My next knife will be ....
- Eiron Feb 20, 2013 01:45 PM
.... my own?? :-D
So, it's been a little over 3 yrs since I first found Chowhound & started asking knife-related questions:
Since that time, I've shared a few experiences & opinions about my own, personal knife life. These discussions have been incredibly helpful in maintaining the maximum performance of my knives, & have allowed a greater level of enjoyment in the use of my equipment. Along the way, I feel the comaraderie & share the laughter of those who are silly enough to tolerate my fondness for 'waxing poetic'. (Although, there are a few early contributors who no longer participate in in our 'pointed' discussions, & I'd just like to say that I miss their continued input.)
But the 'next step' for me has come, & I fear I may have walked down the Road Of Madness, & now knock upon the Door Of Bedlam for admittance. And I cannot look back ....
Basically, I'm going to make my own, next kitchen knife! Of course, my wife thinks I'm crazy. (So, really, no change there...) I familiarized myself with the feel of working with wood & steel by repairing beat up knives from food services & modifying old finds from thrift stores. Then, since I don't have unlimited financial resources (or friends with workshops full of metalworking equipment), I decided to start the knifemaking process by building my own knifemaker's grinder. (Did I mention that this was going to be one of those longer, more drawn-out procedures?) Then, I got some scrap steel from the recycle yard & scrap oak flooring & made a 'practice' kitchen knife. (I didn't want to spend lots of money on expensive materials & make mistakes with it.)
And that's as far as I've got. It's been a nice experience to learn the intricacies of what it takes to shape steel & wood into something that looks like a knife. The next step is to repeat the process using 'real' steel. I'll update everyone as I move farther along in the process.
So -- here are a few pics of where my journey has brought me to, at this stage. I wanted to share these with the friends that have encouraged my habits ....
<my wife thinks I'm crazy. (So, really, no change there...)>
That is funny. Wait till she reads this.
Very nice photos. Love them. The finished santoku knife looks beautiful. The profile looks very straight (not sure if it is very straight or just the photo). Do you use the same grinder for your blade and for your handle? I will love to read more about your continuous process. Thanks for the update.
:) I always like my petty. I just didn't get a huge boost from using a petty vs a paring, but that may has to do with the fact that I don't use my paring knife all that often to begin with. Recently, I was using my petty to peel and to cut up my rather large Korean pears. It was nice that I can both peel and partition the pears. Previously, I would peel with a paring knife, and then cut it up with a Chef's knife or a Chinese cleaver. A paring knife is a bit too small for cutting it up.
Thanks Chem! The 'shaped blank' pic shows the curve of the blade (not a lot of curve, but not straight like a nakiri). No, I'm using two different grinders, & I could really use a third! :-D But really, I think a metal-cutting bandsaw is going to be needed. I'm trying to figger out if I can easily modify a wood-cutting bandsaw, 'cuz they're lots cheaper!
Cutlery anvil, various rivet tools and other things that are slipping my mind.
I wish I had the space for a 2X72 sander since the belt selection is far broader than 1X42. I prefer Cubitron 80 grit over Blaze 80 but don't have many other choices in 1X42.
True grit does have excellent pricing but not all options.
Thanks JavaBean! It's been a longer process getting to this point than I expected. (What's this "work/life balance" thing I keep hearing about?)
A few years ago I bought a small grinder & have been doing knife repairs & modifications with it. It's great for that, but it's really too small to do complete shaping from raw steel stock. This bigger grinder was made from plans I bought. I had to purchase all of the steel & hardware bits & cut/drill/tap everything myself. Of course, not everything fit together the way it was supposed to, & I ended up redesigning some of the parts & layout myself. I also had to learn more about the electrical side of things when I burned out a switch due to inadequately wiring the motor. I'm happy to share any info on the eqpt, just ask!
Yes, this first piece was solely to understand what I was up against for grinding & shaping, as well as a first-time handle attachment. The steel was junk & not worth the time to heat treat. (It would only take a surface harden anyway.)
I don't have the necessary eqpt to properly control heat treating, so that's the one process I'll have someone else do.
I'm kind of close to completing a major thinning project, but I spent over three hours total, spread over several weekends using just stones. It took way longer than I had planned, and wouldn't want to do again unpowered. I'm thinking some sort of adjustable speed belt sander, or wet grinder to handle the initial coarse work would have made things much easier.
For future references, what did yours cost (ballpark)? How hard was it to DIY, did it need any welding?
Wow, that sounds like a lot of work to do on stones! (I know CBAD has done similar projects on stones.) I'm not sure you'd need anything with variable speeds to do what you want. Most of the wet grinders I've seen look too small (to me) to do thinning on. I'd want something with the stone positioned horizontally, to give me a surface like flat stones, so that I didn't introduce a hollow grind into the knife. Maybe something like these:
Otherwise, I think a simple 1"x??" belt machine would be enough. If you're only going to use it occasionally, then Hobo Freight's 1"x30" model is the best deal: $50 normal price, $40 on sale, & $32 after their 20%-off coupons.
Fun 1x30 link here:
If you think you'll want to use it often, then I'd suggest going with a 1"x42" model instead. The motors are better, the belts last longer, & you have a wider selection of grits & finishing belts. The best deal I found was Viel Tool's DIY kit for $90, but that assumes you already have a motor to use with it:
If not, I'd recommend Kalamazoo's 1SM model:
This is what I bought. It's got a much better motor (for the same price) than what I would've put on the Viel, & it came ready to run. However, the Viel has more sharpening accessories made for it, so that may be more important to you.
My 2x72 DIY grinder cost me about $600 total (giving me the slack belt, platen, & tool rest attachments), & I can expand the system with other attachments for relatively little money. Oh, & it took me over a year to build. :-) (In all fairness, the plans say you can do this in a weekend. I think that's possible, as long as you have everything you need to cut/drill/tap/grind/deburr/clean all of the steel, & all of the electrical components to wire everything together, & an entire uninterrupted weekend to work with. I didn't...)
But, this DIY model replaces a $2,000-$2,500 "Knife Maker's Grinder" from Beaumont Metal Works. There's no welding required, & you can get away cheaper than what I did if you're willing to make your own drive/tracking/idler wheels. Or if you make fewer attachments.
Nothing was very difficult about it, but if you've only got an hour here or there it can be a frustrating project. Also, since I don't have a workshop, I had to use some space at a friend's house. That meant setting everything up every time I went over, & then cleaning up & putting everything away every time I was done. That added lots of extra hours compared to having your own place to work & being able to simply leave everything & pick back up where you left off.
The way I figger it, when I finally get my first 'real' knife made, it will have only cost me about $1,200 & 2 yrs of 'free' project/hobby hours.
Eiron - she's looking very promising. I've always been impressed with your woodwork. Any knife in particular giving you your inspiration for the profile, shape, grind, etc, you're aiming for? Is the grind assymetrical?
Reading this makes me happy.
Also, since I haven't been posting, I just wanted to say hi to all my old knife mafia friends and let you guys know I'm alive and well.
Hey CBAD, thanks! This first practice knife wasn't anything more than just "How am I gonna do this?" As for the future, I've been keeping a mental list of things I want in a knife, but I have limited hands-on experience with very many 'ultimate' examples. The past several years of sharpening & repairing have given me a close look at what makes different knives 'work' for different applications, so that helps me determine what I do & don't want.
Shape: I'll probably end up with one of everything! :-D But seriously, I have a 'generic' shape for several styles & I'll probably modify each one to my tastes.
Profile: I'll shoot for a slight convex profile from spine to edge for easier food release.
Grind: Either scandi or convex, I haven't decided. (Any votes?) And most likely symmetrical.
Woodwork: Thanks again! So far, everyone who's handled the practice knife has said, "That feels really good!" And that's been very encouraging to me, since I've always complained about knife handles.
How's the baby? And everyone else?
But is "nothing" really " nothing or is it something"?
Are you implying that Eiron has finally achieved the enlightenment of Taoism (given your name) or Zen?
"Philosophical vacuity is a common theme among Asian wisdom traditions including Taoism (especially Wu wei "effortless action"), Buddhism, and some aspects of Confucianism. One could interpret the Tao Te Ching as a suite of variations on the "Powers of Nothingness". This predates the Buddhist Shunyata philosophy of "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" by half a millennium."
More progress & pictures to share!
I finally got my first group of seven knives completed (about a month ago)!
When all done, here's what I ended up with:
150mm & 165mm santoku
two 210mm gyuto
The steel is D2 high-chromium tool steel, hardened to 62 HRC.
The handles are cherry, oak & black walnut.
I made my own mosaic pins & designed the stamp for the logo.
I drew my own blade patterns & shaped the handles to my own design.
The blades are slightly convex (to shed cut foods easier) & the spines & heels are full-radius rounded to eliminate finger pressure irritations.
Of course, there are things I DON'T like about them. But I'm not going to tell you what they are! :-P
Two of the knives (210mm gyuto & 150mm santoku, far right in the 'finished' picture) are already with their new owners; gifts to family members! The rest I'm showing around to friends, co-workers & local kitchen stores. Eventually, I'll send them around for feedback to make improvements to the next group. :-)
It took a lot longer than I expected, but I'm pretty excited to head down this path!
Now, if only I had the courage to quit my job & never look back ....
Ha! I have no delusions that I will ever become any kind of acting "star"! (dreams? sure! but no beliefs that it will actually happen!) I will continue to do theater because I enjoy it so much, but that's all I'll expect it to be.
Knives, on the other hand, I can see being a job replacing proposition. Since I enjoy all of the different processes it takes to produce them, I'd like to be able to focus on them at some point in the near future.
Nice work Eiron. Compliments especially on the handles and the profiles (not that the rest is bad - it's just that those are the two things I can most easily make out from the pictures). I dig the simple elegance of that kind of Western handle shape.
They are symmetrical, right?
Are you happy with the tapering and their performance on food?
Yes, but ....
I'm not willing to take any orders at the moment. The new job is demanding a lot more of my time than I anticipated. Combined with the unending chores at home, I have almost no time right now to devote to this new venture. I wouldn't feel good about taking orders that I can't put a delivery date on.
My contact info is still listed on my profile. You should send me a PM so that we can chat about testing....
Bob Kramer sells steel at what looks to be fairly reasonable prices.
You can PM me if/when you start taking orders. If you use Bob's steel I'd love a knife. Not sure what yet, maybe 9" wide chefs. Shipping would be to FL, but from there it is destined for Asia, so you can brag about your knives being a globally exported product.
Thanks for the link! I didn't know Bob was selling raw steel, too. Right now my blades are ground from roll-forged alloy steel that I send to a heat treater (in Denver), rather than something that I forge myself in my suburban garage... :-)
I'm also going to give some Compressed Powdered Metal (CPM) D2 a try. It's supposed to have a finer carbide grain structure than standard D2. But I gotta say, 'regular' D2 is an awesome cutlery steel from the hardness, toughness & sharpening standpoints.
My new job's been monopolizing all of my time right now, so I don't know when I'm actually going to get back to my own interests....
From what i know the steel is about the only thing you can get from him off the shelf... even his cutting boards are out of stock (check them out if you have a spare $300-400).
Well if you ever get to making some knives for sale, PM me and i will buy one. I like hand crafted goods and i like knives and i am all about supporting the US economy (i am not from or in the US).
For now i just got a Global 10.5" drop forged chefs, and i am really enjoying the weight. At first i thought i was just a little unwieldy for daily home use, and i never bought it for daily use anyway... but then i was just in the kitchen and i picked up my 8" chefs and for a moment i was confused... why is this knife so SMALL... it did it's job well enough, i mean it was only a carrot i was working with... i think i will use the 10.5" chefs for a lot of cutting... and to think they make a 12" one... a sword i say!