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We have an open fire and during the winter month we burn mostly logs. However, some are a bit large, or burn quite slowly and so we have a bit of coal on hand that we occasionally use to make the fire more effective.

This coal comes in thick plastic bags which are generally wet. It is remarkably tedious how it always seems to be raining when I have to get fresh coal, and even when it isn’t the bag is wet to start with, and even when they’re dry outside they tend to be wet inside.

What also happens a lot is that when a bag is open, there isn’t enough coal to fill the bucket and I will have to open another. This will coincide with the fact that I don’t have a knife on my person. At least not a knife I want to sully by using it to open a grotty, gritty plastic bag.

So what I thought I needed was a cheap blade that I could leave outside by where the logs and coal are stored, so that I could open the coal bags without having to traipse back indoors to get a cutting implement.

As well as being cheap it needed to be safe to use, given the usually wet conditions.

This is what I came up with. It’s a Stanley knife-type blade sandwiched between two pieces of flat plastic that came from some packaging. There is a hole in the blade and after drilling the plastic, I used a piece of bamboo to act as a pin for added strength. The bamboo came from a chopstick, which are most useful for making and fettling projects.
The whole thing is glued together using a glue gun, and as the glue itself is rather rubbery I added some as ribbing to give grip in the wet.

It looked a bit anaemic to start with so I thought I’d paint it, which proved to be interesting. I used car spray paint and the undercoat went on fine. Next I gave it a coat of white, which clearly did not work well with the undercoat. I am not sure why. Both seemed to be the same type of paint, not for example one cellulose and one enamel. It looked a bit rubbish to be honest, but I then gave it a coat of the orange day-glo paint, which is something I use when I’m making fishing floats, and the end results looks, well… interesting. It also almost looks intentional. Anyway I like it and it will make it easier to spots if it gets misplaced.

All I need to do now is think about how I stop it rusting, since it is going to live outdoors. I am thinking some kind of sheath lined with grease.

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This is a blade I swapped with someone on a bushcraft forum, with the intention of rehandling.
I didn’t take a picture of how it looked to begin with, but you can get an idea from this first illustration which is a before and after type thing, with the blade after I had taken some metal off on a photocopy which I used to work out how much steel to remove.

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Having done so, I ordered a brass bolster from Moonraker Knives (great service) and found a suitable piece of wood for the handle. I chose a seasoned piece of Ash because it is a wood that is light, strong with a certain amount of spring, which is why it is tradionally used for tool handles.

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After drilling and filing a suitable slot in the Ash to ensure the knife tang was a tight fit I began to shape the handle. At this stage I did not fix the blade in place, in case I had a mishap with the wood.

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Eventually after a lot of work with knife and sandpaper I was somewhere near where I wanted to be and glued the blade in place with epoxy.

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Here I learned something, namely to consider whether blade or bolster needs any final work, before joining the parts together. The latter needs some filing and smoothing to get rid of some of the machining marks of manufacture and I should have done this before I glued the whole shebang together.
Anyway, with lesson learned, the thing was now a whole rather than several parts.

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It was however quite ugly, so the next thing was to make the handle thinner and a bit better looking. My instinct was to make it very slim, to visually “balance” the blade, but I was chary of taking off too much “meat” and with it the strength. Having spent so much time on the knife I did not want it failing on me.

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At last I’d got it to a point I was happy with, and so after a final going over with fine sandpaper it was time to oil the handle. This is my favourite part of working with wood, when the grain’s colour springs out with the first coat.
So then, after a good number of coatings over several days, it was done. The next thing to consider was making a sheath.
Now that is going to be a challenge.

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Last year, for the first time, I started a fire using just a piece of steel and a piece of flint. The steel I used was a chunk of old file and I enjoyed this challenge so much that i bought a proper firesteel for future use.

Now I should clarify here that by firesteel I mean a piece of hard steel fashioned for the purpose, rather than a ferrocium rod which some people call a firesteel.

“Ferrocerium is a man-made metallic material that gives off hot sparks at temperatures of 1,650 °C when scraped against a rough surface, such as ridged steel”.

It’s the same material as the “flint” in cigarette lighters and using a rod of the stuff to start a fire with is only marginally more difficult than a box of matches.

Having spent a few quid on my firesteel I wanted to protect it from rusting and also given its hook-shaped ends stop it from getting snagged on stuff.

So I made a little pouch for it, using (as before) the leather from a pair of gardening gloves from the Poundshop .

The “button” is a double-six domino piece that I found when camping last year. We pitched our tent as it was getting dusk and noticed a bit of rubbish, but it wasn’t till the next day that we saw the full extent. There were fag ends, bits of paper, food and loads of scarps of wood all over the pitch. Much as I hate clearing up after other people – or rather littering pigs – I did, over the couple of days, tidy it all away via the campfire and whilst doing so found the domino. It seemed like a nice little thing and so rather than bin it, thought I’d keep it as a good luck piece. After all a double six has to be lucky right?

So when I was making the firesteel pouch and pondering what to use as a fastening, the idea popped into my head to re-purpose it. A bead was needed, as a securing device, to complete the lace fastening and so I used one I had made from a piece of spalted birch.

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This is an update to a trio of posts from last year detailing how I rehandled a little Sheffield blade.

One, Two, Three.

Having given the blade a new lease of life two things seemed important.

Firstly making a sheath and secondly giving it a useful role.
So this is what I came up with, a small sheath that allows it to be worn around the neck.
I made the sheath by making a wooden covering out of thin wooden spatulas – think tongue depressors. This I then covered with leather. And then added a leather lace, to allow it to be hung round the neck, with a bead to hold the sheath in place.
The leather came from a pair of gardening gloves from the Poundshop – which is why the colours are slightly off. The lace is something I bought off Ebay and is the only new/non-recycled item in the whole thing,set . The bead I made from a piece of apple wood. Overall I’m really please with it. Having never worked with leather before, it was definitely a process where I gained some experience.
As for the second bit, being useful, well it just is. I have found that when camping, or doing other outdoorsy stuff it useful to have a knife quickly to hand. Of course you may have a penknife in your pocket or a bigger sheath knife on your belt. One takes time to deploy (and two handed) ; the other is often to big for the task. This knife therefore often has the edge – as well as being razor sharp that is – hanging round your neck makes it quick to get hold of and its size means it’s just the thing for the times you need to quickly slice, dice or nick something.

Just treated the handle with walnut oil – brought it up very nicely. 

It’s sat in front of me now and I think it’s worth a smile of self-congratulation.

000 at last

 

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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