Will your knife last a lifetime?

  My knives are designed to last a lifetime.  Most other custom knives (and many factory made knives) will also last a lifetime.  But only if they are properly cared for.  I give each of my customers a knife care sheet with instructions for the necessary care of the knife.  The rest of this post is those instructions.

Your new knife was designed to last you a lifetime and it will, but only if you care for it and perform some basic maintenance.  First, a couple of safety warnings are in order:
WARNING:  Your knife is very sharp.  Please use caution to avoid injury and always keep the knife out of the reach of children.
WARNING:  While your knife is made of high quality steel and is superbly heated-treated for strength and durability, it is a knife – not a hammer, axe, chisel, pry-bar, screwdriver, or a can opener.  Using the knife in place of any of these tools (or for other abusive tasks) can bend, break, or chip the knife and could cause grave personal injury!
Now for the care and maintenance: 
Your knife must be kept clean and dry.  The blade is high-carbon steel, not stainless steel, and it will rust if not kept dry.  Even if the blade is not visibly wet, storage in a high-humidity environment can cause rust over time.
Wash the knife after use and wipe dry with a clean, dry cloth or towel.  Never allow a knife to drip dry or store it when it is not completely dry.  A mild detergent can be used to clean the knife, but do not use one which contains bleach. 
NEVER wash the knife in the dishwasher!  The dishwasher can both rust the blade and damage the handle.
Never store the knife in a leather sheath.  This will stain the blade.
Cutting acidic foods, such as apples or any citrus fruit, will stain the blade and can cause corrosion if not cleaned immediately.  Any time you cut anything acidic, immediately rinse the blade thoroughly and wipe dry.
Wipe on a thin coating of a light mineral oil or olive oil several times per year and anytime the knife has been wet.  This will protect the steel from moisture and help prevent rust.
Also wipe the oil on the handle.  Natural handle materials can crack or split due to changes in moisture content.  The oil will help protect against this problem.
The blade has a hand-rubbed satin finish.  Light scratches can be removed by a light rubbing with 800 or 1500 grit sandpaper.  Glue leather to a piece of hardwood to use as a backing for the sandpaper, only sand in one direction (from the handle end of the blade toward the blade tip), and use a few drops of mineral oil as a lubricant.  After sanding, the blade can be shined by rubbing with a jewelry polishing cloth.  If you have never done this before, it is highly recommended that you practice on a cheap knife blade first!

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New knife design, new handle material

I recently finished a knife for a Knife in the Hat (KITH).  A KITH is an online event on a knifemaking forum where a knife theme is chosen, each participant makes a knife, and at the end a drawing is held to determine how those knives will be exchanged.  Thoroughout the KITH participants post pictures and discuss progress on their knives.  They can ask questions and receive answers and advice from other knifemakers.  It is an opportunity for new knifemakers to form bonds with the more experienced and for knifemakers, new and old, to learn from each other.

The theme for this KITH was neck knives.  The knives could be made from any steel with any handle material, but must be usable knives suitably heat treated that could be comfortably worn around the neck and must include a sheath.

I have made several neck knives, but for this KITH I decided to try a new design.  I have always liked the American Bladesmith Society (ABS) style knives so I made this one with a dropped choil and full flat grind.  Even though it is a stock removal knife, it has the look and feel of an ABS style forged blade.

After drawing my design, I printed it out and cut out a cardboard pattern.  This first picture shows me transferring the pattern onto the flat O1 tool steel bar.

This next picture shows me grinding the barstock down to the knife profile.  I should have been wearing my leather apron, but instead I now have a shirt covered in little burn marks.

This is what it looks like after all the rough grinding is complete.  I always drill the holes prior to grinding the blade.  It is much easier to clamp the blade down flat, which is necessary to get perpendicular holes.

The new handle material I wanted to try for this KITH is laminated shell veneer with abalone shell.  This is a thin layer of real shell sandwiched between black acrylic below and clear acrylic above.  I had never used it before and was concerned that I might have problems with chipping when cutting it on the bandsaw and when drilling holes in it.  Solid shell handle material is prone to such chipping.  This material, however, surprised me with how well it worked.  I had no chipping whatsoever and it cut and sanded very easily.  Here is the completed knife.

You can see that I used black paper micarta for bolsters, which polish up to a nice shiny jet black.  The clear acrylic over the abalone shell really gives a great shine to the finished handle.  I was very happy with this handle material and plan to use it again soon.

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So what’s this all about?

This blog is designed to provide something of value to custom knife enthusiasts of all varieties.  Whether you are a beginning (or wannabe) knifemaker, a collector, or a customer, you will find topics of interest here.

Much of the content will be in a work-in-progress format, where I will discuss and post pictures (and sometime videos) of the steps involved in making whatever knife I am working on at the time.  Feel free to leave comments to ask questions.  I will try to provide plenty of description of each step and give any tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

Keep in mind as you read about my methods that this is my way of making a knife.  There are many different ways to do each step associated with making a knife.  My way is not the only way and it is not necessarily the best way.  It is just my way.  No two knifemakers make a knife exactly the same way, even if one has taught the other.  We all learn from other knifemakers, the internet, books, videos, and our own ideas and experiments.

I have been making knives for a little over two years, so I am by no means the expert at every aspect of this craft.  In fact, I learn something new just about every time I enter the shop.  I do clearly remember the unanswered questions I had when I first started and I will try to explain some of those details which I could not find discussed in the books and internet pages I had read.  You can see some of my knives here.

If you are a beginning knifemaker, I encourage you to subscribe and read the blog regularly.  Trying to get started making knives alone can be quite frustrating until you can get a few things figured out.  Obviously, the best way to go is to have a seasoned knifemaker looking over your shoulder and giving you personal guidance and encouragement.  Unfortunately, that is not possible for most of us, so the next best thing is internet friends.  You will find that most knifemakers are very friendly and enjoy helping someone new get started in this great hobby.

I also encourage you to read all the books on knifemaking you can find.  I offer a good selection of knifemaking books to get you started.  None of these books is perfect, but you will learn from all of them.  When you find something you don’t understand, ask questions. 

If you want to get started in knifemaking, but havent’t taken the plunge yet, I strongly encourage you to get a couple of good books and read them cover to cover several times before you buy anything or attempt to grind that first piece of steel.  Most people who attempt to make a knife without first learning some basics from books or another knifemaker get frustrated and give up before they can learn enough to complete that first knife.  It is my goal with this blog to help make sure that this does not happen to you.

For customers, I will take you inside the making of your knife, whether you are a customer of mine or someone else.  As I document the making of knives and show you each step, you will be more familiar with your knife and what went into its construction.  Hopefully, this will give you a more personal connection with your knife.

In addition to the works-in-progress, you will find book reviews, discussions on knife design, tips and tricks of the trade, and discussions of equipment and safety.  If you have questions, I will try to answer those either in the comments to a post or in a new post.  From time to time I will also have other knifemakers guest-write on the blog so you can see other perspectives. 

Let’s dive into the world of knifemaking!  But I have to warn you, it’s very addictive!

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