So it is with much excitement and a little trepidation that I begin my exploration into wood stabilizing. For those who are not familiar with wood stabilizing, I will tell you what little I know. If you have a wood that is soft or has been made soft with fungus, called “spalting,” you do not want to use it for knife handles very often because it is weak. This is unfortunate because spalting creates beautiful patterns in the wood. There is hope however: it is called stabilizing.
This is done with resin, a vacuum chamber and a vacuum pump. The idea is first you dry the wood out over night in a 200 degree oven. I have spalted tamarind and maple burl in the oven right now. You then add the dry wood to the chamber with the resin. Next you suck all the air out of the wood and upon releasing the pressure on the chamber the resin flows into all the space that the air vacated. This can take a great deal of time, upwards of several hours. Then once the resin is absorbed each piece has to be wrapped in foil and placed in a 200 degree oven for hours until the resin cools. Then you have to sand the now solidified aluminum foil off the wood. The result, though, is a beautiful piece of wood that is impervious to everything and good to 400 degrees. It still sands like wood and looks like wood. You can also dye the wood in funky colors. The warning about exploding chambers is surely just there for insurance purposes, right? Fingers crossed I will let you all know in the next day or two how it goes.
This weekend we took two truck loads of trash to the dump and cleaned out our shop. We bought a new top of the line industrial band saw to make processing wood into knife handles much easier. We added a couple of more shop lights to brighten up the shop. We are settling into full on production mode for the Christmas season and spent about 12 hours working on knives today. Getting help with sanding from our friend John.
Here we have some of our newly processed handle scales and 3 knives completed recently made from Cherry burls from my dad’s farm. I am almost not embarrassed to say “Stop on by and see us!” We are just a couple of guys in a garage but now at least it is a cleanish garage. 🙂
We will also be sharpening knives at the last Brewster Farmer’s Market of the season, 9-1 Drummer Boy Park.
Tom spent the past several days working on some ultralight friction folders. They have aluminum frames and damascus blades. The handles are paduk and cherry burl. They also have a green fiber liner. They are 100 dollars each come grab them up at Harwich Cran Fest this weekend we don’t make a lot of folders so these are fairly exclusive! 🙂
Well there you go Teak handle installed and ready for work. I burned the tang into the handle and getting the metal cap to fit right was a bit of a pain. It is a thick tang and thin handle so it was a close fit. Sharpened and buffed a good bit of the serious rust off the blade. It still has that great patina but still much cleaner. Can’t wait to reunite it with it’s owner on Sunday at Harwich Cranberry Festival!!!
In this line of work you meet the most fascinating people with the most fascinating stories. Today in Brewster at the Historical Society Farmer’s Market we were sharpening knives, minding our business, like we do. Up walks an English gent with a basket full of knives with this beauty among them. He tells us that over 20 years ago he lived in Nepal for 20 years. He watched a blacksmith forge this out of a truck leaf spring. It has been his constant companion ever since. It was in need of sharpening and the handle was split in two and held together with duct tape that looked like it had been holding it together for 10 plus years.
This knife is fascinating. I have a bit of a thing for Khukris and this is only the second one I have seen with a traditional partial tang. Most of the military and tourist trade Khukris you see are full tang and many of them are not hand forged by real craftsmen. The balance and taper of the blade is nice. The fuller line was not made with a fullering tool but created by hammering the sides of the top edge down and over so that there is a cool bevel to the spine. The entire blade is actually very shallowly fullered to lighten up the blade and push more metal toward the blade edge and spine. It is a brilliant piece of work. A copper bolster was made to support the handle which fits tightly down inside the copper. I am going to probably replace the handle with a piece of Teak. This wood I think will be up to the job. Often I see them handled with a dark wood resembling walnut. The original wood was more maple in color. I think the Teak will be a nice in between compromise and a wood from Southeast Asia that gives it a bit of regional plausibility.
Tom forged his first integral bolster in a knife today from a Land Rover coil spring. It turned out awesome especially for his first effort. We have been forging lots of knives out of coil springs and mower blades and files this week because we can. Come check out our recycled knives this week. We will be at Brewster’s Farmer’s Market on Sunday sharpening and selling knives. Tuesday at Chatham Farmer’s Market, then next weekend we will be at the big time Harwich Cranberry Fest. It is going to be fun for the whole family. Something like 140 merchants and games and all kinds of food trucks!! At least that is what I have heard it is our first time doing it and we hear is is pretty great.
Tomorrow our sharpening gig at the Brewster Farmer’s Market has been canceled due to foul weather. We will however, be at our second day of the Bass River Arts and Craft show at John Simpkins field in South Yarmouth. Rain or shine come on down and check out our amazing new Damascus Chef knives.
Come join us Friday for the last Cape Cod Beer Farmer’s Market of the Season. Sadly all good things must come to an end. Last chance to get your knives sharpened on the spot while enjoying a fine beer and live music. After this you will just have to come by the shop and stand in the drive way listening to me sing sea shanties and catching a cool drink from the garden hose. Trust me Cape Cod Beer is a much better idea. We will be at Chatham Farmer’s Market tomorrow from 3-6. We have only a handful of weeks left there before it will get a bit to nippy in Chatham to stand around outside. This weekend we will be in Yarmouth at the Bass River Craft festival. Stop by and hello!
No I am serious. It really is. Celebrate by coming down to Cape Cod Beer Friday for the Farmer’s Market from 3-6. You can also celebrate a couple of days late by finding us in Brewster at Drummer Boy Park at the the Kill Tide Arts and Craft Festival this Sat and Sunday. It will be awesome.
Dead whale that is… In the past two days I have spent 7 hours sharpening over 100 whale necropsy knives for the local marine mammal stranding network run by the IFAW. They contacted me and asked if I could sharpen a few knives. I said sure bring them on down. The first day I got twelve and they must have been sharp enough because the next day they dropped off ninety one. I am grateful for their business and the work that they do.
All the knives were pretty dull and damaged, as one would expect from a stainless steel knife hacking into whale bone all day. There were signs of previous rather harsh sharpening practices. One knife in particular stood out. It was ground very unevenly near the hilt and had a deep gouge and a burn mark in it. Many knives showed deep scratches from slipping on a grinding stone or belt. Tom remarked that the knives were like the ones used at Stop and Shop to butcher meat. He said, “A new scimitar will be ground down by their previous sharpening service to where it resembles a filet knife in just 3-4 sharpenings!!” He also commented that I was being a lot gentler on these knives with my method than the other sharpeners had been and that the knives would last a lot longer.
The lady who dropped them off also thought my method was much easier going than the other place she had taken them with a giant spinning wet stone. My method is simple and does give knives a longer life. I use a 600 or 800 grit belt to remove very little metal per pass. I keep an eye on the blade every couple of passes to check progress. I only want to take as much off as I have to in order to get a good clean edge. I also grind on the slack of the belt, which keeps the metal from getting too hot. It also gives the knife a convex edge, which is sharper and lasts longer then a flat ground edge. I then polish the edge for a few passes on my buffing wheel with a 12-1600 grit rouge. This does not really remove much metal but gives a really smooth cutting surface which offers very little friction when cutting.