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Handmade versus Machine made by hand


VernonCooney
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If one did this, would you be able to tell the difference just by looking at it?  Are files OK?  After all, files are made by machines.  Perhaps if you made your own files.  Is using stones OK?  What if they are cut by machines?  How about if I use a welder to build my forge?  What about my anvil?  It was made by machines.

If I told you that I made a piece entirely with hand tools, would you believe me?  Would you pay 10 times more than one made with some power tools?  Is the customer really willing to pay for my process, or is he buying the product of my mind and experience.  Do customers even care?

If I seem a little short, I just spent 3 days behind a table at a knife show.  I've used up my allotment of nice for the month.

 

Geoff

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"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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12 minutes ago, Geoff Keyes said:

I just spent 3 days behind a table at a knife show.  I've used up my allotment of nice for the month.

Bahahaha, hilarious. And to think of it, was this same topic covered in the last couple of weeks? 

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Oh god . . . this thing. If you made the knife with a belt grinder, it's not a "real" knife. If you used a power hammer or a hydraulic press it's not a "real" sword.

People who have spent ZERO time studying this thing we have dedicated a huge portion of our lives to want to give us a lecture on authenticity.  If you want a laugh, you should hear Peter Johnsson (Peter . . . Effing . . . Johnsson) tell stories about people coming to his booth lecturing him on what a "real" sword is. (insert head exploding emoticon here)

I often go to the absurd with this: Well, I wanted this to be a "real" sword, so I could not use electric tools, so I had to use files and stones. But I didn't make my files nor mine my stones myself, so I had to start making files and mining stones, but I couldn't just buy a forge, so I had to make my forge, but I couldn't just buy the coal so I had to mine my coal.  And then I needed ore, so I had to start mining ore.

In the end, I just decided to walk naked into the forest and come out with a completed sword. Because, if I didn't do that . . . then it wasn't a REAL sword.

Was this a rant? It felt like a rant. I'm sorry. This is a rant free zone, right?  Okay, my bad. 

And special apologies to Vernon (the starter of this thread). Dude . . . Sorry. I know you didn't mean to kick a hornet's nest with this very reasonable initial question. It's just a sore spot for a few of us . . . (okay, like most of us).   Welcome to the forum! We're really nice, honest!

Grins,

Dave

 

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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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I think part of the problem is when you watch people using a power hammer or belt grinder it looks easy.  Almost so easy it must be cheating.  Generally the people shown have years of experience.  If you were to put those same tools in the hands of the inexperienced I bet you could make a video entitled "how to hurt yourself, break a machine, or ruin a good blade in 3 seconds"

It really does seem odd that efficiency is looked down on by some.  Maybe smiths should start purposely slipping with their hammers or something of that nature.  Wouldn't that really give it that handmade look?:P

Dave I think if you did go into the woods naked and then came back with a full sword you would automatically become the leader of a cult.  Especially since still being naked and leaving all the tools you made implies the task was so easy that you'd prefer to start over every time.

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56 minutes ago, Dave Stephens said:

(insert head exploding emoticon here)

This emoticon has now been asked for by you and I twice in a week - for different reason, but still needed nonetheless... 

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7 hours ago, VernonCooney said:

If one makes knives without the use of machines how would one differentiate in referring to this method from handmade with the assistance of machines?

Are you looking to market your knives as made entirely without power tools?  I know of only one smith that makes knives entirely without any power, and he does it more because of the artistic pursuit and creative constraint than any desire to tell other people he doesn't use power.  David's work speaks for itself though, and if this is the path you pursue, you must understand that there are constraints that it puts on you, and you must learn to operate within them.  

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“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  -Albert Camus

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15 hours ago, VernonCooney said:

If one makes knives without the use of machines how would one differentiate in referring to this method from handmade with the assistance of machines?

To me, it's not really such a provocative question. There's just not a simple answer.

Tell ten people you make "hand made knives", and each person will probably have a different image in their mind of what that means. At least a few will assume that it means made without "machines"...... whatever a machine is. To some people even a brace and bit is a machine; to some a hand held electric drill is a machine; to some a drill press is a machine; to some only a computer controlled waterjet or EDM is a machine. 

Ask ten knifemakers what "hand made" means and you'll get ten different answers (at least).

Vernon, if you are asking this question in order to define your own work, my answer would be that there are no ready made labels or accepted definitions. So just describe your work and working methods as clearly as you can. And let people know why you work the way you do and why you believe it's meaningful.

Saludos

J

JDWARE KNIVES

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I really just wanted to know if there was a more defined term for not using machines in the direct production of a knife.  In now way am I trying to define knife making as the variety it offers brings out all sorts if skilled people to do any combination of what works for them and is what they like to do. I get it that many people in the public are more fundamentalist thinking but I would hope that knifemakers equally respect each others work and individual skills. In a nutshell to stand up for each other in the public eye.

As a traditiobal bowmaker who does not use machines I am trying to match the same with knives to someday sell them together as kind of a matched pair. 

Thanks and sorry for stirring up bad feelings.

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It's called "knifemaking unplugged",  or s some others define it as "tribal"knifemaking!

 

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You didn't stir up anything, it lies just below the surface, bubbling.  It's a matter of where you draw the line for your own work.  For instance, I really admire the work of Dan Winkler, MS.  A lot of his pieces look like they were made 200 years ago, or more.  But there is a difference between doing crude work because it fits the esthetic that you are looking for; or doing crude work because you don't have the skills or desire to do better work.  In the end it comes down to perception.  Peter Johnsson , mentioned above, makes swords that are better (in my estimation) than the best swords made a 1000 years ago.  In certain circles a very refined piece can appear crude and be valued for that appearance.

I don't where you fall in the range of bow makers, but If I owned a bow intended to look like it came from some past era, I would like the knife to have the same basic feel.  In the Americas, that might mean a trade knife look.  But if the bow and knife were intended to a pair, I would expect that they had a similar look and feel.   Trade knives were often handled in local materials.  However, the local craftsman would have been working with a knife blade that was from a more mechanized culture.  In the American frontier most knife blades were made in factories in Europe.  There were a few American makers, but their output was much smaller and mostly of much higher quality.  Look up the work of Bell, Schively, Searles and Black.

When you say you don't use machines, what tools do you use?  Axe, hatchet, saw?  Made by who?  I assume that you don't use knapped blades for tools (if you do, I really want to know more about that.  That would be very cool.), so you are using tools that are the product of modern manufacturing processes.

My knives are forged (mostly), I use hammers and other hand tools, a propane fire, a shop built mechanical powerhammer and a hydraulic press.  I grind them with a belt grinder, an angle grinder, files and scrapers.  I polish with sand paper and elbow grease.  I cut my handle materials with a band saw, a table saw, I drill them with a drill press.  I do most of the shaping on the belt grinder, but I also use files, chisels, scrapers and other hand tools.  Sometimes I use a milling machine.  I use what I have, what I know, what I can afford, what gives me the finish level I want for my work.  I have made knives in a wood fire, hammered out on a rock, finished by hand scraping on stones.  I don't see why that would be preferable to the pieces made in other ways.  Except as an experiment (which us why we did it), I don't find it very satisfying.

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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Vernon,

I used to make a lot of bows, and I see where you're coming from, but it can be a deep rabbit hole if you overthink it.

As a traditional bowyer, I assume you use rasps and scrapers, axe, drawknife, etc. You might frown upon the use of a bandsaw and a power sander. However, the guy that fells his tree with a stone axe, splits his stave with dogwood wedges, and tillers with flint scrapers might frown upon the use of factory made hand tools. I shoot an osage bow, but it has a dacron string. Perhaps cordage or gut would be more authentic, but I'm not willing to go that far. I can make a serviceable stone point and I can forge a decent bodkin, but my target arrows are store-bought field points. I've got a couple glass bows, custom and factory, but I personally despise compounds.

I've seen guys beat all of the fun out of historic reenactment for the sake of authenticity, knowing full-well that they drove to the event in a car, keep prescription meds and a cell phone in their pack, and would not drink straight out of a river if their life depended on it. Meanwhile, I've known some mighty farby looking guys that had real skills and lifestyles that were much more "authentic".

Primitive, traditional, handmade, handcrafted, authentic... all tricky terms to define.

I'm not arguing or lecturing; I just enjoy the discussion... something I've thought a lot about through the years.

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Hmm.  Perhaps we should define machine?  Some people would say any mechanical tool that uses energy to perform a task is a machine.  In which case, the line people seem to be drawing is about where the energy comes from.  For example, a hand cranked tool, such as a hand drill, is still a machine by most accounts.  Compare that to an electric drill.  The difference is that the energy of a hand drill is provided by the user, where there energy for the electric drill is provided by batteries or the power station.  The smith still pays for the energy, whether paying for food to get the energy in order to turn the crank of a hand drill, or paying the electric bill to charge the batteries.  In both cases I would expect the cost of that energy to be passed on to the consumer... the question is whether you want the price to include several weeks of groceries, or just a few hours of electricity.

It doesn't matter how far back in time you go, smiths have always made machines to offset or reduce the amount of energy they need to expend in order to accomplish a specific task.  This increased their efficiency, and reduced the cost to manufacture goods.  Its no different today.  Electric drills, belt grinders, and power hammers are to the modern smith what hand cranked drills, foot pedaled whetstones and apprentices where to historical blacksmiths, just as punches, various stones and heavier hammers where to the earliest smiths.

I can almost imagine people decrying the use of a foot pedaled whetstone as "cheating" given how much easier it made grinding and sharpening tools compared to the previous methods. :lol:

Save a tree, Eat a Beaver!

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Rough crowd.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

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  • 4 weeks later...

IMHO its hand made unless you use a cnc or computer to produce the desired result then it becomes production... but what about the guys that waterjet and then grind... semi-production... but if u use your brain then its handmade. 

i hand forge all my knives, but i set my welds and draw out my tangs on a power hammer, it takes a different skill set then hand hammering but it still requires you learn a technique not just program a machine. i hand file and use a grinder but i always hand finish. use what you can or what you want (sometimes i only hand hammer in a coal forge and file) and sometimes i use all my tools. i draw the line at the ability to mass produce the same knife again and again so as long as you dont need cad/cam and a cnc to make your knife your good to call it handmade.

Edited by Tucker Parris
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