2012 is done

Not sure If I’m going to do a year in retrospective post or not.  I did manage to close out the year with 12 solid days of being sick.  Not really how I wanted to spend the time but such is life.  Tomorrow is back to production for me, and trying to get caught back up with things.

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Another bench knife

I recently finished up another bench knife.  This one was to fill an order.  The customer decided to go with Color case hardened fittings and stabilized walnut burl.  Walnut and color case.. such a beautiful combination.  I’m not really feeling verbose at the moment, so stats and a picture:

OAL:  a touch over 9.25
Steel: W1 with Hamon
Fittings: 1018 (color case hardening by me)
Handle: stabilized claro walnut burl

[Oh and yes it is a forged blade with JS under my POD mark ]

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Turkey Day post

Today is Turkey day here in the states, lots of people are posting notes of thankfulness.   I think the thing, most relevant to this blog, that I am thankful for is that I have been able to structure my life around what I enjoy the most, which is making things.

It was clear to me this morning, as I rough cut out a piece of wood for the wife, prior to fully waking up, that I really have spent most of my life learning how to make things.  Barely one cup of coffee in me, groggily shuffling around, yet get in front of the bandsaw and turn it on; click I’m in the zone, the brain is clear motions are fluid, zip..zip..zip.. it is done.  Turn off the machine, de-tension the blade, take the coveralls off, shuffle groggily back upstairs looking for a second cup of coffee.  The contrast between clarity and groggy from one moment to the next really highlighted how natural it has become to me.

I’m not sure how other people see the world but when I look at things I not only see the object, but how it could be created.  One of the most wonderful things is the glorious moment when some object is no longer “magical”.  I’m using “magical” here in the sense of the Arthur C. Clarke quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  This is the moment of realization that not only do I know all the parts that make up something I also know exactly how to make them, and while I may not understand the specific nuances of fine tuning the function I know what variables to play with.  An example:  I’ve gotten into fountain pens recently and was playing with a cheap one I had picked up, thinking that it was “ok” except I didn’t like the script nib on it.  Then the back of my brain said, you know you could just re-grind the nib.  To which another part of my brain said yes but then it wouldn’t have the ball on the end that a non script nib has.  Then in less than an instant, poof, all the “magic” of a fountain pen dissipated like fog in the morning sun.  Nibs, feeds, barrels, piston fill, cartridge, how the pieces work, how they fit together what they are made out of, how I would make them; to borrow another phrase this time from Heinlein, in an instant I groked fountain pens. I cannot describe how wonderful and empowering such a moment feels.

To understand  and craft an object is  a great experience, but to me the most noble and transcendental experience is to create a beautiful tool that will be used to create other beautiful things.  I’ve been doing more forging lately with heavier stock and have decided that my 2 kilo hammer just takes too long, so it was time to get a bigger hammer.  My lovely wife had an 8# Collins sledge hammer head, that she picked up for her “orphaned tools” project.   It was one of the ones with the really large oval eye, and she was kind enough to let me have it.  I remembered I had some thick walnut stock which should work for a handle.  I cut off a chunk, sketched out a short handle and set about carving out and fitting a handle for the sledge.  Once the shape was good and the head fit, I put a coat of my experimental linseed oil based finish on it [ that is a topic for a later post].  The finish takes a bout 24 hours to cure per layer, the handle wound up with 3 layers.  This was one of those “in between” projects that I’d pick up and work on when I had an hour here or there.  While the handle finish was curing I took the  head to the belt grinder and turned it into a “rounding hammer” with one flat face and one domed face.  I also cleaned up the die marks from when it was made and took all the surface rust and gouges down.  When it was purchased the stub of the original handle was still in the eye which meant I was able to save the original large aluminum wedge that held the handle in.  I cleaned up and straightened the wedge and happily used it to set the new handle.  Here is a picture of the finished tool (cell phone camera pic):

8 pound hand hammer

my new single hand sledge hammer

I haven’t had a chance to use it on hot metal yet, but it swings nicely and I can spin it around to swap which face I’m using and the facets let me know I’ve got it oriented correctly.  I believe it is going to be a beautiful tool to use.

So yes, I’m very grateful to be able to do what I am truly passionate about on a regular basis.


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Recent miscellaneous projects

I’m one of those people that have a hard time just making a “practice piece” when trying to dial in a process.  Recently I needed to verify some methodology in color case hardening, in preparation for a commission.  Rather than just lob off some 1018 bar stock, polish it up and heat treat it, I grabbed one of my sketchbooks and pulled a pattern for a Thor’s hammer pendant out of it.  I then proceeded to make a couple of them out of 1018.  These were used as practice pieces.  Here are the results:

pair of Thors hammer pendants

Color case hardened pendants with copper jump rings

Without the copper rings they are just under 1 inch tall by just under .75 inch wide.  I do really love the look of color case hardening, and these turned out quite nice.

On another note, A few months back I starting taking a historical fencing class.  One of the folks at the school asked me if I could make a copy of a guard  that was on one of the fencing weapons.  The guard consisted of a cross 2 finger loops and a knuckle bow.  Having wanted to make such a guard for a while, I was quite happy to take on the challenge.  In the end this is what I wound up creating:

sword guard

mild steel guard for fencing sword

It started as a bar .25 inches thick .75 inches wide and about 13 inches long.  After lots of cutting twisting bending and filing, it was completed.  It is all one piece, no welds.  I could have probably saved myself some time had I forged the arms round, but the forge was designed for knives and it wouldn’t have fit very well.

Both project were very satisfying and I am quite pleased with the results.

I’m still working on the backlog of photos I need to process in Lightroom and post, so if all goes well in the next few days I should have more pictures up.

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Show recap and status of long term projects

The NWKC show in Kelso a couple weeks ago wrapped up the show season for me this year.   It was a good show and I’ll be doing it again next year.  Included in the knives I had was a fantastic set of 3 kitchen knives (8″ chef and 2 paring) with absolutely gorgeous orange/red dyed stabilized buckeye burl.  I had Hawk Media photograph them and will  post that picture as soon as I get it.

Speaking of pictures I have a bunch of pictures of recent work I need to do post processing on and get added to the site.

There are a couple Long term projects that have been moving forward.  The Hydraulic press project is making slow but incremental progress.  The smelting project has gotten more traction recently and is looking like there will actually be a smelt or 2 happening this winter.  Just this week I picked up 500# of ore, so now I have plenty of material to learn with.

I’ve got a couple special pieces planned for this winter and if all goes well I’ll have some spectacular stuff at the shows next year.

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JS set is now for sale

This is just a quick note to say that my set of 5 JS fit and finish knives are now for sale.  They are in a locking walnut display case (the case is made in the USA).  Here is a quick photo of the case with the knives.

I know, not the best photo.  The really nice photo of the knives is here.  I’ll put up a better photo of them in the display case when I get back from the show.

Where was I .. oh yea.  So they are now for sale, a recent rule changes by the ABS about JS fit and finish knives means that there will be no other set of JS knives like this ever.  Your chance to collect a one of a kind set.  Price: $3000.  Click here to arrange purchase.


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Early september update:

So perhaps the title of Early September is a bit optimistic now that I’m looking at the calendar.

Where to start…  How about the shed.  The door hardware was acquired, the door fabricated and hung.  I’ve even managed to get a trial layout for the forge and anvil and get some forging in.  The layout is going to need some tweaking but that is to be expected.  Here is a photo of the shed with the door:

Some minor things still need doing including a rain gutter across the back.

On a not so positive note, the organizer of the Boise show has canceled the show this year.  So no November show for me.  It was going to be my first year doing the Boise show and I had heard lots of great things about it from other makers.  I was looking forward to that show.  Unfortunately that does kind of scrozzle up the production schedule as there are things that now should get done a month sooner (since the NWKC show is going to be the last show this year for me).  Makes the rest of this month a zoo, but eases up the  rest of the year a bit.

Speaking of things going on this month, I will be taking the time away from the shop to attend the NorthWest Blacksmith Association (NWBA) fall conference.  It will be good to see some folks I haven’t seen in a a while and the demo list looks good.  If I’m lucky I’ll find stuff for a hydraulic press in the tailgate area.

I probably won’t get another update made until just before the NWKC show early October due to that scrozzled schedule mentioned above.



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End of July update

So July has ended.  It was a busy month.  The shed took a bit more to get built than I hoped for but not by much.  I underestimated the amount of fill I would need to level the spot for it.  It is currently in the process of getting painted and I still need to build a door, but it is good enough that today I moved the anvil and forge in and dismantled the temporary structure.  Here is a pic from before the painting started:

I got a batch of stainless kitchen knives started.  It is good to be back into the production.  I had planned on taking the entire month of July for the shed so I am right on schedule, however it is really nice to get some knives underway again.

In other news I’ll be down in Eugene for the 5160 club meeting tomorrow.  It seems I’ll probably be presenting, either on my experience getting my JS stamp or stainless heat treating.   It will be good to see some of the folks I know down in the Eugene area.  I am looking forward to it.

I’ve got some interesting projects lining up.  I’m not sure how long they are going to take to get to fruition so I’ll play it close for now but keep checking back  as I’ll be sure to post updates as the projects get under way.


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Mid July update

I know things have been pretty quite on the news front here, so time to give you all an update.

The new forge I built earlier this year has been living in a temporary structure in the yard where I have been doing the forging (only about a 4’x6′ fabric roofed, tarp wall structure).  This has been mainly to keep the rain off the forge and anvil so they stay dry.  Forging meant pulling out the tools from the house and setting up .. then tearing down.  Seattle is an interesting place with regards to rain.  It usually doesn’t rain too heavily, unlike the south, but does rain kind of constantly.  Statistically there is about a 4 week period from early July thought early to mid august where there is very little rain.  So the plan has been to use July to get an actual shed built for the forge.  Since the Peugeot Sound region is not known for flat ground  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks extending a retaining wall (1400# of retaining wall block), bringing in 4000# of fill dirt and at this point 1800# of 1/4minus crushed rock.  Due to the nature of the property couldn’t really use any machinery to move it all.   So yea.. 2 weeks of tired.

I have managed to get the preliminary design work done on the Steak knife for the kitchen set and as soon as the shed is done making a prototype is on the build list.


Anyway the freak thunderstorm (We don’t get many here in the sound) appears to have passed.  The storm was the reason I had the time to stop and post.   So let me leave you with a picture of the progress so far.

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Blade 2013

I have sent in my renewal contract for Blade 2013.  Looking forward to seeing all the folks I met this year, at next year’s Blade.

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