The photos in the previous post are of a little project I’ve been working on. A couple of weeks ago I came across an ugly little bladed thing that I think was a paperknife. Whilst it was not as a whole attractive, the Sheffield-made blade looked nice enough and so the thought came to me that I might re-handle it.

As I discovered with my previous whittling project  carving wood takes a lot longer than you’d think, to this I was to additionally learn that accurate carving takes even more time and care.

So I found some wood for a handle – a piece of Ash which I knew would be good and dry since it had helped fill the fireplace over the summer – and set to work.

First I taped up the blade to make it safe before cutting it out of the plastic it was embedded in, using a hacksaw and Stanley knife. Once clear it was pretty dull and dirty so I cleaned it up by steeping it in HP sauce for 24 hours. The smell lingered and consequently I was rendered hungry every time I went into the garage for the following week.

The next stage was to trace around the blade and from that draw a blueprint of what I wanted the thing to finally look like. Based on the drawing I produced a cardboard jig/ template for the planned handle.

Next I flattened the sides of the small log that was going to use. Using the blade and the cardboard pattern I gauged where the tang* of the knife would be. I then drilled a small hole accordingly and then widened it by pushing the tapered tang of the knife itself in and out as a primitive file.

(* the tang is the bit that sticks in the handle)

Once the hole for the blade was finished it was time to shape the handle. After drawing out the shape of the handle using the cardboard template I set to work using a knife and sandpaper. This took some time, but was quite absorbing work and became more satisfying as I progressed. What was particularly enjoyable was the feel of the wood itself. I know that Ash is in the same family as the olive (which is why it burns when green), and that may be why it had a soapy, waxy feel when sanded; even with fairly coarse sandpaper.

However once I got to the point where I’d finished, I didn’t like the result. It just didn’t look right – the handle was way too large and it looked out of balance. I also wanted it narrower, but I was concerned that if it was too thin it would not be strong enough to support the tang, making it useless. I was in something of a dilemma. Whilst shortening was definitely called for, surely that would make it look too stubby?

Then I hit on an idea – I could cut it off at an angle, which would make it both shorter in length, and at the same time more elongated in form. At least that’s what I hoped. It seemed like a good idea, but I was slightly dubious as I took the saw to what represented a good few hours’ work.

Luckily I needn’t have worried -the results were better than I had imagined.

Now I need to treat the handle with something to seal it and make some kind of sheath. The latter is unknown territory, but then I’d never made a knife handle before.

 

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