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James Simonds

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  1. I don't make normal things, and this is one of the more eccentric projects i have completed. A vaguely tanto inspired letter opener that pairs a san mai blade with a lovely bit of two tone blackwood. The blade resembles dawn over dark mountains, and the two tone case pairs with it perfectly. The reverse side of the blade is very different. pure dark heartwood, and a blade that is mostly dark, with pools of light. I like the contrast between the two sides. Everyone here knows that the difference in the steel is caused by simply grinding more on one side of the san mai, and that you cannot deliberately plan what pattern will come out. Origionally i was going to make the reverse side pure black, grind the nickel layer right out of it, but that would have made the blade too thin, and i liked the 'pools' that were appearing, so i left it like that. sometimes the steel dictates what it wants to be. A few pics of the internal construction, this is 'visually' tanto inspired, but it is not built like a true tanto Tsuka/saya. Raw materials Nickel silver spacer. this was required to keep the sapwood on the outside lining up, because i didnt have a saw fine or accurate enough to split and re-glue the wood without losing appreciable thickness. i also really like the silver spacer, i like it visually and it adds a nice weight and cool touch to the saya. The saya is felt lined and has a rubber seat along the bottom edge and the front to protect the blade in its tight fitting space. Glued it up as a squared block before final shaping. Ready for final assembly The blade is not a stainless/carbon san mai. it is carbon/carbon sandwich with two nickel layers. the bright/dark contrast was acheived with nail varnish painted on the top part pre-coffee etching. the effect with stainless clad carbon would have been better, but you have to work with what you got! A wierd project, but most of it totally new to me and i enjoyed the shit out of making it. and it feels mighty satisfying in the hand, tight fit, weighty, the blackwood is gorgeous, it polishes down to a glass like feel. Enjoy
  2. Genuine question not meant to 'start' something. But why is this a Bowie? i know there are broadly varying styles of Bowie, and it changed over time, but this seems more like some sort of sabre hilted dagger? no clip point, pretty much symmetrical etc.
  3. The wood 'might' be black walnut but i also think its too hard to be walnut, it might be some sort of tropical hardwood, honestly i don't know. i had it on the shelf for years. For this i wanted something very dark and with clean, simple, straight figure, to give good contrast to the metal. The other one is black ash burl, and it is such a lovely bit of timber. look at it all oiled up and fresh. Thank you Chadd. It was a total nightmare to assemble, I would never do it again without a solid through tang. having to make a pinjoint and then put that massive bar of Bronze through it and glue it up in stages was just too mad, really hard to get right. and i didnt get it 100% right, there is a band of glue visible next to the silver nickel on the 'unphotographed' side. Its not thick, but its there and its annoying. Anyway, learned a lot by doing it.
  4. I recently posted an Anglo saxon style seax blade that i had fitted and finished. This time its a blade that I forged myself, 3 bar construction (random, pinstripe, twist). the blade style isn't historical, it is my own design, and the handle isnt historical either, it is in art deco style. I expect the aesthetics to be divisive, but i like the fact that this is, as far as i can tell, a fairly original style. I haven't seen anyone make this style of layered handle although these days very little is truly original, i'm sure someone some where has done this before! The concept was a sort of spread of sunrays, a theme common in art deco. the bolster and the three layers all theoretically meet at a single point above the blade (although the eagle eyed will notice the brass layer is a bit misaligned, so they dont. that was due to covering a mistake in cutting.). The layers are solid fine silver for the bolster, brass, nickel silver and then copper. again the gold/silver/copper combo is typical for that art style. the buttcap is also solid fine silver and slightly domed. The handle started off with these components. The layers are all solid, all the way through, and the tang as forged was no way near long enough to go through the entire handle, as would be necessary to make this construction strong enough. I also dont own a welder, and in the middle of the pandemic, i didnt have access to a welder. so, i had to do something quite wierd to give the handle sufficient internal strength and support. i had to make a pinned tang extension. Constructing the handle like this meant gluing in two stages. first the bolster and 4 successive layers, then, the pin joint and the rest of the layers excluding the butt cap. complex as hell. how i wish i could have just welded an extension! Anyway, it worked, and all is well that ends well. I love the clean, geometric look. the wood has polished up really well, and the metal stripes are lovely. I filed a channel into the bolster because it was too blocky, and i'm happy with that last minute addition but other than that, i managed to stay faithful to the origional concept. So now i have two seaxes, very different styles, and all i can do is think how would i do a third one. Is this an illness?
  5. That is a damn fine first knife.
  6. yeah im looking forwards to it all aging differently. i thought about doing some forced aging, blueing etc. but i have time and dont need it in a hurry. im keeping this one so its not going anywhere. It will particularly make the nickel silver layer stand out against the bronze. The downside is Aluminium bronze isn't the prettiest aging grade of Bronze, but i had it, and i didn't have tin bronze. so, we'll see what happens.
  7. This is a seax blade that i bought, not forged myself, and re-finished, etched, and did all the handle and fittings for. I have another seax in the works that i forged myself, but this one was just because it was such a pretty blade and i wanted to finish it up. It also gave me a chance to try some techniques i haven't used before, and get a little practice. The blade is yet unnamed. dont feel like naming a blade i didnt forge. suggestion box at the bottom though! The blade is 3 bar construction, a matched pair of twist bars over random pattern. the pattern in the twist is what drew me to this blade. they are quite unusual. I like to think of it as 'coffee bean' pattern, but someone else noted they resembled another thing entirely. i'll let you decide. the bolster is multi layered, an aluminium Bronze sandwich with a nickel silver filling, and its all rough 'pinned' construction. and yes, i did use builders nails, as i had no silver steel or equivalent rod of the right size at the time. if it works, it aint stupid! of course this means it wasn't super precise, and this is a glued fit, not takedown. but it certainly helped with assembly and gluing and line up of all those parts. The handle is stabilised Black Ash burl, from the USA i beleive, cant remember where i got it myself but i think at a show in the UK. either way its a gorgeous piece of timber, love how it came out. The Bolster face is hammered finish and the design is all a sort inspired by some of the later period Norse hilt and pommel work with clean beveled forms, although i dont claim its authentic, its just my take on it. The pommel is two part, there is the main aluminium bronze pommel, again in the beveled style with a six sided top, and then a gunmetal pommel cap, a false one that doesnt connect to the tang, its just there to be pretty. I dont have a milling machine or a lathe, so that pommel was hewn from a solid with an angle grinder and then finished with a belt grinder and then files and hand sanding. it took approximately 8 times as long as i expected. the pommel cap too i had to heath robinson it. i dont have a lathe, so i shoved it into my pillar drill and turned it's stem with an angle grinder and then did the cap part with files and sandpaper. that was actually a lot of fun. The colour difference between the two grades of bronze is quite subtle when they are freshly polished, but they will develop with time and contrast more. I love the subtle difference in this photo. As is typical with a seax from that period, this boy is thicc. its a heavy blade, which is why i put a chunky pommel on it. managed to keep the balance point pretty darn close to the bolster, so it feels great in the hand, heavy but not pulling down and feeling sluggish. etc. Lots of things i could do with more precision here, if i took more time over it and had a milling machine and some silver steel to do a proper accurate pinned construction. might even try a takedown next time with a single through tang pin. we'll see.
  8. Yeah i spent ages cleaning the workshop and all my gear afterwards, not worth the effort on multiple counts. Other woods are just as nice and far less difficult to handle. Did you recover? hope all is well.
  9. You should come, it will be great, and 'IF' we are lucky, and everything goes according to plan, they 'might' be unveiling something very special there, not hard to guess what if you have seen my post on the subject. Big IFs there on all fronts. But it will be an excellent gathering regardless, some super visiting speakers. im very excited (and praying the damn virus doesn't stop it)
  10. Yes, in retrospect that pattern is much more striking and i should have used the same material throughout. but i still have more of that steel and the carving knife will be made from it. so, its not a total disaster!
  11. Right, time for an update. i know its been 4 months, but things move slowly in the making a mastercraft Norse sword world. slow is good, it means its being done right! @owen bush finished the forging of the blade late last year, and did a marvelous job. the blade looks superb. see his instagram for more, but here are some snaps. So the construction of the blade is revealed. at the core, layered wrought, bloomery and meteorite iron forming this subtle 3 colour pinstripe effect on an overall bright, light heart. This is the light of the north, the bright heart of a fallen star trapped in the blade. beautiful interpretation by Owen. then there is a wrapped bar of firestorm pattern around the core. the flames sprouting from the core and fanning out towards the edge. the edge is a bar of dark and twisted random pattern, a bit chaotic and swirling, symbolising the smoke from the fire around the core swirling around the edge. When the forging of the blade was complete, it was over to @Petr Florianek for the hilt, fittings, scabbard and the inlaid name in the blade. after much much back and forth about the translation, we settled on Ljós ór Norðan as the Old Norse name. its not an exact translation as there is no definative 'correct' answer and we had about 6 options, but we like it. Petr's brief was left largely open to his interpretation (he is the master artist, not me!) but i asked for a pommel with a depiction of the doors of Valhöll, and a crossguard in the late Norse style with ruinc inscriptions and something of his choice. The hilt and scabbard are left to him except for one detail, which i shall not share yet. So Petr first carved the shape for the crossguard and pommel, which i loved, no changes needed there! And then, last month, the carvings and casting was done. this was my first look. here, Odin stands in the open doors of the great hall of Valhöll, welcoming the warrior to his final home. this carving is so cool, so much better than what i had in mind, which is why i leave him freedom with the details! then the ruinc crossguard, which i forget what it says.... but it looks amazing the way the runes are fitted to the shape. On the reverse, twisted serpents writhe in the bronze, beautiful work. And now, just last week, the name of the sword was carved into the heart of the blade. So more of the meaning of this mythical blade is now revealed. The bright core, the light of the north, being eaten away by flames, shrouded in smoke. Then, the depiction of Odin on the pommel, standing there silent, waiting to greet the bearer of the blade, reminding him of his inevitable fate, always watching him with his one eye. this is a sword for a hero in dark times. The sword itself nears completion, and then there will be the scabbard and the big reveal. childishly excited about it.
  12. Another Owen Florianek masterpeice. love your work as always. These guys have a collaboration for me in the works that will knock everyone's socks off. soon....
  13. I have finished a new set of 3 kitchen knives with sayas. An 8 inch slicer, a 6.5 inch chef's (was supposed to be 7 inch but i had a whoopsie , so it looks a little 'stout' to my eye) and a 5.5 inch petty. I made these for myself and since there was no outside purpose or spec, used them to try a load of different things i wanted to experiment with. so its an eclectic set where not everything matches but there are some consistent features that give it a common style: - Angular, raked blades, handles and sayas. this set is facets on facets on facets. the only curves you will find anywhere are in the heel of (some) of the blades for functionality reasons, the actual blade edge themselves, and the backs of the handles. - Bronze. I love bronze in general, but this set is fitted out fully in copper, phosphorous bronze and gunmetal. i have also made the bolsters and one of the saya pins out of brazed and then forged multi-alloy blocks, a sort of mokume gane style (just brazed not kiln welded). I think this adds depth and interest to the bolsters and also a thin band of silver solder between the layers that catches the light. The wood is all from a single block of Mexican Cocobolo. man this wood kicked my ass for a while. the dust is a nightmare, i spent more time hoovering than shaping it. It's oily and clogs up abrasives instantly, requiring constant cleaning of belts and hand abrasives. it changes colour so fast that despite everything starting the same, it all looks a bit mismatched. those handles and sayas come from 3 sawn off continuous slabs from one block. but because they were all finished at slightly different times, the colouration varies, like the smallest saya, which i finished first and is darker. this was a pain when i needed to make small adjustments. if you re-sand one facet, you have to re-do them all! otherwise it looks bad. But, for all that, the wood itself is amazing, very hard, able to take a near mirror finish and doesn't split or move or splinter easily and i love the grain and colour variation and figure in the wood. The blades are two variants of twisted pattern welded 15n20 and 1095. one is plain low layer, the other is a low layer bar twisted with a higher layer bar and i think that one is amazing, wish they had all been made of that material. The handles are designed for pinch grip use primarily, and are relatively short, with steep slope towards the bolster which i find is very comfortable and avoids a sharp/sudden drop under your front fingers which i find straight/octagonalised handles have. they also have a pronounced belly to help grip with the back two fingers. They are faceted in a biased octagonal shape, wider at the top than the belly. overall i tried variations of this shape on the 3 handles, trying to find the sweet spot, and the largest knife, the 8 inch slicer, has the most comfortable handle. the petty knife handle is slightly too tall for its width and is a bit akward, and the 6.5 inch chef's knife handle is just a little too slim. next time i would make them all slightly longer too. great learning experience doing those. The Sayas are all very different in design, i wanted to try a variety. The slicer has a fairly blocky saya, quite heavy and thick, with a bronze faceplate. The Chef's knife has a more 'traditional' saya, with a cut out for the bolster, thinner walls, and generally more slim and angular. the Petty has a 'topless' saya, with a split for a bronze bar and a bronze stop at the back. all are felt lined. The two larger sayas have pins, of two very different designs. the Chef's has a 'typical' turned and rounded gunmetal pin. for the slicer, i went with something different. i took a small slice of the brazed bronze bolster material and drilled and brazed a 1/4 inch gunmetal rod into it, then shaped and profiled it. The rod part i ovalised, and i also ovalised the hole in the saya. what this means is that you put the pin in with the 'tab' aligned down the handle, which is 'loose' to do, and then you twist the tab 90 degrees so that it lies along the saya in the postion below. this locks it as the long axis of the oval pin rotates into the short axis of the hole. This gives it a very satisfying feel, and if it ever gets loose, i just apply a thin film of glue to the sides of the hole and it will be perfect again. i will definitely use this style again in the future because its just so tactile and again i think visually striking. although it was a lot of work, i guess 5-6 hours total just on that pin and fitting it. The blades all have a sort of 'double' k-tip. I doubt this is entirely origional, although i dont remember seeing it before, im sure someone has. but either way i love it. I really like the look of the tip compared to a regular k-tip. another feature i will use again. The blades all have minifaceted tops rather than 90 angles, mostly for comfort but i also like the way it looks. They are also on the thin side. between 1.8 - 2mm at the back of the spine, down to sub milimeter on the spine just before the tip, but with very little distal taper on the main part of the spine (you cant have much distal taper on a blade that starts at 2mm!). so these blades are light, flexible and laser sharp. the edges are honed to a mirror finish. Both the larger blades have the balance point right at the ricasso/bolster transition, so they are super light in the hand when you hold them pinch grip. they dont tug or try and twist your hand forwards, the combination of balance point and light overall weight makes them feel like feathers in the hand. not sure if a professional chef would like that, or want something with a weightier feel, but I like it. I tried 3 different styles of shoulder/ricasso/bit where it joins the bolster. the slicer has a stepped ricasso with a 3mm section and tang. the chef's is just straight the whole way, and the petty has a quirky angled join with the blade being flush with the bottom of the bolster, which is sliced rather than slotted. The chef's knife with the straight profile ricassio is my least favorite. it just creates a weak point, and visually doesnt look as good as the slicer. it being a weak point, when the blade flexes, it flexes at the point where the blade meets the bolster. i am concerned about the long term effect this might have. the slicer flexes evenly along the blade, putting way less moment and stress into the transition into the bolster. it feels way more solid and just looks right. the petty I quite like. its different, its angular, but i like the joint between the bottom of the blade and the bolster, it fits the style of the blade and saya i think. A few piccies of the individual blades and some more detail on the saya's fit and construction. So, this is my 2nd 'set' of knives, i learned a lot by making them and i don't know exactly where i will go for set 3 but i have a few smaller projects to do in the meantime. got a mean 11 inch carving knife ready for finishing in silver and macassar ebony which i am really looking forward to doing, i think that is going to be very cool. So, three months of my life, (part time, evenings etc. maybe 200 hours total) went into these knives. let me know what you think! which saya works for you? i have my favorite and one that i dont massively like, but i want to know what others like. does the double angled tip work? whatever. critique is welcome.
  14. It all worked out in the end. the areas of orange staining are darker, but no longer garish, and the handles are looking sweet and figured. pretty happy. might make a proper post about these knives later.
  15. Chris, i have used both scotchbrite pads and the Blue belt grinder version. My advice would be....dont. i find that scotchbrite is great for covering over scratches, but if you have gone to 800 hand sanded, that will be, in my eyes, a nicer finish than scotchbrite. But, its all personal perspective. try it, and if you dont like it, just re-do the 800 grit. 800 grit should remove all the scotchbrite effect very quickly.
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