As I wrote some times ago I like to learn new things, combine the techniques I learned to something new, and expand my skills. One thing on my bucket list was to buy a welding machine and learn to weld. Probably because I saw my dad try his best with his not-so-good arc welding transformer when I was a child and still I am fascinated.
I looked up different machines, not too expensive for just getting my feet wet, with good reviews, and most importantly it should be as flexible as possible when it comes to welding techniques. I ended up having a look at Stahlwerk Schweißgeräte [unpaid advertising]. I was thinking about to get their MIG 200 amps machine as it was able to do Mig/Mag, arc welding and flux-cored welding. Unfortunately, it was not on stock for a long time on their site and on Amazon. I even got a welding automatic helmet and welding gloves for Christmas long before I got the machine itself.
So last week I did it and hit the “buy now” button as a pre-order. I had decided that for my needs 175 amps would be sufficient and bought the machine. The day the parcel service announced the package I kept hitting the reload on the parcel tracking page, nervous like a kid on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the tracking page even got a 500 server error message but fortunately, it wasn’t me. They where just launching a new page 🙂
I tried to weld some beads onto some scrap metal and oh boy times have changed. It was so easy to ignite the electrode and or the flux-cored wire. No way you can compare that to the old transformer I got in my garage, the old welding machine of my dad. In the end, I had the best results with simple arc welding electrodes.
In the above video you see my son trying out my new machine.
This is the second built of my Kukri III model that was ordered right when I showed around my first Kukri III. The “III” is the number of the base model not the number of the built. The handle shape is a bit different and the liners are made out of felt, not paper Micarta.
Before I sent the first built of my Kukri III custom knife model to my friend @JAMZT53 I showed the knife around. It was admired by many people, friends, and family – so I quickly got another order for that knife in my books.
While doing so life hit me and I found myself in the middle of switching my daytime job. Don’t get me wrong, the step was planned and long overdue but it brought a lot of changes to my life. With a lot more responsibility and freedom of making decisions, sculpting an entire IT department from the ground up and such. It is honestly an awesome job and it was absolutely the right decision.
As a result, I simply did not have the focus on handcrafting and coming back home late, and then go to my workshop and work on a knife. So knife making got a bit off my schedule. I was all the time looking forward to diving back into it though but even on the weekends, I could not find the time and energy for it.
Times have changed, I “arrived” in the new job and I got a lot of very positive feedback from my new boss and I am obviously doing one or two things right there. That put a lot of wind under my wings and additionally then came the Corona lockdown and we are all working from home. That took away all the commuting to and from work. In the end, I am working a lot more on my job from the home office and on the other hand, I am finding back my way into knife making on the weekends or finishing one or two steps in the evening. And also: It got warmer since spring is here – the small radiator just does not warm up the workshop so nicely when it is cold outside 🙂
So here I am back, with a finished Kukri III on my table, working on the sheath and pushing things forward to deliver the knife, which by the way came out quite good. I am happy with the final result and look forward to seeing the reaction of the one who ordered it.
I was looking for a different material I can use for liners. I constantly use liners in the handles between the handle scales and the blade on full tang knives and between the guard and the handle on hidden tang knives.
I usually use Micarta I make out of resin and paper and was looking for other ideas and came up with some felt my kids use for handicrafts. So I gave it a try and made some simple tests:
I brushed a good amount of epoxy resin on the felt and pressed one between two pieces of scrap wood and the other one I just pressed flat and let both experiments rest for 24 hours. This long wait is just because I use a very slow hardening epoxy.
After removing the clamps I cut out the flat piece with scissors. The wood pieces I sanded flat on 3 of 4 sides to simulate the effect when I use them as liners on a knife handle.
I made some stress tests with the wood pieces trying to break them apart but they are solid and well bonded to the surrounding wood. I wasn’t able to break them apart with a realistic amount of force.
There are some advantages to felt. First of all, it is thicker and the layers needed to reach a certain thickness is clearly lower, this might save some time. Second, the darkening effect when the material is soaked in resin is not as extreme as when using paper so I can better predict the resulting color.
As a disadvantage I have to check if there are air bubbles left in the material. You can see the effect of air bubbles in the flat piece in the picture above – the brighter part in the middle results from tiny air bubbles.
The top picture shows how I fit a Kukri III that I am working on while dry fitting the pieces of felt between the different parts of the handle. Pictures of the finished built Kukri III will follow.
The Longbow is a slim and recurved blade and was my try to do a bigger knife. I had complete creative control and just added an awesome handle of green stabilized poplar burl to the mix. The spine of the blade offers a thumb stop and a swage (not sharpened). The leather sheath has a pattern that symbolizes the tip of the blade being pulled out.
The Bowies I made till now were with wide recurved blade design. I like the form a lot but I saw a lot of knifemakers doing a very slim design for their Bowie blades. I also wanted to make a bigger knife to see how far I can go. The main challenge is not grinding a bigger blade into shape but the size of my forge and the containment of the heat treatment oil.
While I planned the new knife, my friend Joe asked me to make another knife for him. This time I should do it completely free as I like and put as much into the knife as I want. When working with and for Joe he always gives me complete creative freedom, but this time I also suggested the knife model. That was perfect timing.
I showed him the draft and he liked it. So I started with the project and got the shape into the steel. I was totally amazed when I held the rough blade in my hand for the first time. The ergonomy of the handle was on point. I don’t know if I have a good sense of handles or it is pure luck. But I like how I can grip the handle with the full fist or put the thumb on the back on the spine of the blade and up to the thumb stop.
I showed Joe pictures of the progress and I felt how he began to love the blade after he just liked it at first. He told me he would love to have a green handle. I had seen nice colored wood at a german online dealer for knife makers. And I showed him the exact piece of stabilized green poplar burl. That stuff looks like jade marble. He liked it and so I ordered it.
The piece of wood looked even better when you see it live – but it made me very nervous to cut the wood into halves. The knife would have a full tang so I needed two parts. I have had some problems getting perfect straight cuts on my bandsaw before. I practiced with some pieces of wood – and it went much better than expected. So I cut the stabilized wood in half and sanded it perfectly flat on a piece of sandpaper that lay flat on my workbench.
The wood left neon green wood dust everywhere – even more, when I started shaping the handle. My workshop looked like an alien landing zone with all the green stuff around. Good, I got my respirator.
As always I left the handle a bit thicker. A big knife like the Longbow needs a handle you can grip on.
The blade is polished to a mirror finish – and I don’t know why but this went pretty good this time. Usually, I have a tough time getting all the scratches out of the wood but this went pretty easy this time.
Until now I worked on one knife at a time but I always strive to find the best way for me to work on my projects. Working on one knife at a time meant, for example, to fire up the forge to heat treat just a single knife, it would be much more efficient to harden more knives at a time. Or to carve out the blanks for multiple knives at a time instead of just one and then have to switch tools and so on.
On the other hand, I want to keep the passion I put in every single project – Concentrating on the details that make every single knife unique. To make sure I do not loose this I will allow myself to jump between the projects and push on the parts of the single projects that I am most motivated in.
Currently, I have 4 knife projects in parallel active. I am working on the “Longbow” Bowie knife, another Kukri III, a new Tigershark hunting knife and the PB skinner but with a thicker blade. I started all blades at the same time but now the Longbow is finished for etching and I have a beautiful piece of stabilized wood for it here. All other blades are heat treated and ready to be cleaned up. Only the skinner is already partly ground clean from the filthy remains of the hardening oil.
The Tigershark is intended as a big hunting, bush crafting, or just an outdoor knife. The form of the blade is dominated by a single line flowing from the tip of the blade to the heel of the handle in a single bow. The handle gave the knife the name Tigershark and adds to the aggressive form of the knife. The index finger is protected by a circular cutout in the steel.