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What drives you?

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After you've forged and ground that blade, and you're sitting there alone with your files and sandpaper, what drives you to whatever level of perfection you'll accept in your work? When you reach 300 grit and notice those two scratches left by the hundred grit, what makes you start over?

 

I've got my workbench set up out in my shed. There's a woodstove for heat, and a stereo to keep me company. Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, they comfort me. I sit down with a rough blade before me and start the mind numbing task of draw filing and sanding. I want to say that there's no joy in it, but I'd be wrong. I do enjoy the moment when I realize that I can see myself in the once dull surface of the blade. Then I notice the scratch that I missed. To destroy that smooth surface in order to chase out a scratch is heartbreaking.

I know the simplest cure would be to not leave the scratches in the first place. To check carefully before moving to the next grit. I realize that I have yet to master patience. My problem is that I want patience now.

 

How do you stay motivated to turn out some of the beautiful work I've seen here?

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I think some people are driven towards it, and others pulled in to it :blink:

 

I hardly get the chance these days because of other life priorities, but I find that when i do get a chance to make a blade, I don't make the blade, the blade makes me ;)

 

it becomes a form of meditation -_-

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for me there are a couple things.

when i see a little scratch in the blade .. i first hear my dad saying to me:

"if its worth doing, its worth doing right"

 

then if thats not enough to persuade me... i remember that this is what sets my blades ahead of a factory produced blade ... i have the time and patience (or am meant to) to be able to make sure that every tiny little thing is just as its meant to be to my skill level.

 

plus i also have a good healthy dose of guilt and vanity .. if i were to leave a scratch in the blade that wasnt meant to be there ... id feel eternally guilty because ive cheated the person who bought it.

and vanity because i end up wanting my blade to look good .. i dont want someone to look at it and say "geez .. what the hell did i spend money on this for?"

^_^

 

but when its all said and done, i think the thing that really gets me doing this time and time again is the fact that i can.

i mean ... there are all these blades that need to be made ... and who else is going to make them?

so i guess i "see" Mr Attwoods meditation and "raise" him a whole bunch of metaphysics and beliefs :D

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Only my Bank Manager calls me "Mr Attwood" :D:P:lol:

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I can certainly identify with guilt and vanity, With a couple of pet projects still fresh in my memory. I try not to get too competitive with the steel I'm trying to polish. I keep a few They Might Be Giants CDs in the shop. ~Herb

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ask yourself am I proud of that scatch......... if you are show it ..if you are not...you just learnned a little more patiance.........gets me every time....this patiance thing can carry over into the rest of your life too. sometimes good..... sometimes subborn.....LOL

dick

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I've never made anything quite to the same standards as a lot of the work here, but I do feel strongly that piece I work on is ever "good enough". It's as best as good as it gets, when you reach the point that more work doesn't give any more improvements. I apply this philosophy to the moulds I make for casting bronze, or the blades in forged state. In the finishing area I still have learning to do, and to develope more patience.

 

On the other hand, something I've been learned is that if you make (or buy) something you intend to use, it's best to leave at least one imperfection in it or add a good scratch to it, or you'll never bring yourself to use it:)

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How does "Senor Attwood" grab you?

 

I agree with the belief that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing right. I also suffer from the worst kind of self criticism of my work. My problem is that I have to fight the temptation to just say "Screw it!" and finish the knife with the fault in it. I really do want to do better work. It seems that each one gets a little better as I learn from the last one. I guess we all get better by degrees.

I also agree with the meditative/ spiritual aspect of it. I tend to get deep in thought about other things while I'm sanding, checking in every once in a while to see how it's coming. I should be thankful to have sanding to do. Otherwise, I'd just be staring off at nothing. People tend to think you're strange when you do that.

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I am also super-critical of my own work. What I have found works well with the "one remaining scratch" problem is to oversand a little on each grit. Once you think you have all the scratches, assume you've left at least one and go over it a bit more, imagining what it would take to get that last one out. Also, alternating the direction of sanding between grit sizes works. Also, to turn the blade in different directions to find scratches, sometimes you only see a scratch when the light shines along its length. Ask yourself, what bothers me more, explaining the scratch, or getting it out? Often I have a lot of explaining to do :lol: For me the worst part is after heat-treatment, when that steel's like glass, takes it out of you.

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I know the simplest cure would be to not leave the scratches in the first place. To check carefully before moving to the next grit. I realize that I have yet to master patience. My problem is that I want patience now.

There are some simple, easy, steps to detect those scratches before you get to this point but, you have to be patient enough to use them! :lol:

 

Seriously. I hear you on this one. Sanding that blade is my biggest stumbling block on finishing a knife. I wouldn't have a big pile of unfinished blades if this were not true. What helps me is being able to approach the work in the right frame of mind. If I only have a little bit of time and I'm rushing to get the most done with that time, well... I'm wasting time doing it that way. Experience has taught me I'm just going to have to re-do my work, if that is my frame of mind going into it. What works best is when I do not even think and I just do it, those Zen masters were onto something.

 

Good lighting is essential. I like halogen lighting because, my eyes are not what they used to be. Having several different types of light is useful. Not keeping them all, turned on, when you are working but, using them individually when inspecting your work before the next grit.

 

When You do see the scratches. Do not despair! Get a fresh piece of sandpaper and a popsicle stick. Wrap the paper around the popsicle stick and use it to sand the area of the scratch. The popsicle stick can be flexed to bring more pressure to bear, where you need it, without creating a dimple like using your finger as a backing will cause. This technique works extremely well around the plunge cut. If you do not like to clean the sticky popsicle stuff off the stick before you use it, they can be purchased, unused, at hobby shops and Mal-Warts craft section.

 

When you are sanding, use sandpaper like it is free. As soon as it starts to dull, get a new piece. Compared to what your time is worth, the cost of sandpaper is nothing. I've seen people scrub all day on a scratch they could remove in 10 minutes, if they would just use more sandpaper. Take all those worn out belts from your grinder and cut them up and use them for hand sanding. They are dull on the machine but, not for hand sanding. Getting a little more from your belts this way helps to treat the paper like it was free. I heard about these tips from Bert Gaston, to give credit where it is due.

 

~Bruce~

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I have two lines of thought depending on what the knife is for. For most of the knives I make for myself, I tend to make a crude knife shape by forging. then its just a matter of a handle and an edge. This is plenty adequate for a hide scraper, or a machette...etc.

 

For knives I'm making for others, or for EDC, I like to get everything to a mirror polish. I figure this helps prevent rust be decreasing the surface area that rust can attack. I also like the look of it. The downside to the mirror finish is that any flaws in the shape are very evident. I don't have filing jigs, or a fancy grider, or sander. All of my finish work is done with files and hand held paper. I like to do the best I can with what I have. It's more a matter of personal gratification when a knife is made. I know that I used simple tools to make a simple tool. There's somthing about the whole process that I find theraputic. I do most of my work in a propane forge just for simplicity and consistancy. The end results are better for me this way. Any knife I give as a gift, I want to be right. I want the owner to be proud that they have something nobody else has.

 

For my own knives, I make my own charcoal. I burn it in a forge that I made. I use an anvil that I made. I use a hammer that belonged to my great grandfather. I use leather that I tanned, and tools that I made. It kind of puts life in perspective for me.

 

I certainly enjoy the toys and accessories of modern day life, but it's ncioe to get away from the cell phones, the TV, the bills, the politics. When I'm forging, everything else seems to just disappear, and I simply relax. I often regret it the next day when I'm sore and tires, but I enjoy that part too.

 

Ultimately I don't know what drives me to do this. Sometimes it's simp,y the end result. other times, I do it as a personal escape from everyday life. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but whatever it is, it's highly addictive.

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For the record, I DO like to clean the sticky stuff off of popsicle sticks. Almost as much as I like drying the bottom of beer cans. My figure suffers.

The upside is that I just discovered that I have a bunch of sandpaper! Thanks. Cutting up the old belts never occured to me. I've got a pile of them I couldn't bring myself to throw away.

Maybe we could even think of what we do as therapy of sorts. I know that coming home after a hard day and hammering a piece of steel helps me unwind. Sanding also fits the bill for mindless, uh, relaxation.

 

Some people even pay for that.

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1

Edited by Robert Kobayashi

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Perfect is the enemy of done.

 

 

RK

 

That's some Zen stuff if there ever was. Pretty deep!

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Edited by Robert Kobayashi

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Its and interesting subject ,

I am driven towards creating but Not towards perfection .I make a lot of different things ,to a lot of different standards .scratches stay if the client doesn't pay to have them removed .almost all the blade work I do is financially disadvantaged against all the other things I make with metal .My work is always finished to a level I am happy with and it ain't all that shabby!!

The more I see of amazing old pieces the more I think our modern super finely finished blades are a strange phenomenon.

I am driven for sure but towards different goals .

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I tend to agree with Owen,

The finish is a mean to acheive a creative goal.

I have as much admiration for the work seen on "agricultural" blades of south east asia as i have to impecable polished japanese blades. I had shivers down my spine looking at a very badly finish and badly ajusted 15th century sword I saw in France...

I think a lot of people; perhaps because of too much exposure to industrial machine made objects, shy away from the marks of the tools in hand work. For me these marks tell a story of the people that made an object.

For example, we live in a 200 year old house where you can still see the axes marks on the timber of the frame or the plane marks on the planks of the ceiling; to me these are a beautiful finish. Maybe because it makes me see beyond the object, that someone actually tougth this out, made it and left a little bit of himself in my house...

 

In my work, what I find important is the "eveness" of the finish. I made blades to a 1000grit finish, with only 1000grit marks. And I've done blades with an old broken piece of grindstone that was maybe a 60 grit. To me they where as nice, but I spent a lot of time to have all of my 60 grit even, straight and parallell (not as easy as I tought as I made my polish at 45 degree). And then the finish is only a part of an ensemble that forms a nice knife. :)

 

Antoine

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Its and interesting subject ,

I am driven towards creating but Not towards perfection .I make a lot of different things ,to a lot of different standards .scratches stay if the client doesn't pay to have them removed .almost all the blade work I do is financially disadvantaged against all the other things I make with metal .My work is always finished to a level I am happy with and it ain't all that shabby!!

The more I see of amazing old pieces the more I think our modern super finely finished blades are a strange phenomenon.

I am driven for sure but towards different goals .

 

Hear, hear! :)

 

Having handled a lot of 18th-century weaponry and other artifacts, I can say the best way to spot a fake is to find the one with zero tool marks.

 

This does not mean that I'm lazy (although that is a possibility for sure), but rather that I like my work to show a little of the process when it's done.

 

I do have a buffer, but I only use it for jewelry and pipes. If a prospective customer wants a flawless mirror polish I send 'em to Smoky Mountain Knifeworks. :rolleyes:

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Very well put Owen and Antoine, thanks for that insight.

 

Overly developed potty training? :rolleyes:

Steve

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Overly developed potty training? :rolleyes:

Steve

 

 

I am not sure I understand what you are saying.

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I finished out a blade a while back for a good customer who wanted to keep the price down. The idea was to finish it to 400 grit and etch.

When I etched it, it was showing a really neat transition line/hamon, so I kept polishing. Before it was over, it had a 1500 grit hand rubbed finish.

 

Fact is, I couldn't stop. Sometimes the blade wants a fine finish, sometimes it doesn't.

I have one on the bench that looks great with an 'eccentric' 220 grit finish, not sure if I can bare to do any more to it. It just looks right like it is...

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