OTHER KNIVES for Carving Miniatures

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

The knives pictured above are OTHER KNIVES for Carving Miniatures. Miniatures are any smaller carvings that will fit in a two-inch cube.  OTHER KNIVES is the name given to indicate experimental knives made by the Wood Bee Carver for his personal use.  Three of the knives in the photos are modified Helvie mini-detail knives and the other with the pistol shaped handles were made using old pocket knife blades that were reshaped and sharpened by hand.

Each blade was designed to be a slicing blade utilizing the curved cutting edge if nothing more that the tip end of the blade.  The curved blade shape allows reaching into difficult area as well as creating a slicing action in either the push or pull stoke.  The slicing action is the same action that is used in slicing a tomato, bread or bologna. No forcing of the blade in a wedge cut is ever to be used especially when carving miniature carvings. The knife is used for carving miniatures because it is more versatile that traditional carving tools which cannot create the sharpness of details so important in a miniature.

A brief photographic tutorial will describe the history of the blades and the process of shaping, sharpening and installing each blade into a whittled pistol shaped handle. This process has been described in greater detail in previous posting on this blog that can be found by clicking on The Other Knives for some of the how-to instructions.

The Wood Bee Carver has been carving seriously for over forty-five years.  In those earlier years, the old pocket knife was the carving tool of choice reflecting upon boyhood days of whittling with a pocket knife.  Flea markets, garage sales and junk stores were searched for cheap junk knives beyond the collector’s interest but still had potential for being a carving tool.  The experience of accumulating over a couple hundred junk knives and repairing, reshaping and sharpening many of these treasures into carving blades created lasting observations.

Observations in the practice of hand shaping and sharpening old carbon steel blades grew the refinement of the process that led to adopting the curved cutting edge as the most efficient carving blade.  Also discovered was that there is little difference in the brand name of pocket knife blades in that all can be sharpened to hold a functional carving edge.  Slight differences appeared in the “feel of cut” between various blades but those differences did not necessarily make one brand better than another brand. In some cases, it appeared that older pocket knives made in Germany possessed a unique feel in the sharpening and subsequently in the slicing “feel of cut” when compared with American made knives.  Boker Tree Brand knives were made in Germany while Boker USA were made is America.  Both are equally good carving blades while there is a slight difference in the “feel of cut.”  Knife brand names like Schrade, Camillus, Utica, Ulster, Cattaraugus, Ka-Bar, Keen Cutter, Landers, Frary and Clark, Roberson, Winchester and Case were some of the major knife manufacturers, but certainly only a few as there were hundreds of knife manufacturers.  Some manufacturers made contract knives for a variety of hardware companies that bore the company name and not the manufacturer’s name. The conclusion being that old, carbon steel blades made over a hundred of years ago, are worthy of being recycled into functional carving knives with a little work and imagination.

While the carbon steel blades in any pocket knife can become an excellent carving tool, the handles of most pocket knives are uncomfortable to hold for long periods of carving.  The smaller handled pocket knives were even uncomfortable to hold like holding a pencil for long periods of time.  The carbon steel blades, however, when transferred into a wooden handle in a comfortable size that fits the carver’s hand can give a second life to old junk pocket knives.

The two photos below are of junk pocket knives that will be used to convert into carving knives.  The left photo is of two Landers, Frary and Clark (L.F.&C) knives and the right photo is of a German made knife with the name Diamond stamped on the tang of the blade.

The next two photos are of the converted blades into carving knives. The left photo shows three blades from the (L.F. & C) knives and the right photo sows three blades from the Diamond German made knife.


The two photos below are of the blades before they were reshaped. The left photo is the (L.F.& C) blades (top two and the bottom blade.)  The right photo is of the Diamond blades with yellow paper patterns.


The photo below is a close up of the finished blades with the three on the left coming from the Diamond blades and the three on the right coming from the (L.F. & C) blades.

The next series of photos will be a visual tutorial of how the blades are harvested from the body of the pocket knife using another knife blade positioned between the frame of the handle and the tang of the blade at the bolster end.  A hammer is used to force the blade down to shear off the pin holding the blade in the handle.

Next step is to cut short length of five sixteenth brass tubing with a hack saw and crimping one end into an oval using vise grips.  Next, using stainless steel wire, thread a short length of wire through the hole in the blade tang and twist it to from a “rat’s tail” to thread into the brass tubing which will be filled with five-minute epoxy.  After the epoxy has cured, drill an appropriate hole in the end of a wooden handle to receive the brass tubing. Test the fit of the brass tubing in the drilled hole so that there is a loose fit to allow room for when epoxy is put in the hole followed by the brass tubing. For a more complete description of this process click on this link ~ The Other Knives ~ The photos below illustrate this process.   (click on photos to enlarge)


Shaping of the blade to its new shape uses a one inch belt sander for rough shaping and also a Dremel with small sanding drum for concave shaping the back edge of blade.   [NOTE: when using power belt sander and Dremel sanding drum, dip blade in water to cool during the process so as not to soften harness and temper of blade.]

After the handle is whittled to a comfortable shape and sanded smooth, the reshaped blade is now ready to be detailed shaped in the hand sharpening process utilizing Diamond hones and leather strop as in the photo below.  Diamond hones comes in a variety of grit and sizes.  Diamond hone paddles are sufficient in four progressive grit graduations of Medium, Fine, Extra Fine and Super Fine.


Hand sharpening and stropping are recommended in order to connect the hand to the carving knife that will be duplicated in the same hand and knife connection in the carving process.  Learning to shape, sharpen and strop by hand has better control with lasting results than trying to learn to use power that takes special skill.

Begin with the Medium grit Diamond hone first. Lay the blade flat on the hone at a skewed angle and rub the blade back and forth on the hone a few times with moderate downward pressure. Follow the direction of the curvature of the cutting edge in the back and forth motion.  Pick up the knife to examine the side of blade that was rubbed against the hone to notice the new scratches.  The goal is to create a flat side of blade from cutting edge to back edge in the form of a narrow “V”.  Doing so will create a “level playing field” on both sides of the blade.  If the scratched surface is not level it will show humps, ripples or ghost bevels on the side of blade.  These ghost bevels will not allow for clean and easy cuts. Once a “level playing field” is established on both sides, a burr edge will appear along the cutting edge.  When this occurs, go to the Fine Diamond hone and repeat the process of back and forth action keeping the blade flat.  The scratches on side of blade will get smaller as will the burr edge.  Next, go to the Extra Fine Diamond hone, repeat the same process a few time and then very gradually raise the back edge up in order to concentrate on the burr edge of the cutting edge and begin the create a micro bevel.

As the burr edge gets smaller, move on to the Super Fine Hone and repeat the same process of concentrating on the burr edge for a few strokes.  Finally, go to the leather strop with contains an abrasive compound, lay the blade flat on the strop and pull stoke the blade backward with the cutting edge trailing the stroke.  At the end of the stroke, pick the blade up, return blade to starting position, and repeat the stropping stroke. Do this for several passes. Next, do the other side of the blade with blade flat using a push stroke with cutting edge trailing the stroke.  Do this several times and in the process of doing one side and then the other side again and again, the burr edge will be rubbed away. Sometimes the burr edge will rub off as a “wire edge” that can be seen as it is coming off. Continue to strop a few more time and then test by slicing across the end grain of a basswood block.  Once sharp, stropping from time to time is all that will be necessary.

Sharpening does two things at once by first creating microscopic cutting teeth on the cutting edge (after burr edge is removed) and polishes the sides of the blades to a slick surface.  The cutting-edge teeth separate the wood fibers in the slicing action of the blade entering the wood while the polished sides of the blade burnish the wood after the separation of the wood fibers. The end result is crisp and clean facets on the surface of the carved wood.

The key in hand sharpening and stropping is not to get in a hurry; create the sides of blade into a “level playing field” and do not be overly concerned about the degree of a bevel because the bevel will naturally appear at the conclusion of following all these steps. Over time of repeated sharpening following these steps one will discover one’s own process for sharpening.  Never use a motorized buffing wheel because its speed and pressure used will round over the cutting edge very rapidly.  Hand stropping, once the blade is tuned up, will not take many strokes to get the blade back to carving readiness.

Sharpening, like carving is “the more one does, the better one becomes at doing.” Experiment using the steps outlined above in order to see while doing the progression of getting the blade ready for carving. Refine what you learn to develop your own sharpening process. Hand sharpening will help the carver appreciate what it means to have a sharp knife and know how to keep the carving blade in shape and ready to do it purpose of happy carving.  “Be Sharp and Never Dull.”



This entry was posted on Monday, May 25th, 2020 at 9:16 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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