to the spring with a screw. Whether it would work better or not I do not know, since I stopped tinkering as soon as I got a working product.

And the second tool that I have made today is a center scribe.

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

It is a piece of black locust wood onto which are fixed two small ball bearings. The axes are just press-fitted both into the wood and into the ball bearings. Black locust is strong enough to hold and if it splits, I will make the body from aluminium, this was just a proof of concept.

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

Here you can see the other side. The wood-screw goes all the way through and just the tip pokes out between the ball bearings. Should it turn out necessary, I will eventually replace the screw with a re-ground drill bit, but for testing, a screw was a readily accessible and easily applicable piece of hardened steel.

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

To scribe the center on a flat bar (in the future on an outlined blade) it is simply inserted between the ball bearings so it rests firmly on both of them and on the screw tip. When dragged through (for example downwards on the photo, assuming the tip of the tang is down), the screw tip inscribes a line that is very close to the center. Not perfectly, but I can also scribe a second line by dragging the piece of steel through the assembly in the other direction (putting the tang up in the photo and dragging that way). These two lines very close to each other are sufficient enough for me to grind the blades symmetrically, after all, it is better than what I have used so far.


Caliper Pin – New Knifemaking Tool

When grinding blades, it is important to have the ridges, fullers, and similar as symmetrical as possible, especially before quench. An asymmetrical blade has a much higher probability of warping or bending in the quench.

On an unhardened blade, one can scribe markings with a scribing needle and/or compass, but once the blade is hardened, that is no longer possible. And I still want my blades to be at least mostly, even though not perfectly, symmetrical too.

I used to measure the symmetry with a help of a folded piece of paper that I have cut with shears so that it has two perfectly aligned points. When folded over the blade, I could easily-ish check if the points align on the ridge on both sides and thus check where I shall grind more during the polishing to keep the symmetry.

But the pieces of paper get wet and manky in the process, and I kept of course losing them so I had to make new ones over and over every day and sometimes several times a day. And today I finally got an idea how to replace them with something much better and hopefully permanent. I took one wooden clothespin and I ground it in about 5 minutes to sort of mini-calipers that can be clipped onto a blade

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

This pin is made from softwood so I could not make the point too refined, but I do not need to. I want to make my blades mostly symmetrical, not perfectly symmetrical. And anyhoo, I shall, in the future, probably make a better and more precise one out of brass, this is just a proof of concept.

And it works well, here you can see it in use. It shows that the ridges on both sides are within few tenths of a mm apart, and that is good enuff for me, that is a difference that cannot be seen with the naked eye and is not easy to measure even with calipers.

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


Fulleramajig & Joy and Depression of Knifemaking

My friend got the knife I conspired with his wife to make for his 40th birthday. He wasted no time and tested it on a BBQ that very day. Afterward, he called me and thanked me and sung praises of his new toy. I must admit that it made me happy for a moment because this is the main reason why I am making knives – to make the end recipient happy that they got something unique, beautiful, and useful as well. That is the good news out of the way, lets go to the somewhat miserable part now.

In my previous post about that knife, I commented that making the fuller was a pain in the fundament, to which Marcus helpfully replied by reminding me about an old video by Walter Sorrels in which he made a small handheld jig to polish fullers. That has inspired me to make my own jigs for making fullers.

First I made a semi-functional attachment for my belt grinder.

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

The aluminum arm can freely swivel around the rusty screw along the right side of the upper idler wheel. It is held in position by an M8 screw on the back and the brass L- part is an end stop. When grinding, the screw on the back sets the maximum possible depth of the fuller and the brass end stop sets the distance of the fuller from the blade spine/edge depending on how I put the blade on the jig.

It works, somewhat. It does not allow me to make the fuller too deep by accident, which is a definitive plus. But it has the major disadvantage of being asymmetric, whereas blades are (mostly) symmetrical. When grinding one side, the back of the blade lays against the end stop, when doing the other side, it is the edge. That makes it difficult to make the start and finish at the same point on both sides of the blade – I have made two blades with it so far and whilst one is reasonably symmetrical, on the other the fuller is off by about 3 mm towards the tip. I wanted to toss the blade but my mother says I should finish it, so I will. Whether I will attempt to sell it, we shall see.

I intend to polish both of these blades to mirror polish, to see how much work that is and how it will look. And to polish the inside of the fuller I have made a small jig from an old furniture leg.

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

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

It is along the same general lines as the one by Walter Sorrels, only from cheaper materials and less precise. Putting the paper on is a bit fiddly and I will try and come up with a bit better system, but it does work. It is elbow-grease powered of course, so it is a lot of work, but it does allow me to apply the pressure with wrists/palms instead of fingers, so I can put my whole body weight behind it when needed. I got the fullers to 800 grit reasonably fast so I do think that I will manage to get mirror-polish without extreme suffering and pain.

And last update to my workshop is this.

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

I would love to have the grinder in a separate room, but alas I cannot afford that. And the dust was getting on my nerves, as well as everywhere else. So I have bought ash vacuum particle separator for my shop-vac. The inlet is made from a piece of leftover sheet metal held with insane amount of ductape on an extendable tube recycled from another, defunct, vaccum cleaner. It works reasonably well and although it does not catch all of the dust, it does catch most of it. As a result my workshop is a lot cleaner and I need not vacuum every surface as often as before.

And now to the total misery.

I was happy to get my licence to actually sell my knives, but I feel miserable all the same. I need to buy and set up accounting software, set up a separate bank account, contact tax/accounting consultant and buy and set up a webshop. And I am procrastinating all of those things because that is the one actual part that I hate.

I have done almost all of the things above as part of my various previous jobs (exception is setting up webshop, but I do have experience with setting up and maintaining webpages), so the problem is not that I do not know what to do. The problem is that if I do not do anything, I cannot fail, whereas when I do all those things, I can. I know it is totally silly, I know that the only way to actually succeed is to do the things that need to be done, but subconsciously (and partly consciously – the odds are not in my favor) I am just expecting failure and I do not want to go through all the hard work just to toss it after a year or two and get emploeyed at some shitty deskjob again. I want to make knives and I would love to give them away for free. But if I did that, I would not be making them for much longer. Attempting selling them is the only way how I maybe can keep making them . And I hate, hate, hate that.

I am depressed. It is irrational, and I know it, but that does not help.

Eye Got May Lie Sense!

When I have started building my workshop in 2009, I did not seek a building permit and I had no project. I was just winging it.

For a building of this size (25 square meters, single story), that was perfectly OK and legal, especially since it was build in place of the previous much bigger wooden barn that I have torn down because it was becoming unsafe. The new workshop is not a workshop per see, it has two rooms, one half is made from bricks and is the workshop and one half is just a storage of gardening tools and materials. It is a combination of a small workshop, garden shed, and whatever.

I was quite happy with it for a few years, but when I decided last year to start a business and went to the business registration bureau, a problem arose. I was told that since I intend to do at least some work in my new workshop, I have to register the building in the land register/cadaster. For which I needed a project and some other paperwork.

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

So I had to pay a surveyor and a project architect to get the building surveyed, measured and a proper drawing made. Which I did. And then pandemics started. That has delayed the rest of the paperwork quite significantly. The whole summer and fall of 2020 I got an answer every month that “maybe next month it will be done”.

And then the bad news came. To register the building in the category “production and storage” It would need to have running water. No matter that the house with running water is literally two meters away. The office worker who issued the decision knew the law is stupid, he even said so. But his hands were tied, the law is written for corporate buildings and does not differentiate between a one-man small workshop and an airplane-building workshop. And the law says that every workshop in a production and storage building must have running water (period).

After some back-and-forth I have decided (on advice) to let the building register as a hobby workshop and garden shed within the category “building with other purposes” with the reasoning that the purpose of the building before during and after I run a knife making and leatherwork as a business will remain the same, it will always be a part small workshop, part garden shed and part whatever. Now the only requirements were that I have to have a fire extinguisher and certified revision of electric installation, which I both had because unlike running water these both make sense and I was expecting them.

That went through at the cadaster this spring, but at the same time the pandemic was roaring in CZ, the offices had limited hours and the country was in lockdown again. It was only last week after my mother had both doses of the vaccine and both my father and I were two weeks after the first shot that I felt safe enough to visit the business registration bureau in person again and apply for the license.

And it went well. The type of building the workshop is registered as was not seen as a problem for intended purposes and today I got my official papers. So as of this month, I am officially allowed to charge people for my work – and I have to pay taxes accordingly of course. I have to contact a tax consultant and research some things that I have neglected to do while the whole thing was in limbo, but that is not a legal problem anymore, that is just learning the ropes of a new business.

In other good news, today was also the day that I got my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. My shoulder hurts like hell, I cannot use my left arm, but I feel quite happy nevertheless.

Look What I Have Cobbled Together

I have applied for concessions/licenses for several categories of non-protected trades. There are about 80 of those in CZ, knifemaking is only a part of one of them and the fee is the same whether one applies for one or for all of them. There are some really, really peculiar things in this system – knife-making is in the same category as welding and making of steel constructions, and knife-sharpening is in a different category that includes repairs of non-electrical house appliances. So in the course of applying for some of the crafts that I actually intend to do I also automatically will (hopefully) get a license to do a lot of other completely unrelated stuff that I do not intend to do. Shoemaking & repair is one of those things.

But even so, I was pretty fed-up with buying a pair of slippers every year (at most) because they start to fall apart and become actually dangerous to wear at home since I live on the first floor and have to walk the steps several times a day. Last week the approaching-end-of-usability slippers combined with other factors and I fell rather badly. So I have decided to at least once do some literal cobbling and make myself a pair of leather slippers.

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

It was a learnign experience and there is a lot that could be done better and/or faster. The stitching on the belts is needlesly fine for example and thus it took me forevah to make.

Unlike the cheap ones that I was wearing until now, these should hopefully last for many years and if the sole gets worn through, I will be able to re-sole them in a day or two at most. Based on my experience with leather goods, I think I shall die before that will be needed since they only will be worn indoors. And they are made from natural leather and wool-felt, so if they become unwearable and un repairable, they can be thrown on the compost heap. They feel comfy and pleasant even against naked skin and the natural leather sole does not slide on the floor more than rubber one, so I am very pleased with the result so far.

I had huge fun with this break from knifemaking so I shall make at least two more pairs for my parents. I expect those to take significantly less time than these did, although still not time that would make it potentialy profitable business – these took me a whole week, so if I were intending to sell them they would be ridiculously expensive, at least 30-40 times of what slippers typically cost. But my plan for next few years is not to make things in order to sell them – it is to sell things so I can continue making them so maybe I should consider them as an option for my repertoire if I could optimize the time to one-two days per pair, perhaps three with some fancy leather carving for decoration.

Unexpected (But Not Surprising) Benefit of Tumbling Blades in Sand

I just might tumble all blades from now on, even those that I will mirror-polish manually afterward. Because after two-three days of tumbling, an interesting phenomenon appears. Something that is not surprising when you think about it, but I did not in fact expect it upfront.

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

It is difficult to snap a picture of it, but here it is visible – the blade is all shiny except that triangular shadow at the tang. That is an area where the blade is not hardened.

In this specific case, this is OK. The tang should be soft and a soft piece of the spine, especially near the tang, also does not hurt. And because this blade will be blackened with oak extract, the visible difference in color should not be a problem.

However, there were two other blades, one from spring steel like this and one from N690, that had shown this discoloration in areas where soft steel definitively is not desirable – one about 2 cm at the tip and one ca 2 cm of the blade near the ricasso. Those were improperly hardened and I did not find out during the scratch test right after the quench, because most of the blade was OK.

That is quite useful and thus I really consider incorporating sand-tumbling not only as a cheap surface finish but also as cheap and easy quality control.

Not Tacticool, But Hopefully Cool

A friend tasked me with making a knife for their spouse. The spouse does not cook, so a kitchen knife was not an option. But they do occasionally go on a camping trip or a forest walk with the kids, so we eventually established that some sort of camping/bushcraft knife would be best.

The ideal material for a knife of this kind would be spring steel, but since it is unlikely that their life will depend on it, N690 should suffice and rust won’t be a problem. So I set to work and I have made this.

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

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

The blade is 160 mm long and 5 mm thick at the handle and tapers toward the tip. N690 steel, sand tumbled satin finish. The handle is made from rotten willow wood stabilized with green-dyed resin. It is a big boi – it weighs 300 g (and that is with the fullered blade and handle is lightened too by holes in the tang). A sharpening angle of 25° should guarantee that with occasional use, the blade will not need sharpening any time soon. Despite being thick, it is reasonably sharp and cuts well, because it has a flat grind all the way to the spine. It is balanced at the bolster, and it packs quite a punch, as a knife of this type should. And because the spine is so thick, it should withstand even some serious abuse should the owner decide to inflict it on the blade. Which I suspect they won’t.

The accessories are a ferrocerium rod and carbon steel striker as a fire starter (more for fun than real purpose, matches are better) and a sheath with a pouch for these. Theoretically the carbon steel striker is not necessary, but when testing it out, I got the subjective impression that carbon steel strikes better sparks from the ferrocerium rod. I might be wrong, I could not think up an objective test for that.

Making fullers by hand is very difficult, it will probably take several more blades before I get it right. I am currently wracking my head about how to make an accessory for my grinder that would make this difficult task just a tad easier. So far no success, just a few semi-functional, semi-failed attempts.

How Many Nuns Would Nunchucks Chuck…

… if nunchucks could chuck nuns?

I am going to ramble a bit about my pet peeve nonsensical weapon bans and regulations around the world. I am in no way a freedom absolutist in this regard. Weapons are dangerous objects that definitively need to be regulated, and the more dangerous a weapon is, the stricter regulations regarding its accessibility to people should apply. There should be background checks, aptitude tests, mandatory training, and licensing for all firearms. But banning hand weapons is useless and oftentimes downright silly and makes no sense whatsoever.

Take for example the titular nunchucks. I have trained with nunchucks as a kid, I have never hurt my self and I never broke anything either. It was great fun and it was beneficial to me. They are great for hand-eye coordination, great for training speed, and spatial awareness, and it was a good workout too. What it was not – despite me not knowing it at the time – was useful combat and martial arts training applicable for self-defense. Nunchucks are a terrible weapon, although they are better than nothing (not better than running away).

To my great surprise a few years ago, I have learned that nunchucks are banned in Germany. Not only to carry around but to own or manufacture. You will not find Karate or Kobudo class in Germany that trains in their use, not officially at least. That is daft, especially with the reason given – they can be used as a garotting weapon. Well, theoretically, maybe, but they would be awfully ineffective for that. That is not what they are designed for.

And since I have already sold knives to people in Germany, I have looked into laws regarding them a bit and those are too silly squared. Knives that can be opened with just one hand are banned to carry. Knife with a fixed blade can be carried if one is currently performing an activity facilitating its use – like fishing, hunting, or mushroom gathering – but I have read some stories about knives confiscated on the way to a forest, so it can depend on how pissy the policeman you have encountered feels that day. And balisongs are banned to even own, just like nunchucks. I did not dig too deep into that, but whatever the reason, it is just silly.

Because balisongs are really, really bad pocket knives. Their advantage over other pocket knives is that they are very easy to make, but that’s it. They cannot be made very sturdy, their very construction means the blade will be always a bit wobbly. They cannot have any meaningful handguard so when stabbing something with them, there is always the risk of your hand slipping on the blade upon hitting some resistance. And several other things make them bad. The only thing they are really useful for are the same things that other small pocket knives are useful for – cutting food, opening packages, and so forth.

When watching some random videos on YouTube recently I have learned that flails and maces are allegedly illegal in parts of Canada too. And again, I fail to recognize the reasons for this.

In the UK, the reasons given for these imbecilic weapon bans are to prevent gang violence. It does not seem to work. You can ban nunchucks and kusaris, but you cannot ban keychains. You can ban knives, but not screwdrivers. You can ban maces, but not spanners, and hammers – and guess what, the gangs are using these everyday objects exactly for that reason.

I suspect that these weapons were made illegal because they were portrayed as very deadly in 90s action flicks. If so, then legislators enacting these laws should learn the difference between a movie and reality. Bruce Lee movies are NOT documentaries!

But OK, when these laws are in the EU, they are very silly, but at least they are somewhat consistent with the overall culture. But when they are enacted in the USA, their silliness condenses into a black hole of daftitude.

Now one can say that nobody actually needs weapons like nunchucks, maces, or similar and I should shut up about this. I disagree, but I won’t argue against that right now.