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SMALL FIXED BLADE KNIFE; 1ST OF THIS YEAR


David Broadwell

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Hi Fellow TCPers,

 

I've been very busy lately but I got to come out of the cave since I finished something. Most of the fixed blade knives I make are fairly large, so when I get to make a small one it's a nice change for me. Attached are images of a desk knife I finished at the end of last week. The blade is made from carbon damascus steel and is about 3 1/2" long. The guard is mild steel that I torch blued. The handle is stabilized curly koa. Along with the usual knife maker's belt grinder, mill and drill press, the tools I used for the carving include two rotary tools, small jeweler's and riffler files, carbide and diamond burrs, abrasive disks, and a lot of sandpaper.

 

The knife was made as a companion to the roller ball pen shown. The barrel is made from koa and black celluloid. The cap is damascus over a celluloid inner cap. The clip is also damascus. A good deal of the work on the pen is done in an engine lathe. I did freehand shape the barrel to give it the drop at the end, and the cap was also shaped freehand on my grinder. The piercing was roughed by drilling holes in the drill press, then finished with a rotary tool and files.

 

Comments are certainly welcome.

 

David

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Hi David

 

Nice work and nice idea - the set.

 

You mentioned that you don't get many requests for small blades? Why is that? What do the average large blade customer want the knife for? Here in Australia, there is some laws that make it difficult to carry knives in general, and large blades esp. So are most knives bought purely as collection pieces in the States, or are they often used (and if so what for? - i realize hunting is a big part of sporting life in many places in the US)?

 

Simon

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Thanks, Gentlemen! Mike, I'm itching to see what you come up with, so get to work!

 

Simon, I get more large knife orders because they've been one of my specialties. For many years I've been known for good sized fighters, especially sub hilt fighters. My knives are generally placed into collections. I do occasionally make field grade knives and several have deployed with their owners to the sandboxes (soldiers tend to prefer medium sized knives, not large ones), but mostly I make presentation and art knives. In many places in the US large bladed knives can't be carried unless you are hunting or working with them, and it's probably similar in many other countries. I know in the UK and some of the Commonwealth countries the politicians are wanting the carry of just about all knives outlawed, but there is still a little sanity here! I do have knives in several countries around the world.

 

Greg, after rough shaping the guard on my belt grinder and fitting it to the blade and the handle, I lay it out for the details carving. I use an abrasive cut off wheel in a rotary tool to cut the basic lines of the two major elements, then refine them with small files. I purchased a set of very small rifflers, files that are bent and have special shapes, that allow me to file into corners and around tight curves. I use silicon carbide sandpaper on various blocks I've made to smooth and remove tool marks. Once this is done I cut the textures in with tiny carbide burrs in the rotary tool. In this case I used a little bristle brush in the rotary tool with a medium buffing compound to even out the finish on the "leaves" and brighten the textures, then I used a small steel wire wheel on the smooth panels. I cleaned the piece with alcohol, and holding it with a piece of wire I used a propane torch to heat it a little above 400F to get the blue color. To stop the color change I plunged it into oil. The material is a mild carbon steel which heat colors readily. It is coated with Renaissance Wax to keep it from rusting.

 

Thanks for looking and asking.

 

David

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That's a really comprehensive reply David ! I was looking at the knife and thinking how it was made and where to start. You've given me more of an idea now. I'm still starting out with wood but maybe one day I'll pluck up the courage and try a metal project... guess it's just knowing where to start.

Thanks Ed

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Thanks David. How about the blade? do you forge and laminate your own blades or buy the blank? Sorry if this is an ignorant question, but apart from a life long love of good knives, i don't know the scene, and who is known for making what... What would you say the proportions are of knife makers who either forge their own blades or laminate their own damascus, compared to those who start with a blank and then cut and shape it?

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Guest ford hallam

Very handsome work David,

 

although I must agree with Doug in saying the pen is my favourite. I like the way you shape the damascus and then contrast the carving with the textured areas. It seems to keep the patterning of the damascus in check, some contemporary blades appear to me to be a bit over-run with patterned steel, which dilutes the effect in my opinion.

 

One observation I'd make regarding the knife; it seems to me that the banding on the koa is more prominent than the actual grain and may have tied the overall conception together more tightly had it been aligned more with the steel patterning, if you see what I mean. Sorry if that sounds a bit churlish, the piece is beautiful as it is, I was just wondering.....as I do.

 

regards, Ford

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...well, I'd have to say the pen is mightier than the sword. :angry:

 

Yeah, but you can't cut your steak with a pen! I think koa and damascus were meant to go together.

 

Simon, I tell people that it's too hot in Texas to run a forge! I have made damascus once so I would understand it better, but I see it as another of the raw materials I use to create a knife or pen. I don't get a thrill from the heat and the vibrations from the floor as many smiths do, so I buy damascus from a few select makers. There are several makers who will make damascus for people like me. I can get you a list if you need it. I don't know the ratio of stock removal knifemakers vs. forgers, but I believe there are many more grinders like me than the forgers. Besides, with just a few exceptions, even the blade smiths remove stock, or grind, their blades.

 

Ford, you churl! :P Yes, the curls in the koa are prominent. The small piece of damascus was from a much larger billet of twist pattern. When I can I do like to compliment one pattern with the other, but in this case the customer wanted very curly koa on the knife to match his pen. On pens I almost always use a twist pattern damascus. Other patterns such as ladder and raindrop are really two sided, and just have some slightly wiggly lines between the faces. That's fine on a knife which is relatively flat. The pen cap, however, is round. Two sides would have pattern, but the other two would just have some lines. A twist pattern rolls around the billet like the stripe on a barber pole. You've stated the reason I incorporate texturing with the damascus very well. I want to break up the patterning in the steel and separate the individual elements.

 

Ed, I'm not a conventional wood carver. I use the same tools and techniques for wood or ivory as I do on metals. I find that carving steel is easier than wood because it offers much more resistance than the softer wood. It's awfully easy to cut too much away from wood! You should give it a try. We've been working on getting Janel into carving metals. Might as well work on your too!

 

Thanks for the comments.

 

David

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Beautiful work on both pieces. I especially like the knife. I make some knives also. Haven't found a good source for damascus yet. By that I mean one that is in my price range. I find that unless you have an established clientele, it's hard to sell a high dollar knife. Everyone loves my knives with the carved handles, but few buy. Sorry didn't meant to get into a pity party. I LOVE your work. Keep the photo's coming. Thanks for sharing.

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