Second Camping Knife

To give some quick background, my unnamed roommate from my previous post happens to actually have a name, Micah. Here’s a plug to his WordPress! He was working on a camping knife about the same time that I was working on my first chef knife.

DSC_1165There he is cutting out his blank with an angle grinder designed to deafen on a cold, dark, Worcester night

With all these knife posts, I think people are still interested in just seeing pictures first, so here’s a picture of the final product.

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Micah had designed the blade shape, cut it all out, and placed the bevels with the “defiling jig” that I mentioned in the Chef Knife Complete post from earlier. Because that was about all he could do while we were still in Worcester, it was sort of up to me to complete the heat-treating and handle-making parts. Post heat-treatment, I decided to acid stonewash the blade, giving it a more rustic appearance. Micah selected the stained layered wood handle material long ago, but while I was working on the knife, he also requested a plaid-inspired pattern. In order to make the already flashy handles even more decorative, I decided to mill out a sort of plaid pattern and fill it with glow-in-the-dark resin.

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There’s the pattern! The room was actually quite dimly lit, but the 3200 ISO and 5 second exposure helped to really capture the glow resin, but unfortunately also made the rest of the room look quite well-lit.

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Usuba

Somehow I failed to get any sort of progress pictures of this knife, except for the one 100% scaling scan just after putting on the bevels the first time around. Anyways, this custom is for my mother, who has a really old, cheap Nakiri from quite a while ago. The Usuba and Nakiri are both pretty much just for vegetables, with the notable difference that an Usuba has a single bevel on one side of the knife. For right handed people, the beveled side is on the right, and the flat side is on the left. This allows for cut parts to be more easily peeled off the right side of the knife and also helps with making sure the knife cuts straight up and down instead of gliding at an angle.

Well, the wall of text is uninteresting to most as always, so here are the completed pictures.

Usuba Nakiri Right

Above is a scanned image of the knife, as usual. The depth of the right hand bevel is quite obvious. The opposite side is flat. At 11.5″ total and with an edge length of just under 6.5″, the knife isn’t all that large, but it serves its purpose fine.

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The knife is made of 440C stainless steel, since my mom didn’t want to deal with the awesomeness of plain carbon steel. The handle is a pretty plain Bocote, since my mother asked for a lighter colored wood instead of the dark Cocobolo that I often prefer.

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I decided to put a pretty shallow edge on the knife, in keeping with higher quality Japanese knives. The sharp right angle of the heel help with delicate small tasks, like cutting out little eyes in ginger roots.

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The wide, near-mirror finish edge makes all the surface smoothness imperfections very obvious. The parts of the blade that are just a couple mils thicker result in a much wider mirror finished edge. The edge on this knife is extraordinarily sharp, regardless, but it really makes me appreciate the craftsmanship of Japanese master blacksmiths who hand make their knives.

Chef Knife Complete

This long overdue (2 weeks) post is for the long overdue knife that I started in January of 2014 when I was still at WPI. Part of the reason is that this knife is actually the first knife I started, and many of the steps were done by hand, with some limited use of power tools.

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So to kick things off, that’s how the knife project began in my apartment. I had started going at the 1080+ steel (some people apparently say it’s 1084) with a hacksaw over the course of a couple hours but ended up getting sick of the project already. I went to Harbor Freight and picked up an angle grinder. This being the first time for me really working with steel, I didn’t realize how much harder it was to work compared to aluminum.

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That’s my old roommate in the picture, and he’s not roughing out my knife in the picture, but I did pretty much the same thing earlier. It was cold and dark, and that slightly off-balance angle grinder was REALLY LOUD. Now that I have a Makita angle grinder, I really appreciate how much better a quality built tool compares to a cheapo one. I don’t own that Harbor Freight one anymore, thank goodness.

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After hours and hours of filing, I cleaned up all the ragged steel to line up with the original cardboard prototype and sharpie tracing. The process from initial sketch to this roughed out shape took four days.

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I colored in all the steel, and my roommate built a filing jig, which we ended up renaming the “defiling jig” after a couple uses. Shout out to Aaron Gough for the design, which can be found here. I colored in the blade to make it easier to tell how far up the knife I had filed.

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Done! All of two weeks later, and much to the satisfaction of our downstairs neighbors. I spent a lot of late nights filing, but I stopped after our downstairs neighbors started banging on their ceiling. The constant buzzing and rasping coming from their ceiling was probably pretty annoying. Well, after this step, there wasn’t much else I could do at the apartment, so the knife just sort of sat around for a really long time, and my capstone project at school started to really pick up.

Chef Left

There’s a scan again for those who are interested.

After driving across the country and deciding that I would actually stay in San Jose for a year, I decided to pick up some equipment, specifically a kiln. Before trying to heat treat this large knife, I wanted to make sure that I had the process correct, so I ended up finishing four other knives before getting around to this one again. I did sort of “cheat” with the handle, since I used a belt sander for most of the shaping.The blade itself, however, I cleaned up post heat treatment with more hand filing and sanding.

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It’s finally done!

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The handle was made with walnut scales that I had purchased from Jantz (I think?) quite a while ago. With a soak in Meguiar’s Gold Teak oil, the handle should be good to go until they show signs of wear and dryness again. Once I’ve used the knife some more, I’ll post a picture or two of what it looks like with a patina.

Second Completed Knife (Steak Knife 1)

After a couple failed attempts at heat treating the steak knives two weeks ago, I finally realized my problem. In order to fit my large yanagiba-style knife, I had dropped the lowest shelf to the bottom of my kiln. The two steak knives were resting at the bottom, so they were never reaching the temperature that the kiln thermometer was displaying. After remedying the heating problem by placing the lowest shelf on top of some kiln furniture, I managed to get things right last weekend.

Anyways… there’s not much to be said here. Text is boring, and people want pictures.

Steak Knife 1 Left

The above is the scan of the knife just after shaping and beveling. If you want to make one yourself, just print that at 100% scaling, cut it out, trace it to some steel, and get grinding. I’m assuming most of you won’t make use of that, but it’s there, because people have asked for it before.

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After getting most of the scale off with a file post heat treatment, I switched to using 220 grit sandpaper to deal with smoothing out some of the contours near the front end of the handle. A couple seconds of inattention when shaping the bevels meant a lot more hand sanding later. It took a good hour to get rid of those little lines (grooves in the metal) in the above image.

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The front edges of the wooden handles were again prepared prior to gluing. With a good soap and water cleaning of the steel parts and a quick alcohol wipe on the inner faces of the scales, the parts were ready for gluing.

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And… fast forward through a lot more sanding and polishing. There’s a knife! It measures at just under 10 inches.

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I was actually pretty pleased with how things turned out. I had thought out pretty much the entire knife, including the handle shape when I first sketched it, so it was good to see how my mental image so closely matched the final product. I will probably have some side by side photos of this knife and the duplicated knife next weekend if I finish the other one up.

Well, thanks again for checking this out, and let me know if you have any questions!

First Custom Knife

The process of making my first knife from start to finish was a quite a long but rewarding process. Even though grinding and shaping the knives may have felt like an eternity, the real reason for the months it took to finish my first knife was my apathy for getting this project completed and my plethora or other projects and time-consuming activities.

So to get things started, the first step of this project, as with the majority of my projects, was to get a piece of paper and sketch out what I wanted.

Camping Knife SketchInstead of sketching my ideas directly on the steel bar stock, I first traced the edge of the steel stock onto a piece of paper. Within these boundaries I began sketching. For this knife, I really only had two main concerns. First, I wanted to have an edge that was easy to sharpen. Second, I wanted a good finger notch for fine control of the knife. A straight knife is easiest to sharpen, so I opted for a slightly curved sheepsfoot-style edge. In addition, a choil makes the heel of the knife easier to sharpen, so I decided on using a particularly large choil that would double as a finger notch. In order to get a feel for the knife, I first cut a rough sample out of cardboard. Once modifications to the sketched design were made, I moved onto working the steel bar stock.

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After many hours of grinding, I finally had the knife roughed out and the primary bevels set. Instead of using a hollow grind for the primary bevel, I decided to use a near full flat grind, because I only had access to a basic belt sander. The thicker spine helps to prevent excessive flex of the blade.

Post Heat-Treatment Camping Knife

Prior to heat treatment, I added two more holes in the handle of the knife. This allowed me to raise and lower the knife from the kiln with a piece of wire. The holes also allow the epoxy to pass through the handle of the knife and provide better adhesion. I was actually pretty satisfied with the surface finish of the knife before heat treatment, but that was ruined with the black scaly buildup on the knife that comes with heat treatment. Instead of totally cleaning the knife, however, I decided to leave some of the imperfections to serve as a reminder that the knife was hand-made.

Preparing Knife for Gluing

Here is the knife just before gluing. In order to prevent damage to the knife, the leading edges of the handles have to be pretty close to finished before gluing. I probably should have cleaned the steel under the handles a little better, because the black scaly buildup from heat treatment has a tendency to flake off.

Kydex Sheath Preparation

After the handles were glued and completed, I moved onto forming the Kydex sheath. Kydex is a proprietary thermoform PVC that many knife makers like using for making durable custom sheaths. To protect the blade and to limit the Kydex shrinkage, I used masking tape to cover the surface of the blade. The small dowel attached to the end of the knife is used to form the drainage hole in the sheath, as inspired by Aaron Gough’s design.

Knife in Kydex Mold

Once the Kydex sheets were heated in the oven, I sandwiched the knife between the sheets and placed everything in the press that I built (maybe another post on this later). I left the stack in the Kydex forming tool for about an hour before removing the blade and sheath.

Removed from Press

Once the the Kydex had sufficiently cooled, I sketched out the design on the Kydex directly, drilled holes, placed rivets, removed the knife, and sanded it to shape. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of this process.

Finished Knife and Sheath Right SideFinished Knife and Sheath Left SideFinished Knife Spine

These last couple pictures are of the completed knife. Hopefully I’ll get to go camping with this knife soon! If you guys have any questions, let me know. Thanks for checking out this lengthy post.

Scrap Metal Knives

These are two mini-knife projects made from the scrap pieces of 440C from my other knife projects. They were heat treated with a blowtorch and tempered in a normal oven. Compared to the AUS8 SOG Twitch II that I have, it seems like this metal is just a little bit softer.

Kydex sheaths for these things to come some time during this week!

Beveled Yanagiba and Chef’s Knife

It’s been quite a while! Here are some works in progress.

The knife pictured above is a hybrid between a Yanagiba and a Santoku. A traditional Yanagiba is spear-pointed, allowing the knife to be used as a piercing tool when required, such as gutting a fish. Personally, I do not really like spear-pointed knives, especially a really long spear-pointed knife, since I get less-than-comfortable control of the knife when the edge is so far away. I also rarely need to gut fish. Thus, the end of the knife is more akin to a Santoku, allowing for even slicing all the way to the tip of the blade. The single-sided right hand bevel helps food to peel off the blade when slicing.

This chef knife is mostly inspired by the Henckel’s Pro chef’s knife and Global F and GF series knives. The blade shapes of this chef’s knife and the Henckel’s Pro are of interest, because of the relatively longer straight edge and belly closer to the tip of the knife. The longer straight edged section allows for a larger chopping section, similar to Santokus and Gyutos; however, the large belly still allows for a good rocking motion. The Global F and GF series knives have more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing handles that allow for both pinch-grip and handle-only gripping of the knives.

Between work, climbing, and visiting friends after recently getting back to the West Coast, I’ve been pretty busy!