Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

The Ultimate BladeThe Ultimate BladeThe Ultimate BladeThe Ultimate BladeThe Ultimate BladeThe Ultimate Blade

The WOOD BEE CARVER has always preferred pocket knives that have been refurbished into carving knives as his primary carving tool.  Perhaps it is the nostalgia from boyhood days of whittling with an old pocket knife that adds a little romance to carving with a knife. 

Over the years old, junk and worn out pocket knives have been rescued from flea markets and antique stores, many with  broken blades and/or handles that required some type of repair to bring them back to functional working condition.  The criteria used for the choice of knives was not so much the brand or name of knife, but rather if it was cheap and still had some life that could be brought back to the knife with a little reshaping of the blade and sharpening the blade into a carving tool.  If the blade was rusty or had the color of a dull nickel coin, then it was made out of carbon steel which is much better than stainless steel.

While old pocket knives are my first love, very close behind is any kind of knife that can be customized into a carving tool.  Old kitchen butcher knives have been customized into carving knives as well as utility knives sometimes called a “carpet knife,”  “shoe knife,” or “leather knife. ”  Such knives normally have a round cigar shaped wooden handle and were used by the labor trades to cut whatever needed to be cut.

These kind of knives have been rescued once again from flea markets and antique stores as long as the price was cheap.  The blades require reshaping and then sharpened into workable carving knives.  The carbon steel in these utility knives will hold a good edge, as will most any kind of knife rescued from the junk pile.

The key is in the sharpening with the one rule I say often, “SHARP CAN BE SHARPER.”  By that I mean in the sharpening process, which does take practice, all too often one will stop too soon thinking the cutting edge is sharp enough, but if one hones a little more on the finest grit (Hard Arkansas Stone or Diamond Extra Fine stone) and then strop a little longer, then “Sharp Can Get Sharper.”  From my experience of hand sharpening knives for over thirty five years some carbon steel blades are harder that others requiring more effort to sharpen, but once sharpened, “sharp is sharp” no matter the degree of hardness in the carbon steel.

Scientifically there is so much hidden about how the carbon steel blade was made as to the formula of the carbon and steel ingredients,  the way the steel was forged, hardened, tempered and then the hidden part as to how the molecules align themselves.  There are so many variables, but if sharpened to the best of one’s ability, then the tool will be ready to use.

One thing should be realized is that there is “no ultimate blade” that once sharp will never need to be stropped or sharpened again.  If a knife is used in cutting wood, eventually the cutting edge will be worn away requiring a tune up of stropping and/or sharpening.  If a knife is not used, moisture will attack the narrowest part, the cutting edge, causing rust to deteriorate the sharpness of the cutting edge.  So one way or another any knife blade will need to be sharpened and stropped from time to time.

Another type of utility or industrial knife was a removable blade held in a handle either with a set screw or by a patented chuck design.  The larger handle knives in the photo  hold the removable blade with a set screw using a hardened blade called “hack saw steel” from which  power hack saw blades are made and not the hack saw blades in a hand saw.  Sometimes the handles are a combination of aluminum and wood, brass and wood or bronze or nickel and wood and are quite expensive when purchased new, but can be found at flea markets or antique stores at a reasonable price.  The hack saw steel blades are very hard, requiring extra labor to sharpen, but when sharp they are good carving knives.

The next utility or industrial knife design is the patented steel chuck that holds a small removable blade that is also “hack saw steel” and is often called a “leather or shoe knife” as they were used by shoe manufacturers and shoe repair shops.  Similar in design but a smaller version is the Warren  Cutlery knives that utilize a brass chuck design to hold removable blades.  Warren Cutlery blades come ready to use for carving but can also be resharpened and reshaped to fit any carver’s need.  Some have even  mounted a Warren blade into a wooden handle using epoxy glue to hold it in place. Or have put a Warren blade into another chucked handle.

The final example of making another kind of carving knife is to use an old scalpel that can be found at flea markets or antique stores.  The steel is excellent but the metal handle is too thin to comfortably use requiring the scalpel to be put into some kind of handle.  What I chose to do was to dip the scalpel handle into “Plastic Dip” with several repeated applications to build up a comfortable handle, which is the blue handles in the photo.  Scalpels make excellent detail carving knives.

So, the “Ultimate Blade” in my opinion is a “Sharp Blade” be it one rescued from the junk pile or a custom knife made from any of the fine knife makers.  SHARP CAN BE SHARPER and always CARVE WITH THE CUTTING EDGE using a SLICING CUT by allowing the CUTTING EDGE DO THE WORK.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 6:55 pm 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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