Anna’s Knife

Ah, the “knife-maker’s girlfriend’s knife.” It’s got to be the best that you can make, at that given time and place.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be more or less impossible to get a good photograph of the detail in the metal of the blade. That’s because it has an insane mirror polish on top of about 200 layers of wrought iron/1095 damascus. If you hold it at the right angle to the light, it looks like jeweling in the metal. Otherwise, it just looks shiny.

Because just using high layer damascus was not enough, I put a thin layer of pure nickel on either side of the core, which is 1095 high carbon steel. So, the whole blade is 100 layers on each side, plus some nickel, plus a core – total is around 203 layers but I’m sure I ground a few off while shaping the edges.

I made the handle small and D-shaped, and got busy with ebony and silver at each end.

The ebony end-cap ought to have been adequately held in place with just the epoxy I used, but I got a 3/4″ long piece of 1/4″ silver rod and sunk that into the end-cap to keep it in place.

So, one thing about doing an end-cap like that is that it fixes the handle in space. Your handle shape must now line up with the silver post, or it’s going to look terrible. That means that shaping the handle has to be done very carefully and precisely; there is no room for nudging the axis of the handle around even a tiny bit.

Also, even though it’s all pinned together with steel and silver, you need to grind this sort of handle very slowly with lots of time for it to cool down. Silver heats up really fast on a sander – much faster than bog oak – so you have to keep letting it cool down or the silver will melt the epoxy and then everything turns to gunk and you have to hammer the handle off and start over.

Here’s what the steel looks like under a low power microscope. You can see the lines in it at this enlargement; those are alternating layers of wrought iron and 1095. One thing that’s really cool about laminating high carbon steel and wrought iron is that there’s carbon migration at the transition zone, so the wrought iron gets hard(er) – and it’s already plenty tough. Of course, the 1095 gets a bit less high carbon but it’s still high carbon enough. The core, being a big solid chunk of 1095, doesn’t experience significant carbon migration (and to tell the truth I have no idea what happens at the transition boundary with the nickel) All I know is that it looks really pretty and it’s sharp as hell and mighty strong.

One of the sad things about today’s world is that you can’t take your fancy new damascus slicy-thing in to work and show your co-workers. Mostly, this knife will help make sandwiches and cut bacon, sausage, cheese, and vegetables – which is a good mission for a knife.


  1. kestrel says

    That is a delightful knife and it’s a shame about co-workers these days. Who wouldn’t enjoy seeing that? And I have to wonder. Are they allowed to bring guns to work?

    We live in crazy times.

  2. Jazzlet says

    It’s a beauiful knife, tthe handle is gorgeous.

    The import of carrying a knife is one of those things that has changed over my lifetime, as a teenager I always carried a penknife, and having got into the habit I went on doing so for years. At some point realised that the large blade was big enough to contravene the latest knife law so I don’t always carry it now, though I still do eg if on holiday when it might be the only way of opening a bottle or a can, and it does get used for bottles of beer in particular.

  3. kestrel says

    @Jazzlet, yes, I agree. I carry a knife all the time because I have to cut open bales of hay pretty much every day, so for me a knife is simply an every day tool – like a spoon, or a belt. So I don’t get this nonsense of “You can’t carry a knife! But it’s totes OK to bring a gun to a restaurant.” (Last week there was a guy wearing a gun at the restaurant where we had dinner.) A gun is not an every day tool that must be used constantly. Even on the farm we keep all fire arms safe and secure until we actually need one to put an animal down etc. And newsflash: hunting season is not every single day.

    In the meantime the general public is being deprived of the opportunity to view this gorgeous knife. Makes no sense.

  4. StonedRanger says

    Have you tried indirect lighting when you take pictures? Seems it might soften the glare coming off mirror finishes instead of just pointing a light at it. If youve already tried that then nevermind. I can see the layers in the first photo, you do fascinating stuff.

  5. voyager says

    It all works together beautifully and it looks comfortable and well-sized. Nice choices. Anna’s going to love it.

    The pattern in the blade is more complex than I expected, especially in the bottom photo. Some of it reminds me of tree bark.

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