Making Kitchen Knives – Part 19 – Two Finished Knives

I have decided to throw the pictures at you piecemeal and not all at once. I want to say a bit about each blade and I think that cramming that all in one post would be counterproductive, it would take too long before I could do it and I might get depressed by writing about all the things I did wrong with every piece all at once. I hope you don’t mind.

Two knives are not only finished already, they are with their owners. I did not get any feedback on their use, because for that was not an opportunity yet, but they were well received, despite their flaws. But, well, they say don’t look a gift knife in the mouth or somesuch…


First, let’s say a bit about this universal kitchen knife for my favorite aunt.

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

It is one of the best blades, strong, straight and stiff. Exactly what I was aiming for, capable of cutting leeks as well as melons. The handle is made from black elder (Sambucus nigra) wood.

You can see tiny cracks on the faces. I personally do think they can add a bit of a character to the wood – especially if the wood is partially decayed, as you will see on some of the next blades too – but that is not always the case and sometimes they are just blemishes. From a functional standpoint, they won’t be a problem. They are filled with the boat lacquer and thus sealed and glued shut. Anything that destroys the wood now would destroy it even if it were pristine. But it is something I have to figure out how to prevent. I will probably have to seal the ends with silicone or epoxy glue before pickling the wood in ammonia next time, or make the pieces a lot longer (I did make them longer prior to pickling, but apparently not enough).

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

And pickling black elder wood I shall, that one thing is sure. Untreated elder wood is yellowish, but the color is nowhere near this bright and rich. I have always loved yellow color, and I think this canary-yellow looks just beautiful. Unfortunately, I cannot show you untreated wood for comparison here, but I will at some point in the future.

What I do not like are the dark shadows around the pins. They are not burned wood (they are grey-ish, not brown-ish), but maybe they are dirt from polishing that got stuck in the epoxy. I will have to look into this next time and maybe not go on too high grit polish before the lacquering and maybe carefully scrape it instead. The wood is beautiful, hard, has small pores, and is a joy to work, but it dirties easily.


The second presented today is a fish gutting & filleting knife for one of my uncles.

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

This was ground from one of the blades that came out curly, but it was my plan to take one of these blades and re-grind it for a fish knife from about November 2019, when my uncle expressed a wish for it. The blade is very thin, flexible, and pointy. It would cut vegetables of course too, but I do not think it is suitable for tackling difficult cabbage.

The handle is made from black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), and this is one of the woods that had a really strong and a bit surprising reaction to the ammonia. You can see in one of my previous posts that untreated black locust wood is honey-yellow/brown with a greenish tint to it. But it apparently contains a lot of acidic components that react with the ammonia and its color got real funky in the process.

When working it, I thought at first that I am burning the wood, and I was trying to sand it slowly and carefully not to do so. It took me a while to realize that whilst I indeed can burn this wood (it is super-hard), I am not doing it. It just looked that way. My subsequent reaction during the work was somewhat “meh” and I thought I won’t bother with this in future anymore, there is plenty of brown woods out there.

And then I have changed my mind.

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

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

What you, unfortunately, cannot see in the picture is a sort of tiger’s eye effect the lacquer has brought out in this wood’s grain. It looks iridescent and it changes color from light brown with a golden glint to nearly black depending on the angle you look at it. So I went from ” I won’t bother with pickling this wood again” to “I am going to pickle this in buckets”.

Regarding flaws, this knife suffers from uneven shoulders, and it won’t be able to correct them with exercise. I only noticed when I was etching the logo, that I ground the forward-facing facets on the scales slightly askew. Nothing major, but it is visible with the naked eye.

Slight asymmetries in the handle scales that I have spotted too late are actually a bit of a theme in this batch and it is something that I too will have to try and figure out how to prevent. Eyeballing the things during grinding until my eyes start to water apparently still is not enough.

And that’s it for today.

Horned Creatures

We visited the Zoo at the weekend, which in hind(haha)sight was not the best idea. Their concept to prevent infections sounded really good, but the obvious blind spot was that they’re dealing with people. Thankfully it was all open air (and I didn’t need to pee because obviously Corona can’t spread if you’re just using the bathroom), but it#s certainly not something I’ll repeat soon. But I still got some nice pics for you.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sika deer. You can still see the layer of velvety skin over his antlers. I always think that they look like the prototypical Bambi.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Speaking of Bambi… Lunchtime!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next one is a blackbuck kid with its mummy. I have no clue why they’re called blackbucks. In German they’re “Hirschziegenantilope”, because whoever named them was apparently a bit confused as that translates as “deer goat antilope”.

It must be pretty young because it was still not very secure on its legs and had this slightly underfed look many babies have shortly after making it to the great outside. But it was very, very cute.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And last but not least: Snugglebeasties, better known as goats.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Corona Crisis Crafting XIV: More Masks

With the kids back to school, me and Mr back to work, more masks are needed. After all, neither me nor Mr. have any intention of washing a handful of masks each night. The following are the most exciting. Usually for the patterned fabric there’s 2 or three more without any embellishments. Thanks to our panda for modelling. She doesn’t need any masks of her own but thinks they look cool.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

More under the fold.

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The Art of Book Design: Everything for the Garden

Everything for the Garde, Peter Henderson and Co., 1904 catalogue (front cover)

Everything for the Garde, Peter Henderson and Co., 1904 catalogue (back cover)

This is a beautiful catalogue with many delightful full-page coloured illustrations. You can see the whole thing at the link below.

via: The Internet Archive

Behind the Iron Curtain part 35 – The Elusive Socialism

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


At school we were constantly reminded that we are living in a socialist country that takes great care of its people, and where everything belongs to everybody. However, one of my schoolmates has once said “If you read the definition of socialism in a dictionary, you realize we are not actually living in socialism”. Which is a pretty deep insight for someone under thirteen. But was he right?

The blaring of propaganda was constant, overt as well as covert, and it all was poised to inform us about all the ills the societies to the west of us suffer (most of which were, even in hindsight, spot-on) and all the wondrous technological and social advancements that the USSR has made over its competitors (which were, in hindsight, grossly oversold). But the system never got rid of several things that it has criticized. Like private property and money-based economics. Which has left it with the pesky problem of ownership of the means of productions, which I have addressed partially in the past. I have seen this named “state-run capitalism” in comments on FtB, which is a term that I have always found a bit peculiar.

And this was the base of my schoolmate’s argument. The people do not own the means of production, the state does. The people do not have a say in how the fruits of their labor get distributed and used, the communist party does that. And thus the society is not truly socialist and equal, because there are still social strata, only not divided by the personal wealth, but by the status within the ruling party structure. After which this stratification got, of course, cemented by personal wealth too, since the party top brass were not too shy about accruing for themselves a bigger piece of the pie than the rest has got, as it always happens.

But did this make the country “not socialist”? I personally do not think so. It was still definitively a state whose policies were leftist and, at least on paper, aimed at the common good. But the peons were expected to shut up and work their asses off for their masters under the guise of working for the greater good, with the promise that the socialist paradise is just around the corner, if not for them, then for their children for sure. And its arrival was postponed for nearly two generations before the system finally collapsed. Any and all actual progress, both social and technological, was made only extremely slowly, because every criticism implying that the current course is perhaps not ideal, however mildly stated, could have dire consequences for the person making it.

The people have learned this lesson the hard way before I was even thought of, in spring 1968. That year the Czechoslovak communist party underwent a widely popular reform and started “Socialism with human face” politics, which has kept the socialist part of the party agenda but has intended to make away with authoritarianism. The USSR did not like it and invaded us. The top czechoslovak politicians were forced to sign a treaty literally at gunpoint and that was the end of any and all attempts at making their version of socialism viable in the long term. Because the “socialism” was not what was problematic with the regime’s politics, the “authoritarianism” was.

But since those two were (and arguably still are) inseparable in the minds of the communist parties of greatest socialist states in history, it is no wonder they are inseparable in many people’s minds both in the west and east to this very day too. Thus the leftist politics of the sixties has built an invisible iron curtain in our colective consciousness between socialism and freedom. And tearing that one down seems more difficult than the real one.

The Blue Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Blue Fairy Book. Illustrations by H.J. Ford. New York, Longmans, Green and Co., 1889.

This book was originally published in 1889, however, I have added the coloured frontispiece from the 1922 edition to this post. I did so because the illustration is the work of Henry J. Ford, who masterminded the art for the entire original Lang coloured fairy tale set. Otherwise, the 1889 edition contains more stories and illustrations than the edition from 1922.

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