The “winner’s choice” benefit blade is done, sharpened, and shipped. I am told that it arrived safely, which is always a relief.
We swapped a few emails to get a feeling for what was wanted: size of person’s hand that would be using it, left/right preference, curves or angles preference, bolster (and how many) and main handle body material. The decision was ebony for the handle body, with purpleheart bolsters. In case you’re not a woodworker: those are two of the nastiest woods to work with. Ebony is strong yet it’s unpredictable and sometimes has cracks or bumps where a branch was growing. It gets weird when you grind it – it dissolves into a smelly, sticky resin and heats up easily. I’ve had ebony smoke and bubble like it’s catching fire. For this project, I reminded myself to take it easy. Purpleheart is also tough like ebony but doesn’t melt or heat up unusually. Still, this is a difficult combination; a good challenge.
For a bolster on the end of a knife, you either need a full-length tang to attach it to, or a pin. I actually prefer pins because they’re an opportunity to do something a little fancy. Collectively we decided to do an ebony pin through the purpleheart. Each step is an opportunity to screw up, or to do it right.
First problem was making the pin out of ebony: lathe it, cut it with a plug cutter, or do it freehand? I had a few small pieces of ebony from another project, so I just bandsaw’d a bit off, put it in a cordless drill, and shaped it by turning the drill and my belt sander on, and pressing the ebony against the belt. Zip! Very quick. I used calipers to measure it and made it 1/4″ with a slight taper so that I would be able to fit it into the purpleheart without a lot of fiddling.
One thing that was nice: the chosen woods don’t expand or contract much. It would be terrible if the bolster was something that contracted around the ebony pin; it would just blow the wood apart.
Since the pin was going to be located in the center of the bolster, I didn’t have a lot of leeway to get the handle off-center. It just means slowing down and looking at everything a couple of extra times.
Purpleheart really is purple! One thing it’ll do is stain your boogers so that it looks like you’ve sprung a leak.
That’s my D-shaped handle, fairly narrow, with the pin in place and an edged ridge-line in the wood. It’s a very positive feeling handle, but it also feels light and nimble.
Etched and oiled and polished to a fare-thee-well with several coats of birchwood casey tru-oil.
Thank you for supporting the FTB legal fund!
Notes on product photography: The upper picture of the bolster, and the lower picture of the complete knife were both shot under the same light on the same background. The difference is that, in order to pick up the blade patterning, I dialed the aperture down 3 stops, I believe. What does the knife really look like? Well, depending on how you’re looking at it, either or both.