I did this for one of computer security’s early innovators, Dan G., who has been my hero since I first worked with him on porting MIT’s Project Athena code to ULTRIX in 1987. He now lives on a farm in rural someplace and I know he cooks.

So, I went for radical simplicity in all ways. The blade is 1095 wire rope, welded down and flattened in the press, then cut and ground, differentially tempered with clay. It has a nice simple sweeping temper-line like a katana’s, just as I had intended. The handle is a vintage chunk of redwood that I resin soaked under vacuum, with a bolster of redwood burl. I did a wedged D-shape on the handle, which I find feels good and visually resembles a Japanese sushi knife; these are all things I like.

A few minutes after I took this photo, I noticed that the blade was not perfectly straight; there was a slight bend at the tip. That’s not uncommon when you’re working with damascus; the metal has all kinds of stresses pulling it in different ways, and the thermal cycling of grinding and polishing sometimes pulls it a bit off line. So I put two blocks of polypropylene in a vise, inserted the knife at the correct point, and leaned on it just a little bit. This stuff is like a spring, so you have to deflect it a fair bit and check to see whether it’s correct.


Just a tiny sound. The martensitic edge had a micro-crack in it now, leading up to the softer steel of the back. The knife is still perfectly usable but it’s not repairable and it’s certainly in no condition to give to someone as a gift of respect. You can barely see the crack but if you know it’s there you can’t take your eye off it.

I already have another blade ready, that is identical except for the temper-line which is always unique. It’s laser straight.

This one is in Anna’s knife-block as a place-holder until I can get the handle on the blade I made for her. After that, I’ll probably use it. It’s perfectly functional, it’s just a bit cracked. Like me.


  1. dangerousbeans says

    How far up the blade did it crack? You can always grind it down.
    Nice handle, and a very simple and elegant knife

  2. kestrel says

    OMG that must have been a horrifying moment. That is indeed a heartbreaker. I’m guessing you can’t use a hammer… that’s what I always think of trying with metal that is not the way I want it. Maybe the metal is too brittle or something, not sure, I trust your expertise.

    That’s good you are going to use it though because it is very beautiful. I like the lines of it.

  3. johnson catman says

    This post appeared a couple of days ago before the “A Knife for a Drunken Chef” post. It looks to be the same post, so why did it disappear?

  4. says

    johnson catman@#3:
    This post appeared a couple of days ago before the “A Knife for a Drunken Chef” post. It looks to be the same post, so why did it disappear?

    I usually queue posts up a day or two ahead of when they drop. In this case, I somehow screwed up the drop schedule and they dropped together. When I noticed that, I rescheduled it to its correct schedule.

  5. lochaber says

    appropriately titled post. :(

    like dangerousbeans mentioned, is it too far back to regrind the blade and make a shorter knife out of it?

    I was thinking how you keep posting these pics of really pretty knives, and last post I almost asked you to post some pics of your less-successful works, just out of curiosity.

  6. voyager says

    Ugh… so sorry about the ping. That really must have been a heart breaking moment and I imagine you missed a breath or two, too.
    Perfection is illusive. The knife has beautiful lines, the handle looks comfortable and well suited to the blade and it functions well, as intended. I’m glad Anna’s using it. Your knife will live a long and purposeful life and it will wear in through familiar hands. It may not be perfect, but all of that is pretty damned good.

  7. says

    Ouch. The crack would pick up corrosion rather quickly, so it definitively is not a good idea to use it.

    If it is very close to the tip, maybe re-grind it to a drop-pint style?

  8. says

    I could make it shorter and with a different grind but i like the line. So I traced the blade onto another bar and I’ll make a clone. Each one better than the last!

    I have some painful failures; perhaps I will post a few. Mostly they don’t look like much.

  9. dangerousbeans says

    I have a photo somewhere of my three attempts at making a particular blade. first two broke, but the third one worked! :P
    Also the 4th one, i should make a few more and see if i can get the success rate up

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