An Experimental Kitchen Knives Set

This set is numbered, but I won’t be selling it. I have tried several new things whilst making it and it was designed in part with a focus on ease of manufacture, except the experimental dimples in the blades.

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

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

The stand is made from three slabs of massive black locust wood and the front of the knife stand, the bolsters, and the end caps on knife handles are made from a coconut shell. Fitting the curved coconut shell perfectly to a piece of wood is of course not possible, and I have solved that problem quite successfully by dyeing the epoxy glue dark brown.

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

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

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

The finish is simply drying oil (commercial “Teak oil” which is a mixture of various oils) applied in several layers daily for over a week. It is still a bit tacky to the touch, but that should solve itself in time and with use. The surfaces are not overly polished – I did not go above 330 grit for both the metal and the wooden parts. Black locust wood has big pores in its growth rings, so polishing it very highly makes little sense anyway. I have, in fact, brushed the wood with a steel brush to accentuate the pores.

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I tried to make divots in the blades to make them less sticky to food, but it did not work out, they have too small a diameter to have any noticeable effect (I think). I will either have to build a tool to make these divots wider or to make very shallow fullers reliably and reproducibly. Neither of those two tasks is easy and I do not currently have any ideas.

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

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

The handles are not of an overly complicated shape, they have simply hexagonal profiles with some curvature to the facets and smoothed edges. They are reasonably easy to make and comfortable in the hand. The tang is held not only with glue but also with a nut on the end, which is covered by the coconut shell endcap.

© 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 think these three knives should cover just about any task that an ordinary home cook needs to do in their kitchen. I hope. I have given the set now to my mother to test and I have forbidden her to use any other knife for the time being under the serious threat of confiscating her other knives. She has got instructions to use and abuse them to test them thoroughly. If they pass the test, I will make multiple sets (without the divots in the blades) for sale.

I have also been thinking of adding this kind of picture in the future to my blades when I offer them for sale on the interwebs, to save myself the trouble of having to write the sizes in words for each piece. What do you think about that idea?

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One Santoku, Two Santoku, Three Santoku…

Today was finishing day – I finished six knives, three of which are Japanese-style santoku kitchen knives.

Three santoku knives. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Japanese knives are not my forte. I know a bit about them, but not much. I do not intend to make them in significant numbers. Not only because I am not Japanese, but also because some of them are highly specialized tools optimized for one specific task and most people here in Europe would have no clue whatsoever how to use them or care for them and those who do would probably prefer to buy them from actual Japanese craftsmen. But I had three offcuts that just lent themselves for this type of blade and I am all for making the most with the least amount of waste.

Where I (afaik) differ most significantly from Japanese blades is the round-heeled ricasso. And the knives are glued together with epoxy.

Olive wood handle. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This one has a handle from olive wood, cow bone, and buffalo horn. The handle is asymmetrical – the bone piece is not flat but rounded. Fitting the wood, bone, and horn together was thus a bit of work, but I have managed to fit them together fairly well, albeit not perfectly. The handle has a D profile, with a flat-ish top and rounded belly.

Olive wood is extremely beautiful and I should have probably saved the piece for a worthier blade. But it stinks to the heavens when worked and is somewhat greasy so it tends to clog up abrasives something awful. Due to the greasiness of the wood, I have finished the handle with tung oil, five layers over two weeks. And when I was at it, I used the same finish for the other two as well.

Santos mahogany handle. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This is just a simple two-piece handle, bone bolster, and Santos mahogany wood. This wood works reasonably well and is very dry, the exact opposite of Olive. It does not gum up the tools, but it makes a lot of dust that likes to float around. I think it is a neat knife. The handle has a rounded belly and a faceted back.

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

And last a knife with a handle from my late cherry tree, cow bone, and buffalo horn. The handle is faceted, probably the closest to a true Japanese-style knife.

They are all 160-170 mm long blades, with handles 110-130 mm. I am not planning to make more unless I get suitable offcuts again.,

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 -.

An Overabladeance

I have not made a knife for several months now, but that does not mean I was not working on knives. Below the fold is most of what I have done and also a bit about what I intend to do with it in the future.

BTW, I would appreciate it if you let me know something about your favorite knife if you have one. Almost everyone has, even when they are not “into” knives in particular.

[Read more…]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Mirror, Mirror…

I have finished the two fullered blades that I intended to mirror-polish for research purposes. It went reasonably well, I must say. The new jig helped a lot to smooth out and polish the fullers and although I had to resort on occasion to my old method of wrapping the abrasive around a bottle cork or popsicle stick, my fingers were spared or the worst of the worst. They are not perfect, but they are good enough for it to take some time to spot the irregularities and imperfections.

I think that next time I will do even a bit better because I did not have the jigs from the start for these, I have developed and tinkered with them during this project. One such tinkering that I forgot to mention in my previous post was to coat the idler wheels on my belt grinder with PVC flooring offcuts. That has reduced the chatter when grinding and polishing the fullers on the belt grinder, so I could actually use the belt grinder for polishing, and the handmade jig was subsequently only used to remove the perpendicular scratches and replace them with longitudinal ones. And because next time I will have all this equipment and the knowledge already, the results should, at least in theory, be better and with less work.

So here are some pictures containing the main things that I am writing about – blades, flowers, and insects.

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

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

The pumpkins are flowering nicely and there seem to be enough solitary bees around to pollinate them.

The blade on the left is the one that I have almost tossed. The fullers align well near the hand, but they diverge towards the tip quite noticeably, at least a few mm. Both fullers on both blades are a bit irregular.

I have a love-hate relationship with mirror-polished blades. They are very difficult to make, it is a lot of hard manual work that busts fingers and back so I hate doing it because I am tired and I do not recover as well as I should from physical exertion. But I also like doing it because it is very rewarding and satisfying to see the gradual change with each step as one progresses from 40 to 7000 grit and then to the buffing compound.

But they are never truly finished because the mirror polish exacerbates every minute irregularity to an absurdly high degree. A few microns deep divot will be seen at a certain angle. Also one thinks all scratches are removed and then, a few days later, you look at it at a very specific angle in a very specific light and suddenly you see that some gossamer-thin scratches are still there.

Then there is the practical side of course – although the steel is hardened, at mirror polish you can literally scratch it if you cut cardboard or office paper with it. They are very precious flowers indeed – basically, the wind blows a speck of dirt on the blade, you wipe it off and it leaves behind a scratch that will be visible in some light. That was one of the main reasons why I have decided to make a tumbled finish for my friends’ knife and why I am going to use it for most of my knives because that hides all but the most egregious scratches.

All in all, although these two blades are not perfect to a degree that I would be perfectly content with them, they are good enough that I shall go on and finish them with high-end fittings.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.


Walter Sorrells has recently made a video about a sharpening tool for his belt grinder, which gave me an inspiration for finally making my own. I have been planning to do this for a long time, but watching that video helped me to solve the final piece of the puzzle.

Walter Sorrells is of course not only a much more experienced knifemaker than I am, but he is also much better equipped. So my project has all the hallmarks of my handmade tools – it is crude and made from scraps.

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I have started with a very rough sketch of the jaws and I have also spent some time calculating trying to establish various proportions whilst finding a compromise between stability (shorter arm is better) and consistent angle across the blade (longer arm is better).

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Here you can see it in full when finished. Jaws for holding the blade are mounted on a ca 40 cm long 10 mm stick with a ball on the lower end. The ball goes into a socket at the end of an arm that can slide forward and back with regard to the belt, thus adjusting the angle at which the edge leans on it.

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The 10 mm steel rod is recycled from our old heating oven. The plastic ball at the end is an old furniture handle. All the wood is recycled from an old bed.

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

The jaws are made from 4mm mild steel and lined with 0.25 mm bronze held in place by means of double-sided adhesive tape. Near the tip of the jaws are two 5 mm pins that are screwed into the smaller jaw and slide into holes in the bigger jaw. They provide an end-stop to rest the blade against in order to fix it easier into the jaws and they also prevent them from wobbling.  The upper screw tightens the jaws and the lower one sets the distance between them, so I can vary it according to the blade that is being sharpened.

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Originally, I have planned to make the socket from wood and I expected it to take a lot of time. But I got a brilliant idea during the work to use a lid from a fabric softener bottle. It cracked during work, but I still could attach it to the arm with a  screw and a large washer. After that, I have covered the screw head with a piece of PVC flooring and after some consideration, I have also added two hard gaskets to keep the ball centered and to provide ever so slight resistance to movement.

The sliding arm can be fixed in position with a fastening screw salvaged from some defunct kitchen appliance from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away, from times when things were made to last.

When the weather allows it, I will give the thing a coating of grey paint so it looks slightly less amateurish and also to protect the wood from moisture. And I will mark a scale on the sliding arm so I do not need to bother with measuring the angle.

I do not expect this to save a lot of time. I already sharpen knives on the belt grinder and it does not take me more than about five-ten minutes per blade. But it will make the job a bit easier and the angle should definitively be more consistent, which is a plus. I am not one who is overly concerned with sharpening angle, I think that anything between 15° and 25° works just fine for most knives, but consistency does have an influence on the durability of the edge. For example, the N690 steel that I am using for most of my knives allegedly should not be sharpened at a too steep angle (below 15°) because then it tends to chip and break. With this tool, I can at least be definitively sure that I won’t go any lower than that.

We shall see how it works. I do have a lot of knives that need sharpening.

DIY Reusable (Hopefully) Etching Stencils

At about the same time that I have decided to leave my job and try to make a living as a knifemaker, I have also decided to number the blades that I make. And since my logo is my initials in Glagolitic script, it seemed only logical to use Glagolitic numbering too. Almost nobody will be able to read the numerals without aid (including me), but I do think that arabic numerals would look a bit odd in combination with my logo, so I have decided to go through with the use of Glagolitsa.

The numerals consist mostly of straight lines and dots, so it is kinda easy to cut them in adhesive tape with a scalpel tip. But it costs relatively a lot of time – I have spent about ten minutes per blade since I have moved into two-number digits and things will only get more and more complicated after that. So for a long time, I was thinking about how to make stencils.

I could not use the same method that I use for my logo, because the numerals are so tiny that even if I were able to cut them into the 1 mm silicone sheet, the etching solution would have trouble reaching the surface through such a narrow, water-repelling, canal anyway. I needed something thinner. Like a sheet of paper. But how to waterproof a sheet of paper? I have tried it with wax in the past, and that did not work. Beeswax contaminated the surfaces and paraffin wax is not elastic enough. It would be ideal to infuse the paper with silicone, somehow, but how? I was thinking about trying to buy pouring silicone for forms, but I was reluctant to spend money on it not knowing upfront if it will be of any use.

And then I got a much simpler idea, so simple that it does make me wonder how come I did not come up with it sooner – linseed oil. I have printed my numerals on a sheet of paper, soaked it thoroughly in linseed oil, and left it harden for a few days. The resulting sheet was repelling water and bendy enough to adhere reliably to the blades, whilst stiff enough for me to be able to cut the numerals.

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Each stencil has two parts – one for vertical lines, one for the rest, since oftentimes it is not possible to cut the whole number at once for obvious reasons. The oiled paper is also transparent enough to be able to place the second part over the first reliably-ish enough.

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Since the stencils are so small that some unwanted etching around the edge of the stencil is a real risk, I have made a round shield from silicone to protect the surrounding area and also to provide a better seal for the stencil itself. And when I was at it, I have made two new graphite etching electrodes with the felt permanently attached to the graphite. One with big rectangular felt (left) for the logos (not used yet) and one with a soft, round tip specifically for the numerals.

And I am pleased to say that it all works. I was numbering blades 40-48 just a few days ago and it took me a lot less time than before – and this time I still had to cut the numerals into the paper. Next time I should be even faster because the stencils are already cut and I see no reason why they should not last until the next batch of blades is ready for etching. Here you can see one test-etch of the number 40 on the tang and the number 41 on the blade.

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The numbers are not perfect, but they are not worse-looking than they were before. Indeed it could be argued that if the numerals were perfect, it would undercut the handmade look of my knives which always have some minor irregularities in them no matter what I do. Or it could be argued that I am setting my goals too low, well…

We shall see what the public decides once the pandemic is over and I can go and sort out all the necessary paperwork to be able to actually sell them.