November 2, 2012
I recently received some really nice shop improvements from Nathan the Machinist, a fellow knifemaker and metal working genius I met over on BladeForums.
The first is his "platen chiller", which is a water-cooling attachment for the flat platen of my KMG. The heat generated by the friction of the belt running over the platen has been a huge headache for me and I had actually been considering fabricating something similar to Nathan's chiller for some time now. Being that I lack the skill and tooling to make my idea a reality, I was thrilled when Nathan offered these for sale.
Along with the chiller, I also purchased a hardened A2 flat platen from him. Nathan has added two interesting features to his platen. The first is the ability to accept an air hose that provides an air zone between the platen and belt, reducing friction (and thus, heat). The other feature is the top and bottom of the platen is radiused to facilitate cleaning up plunges. I still struggle with clean plunges, so I'm excited about experimenting with this feature!
Here are the platen and chiller before installation. The machining and attention to detail is top notch.
Using a $13 submersible pump from Harbor Freight, a 5 gallon bucket and some hose/fittings from Home Depot, I was able to get everything up and running.
I've been astonished at how well the platen chiller works! It makes grinding much less stressful and allows me to stay focused on the knives because I'm not having to contstantly stop the grinder to cool the platen.
I also got one of Nathan's 36" radius platens. Before the industrial revolution, it was common for knives and swords to be ground using large grinding wheels. A 36" contact wheel would likely be space and cost prohibitive, so a radiused platen makes a lot of sense. I'm looking forward to experimenting with this and seeing what kind of grinds I can get with it.
Speaking of grinding experimentation, I'll be finishing this knife pretty soon. It will be only my third hollow-ground knife!! 1/4" O1 steel hollow ground using my 10" contact wheel.
I was very happy with how the Jaybok's scales turned out, and it just so happens that the leftover remnants of the red logwood and desert ironwood were perfectly sized for this knife.
Here are all of the constituent scale materials afer being fitted to one another and cleaned up.
Epoxied and clamped.
After drying for 24 hours, they were cleaned up using the grinder.
I've also been working on putting together another batch for heat treat.
I've got a Magua Fighter in 3V and a WKH in CPM154 ready for bevels. The blanks covered in layout dye still need to be flattened, have their flats cleaned up and their holes drilled/chamfered before they're ready for bevels.
Here are 4 templates cut out and ready to be glued to some steel. The santoku variant will be AEB-L, the mini bowie will be N690, the larger ringed bowie and the Jaybok Cutlass variant will both likely be O1. I have a couple of others that will also be in this batch (including my first persian), but their steel hasn't arrived yet (CPM3V and CPMS35VN).
November 3, 2012
Time to fit the red logwood/desert ironwood scales to the small hollow-ground knife I've been working on. Here you can see the scales are dry-pinned to the knife so I grind them flush with the tang. You can see how thick they are - there will be lots of material to remove when I begin shaping them!!
I get them pretty close with the platen and a 60-grit belt.
Then the 1/2" and 10" wheels are used to bring the scales flush and up to 400 grit. I also grind the guard-to-edge transition at this time. Once that's done, I move the knife over to the Panavise and begin hand sanding the tang, scales, and spine. I start with 600 grit and take it up to 1200 grit.
Once that's done, I remove the scales and the knife gets a 2-hour stonewash in the tumbler.
I've also been working on a pretty major shop expansion. Of course, this requires cleaning up the shop, too. Here's a pile of belts I threw out today. Bear in mind that I don't get married to my belts. I throw them out regularly, so this should give you a good indication of just how many belts a knifemaker goes through. Each one of these is anywhere from $3 to $8 a pop.
Here's the current shop. One side of a one-car garage. I think I've made pretty efficient use of the space, but it's just not enough anymore.
Here's the other side of the garage that I'm laying claim to. My plan is to have 2 workbenches along this wall, one of which will be the middle bench from the above photo. Moving that bench will allow me to set up my 2HP dust collector adjacent to the grinding bench.
I also received a very cool custom knife from my good friend and fellow knifemaker Jake Hoback. This is his "Meat" model made of CPM3V. It's the first knife I've purchased since I began my knifemaking journey!!
November 12, 2012
It took a solid week of 10 hour days to complete the shop expansion, but it's done! The space has a much better "flow" and I have some room to grow as well.
I mounted the flex-shaft Dremel and a work light on a hinged 2x4 to give me greater freedom of movement and the option to swing it out of the way when it's not needed.
The grinding bench remains largely the same, but with the new dust collector sitting adjacent.
A short video of the dust collector's function test:
In addition to my recently-aquired Panavise (which I love!), my mother recently found this old USA-made Craftsman vice. Thank you, Momma!!
During the shop expansion, I took the time to work on my personal WKH. This was the 2nd WKH I made and I've carried it everyday for the last 6 months. It was scratched, stained, and generally beat-to-hell. I didn't get a good "before" photo, but here's a photo taken shortly after completing it 6 months ago.
I started the mods with a top grind, then the scales were sculpted, the worn etched finish was removed before finally stonewashing it for several hours in the tumbler and sharpening. Result:
The kydex sheath was then heat-formed to the new scale texture and she was ready to resume her rightful place just in front of my appendix!
The last 2 days have been spent starting my next batch for heat treat. From right-to-left: CPM3V, CPMS35VN, N690, AEB-L, and 2 sheets of O1.
First, I gotta drill some holes. The CPM steels take a bit more work to get through.
After the four 1" holes are drilled, I spray glue the templates to the steel.
This is where the DeWalt porta-bandsaw comes up short. It's a great little saw, but it doesn't allow for deep cuts. In the below photo, you can see I've made two cuts as deep as I can from each end. Now I'll have to use an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel to bridge the two bandsaw cuts. This will allow me to preserve the length of the excess steel so I can make another knife with it down the road (CPM steels aren't cheap!). The silver line above the template is where I'll be cutting.
Making the cut. Lots of sparks!
Then the bandsaw and grinder are used to start rough profiling the knives. This is a far as I got today:
The big guy is the Cutlass variant of my Jaybok.
November 13, 2012
Lots of cutting and grinding today! All 12 knives are now cut out and rough profiled. Tomorrow I should be able to bring them all to their final shape and bring their profiles to 65 microns.
I think my favorite of this batch is the persian (my first). This knife is being made for (and is designed by) a soldier who is returning from Afghanistan this month.
Another design I'm excited about is the "Bybee Bowie", which I named after Chuck Bybee because of his generosity and support. The idea is for this to be a small utility bowie-style knife that should be useful for a wide array of tasks.
I like this pattern so much that I decided to make 3 in this batch! One in .14" N690 and 2 in .23" O1.
November 15, 2012
I've been grinding and drilling like a madman on this new batch.
Here you can see I'm using the 10" wheel to bring the knives pretty much to their final shape. Up until this point I've left them somewhat oversized.
After the 10" wheel, I switch to the small wheel attachment and use the 1" and 1/2" small wheels to get into the tighter curves of the handles.
Once I get the knives to their final shape, I switch from the 60-grit belt to a 120-grit belt to refine the scratch pattern. The 120-grit is followed by a Trizact A65, which brings the profiles to a respectable 65 microns. The knives are now shaped and ready to be drilled.
The Cutlass in its final shape. I have been calling this one a Jaybok variant, but I think it's sufficiently different enough to warrant its own name. But I'm terrible at naming my knives!!
I also have a CleaverFoot order in this batch, which is nice becuase I think it's one of my better designs. There's just something about the way it handles . . .
Here you can see the hole patterns are laid out on the knives. On some of the knives I use a pencil to sketch out where I anticipate the plunges and bolsters will be to provide some reference for hole location. I use a punch to mark where I want the holes and then use a black and silver Sharpie to differentiate the pin holes from the epoxy/balance holes. This helps my chemo-brain from drilling the wrong size hole in the wrong place. Not that I've ever done that before!
Then I begin drilling holes. A few 3/16", a few more 1/4" and a LOT more 5/16"! As you can see, I drilled fewer holes in both the CleaverFoot & the Cutlass. These two have a lot of steel forward of the handle, so leaving some mass may help with balance. I've also been studying sword harmonics and I suspect that concepts like Center of Percussion and Nodes of Rotation are present in, and affect the performance of, large chopping knives and short swords. How mass is distributed along the entire length of a knife/sword will have an impact on the above concepts.
I also added a bit of shop art. I had a 16x20" print of the Jaybok made on Kodak Metallic paper. This paper lends the photo a vibrant, 3-D look. So much so that my 5-year old daughter thought it was the actual knife!
November 16, 2012
My health has been holding up amazingly well as of late. I always take advantage of feeling good by putting in lots of shop time and I just realized I've only had 1 day out of the shop in the last 6 weeks. And that 1 day was for a family trip to the zoo!
First thing I did today was countersink all of the holes that I drilled yesterday.
I then start roughing-in the bevels of the chef's knife in this batch. This is a special knife that has a deadline, so it'll go out for heat treat before the rest of the knives.
This knife is .118" thick AEB-L stainless. I've learned that stainless can be an absolute bear to grind post heat treat, so I'm looking to remove a fair amount of stock while the steel is in an annealed (soft) state.
I grind the bevels to about 70-80% completion leaving the edge about .035" thick. After heat treat, I'll take the grind to full height and bring the edge down to around .005".
Since my bevel-grinding neurons were firing, I decided to grind another knife. This one is for a very special lady who had a birthday a few days ago. This one is .140" thick CPM154.
November 22, 2012
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you all for following my work and sending me encouraging notes. I really do appreciate it . . . it makes all of the hard hours in the shop worthwhile.
Several days ago I was having a nice, quiet evening at home when an idea struck. I couldn't stop thinking about it and I wanted to put my idea into action while it was fresh. So out to the shop I went and started grinding.
As some of you may know, I have a kukri in process that has a farily pronounced recurve edge. Not having ground a recurve before, I've been pondering and mulling over how best to go about it. All of this recurve thinking is what lead me out to the shop to regrind the ringed bowie I recently profiled.
Ringed bowie with freshly ground recurve edge:
I start with a 60-grit zirconia belt tracked pretty far (about 1/4 - 1/3") off the side of the 10" wheel. I then begin grinding, using only the edge of the belt to follow the curves of the edge. I don't think I ever touched the middle 1" of the belt!
Things started off quite ugly, but once I got warmed up, things improved. At one point I found myself chasing lines, but a little Dykem and a little cursing helped me tidy things up.
My first recurve grind:
Here is is next to the 3V Persian, which will likely get a very similar grind (you can see I've already started drawing recurve lines).
I also trace all of the profiled knives of the new batch onto graph paper. I've traced each and every knife I've ever made. I profile them by hand, so each knife has it's own little idiosynchrasies that sometimes turn out to be an improvement for whatever reason. Tracing them helps me to better replicate any beneficial trait on future knives.
Tracing the cutlass adjacent to a rather large concept bowie.
More work on my Mother's knife. Swedges are ground and desert ironwood scales are chosen.
The desert ironwood scales are mated to stabilized red logwood bolsters with black G10 liners/dividers.
Flattened, fitted, roughed-up, cleaned, epoxied, clamped!
Cleraned up a bit after drying overnight.
Scales are fitted to the knife.
After the scales are fitted, I stonewash the knife in the tumbler for a couple of hours. The knife was still a bit too reflective for my liking, so it gets a 20 minute bath in muriatic acid. This dulls the finish to exactly what I'm after.
At this point my Mother's knife is brought to the same place as the little knife I was working on before the shop expansion. I decide to finish the two knives simultaneously. The other knife is made of 1/4" thick O1 and was a bit handle-heavy, so I use the 1" small wheel to grind away material from both the tang and the scales. This will move the balance point forward a bit and provide a stronger epoxy bond.
I then do the same to my Mother's knife.
Both knives are epoxied and clamped for the night.
After drying overnight, I begin shaping the scales. I start with a 36-grit AO belt on the 10" wheel. The goal is to shape the wood without heating it up!
I switch to a slack belt after the 10" wheel and continue shaping. This brings the scales to more or less their final shape, but oversized and ugly.
From here on out, everything is done by hand. I start with a 60-grit paper and take it up to 1200 grit. This is a slow, but rewarding process.
While I work, the dogs do what they do best.
Once I get to 800 grit, the scales get rubbed with Watco danish oil between grits. I then sand the oil off with 1000 and 1200 grit paper, apply another coat and let it sit for about 30 minutes before hand-buffing it off. Here's a shot of it soaking.
My Mother's knife very near completion. Just needs final edge and marking.
November 27, 2012
Here is the amount of sandpaper used to hand finish just one of the SFB handles.
After the handles were finished, it was time to grind their final edge. I tried something different this time.
I usually adjust the platen to the desired angle to grind the final edge. I've done this enough that I get good results, but it's damn-near impossible to see how the edge is contacting the belt, which is stressful as hell.
So this time I left the platen vertical and held the knife at the desired angle as I ground the final edge. This was much less stressful and now that I have enough time in front of the grinder, my hands are pretty good at maintaining a consistent angle from pass to pass.
After I etched my mark and steel type, the SFB's were done. Click the photo to see more shots.
After that, it was time to make sheaths for these two. And since I would be in sheath-making mode, I thought it would be a good time to make a sheath for my Jaybok as well!
The pieces of kydex for the Jaybok were way to large for my regular toaster-oven, so I had to use the kitchen oven. My kydex press was just barely big enough!
Upon opening the press, I thought I had a good mold until I saw the tip.
A bit of heat from the heat gun and some gentle massaging got things nice a flat, so I drilled some holes and began rough shaping on the bandsaw.
One of the SFB sheaths taking shape.
The Jaybok sheath is OD green on one side and black on the other. I left the spine of the sheath open to allow easy insertion/withdrawal and left a tab for an ITW Web Dominator to aid in retention when needed. The Web Dominator isn't really necessary . . . you can shake the sheath upside down and the Jaybok won't come out, but it offers an extra bit of reassurance.
Since I had both knives out for the sheath photo shoot, I thought it would be fun to do a size comparison!
Today I used my 36" radius platen from Nathan the Machinist for the first time to grind the primary bevels of a CPM154 prototype.
Grinding with the radius platen took some getting used to. I treated it as if it were a wheel, but the concave "groove" it establishes is very shallow, which makes it very hard to make consistent passes. When flat grinding, I normally pull the handle of the knife toward me as I approach the tip. When using a wheel (and thus, this radius platen), I pull the tang down as I approach the tip, which results in significantly more movement than what is needed when flat grinding. If you want a nice and clean grind line, you have to follow the exact same trajectory with each of hundreds of passes. With a smaller wheel, this is facilitated by the deep concave groove that gets established as you grind. With the radius platen this groove is very hard to feel.
Here's the knife as I'm finishing up with the 60-grit belt and about to move up to a 120-grit belt.
Cleaned up to 65 microns.