Knives on Snow

Winter did not want to give up yet, which suits me just fine. I wanted some pictures of my newly made knives with snow/winter backgrounds and I could not do it because the winter was insanely tepid and wet with nary a snowflake in sight. Yet tonight the weather obliged and I woke to a nice sunny day with a few cm of snow cover. Thus right after breakfast I went out and arranged all three knives and took pictures. I might never use them for the intended purpose, but I am glad I made them anyway.

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

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

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

I am also glad for the cold spell since it gave me reprieve from hard labor in the garden and I could spend the day indoors making knives again. I still have a lot of undressed blades to finish.

The snow melted right away and everything is soggy now.  Still more should come according to the forecast. I was just about to plant the potatoes when it started to snow and now it might take a few more days before I can do that. Hooray!

A Howlicool Knife

I am still undecided on whether to offer this knife for sale or not. It is a cursed knife, mistakes, and obstacles just kept popping up. I tried to use the oak extract blackening on mild steel fittings and it did not take. So I used heat and linseed oil and the results were great – but they got damaged badly at the last minute when I was sharpening the blade. That damage is irreparable now, although one might not spot it if unaware of its existence. I damaged the blackening on the blade too, but I was able to restore that to an almost new look. It turns out that some paper masking tapes have glue that is damaging to both blackening techniques used. It sticks too strongly after a while and it is nigh impossible to clean it off the metal surface.

Pictures below the fold.

[Read more…]

Still Not a Masterpiece

Strictly speaking, I can never make a masterpiece, because I do not know about any knifemaker’s guild or similar organization around here that could grant me one. And even if I knew, I could not be bothered with going through the hassle accompanied by obtaining one. There was a knifemaking vocational school in CZ, but a quick Google search failed to confirm whether it is still functional. When I found out about its existence, I already had my Master’s degree in Biology and Chemistry and it was not feasible to go back to vocational school at that stage of my life.

Nevermind. I just finished two knives and I do think I did a good job, although they both took an absolutely unholy amount of time to finish. The blades were first seen in the first Overabladeance post. Both blades are highly polished, which makes them a PITA to photograph. I am not entirely convinced my choice of background for these photos was correct but I am reluctant to go through all the hours of photographing it again with another color.

Lotsa of pictures under the fold. [Read more…]

My Creative Process

Marcus’s recent posts about AI got me thinking and as a part of my thoughts on the issue, I want to start today by writing about my creative process, using my most recent art pieces. Those pieces being knives, because why not.

For me, the idea of how to create something usually pops into my mind without any conscious effort. I can be sleeping, eating my lunch, or driving my car, mulling over this and that and I get the starting of an idea about how to create something. And then it grows from there organically during the process itself.

Of course, all my knives are influenced by my experiences with using and making knives, as well as the designs I saw, whether conscious of that influence or not. But with these two knives, I can be a bit more specific. One of them started nearly thirty years ago and it is inspired by another knifemaker’s blade that I saw in one of my books. I changed both the outline and the grind profile, but the inspiration from someone else’s work was the starting point. For the other knife though, it started with my first failed attempt at a machete (-click-), thus the inspiration for this specific design was an accident.

When I started to make the two blades, I had no concrete plans for them and I had originally intended to make them with ordinary wooden scales. But as the works progressed, I started to think more and more that they would look splendid with engraved bone scales and I left them lying for a year with that idea at the back of my mind. During that year, I worked on other things, as the ideas for what to do with these two slowly matured in my mind. The bigger one got me on a line of thinking that ended up with the idea of engraving a picture of an auroch on the scale, but I still had no idea about the smaller one.

Then in the fall of last year, I successfully sold a knife with a picture of a roe deer on the sheath and when talking with my mother about what animal to use next, she suggested a wild boar. And whilst I have declined the idea for a sheath decoration (for now), I did think that it would look well on a bone scale, thus I finally got the idea for the second knife. Again, inspiration for one came out of some murky associations in my subconscious, the other one came from a nudge by another person’s ideas.

So with a rough idea in my head about what I wanted to accomplish, I started outfitting the knives. And as I wrote in my previous post, during the manufacture I decided to make the handle scales with hidden pins, which gave me an even bigger area to embellish. And when the knives were finally finished, I could start on the designs for the engravings.

With animal designs, I normally start by looking through my books and the interwebs for photos and drawings for inspiration. Not to copy – not the lest because to find a picture with the exact pose that I could use would be a stroke of luck indeed – but to use it as a guideline for a picture that is not egregiously anatomically incorrect. When I find a picture that is roughly what I want the end result to be, I start sketching. Most of that process can be seen in this picture:

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

Nowadays I start with biro sketches on paper that I subsequently refine on PC. In the past, I would go with pencils on paper all the way to the finished product. I wanted to use a whole pig, but I had trouble fitting that on the scale due to its shape, so I decided to use just the head.

When I fine-tuned both designs on PC to my satisfaction, I decided to test whether the boar head would look acceptable, so I made a test piece on an offcut of bone.

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

As you can see I made again changes from the previous sketches. Not only because I am not a copy machine, but also because each medium imposes its own limits on the creative process and thus each medium demands some changes in attitude to get a usable result. At this stage, I thought I was finished with designing and ready to set out to work, but my mind kept working. It kept nagging me that the scales looked too empty. There were no visible pins and thus there was ample space to fill. I added a rope pattern as framing around the head, but it still was not enough. I tried to fish my mother’s mind for ideas and she delivered – I should add some spruce twigs. I initially dismissed the idea because I did not know how to implement it, but when I tried to google “spruce twig pattern”, I got an idea for how to do it, I drew it and I was finally satisfied.

Nevertheless, I still only had decorative designs for the right side of each knife. I decided to leave the left side on the auroch blade blank, but I felt somehow that the boar needed to have something on the other side too. And without prompting, an idea came to me in the evening just before sleep – to continue the rope frame around the boar head to the other side and engrave a decorative knot there. As far as which knot to use, this time I did not look for inspiration to others, I simply took two pieces of paracord and arranged them into knots for about an hour until I got a result I liked.

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

I have redrawn the design on the PC into a shape that fits the scale and thus my designs were finished. I printed them out on paper labels and set out to work.

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

The actual realization is more about craft and technique than about the creative process. If you are interested in that, tomorrow there will be a short article on my Knife Blogge about it.

Next time I would like to write about how this all connects to generative AI. I do not know when, but hopefully next weekend.

Improvipairing mah Belt Grinder Again – New Platen

The steel platen behind the belt has been a bit problematic since the start. As you can see in older pictures, it was a piece of angle iron that was on the left side attached to the belt-grinder arm with two screws. The problem was that when I exerted pressure on the right side, it bent ever so slightly and the belt started to wander off and the whole thing behaved a bit unpredictably. I learned to work around the problem, but it was a problem and it needed solving. So this week I finally solved it.

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

I bought two hinges and screwed them on a piece of 3×40 mm mild steel at a distance slightly bigger than the thickness of the belt grinder arm. Then I drilled two holes through the arm and put in them two carriage bolts with winged nuts. Then I cut slots into the hinges that I could slide under the screw heads and the nuts. Because the hinges are slightly more apart than the thickness of the arm, when I tighten the screws they work as flat springs with a slight bend and it all holds together very nicely.

To serve as the platen I have screwed a piece of 10×50 mm mild steel on. It works perfectly. It is stable regardless of which edge of the platen I work on and I can exert as much pressure as I want, although admittedly, I have only ground bone on it and not steel. I might either harden the platen by carbonitriding it or I can weld a hardened steel plate on the face, but mild steel works just fine too and with my rate of making blades it will hold for a long time as it is.

There is one last problem that I need to solve, and unfortunately, I do not know how. It is also difficult to describe, doubly so in a foreign language, so if you do not understand what I say, the problem is probably not at your end.

I need a reliable and stable way to adjust the belt’s traction. The spanning arm was a bit wibbly-wobbly, and when I fixed that, I got new problems. When I optimized it for a forward-running belt and tried to run it in reverse, it wandered off to the right and fell off. And when I optimized it for a reverse-running belt, it wandered to the left and bit into the arm. After a lot of faffing around I managed to get the belt stable in both directions – but then it was off-center and the sideways position of the spanning wheel had no influence on it whatsoever. The spanning wheel is crowned and that should make the belt tend towards its apex and thus I should be able to move the belt sideways, but it did not have any influence – the same thing happened whether it was near the arm or as far from it as it could go. Only the tilt of the wheel had an influence, but when I fixed the wobbliness, I lost the ability to tilt it.

I have managed to get the thing running by bending the screw on which the spanning wheel is fixed. When I turn the screw now, the wheel tilts, and I can adjust the belt. The problem is that it is too responsive and not very stable, just like it was before. I am wracking my brain for solutions, but so far I have not come up with any that are doable with my equipment.

Sharpenatrix upgrade

My Sharpenatrix was working well enough but having to tighten the screws holding the blade each time was a bit annoying. So I bought some stainless-steel non-magnetic screws and a bunch of neodymium magnets to play with. And some of those magnets were small cylindrical magnets with a screw, and those were ideal for a quick upgrade of the Sharpenatrix.

Here is a composite picture of the upgraded thingy.

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

I screwed three magnets into the end of a 5 mm strip of aluminum, glued on it another strip to make a continuous plane with the magnetic side of the magnets and I used the non-magnetic screw to make an end-stop to lean the back of the blade against. Spanning the blade is now a matter of seconds and whilst the magnets do not hold it extremely strongly, they do hold it strong enough to keep the constant angle during sharpening. And they allow me to adjust the blade position slightly and quickly, giving me greater versatility.

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

The screw can be adjusted to the thickness of the blade but its purpose is not to hold the blade firmly – that is done solely by the magnets – but to avoid levering/twisting the blade off the magnets when I lean it against the belt. The side with the screw is now significantly thinner than the side with the magnets, which allows me to sharpen at a constant angle blades that were too narrow for the previous version.

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

I have not actually tested it yet, I do not have any knives that need sharpening right now but I see no reason why it should not work.

I have also bought 500 5x5x5 neodymium magnets for making more sophistimacated magnetic chucks in due course.

A New Knife Blogge

I got a small commission and I have decided to make a series of blog posts about it. It will repeat a lot of the same things that were already said in my series Making Kitchen Knives and subsequent projects, streamlined and with as little technical jargon as possible. That is why I have decided to not publish it on FtB and I have started a blog on my website specifically for this series and it will be published there both in CZ and EN. If you are interested in reading it anyway, come over there, my website could use some traffic at least. I have not figured out how to add comments yet, I might need to use Disqus for that and I haven’t used Disqus for several years now and I forgot how to implement it. The service provider only offers implementation of Facebook comments and I ain’t got Facebook and I ain’t planning on getting it. I do, however, have a Twitter account and I will tweet my articles there. So if you are interested in being notified about them, follow me on Twitter.

I will continue to post my art projects, including knife-making projects, on Affinity too, but I think I do not need to repeat myself about the manufacturing process so I will only post here genuinely new things.

Some Knives Again – Part 3

This is the second three-piece set from the second overabladeance that I have finished. It is what you might call “vegan” set, because there are no animal parts involved in this one, it is made purely from plant material – black locust and coconut shell.

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

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

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

It is more or less a direct, slightly simplified, follow-up of the experimental knife set. This time the surfaces are not oiled but sealed with epoxy and buffed, just like with the jatoba&bone set from yesterday.

I hope to be able to put all three sets on the shoppe tomorrow. More pictures are, again, on Instagram.

Some Knives Again – Part 2

In the second overabladeance were three tree-knives sets, two of which are finished now.

The first one is from jatoba and cow bone.

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

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

As is usual, the cow bone has had some pores that accrued the reddish dust from the jatoba during work despite my best efforts to seal the surface of the bone with epoxy before sanding and polishing the handles. At least that way it is clear that it is a real bone and not some synthetic substitute, I guess? The number etching on the chef knife is a bit smudged. I still do not know why it behaves wonky from time to time – on one and the same piece of steel it can happen that I etch one part crisply without problems and a few cm besides that it suddenly does not work properly.

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

Fitting the rounded bone pieces to the extremely hard jatoba wood was not exactly easy but I managed a reasonably good fit in all nine instances. On this set, I have infused the surfaces with resin, smoothed them with 600-grit paper, and then coated them with resin again. Only after that did I buff it. Thus the whole set has extremely hard surfaces and it is a bit shiny.

I do know that this whole set is suitable for like 99% of all imaginable kitchen works because it is based on an experimental knife set I wrote about previously which has been very thoroughly tested by now. I have used it to cut both veggies and meat, gut fish, and de-bone chicken and there was a knife in this set for all the tasks that I could think of. This set is slightly modified – the blades are pointer and they do not have round-heeled ricasso. I like rounded tips and round-heeled ricasso but I did not convince many people about the advantages of round tips on knives and blades without ricasso are easier to make.

Again, the set will be for sale in the shoppe sometime towards the end of the week and there are more pictures on Instagram.