Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

The two antique pocket knives in the photo above represent the important role the common pocket knife has played in the journey of wood carving for the Wood Bee Carver.  Both knives were made by the Challenge Cutlery Company over one hundred years ago.  The top knife is called an “Office Knife” and the second knife is called a “Jack Knife.”  It is this Jack Knife that became a “challenge” to begin the serious endeavor of carving.  Almost every boy and many girls growing up in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s carried a pocket knife which was occasionally used for whittling activities.

Most of the earlier pocket knives were either lost, traded away or broken so there were none to carry into adulthood.  Then in 1966 while in seminary in Lexington, Kentucky preparing to become a pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) my mother gave me an old pocket knife she found in a box of stuff she purchased at an auction sale.  It was a two bladed jack knife, spear blade and pen blade, rose wood handles and made by the Challenge Cutlery Company of Bridgeport, CT. probably in the 1920’s.  In other words, an old knife in good shape with the pen blade fairly sharp (as I still did not know how to sharpen) could whittle slivers off a piece of wood.  The only wood I had access to was a broom handle made of resinous pine which was not the easiest to carve.  And yet, a small head carved into bottle stopper was the end result.  This carving challenge whetted an interest to follow the path to more serious carving endeavors of learning while doing.

That is how it all began. Now in the twilight of that journey, the challenge continues in the exploration of many pathways where the carving journey travels. In fact, every carving project has been a challenge to follow the guidance of imagination, to be motivated to try the difficult project, to let the creative force guide the knife in its slicing action, and be ever open to learn by doing over and over again the serendipity discoveries as the knife slices through the wood to shape the carving process.  “Challenge” is an ever-present experience that stretches creative imagination with dexterity of ability to figure it out and discover the unexpected lessons associated with carving. The experience of such challenges has taught the Wood Bee Carver that “the hardest part of any project is getting started but once begun the creative juices flow,” as each challenge guides to another level of wonder. Challenge is a motivator and not a deterrent. Give in to the challenge and go where it takes you.

Since the pocket knife was the first choice as a carving tool the Wood Bee Carver continued to follow that path.  For many years the challenge was to rescue old and junk pocket knives found at flea markets, junk stores and garage sales and to repair, reshape and sharpen such knives into carving knives. Subsequently, it was learned how to sharpen a knife blade, how to experiment with reshaping a worn-out blade into a functional carving shape and how to transfer a pocket knife blade from a small handle into a larger and more comfortably shaped wooden handle making it a functional carving knife.

So, after fifty years of following the challenge of carving wood with the second challenge of reworking pocket knives into carving knives, it continues to be a challenge of learning while doing enjoyable endeavors.  There is no end to the challenge making it a lifelong endeavor of personal fulfillment with feelings of amazement in the discoveries.  The second challenge of knife making begins with the photos below and the descriptions that follow.


The first photo shows two old Challenge Office Knives that will be used in the transformation into four carving knives.  The left blade on the top knife has been rough shaped with a paper pattern of the original blade shape and the drawing of the new shape above the reshaped blade.  The bottom knife shows a short blade on left previously reshaped that awaits a new shape.  The right-side blade on both of the knives will also be reshaped.  Notice that the carbon steel blades have rusted over the years and during the reshaping and sharpening process will be brought back to life. The right-hand photo shows the four new knives made from the two old office knives.  The two knives at the top of photo were made from the bottom office knife and the bottom two were made from the top office knife.

The bottom two photos show the new knives laid out in a pattern as the points of a compass.  The knife at N and at E came from the bottom office knife in the top left photo.  The knife at S and at W came from the top office knife in the top left photo.  The enlarged close up photo of the blades give a better perspective as to their shape which will be illustrated in the next series of photos as they relate to cutting positions on carving projects. Each blade will be referred to by is compass position in the descriptions of the illustrations below.



The blade shape that is represented at the N position of the compass photo of blades is featured in these photos.  The position of the curved cutting edge of the blade is below the center line of the handle. Imagine a straight cutting-edge blade as being in line with the handle of the knife as a comparison of this blade’s cutting edge as sitting below that center line or it is characterized as a “low rider” or a blade doing the “Limbo,” by coming under the bar of a center line.

The “belly” of the cutting edge of this blade is used for making major slicing cuts in the shaping process.  The curved end towards the tip becomes the detailing portion of the blade and can reach into many tight areas with slicing actions as these photos and the following photos illustrate.


The blade shape that is represented at the E position of the compass photo of blades is featured in the next two photos.  This short-curved cutting-edge blade is used primarily for making detail and close up slicing cuts that are sometimes needed.

The blade shape that is represented at the S position of the compass photo of the blades is featured in the following photos.  This blade is the same basic shape of being below the center line or low rider with the exception that the front end of the blade has an arching cutting edge tip that is sharp around the half moon tip.  This rounded tip makes that section of the blade into a mini-knife for making intricate cuts in difficult areas and also makes precise stop cuts.  The more this blade shape is used the more versatile uses are discovered as illustrated in the photos below.

The blade shape that is represented at the W position of the compass photo of the blades is featured in the following photos.  This blade’s cutting-edge angles up slightly from the center line and has the sharpened rounded tip. The position of this blade shape is different from its companion blade in the S compass position making for a different feel of cut and approach of the cut.  The photo illustrations below give examples of different uses of this blade. The more this blade is used the more versatile uses are discovered.

More challenges await be it carving projects, making knives for personal use, and continuing the challenge stories on this blog for this is the life blood of this old carver who can do no other than to continue to do the motto, “Would be carvers would be carver if they would carve wood.”


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 at 11:06 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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