27
Mar

The VOISARD COLLECTION

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

           Voisard Collection 001-001

The WOOD BEE CARVER is primarily a knife carver who carves in a Whittle-Carving style. The knife is the favorite carving tool and the favorite knife is the one in the carver’s hand at the time. The side effect of this love affair with knives is that there is a passion for collecting and reshaping and refurbishing knives to be used in the carving process.

In recent years I have appreciated the knives made by a little known knife maker and carver who is now deceased. Don Voisard was Chief Engineer at the Duriron Company who had a passion for making knives, so much so that he made hundreds of knives with custom shaped wooden handles and blades made, shaped and sharpened by him. In later years he suffered from dementia and spent his last days in a nursing home. No one knows for sure why and how he made these knives. Nor why he did not market his inventory of knives. Perhaps he just loved making each knife with an inner compulsion to create. It is a mystery as to what kind of steel was used to make the blades, how the blades were tempered or what process he used to make so many knives. Belcher Carving Supply is the sole distributor of the Voisard knives that remain. Even though they are somewhat plain and not fancy, yet whatever he did to the blades he produced a knife that holds a keen edge and is very functional as an efficient carving knife.

            Voisard Collection 001-002

The photo display below depict the Voisard knives that have been reshaped and modified both in the shape of the blade and the handles by the Wood Bee Carver for his own collection.

Voisard Collection 002Voisard Collection 004Voisard Collection 005Voisard Collection 007Voisard Collection 009Voisard Collection 008

Dick Belcher purchased from the Voisard estate over four hundred knives that Don Voisard had assembled but not finished. The round wooden handles were rough and the preliminarily shaped blades were coated with a protective coating of varnish. Dick finished the handles and sharpened the blades and has them for sale at a modest price at the Belcher Carving Supply ~ either from his home shop (937-845-0346) or his vendor’s table at woodcarving shows where he is set up to serve the carving community in Ohio area shows with the premier show being in November at the Artistry in Wood Show ~ Dayton Airport Expo Center.

The mystery behind the Voisard knives can only be explained by reading between the lines of what is known and what may have been. Don was a quiet man who carved and made knives but few knew the details of his creative aspirations. He was a member of the Dayton Carvers Guild from 1996 to 2008. He exhibited in a few carving shows with his carvings of small birds, fish, bears and other animals which he carved in large quantities. After his wife passed away and being at loose ends with time of his hands he started to make knives in the hundreds, both the handles and shaping and pre-sharpening the blades that would be inserted into the handles. No one knows his intent for making so many knives since he did not actively market them. It appears that it was an inner compulsion and passion to work his engineering and metallurgical skills into carving knives to be used in his woodcarving hobby. Once he got started he could not help himself other than continue to make and refine the knives he crafted.

No one knows the kind of steel he used to make the blades nor the process used to harden and temper the blades. The shape of the blades appeared to have been machined rather than hand shaped which was once again using his engineer skills and perhaps the equipment of the Duriron Company.

[A bit of history] The Duriron Company is an industrial component manufacturer of such products as automatic control valves,  valves and actuators, pumps, sealing systems, filtration equipment, pipes and fittings.  The company was incorporated in 1912 as the Duriron Casting Company in Dayton, Ohio< until 1997 when >The 85-year-old Duriron Corporation lost its name and identity as a Dayton company in July 1997 when Flowserve Corporation was formed by the merger of the $605 million revenue Duriron and the $540 million revenue BW/IP of Long Beach, California, a producer of pumps and mechanical seals for the petroleum, power, and water industries. The new corporation headquarters is in Dallas, Texas and [as of] mid-2002 a $2.5 billion revenue company. The only remaining Dayton activities include the Findlay Street foundry (which was the original operation in 1912), a plastics operation in Springboro, and the worldwide pump engineering staff headquarters office on Monument Avenue.

During World War I the Duriron Company made equipment for ammunition manufacturing and during World War II made equipment for the Manhattan Project for the atomic bomb. A good part of the products made by the Duriron Company included specialty steels of which it was said,The breadth of alloys in which pumps and valves were offered was also greatly expanded to include a variety of nickel-based alloys….”    And who knows what else went into the steel used of which Don Voisard may have had access to use in the blade material he used to make his knives. So the mystery remains as to the makeup of the steel used in the blades.

Also a mystery is the development of some of his blade designs. Most of his knife blades are of the traditional straight cutting edge wharncliffe blade shape used in most carving knives. Some of his blades were shaped with a curved cutting edge of the blade shape similar to the “spear point” or “pen blade” shape. It was on these latter examples that many blades were designed with an extended tang that positioned the cutting part of the blade away from the handle. It was these particular blades that caught the attention of the Wood Bee Carver who had developed a similar blade design through trial and error experimenting with various blade shapes.

It has become a passion of the Wood Bee Carver to modify and reshape the curved cutting edge blades of the Voisard knives into the shapes depicted in the photographs. The back edge of the Voisard blades have been reshaped into a concave profile to make the blade into an adapted scimitar blade shape. Many of the handles have been redone as well to a four inch length and adding slips of wood to the sides of the handles to make them a little fatter. Some of the original longer and thinner handles have been left in their original shape. The main feature of the Voisard knives is the “feel of cut” in the slicing action of the sharp cutting edge. Perhaps even more important is the untold story of the heart and soul that Don Voisard put into each knife he made.

The WOOD BEE CARVER recommends carving knives made according to his design by Helvie Knives, Bud Murray Knives, Dave Lyons Knives and John Dunkle Knives. Even though any of the knives made by these knife makers are used most of the time, yet the WOOD BE CARVER uses other knives that he has made or reshaped for carving.

Having been a lifelong tinkerer at carving knife reshaping into a functional carving knife, the WOOD BEE CARVER has come to appreciate customizing Voisard knives for personal use.

Ever since boyhood the WOOD BEE CARVER has been fascinated with knives and whittling. Such a fascination has led to accumulating a variety of knives over the years for the purpose of carving. Most of the knives accumulated were old pocket knives that were heavily used and abused requiring the tender loving care of repairing, reshaping the blades and sharpening the blades into a functional carving knife. The blades in pocket knives that could not be repaired were salvaged to be inserted into wooden handles and shaped and sharpened into carving knives.

Over a forty year period of tinkering with knives in this manner one learns a method of sharpening by hand and reshaping blades and handles into a comfortable and efficient carving knife. Also learned by the experience of trial and error of whittling with sharp blades is that the steel in knife blades of different make and name possessed a “characteristic of the feel of the cut” in the slicing action all their own. This means that even though each blade is equally sharp with other equally sharp blades, yet each blade carves a little different from the others. This does not necessarily make one knife better than the other but it illustrates that each have a particular “slice of personality” in the slicing action. Which means for the WOOD BEE CARVER that the favorite knife is the one in the carver’s hand at the time of carving which further means that all knives are a favorite in one way or another.

The WOOD BEE CARVER developed a blade shape with a curved cutting edge with an extended tang and the back edge with a concave shape so that the business part of the blade looks like a banana or crescent moon shape. The preferred handle shape is four inches long with a fat cigar shape or one with a pistol grip shape like the old flint lock pistol. Such a handle shape allows for the knife to be rotated in the palm of the hand while guiding the blade to cut sideways, upside down or right side up for long periods of time. Slender handles longer than four inches fit the hand in awkward positions causing the hand to cramp or experience tiredness. Pocket knife handles are not comfortable for long periods of carving due to their size and shape so wooden handles custom made became the handle of choice. Both the handle shape and blade shape were developed over a long period of trial and error experience of carving to discover the most efficient carving knife that produced a slicing cut with both the push and pull stroke.

Other carvers would ask where they could get a knife like the WOOD BEE CARVER used. The WOOD BEE CARVER only made knives for personal use, so he found a few knife makers who either made a similar knife or was willing to make knives according to the WOOD BEE CARVER’S design.

Ralph Long of North Carolina has been well respected as a premier knife maker for way over twenty years and two of his knives in his inventory with a scimitar blade shape were the first to be recommended. However, Ralph has experienced failing health in recent years and no longer makes knives. Helvie Knives, Bud Murray Knives, Dave Lyons Knives and John Dunkle Knives make knives according to the WOOD BEE CARVER’S design and are highly recommended.

Even though all of these recommended knives are used most of the time, yet the Wood Bee Carver still likes to tinker with knives from his own personal collection. Thus the Voisard Collection is one of the many collections that are also used for personal carving from time to time. That may explain why Don Voisard and the Wood Bee Carver are kindred spirits without ever having met other than through appreciation for the feel of the cut of a Voisard knife.

 

 

This entry was posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015 at 10:30 am and is filed under Knives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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