Sunday, October 11, 2020

Wa Handle Construction - Martell Knives

So this is mostly a post for the other makers out there having issues with making wa handles......but maybe my customers might like to see it too?

It's common for most (wa) handle makers today to use a dowel internally to provide stability/security while shaping the handle (off knife). This is sort of like making a dowel to work like (what we get from) a tang when shaping a handle while it's mounted on the knife. This is especially important to a maker when metal spacers are involved in the build as they tend to hold onto heat and melt the epoxy allowing the handle to come apart but when a dowel is used this problem pretty much isn't an issue.

Using dowels internally does add a lot of strength for to a handle, for sure, but I don't believe it's necessary for kitchen knives since they're not used in a manner that requires such characteristics like say a camp knife would require (chopping, etc). I only use dowels for the reasons noted.

I first used a single dowel in my wa handles, like most other makers employ, but I found this limiting and looked for another method. The reasons for this...

1. When a single (large) hole is drilled it's difficult to keep the hole running straight as the depth increases.

2. Bigger drill bits cost more money and are harder to find. The same is true for dowels.

3. The size of the hole/dowel limits the size/shape that the finished handle can be brought to. Using a large internal hole/dowel often meant wider handles than I wanted to provide, especially the case on small petty handles.

4. When making handles for several different size knives one needs to make different sized handles, this means many different size dowels and drill bits to keep on hand. With the double dowel method I can use one size drill and dowel for all handles.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Shun Meiji - Before & After

These are Shun Kramer Meiji knives in SG2 damascus clad steel.

They came to me with some damage to the edges, the profiles were wonky, and the damascus was scuffed and scratched up a bit.

I fixed the edges, then reprofiled to customer specs, thinned for performance, and etched the damascus for effect.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We do Octagonal Wa Handles

I've recently added wa octagonal handles to my offerings. No broomstick handles here. Each made specifically to fit your particular knife.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Handle Finish

Handle finishing is something that I never would have thought I'd get into, and certainly not to the degree that I have.

When I first started doing rehandles I didn't know (or care) what woods were what, what properties woods had, or how to finish them. I used to do what a lot of knife makers do...."buff is enough". Next! 😁

That approach is fine for safe queens, knives that won't ever cut anything. But that's not to be expected from a kitchen knife owner, they use their knives - all their knives, almost without exception.

The problem for our little sub-world of knife making is that we make knives that will get used hard, washed with dish detergent, get all sorts of crap on them, and maybe even get scrubbied! 😣 Basically they get used and abused just from simple normal use.

Early on I came across some wood that challenged the "buff is enough" concept to where I couldn't even get them looking nice enough to impress for the initial customer contact let alone long term use so I started looking for ways to make my handles prettier. This is what stared the ball rolling into what has become an obsession with me. 😲

I've bought likely 90% of everything available on the commercial market that is sold as a finishing oil. I'd bet that I've spent somewhere between $700-$1,000 on different oils and related paraphernalia. I've mixed my own combos from these oils and I've been testing and keeping records since at least 2010 but not until just recently do I feel that I've made any significant progress in achieving my goals of making a more attractive handle that is also wear resistant.

There are several discoveries that have come my way. I've discovered that every wood needs something different, there is no single answer to what to use for everything. In knife making we use hardwoods, soft woods, stabilized woods, oily tropical woods, oily desert woods and these all need something different.

I often get asked about what I do to my handles but I won't answer this question because I'm still learning.

In the past had I said that I do this or that I'd have been giving bad advice for what I know today to be wrong. If I can ever get to where I feel more confident I'll make a post or write a blog or something with specifics to help others out but that's not going to be today.

I will, however, share some of the things that I've learned that I feel are things that are safe to pass on at this point in time....

Off The Shelf Oils

Most all of the finishing oils on the market are blends that are based off of either boiled linseed oil (BLO)(which isn't really boiled at all) or some type of tung oil variant but rarely pure tung oil (PTO). Some have varnishes or urethanes in them and most contain heavy metal dryers.

Ex. - Teak oil, Teak Oil Finish, Danish Oil, Tru-Oil, Tung Oil Finish, Tung Oil, Circa 1830/1850, Antique Oil, Waterlox, Tried & True, Finishing Oil, etc

These off the shelf blends work OK for most applications but fail for some. I could write novels on the combos I've tried and the results I've achieved but the take away is that they don't always work, or better put, they don't always match up to the wood being worked on.

Most failures come from the fact that they don't adhere well enough, aren't water resistant, or cloud the grain/obscure the beauty.

Mix Your Own

I now prefer to mix my own blend. This allows me to tailor the blend to suit the needs of the particular wood being worked on.

Maybe I want to have a high level of shine, maybe I want a satin sheen, or somewhere in between?

One day it's a hard stabilized wood like maple that I'm working on and the next day it's an un-stabilized oily African Blackwood, there's many variables to consider. I like to be able to make the necessary changes on the fly vs having to follow what a can has in it and hope for the best.

What to Use on What

There are two (basic) distinct categories that I break wood into when deciding on the blend that I'll be using.

1. Non-Oily Woods = Oil/Varnish Blend

2. Oily Woods = Wiping Varnish Blend

Oil/Varnish Blend = BLO or PTO / Thinner / Varnish

*Note - if you're going to use tung oil be sure to buy "PTO" - the more expensive "Pure" or "Raw"version.

**Note - PTO has no dryers and takes much longer than BLO to fully cure. PTO is superior to BLO in the results it provides but you need great patience to use this stuff. Be sure to keep this in mind when adding coats and before use.

Wiping Varnish Blend = Thinner / Varnish

*Note - I've never tried this but many people use shellac on oily woods. Shellac drives me insane but has great waterproofing qualities and because of that it's still something I'll be working with in future testing.

Adjusting the Blend

To achieve more shine - add more oil.

To get more water resistance - add more varnish.

To make the mix flow/spread easier/better (or even soak in better) - use more thinner.

Then there's....

Poly = Don't bother unless you want plasti-dipped handles. This stuff can substitute as varnish but will be more plasticky than spar even.

Lacquer = Cheap looking, like you spray painted the handle

How Many Coats?

Use many very thin coats vs a few thick coats!

I've found that 5-6 really thin coats to be the magic point where I start to like what I see and can expect it to not wash off too easily. More is better though you can expect to at some point cross over into a bit too much with some woods. I define "a bit too much" as to where the handle looks and feels gaudy. There is sometimes a fine line between a nice build up that's glossy and the "old ship's deck" look, know what I mean? 😊

So, have I just given you the answer to how to finish your handles? Well sort of. If you were paying attention you should have realized that I've labeled the basics but that you're going to have to play around and figure out what works best with different woods. There is no one simple answer here, not if you want really nice results anyway. I do hope that what I've given you here helps to inspire you to try your hand at mixing your own oil finish blends and going for that true custom finish on your handles.

#knife, #knives, #handle, #custom, #kitchen, #chef, #cook, #Martell, #tungoil, #linseedoil, #woodfinish

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Martell Knives - Here are some recently completed....

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Martell Knives @

#Martell, #Dave, #Chef, #Knives, # Knife, #Japanese, Custom, #Kitchen
Here's a brief showing of some of my more recent re-handle work on Japanese factory chef knives.

240mm Akifusa gyuto in dyed (orange) box elder burl....

Hiromoto in box elder burl...

Hiromoto AS Vegetable Cleaver...

Hiromoto White Steel Gyuto...

Teruyasu Fujiwara santoku & Gesshin Ginga sujihiki...

Hiromoto AS in koa....

Yoshihiro Blue Steel gyuto converted to western style handle...

Mr. Itou R-2 gyuto...

Kramer Zwilling

Glestain gyuto - lots of blade work and handle done in amboyna burl....

Fujiwara Teruyasu Denka in Ironwood Burl.....

Takamura Uchigumo 240mm gyuto in Russian Karelian Birch....

Hiromoto AS...

#Martell, #Dave, #Chef, #Knives, # Knife, #Japanese, Custom, #Kitchen