Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Thinking about pocket knives today.

I've owned one (or many more) and often carried one, ever since Dad gave me my first one at 8 yrs old.  I'm a fan of the barlow style, and Camillus Cutlery in particular.

I was thinking about the invention of the pocket knife, or folding knife, or at least the early days of them.

Imagine how men must have found them to be the best thing since sliced bread.  Did they have sliced bread back then?  Prior to the folder, nothing but belt knives.  Big, useless for small work.  I'd have been giddy to get a new folder.  Oops- I am giddy when I get a new folder.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cut Nail Knives

Thought I'd try using some cut nails to make knife blades from- they're a hardened, tempered steel nail used to attach things (mostly wood) to concrete.  I've never tried them, tho they are easy enough to find- the local hardware store and the nearby Homerville have them, as do other big box stores, and of course they can be had online.

I couldn't find much of any info on steel composition or working properties (annealing, hardening, tempering data); I did get a bit of info from a post to the WWI forum.

Time to experiment, and I have learned the hard way the key to successful experimenting is good note-taking.  So here they are.

First I tried annealing a nail- heat to non magnetic and left it to cool in a can of hardwood ash.  It took a long while to cool, file test showed it was soft, but not as soft as the O1 I usually use (subjective observation).

I heated non magnetic again, and quenched in brine.  Thin blades I make of O1 quench nicely with a momentary dip in brine and cool to room temp (10 min or so) in a bucket of hardwood ash.  Tried that with the annealed nail, file test said it was hard, but again (subjectively) not as hard as the O1. Either the steel composition, the quench process, or the thickness of the nail was affecting the outcome.  (Nail is approximately 1/8" thick).

So at this point I am uncertain of the annealing and the hardening process.  I needed a less subjective test for soft and hard.  I grabbed another nail and bent it till it snapped- I estimate 45 degrees.  Good start.

Annealed another nail in ashes, and one in air.  Both bent into horseshoes, but the air cooled was easier to bend.

That's progress!

On to hardening.  There are three ways to harden steel- in air, in water, and in oil.  I have been told brine and oil are essentially the same, and I believe that.  No smelly smoke or fire in the shop with brine.  Cooling the nail in air resulted in a fully annealed nail, so take air hardening off the list.  Not surprised.

Reasoning that the thickness of the nail may have affected the momentary dip in brine, I quenched the next nail in water until fully cooled.  Nail snapped at an estimated 30 degrees- harder than the original nail out of the box.  Good info, more progress.

Last test was hardening in brine until the nail was fully cool.  Nail snapped quickly, estimated at 22 degrees- sooner than the nail out of the box and sooner than the water quenched nail.

I really should test and compare quenching in oil- maybe someday.

Conclusion- Air cooling produced a superior anneal, and quenching in brine to room temp produced maximum hardness.

Tempering test is easy, but will wait until I have rough forged a few test blades.  I test temper by the size of the wire edge produced during sharpening- I'm looking for the smallest wire edge I can get.  Large edge, too soft.  Continue with additional sample and lower tempering temp until the wire edge is barely visible even under 10x magnification.  At some point the wire edge will not be continuous and Ill raise the tempering temp just a bit.  That is the combination of hardness and toughness I prefer.

Onward .

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Some thoughts on Sharp

I carve with carbon steel in dry basswood.  I'm not offering new advice, rather supplyiing a bit of reason behind some good advice I have learned to follow.

In the search for sharp I read somewhere there are two enemies to an edge- friction and chemistry.

Assuming we avoid conditions that cause rust, I think as carvers we can ignore chemistry.  That leaves friction.  Lubricants are out of the question- whittling oily bass?  I think not.

We deal with friction by polishing our blades.  How much polish?  Good Q.  Lets use a 10x magnifying glass to help us determine the answer.

Sorry I can't take 10x pics, you'll have to trust me or look at your own stuff.

I hone to 1200 grit till I get an even burr on an edge, at that point the blade looks pretty smooth to the naked eye, any reflection is getting clear.  Under 10x we see a different landscape, scratches deep enough to drive your car into, and the edge looks like a sawblade.

On to the strop- for me its a power strop with green compound (mfr recommends the compound for high polish on hard metals- that's what I want).  I don't strop forever, I do spend a minute or more alterrnating each side of the blade- the equivalent of a few hundred strokes on an average hand strop.  I look for the wire edge to disappear, then I test the edge cross-grain on a piece of bass I keep next to the strop. I feel I gain some consistency by testing all my knives on the same piece of wood.  When I get continuous shiny scratch free cuts on the wood I figure I'm done, and I give the blade 10 more passes each side on the strop to finish.

Back under the 10x, the blade looks better, but many scratches are still there.  Truth is, they'll be there for quite a while- it takes a long time to polish them all out, and likely there are a few leftover 600 grit scratches in there too.  Every trip back to the strop will remove more scratches, eventually they'll all disappear.  I don't think you'll get better than that.  I have a blade I've been using for a couple years; I'm not a prolific whittler but the edge is nearly scratch free.

Unless you go back to the stones and start yourself over.

Here's the advice part:

Strop only:
- stay away from the stones if you can and your edge will improve over time.  Return to the stones only to repair a damaged edge.

Take slicing cuts:
- let's recall the edge under 10x right after honing with 1200 grit- the sawblade look.  The sawblade will never go away, the teeth will get smaller and finer with additional stroppings, it will not show under 10x but it's still there.  I'll bet somewhere on the web you can find a microscopic view of a sharpened edge.  Slicing cuts take advantage of the micro-sawblade we are creating.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Got Walnut?

I've been thinking of trying my hand at carving walking sticks or staffs, (is that the correct plural?)
and have a few ash and elm saplings well dried in the garage waiting patiently.  There are also a couple walnut trees in the neighborhood, and though I do not want them on my property due to the mess they make (I watched a huge walnut tree drop every leaf in a day- left a one foot thick carpet on the ground, and that's not to mention what happens to a walnut when you run over it with the lawnmower...) I thought I'd like to grow a few to staff size and harvest them.

I've tried for about 5 years to sprout some walnuts since harvesting them is easy I typically try up to 10 nuts at a time.  Tried 'em in pots, no sprouts, tried 'em in th eground, either no sprouts or the squirrels dug them up.  Put bricks on top when I planted them in the fall, moved the bricks in the spring- the squirrels dug 'em up the day after I moved the bricks.

I've heard squirrels taste good....

FINALLY had some success this year, I hope I haven't jinxed the little trees by saying so.  I cut the bottom out of a 6 gallon bucket, buried the bucket half way in the yard, drilled a mess of holes in the lid and planted the nuts inside and snapped the lid on.  Hole let the snow melt and rain in, snap on lid let me look in every week.  As of today 3 of the six nuts i planted have hatched!  WOOHOOO!

I took the bucket away today and surrounded the younglings with wire fence this morning.

Now to find some basswood seeds....

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Not Whittling

The snow has melted with little chance of returning this year, and I've been taking time to work on the yard & garden.  Garlic is doing well, better already than at harvest time last year, which was my first year.  Onions are overachieving, I think I'll end up with more than I can eat.  It only goes up from there.  Strawberries will get moved to a (hopefully) permanent home and I'll buy some more- they were a test item last year with promising results.  Tweak 'em and watch.

I just ordered asparagus plants/roots from a northern grower on EBay, they should arrive late next week and if I work hard & smart I'll have a bed ready for them when they get here.

Been thinking of putting in a few potatoes, not sure I'll get to that.  My daughter has been helping, if she sticks it out I'll make it.

After that it's tomatoes, zucchini, beans, and roots- radish beet carrot.  I was a failure with the roots last year, for one I over-planted the one bed I had, and for two I failed to water sufficiently early in the year.  Live and learn.

Not bad for my urban lot, to be exact I have two raised beds totaling ~40 sqft and a third planned at just over 18 sqft more.  I expect I'll get a years worth of garlic, 300+ scallions, large sweet onions I'll have to learn to dry,  more beans than we can eat, tomatoes & zucchini enough to eat and freeze, and strawberries to snack on all summer long.  No idea how the roots will work out.

There's raspberries and blueberries down the way, too.

If you can't whittle, garden.  Have fun-


Friday, April 22, 2016

Learning to carve faces

Sorry, I can't teach this one, but I can direct you to a good teacher.

I struggle with faces, I have no clear idea where to begin and no clear understanding of the relationship of one part to another (OK, I get that your nose sticks out further, but that's not enough).
I found a Youtube poster who lays it out in an easy to understand logical order.  She knows how to carve, and she knows how to teach.  As shown, her little faces are excellent examples (In My Opinion) of Flat Plane work.  Take a look at Sharon Elliot's channel, Sharon My Art on Youtube.  Here are links to her Guide to Wood Carving Faces Parts 1 & 2:

Guide to Wood Carving Faces Parts 1

Guide to Wood Carving Faces Parts 2

I followed the steps as she did them the first time, now I'll just keep carving little faces and experimenting with changes and additional details to see what I can come up with.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring just might be sprung here in the frozen north...

It's a sunny day, just over 60 degrees and I'm sweaty and out of breath from digging in the garden.  After a long-ish winter and a knee injury at Thanksgiving, it didn't take much to get this tired.

Happy spring- shut your computer down and go do something!

Buffalo Bif