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Papa's Got a Brand New Knife

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Drawknives, especially ones that are capable of carving graceful curves, haven't had any respect in about 2500 years.  Without them there would be no grand wooden staircases or commanding figureheads.  No elegant archways or fine carriages.

Don't you think its about time for a little appreciation, I ask you...

Hello Brothers and Sisters...  I know I am behind on other projects.  Sometimes a guy just needs a quickie.  Today I finished up a knife.  Drawknife that is.  It was forlorn and mostly unloved.  For who knows how long? 

From the style and forging, I am going to guess sometime before 1860 and maybe even the 1820-30's.

It could have been made anytime of course.  There is hardly a maker's stamp.  There is only a W and a number.  The guy I got it from thought maybe Winsted Edge Works, pre-Witherby, but I suspect that to be wishful thinking.

But its the forging.  This was not the maker's first rodeo!  This is expert work.  Every line and shape controlled by a master.  The blade is less than an inch wide and around 5/16" thick but only in the center.  It was forged tapered, front and back behind the bevel, so when its worked bevel down, a very tight curve can be followed.

Most all drawknives have a single bevel and in deep curves, even bevel down, the back of the blade will hang you up.  This one won't.  But like I said, it was forlorn and forgotten.  $5 on eBay with 22 million people wandering by.  Here she was when I met her.  A generous 10" blade with even more generous tangs out each side.

Handles were always something of an afterthought.  Short and plain with the tangs simply pounded over plain wood.  The remaining original handle was cracked.  The second handle, the replacement, was the tip of a shovel handle drilled and jammed on.

I loved it at first sight.  Even mangled by idiots through the years, and used at least a few times as a froe judging by the hammer marks on the black of the blade, there was still plenty there to see, if you cared to look.

First order of business was grinding.  I had to see if the back of the blade could be leveled again at all, before even caring how much would have to be removed to form an even bevel.  And it wanted a Lot!!!  Amateurs had dug into the, once beautifully flat back with who know what assortment of grinders.  And mostly right in the middle!

Why do they always do that?  Go right to center stage and hog in to make sure you have to remove a mountain of steel before you can get back?  If they can't bother to learn how to sharpen a tool, why don't they just leave it alone?

I used my big vise and big angle grinder to grind the steel back into shape.  Not hand tools I know, and actually pretty slow to do.  I do not have a proper large forge and anvil and am not expert enough to reshape a knife this size by hand. 

My small forging equipment can do a knife or other small tool.  But a tool this large requires large forging. 

But I-can-grind.  I have spent years teaching myself and made every possible mistake over and over.  As far as I can tell this is the only way to learn to grind steel in a meaningful way.  I have read what others have to say and I have tried to help others all through my education at this craft.  Nothing really works until you just give up and work.

Jigs and plans and what you thought was good technique goes right into the crapper as soon as you begin to grind in earnest.  You will never make a jig good enough.  No fancy wheel or anything you can buy for money will help you much.

You determine to learn. You will think you are never going to get it.  You will burn the steel and burn your fingers and burn holes in the thickest gloves.  Neatly removed skin from the entire top of a knuckle is kind of slow to heal...

You will think its impossible, throw up your hands and give up.  You will come back and try it again.  And again.  When you see the work of masters you will know that it -is-possible,... and if they can do it, by God, you can too.

Couple of rough tips for grinding with an angle grinder, if you like.  Clamp the work!! Only a crazy person would try to grind with the work dancing around.  Unless you making a pump stand and it will be painted and hidden under the pump, pad your vise or clamp jaws so you don't chew up the work.

Keep your elbows DOWN! Move your body, not your arms.  The large movement of your body is 100 times more accurate than having a 10 pound weight dangling from the extended end of your arms and trying to be accurate that way.  Old timers often call these tools a body grinder for this reason.

Remove the majority of the stock with the outside edge of the wheel.  Clamp the work low and raise the grinder until you can dig with almost the very outside edge.  It cuts like a crocodile's teeth out there, and does not heat the steel anywhere near as much.  But its not easy to control, so keep it moving and don't let it grab and dig in!


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