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All-Wood Sheaths?


Aiden CC

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15 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

(http://ilin-yakutsk.narod.ru/2002-1/56.htm) which seems fairly academic and has a list of sources as well. Definitely leaves some details out that would be helpful to a knifemaker, but it seems like that's often the case in pieces by historians/ethnographers/archaeologists. 

 

I've glanced through this link,yes,that lady,L.N.Zhukova,seems like a sound,responsible academician.

(i'm not sure about all the assumptions being made there,one thing that always makes me kinda start doubting research is when this simplistic period/material linear connection is being made,like in stone/bone-bronze-iron;i think it's an over-simplification,but ne'ermind).

She bases a lot of what she writes on that famous Polish explorer,V.L.Seroszhevsky(Jochelson uses his materials too and should have him in bibliography hopefully in English).

Read him if you can find it,and haven't yet.

 

As far as All these Ethnographers et c.Of course you're right,the strict necessary info is all too often not there...(According to a very solid and responsible Sakha historian and researcher,Vladimir Popov,there's Lots of incorrect data in Seroszhevsky...).

But,a big [art of why (a smart)student of the craft reads all this is to get into the Spirit of it all,if you will...

It's a form of a mental exercise,and i think it's not an accident that you're not averse to reading this(often boring)stuff,and in the same time also are pretty damn good at interpreting these shapes in a rather correct manner...Some of this may be due to "talent",some innate ability you may have,but i think it's largely your Willingness to allow your mind to wrap itself around this stuff...:)

 

Reading Anthropology is great yoga for all this,it limbers up one's mind and eye,opens it to spatial relationships very remote from our everyday reality....

 

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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A pretty decent set of videos on making a one-piece Evenki(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evenks) style knife sheath.

 

(I often avoid siting Russian sources on similar issues as they're too often obnoxiously racist and abusive (and exploitive all in the same time)in regards to the Native people there.

But this is different.The older guy,the master being interviewed is Russian,but he's humble and poor and from the kind of people that themselves have suffered from authorities,as much as the "native" people;themselves they're "indigenous" people in Siberia for last 500+ years,as poor and oppressed as others.

This guy seems like a really nice guy,in explaining he cites Evenki multiple times as having shown him this or that technique,crediting them with this particular design.He obviously spent his whole life there,maybe working at a deer cooperative,or mining,or geology...)

 

Part 1,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evenks  talks about the wood.He shows pretty much everything,the initial saw-cut,and then picking the rest of the groove out with the knife itself.

The only moment the non-speaker may miss is that after carving the recess he squeezes the whole deal tight closing the crack,and holds it together for drying with string wrapped around it.

 

Sheath is made Way loose,and open at bottom,so the snow and trash can all fall /be shaken out. 

 

Part 2,

  is the sequel that tells about making those tin wrapped parts after the wood dries,to hold it in place.

 

(he sites Carnation condensed milk and corned beef hash as the "best":),both incidentally cultural  artefacts from the American Lend-lease program during WWII.He thinks that's where the use of tin dates from.Around then the more intensive geological and topographical exploration of Siberia really intensified).

 

But i think this video,technically,is pretty self-explanatory.

 

A pretty decent set of videos on making a one-piece Evenki(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evenks) style knife sheath.

 

(I often avoid siting Russian sources on similar issues as they're too often obnoxiously racist and abusive (and exploitive all in the same time)in regards to the Native people there.

But this is different.The older guy,the master being interviewed is Russian,but he's humble and poor and from the kind of people that themselves have suffered from authorities,as much as the "native" people;themselves they're "indigenous" people in Siberia for last 500+ years,as poor and oppressed as others.

This guy seems like a really nice guy,in explaining he cites Evenki multiple times as having shown him this or that technique,crediting them with this particular design.He obviously spent his whole life there,maybe working at a deer cooperative,or mining,or geology...)

 

Part 1,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evenks  talks about the wood.He shows pretty much everything,the initial saw-cut,and then picking the rest of the groove out with the knife itself.

The only moment the non-speaker may miss is that after carving the recess he squeezes the whole deal tight closing the crack,and holds it together for drying with string wrapped around it.

 

Sheath is made Way loose,and open at bottom,so the snow and trash can all fall /be shaken out. 

 

Part 2,

  is the sequel that tells about making those tin wrapped parts after the wood dries,to hold it in place.

 

(he sites Carnation condensed milk and corned beef hash as the "best":),both incidentally cultural  artefacts from the American Lend-lease program during WWII.He thinks that's where the use of tin dates from.Around then the more intensive geological and topographical exploration of Siberia really intensified).

 

But i think this video,technically,is pretty self-explanatory.

 

Towards the end there he's "decorating" the metal with an awl.It's a locking mechanism,those indent

 

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1 minute ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Towards the end there he's "decorating" the metal with an awl.It's a locking mechanism,those indent

 

sorry,sent the mssg prematurely-

 

those series of indents serve to hold the metal to the wood.But,of course,these do form traditional decorative patterns.

 

He mentions several times that this is how a guy does it in the taiga,in camp,with whatever basic tools a hunter or a herder has.

(they always do have an awl on them,for gear repair).

 

 

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This is a great thread! I love those tin and wooden sheaths, I am adding those to the "I need to make this one day" list. 

 

 

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I've paid closer attention to this man's videos of late:

 

 

It is the same guy as in videos above,but now he's on his own,without that other odd guy.

 

This man's name is Nikolay Iosifovich(N.I.) Aboimov.He has moved to that part of Siberia(North of Sakha Republic,Verkhoyansk Range,Stanovoy Range,et c) in the late 1960-ies.,and pretty much spent his entire life there,working as a commercial hunter,trapper,deer-herder and guide to geologic and ethnographic expeditions.

Besides being extremely knowledgeable i also am learning to like and respect his attitude towards the Evenki,and other aboriginal people of the area.

He's respectful to a fault,consistently crediting them with concepts/designs/methods et c.,making sure to bring up their own names for objects.Several times in every video he states that he's showing things that were shown to him by Evenki,shared with him freely and in the spirit of benignity and helpfullness.

Whatever his motivation is in making these videos(i've no idea what material gains may be implicit),but i'd not be surprised that there's more than a healthy dose of altruism there,he just wants to share all that he learned and loved about his life on the tundra and taiga).

He cooperates closely with at least one regional ethnographic museum,and all that i've seen so far gives me an idea that he's a very decent,honest,well-meaning man.

So i'm very relieved to've found none of the (too common)propensity to capitalise on the Evenki culture in any sleazy,inappropriate manner,but quite the opposite-he's entirely truthful and informative and therefore trustworthy on these matters.

 

 

Anyway,in that video above he shows a typical knife that an Evenki man would carry and use on the daily basis,the main and often the only tool out in the "field".

 

He points out specifically that the point tends to be a symmetrical cone,for assorted boring.Smaller holes with the very tip,and larger mortises that about everything used in taiga requires. 

(everything from a deer-,or a dog-sled to pack-boards saddles et c.,et c.,is mortised and lashed-strict necessity allowing things to flex to stay in one piece by dissipating forces vs absorbing them).

 

Planing is another function that is very important,having to do with joining the surfaces but also with waterproofing them for longevity,but many mechanical issues as well(like the bottoms of skis).

Planing is often done using the knife as a drawknife,tip held in other hand,bevel down.

And of course like any knife whittling away from you bevel up.

 

 

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5 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

I've paid closer attention to this man's videos of late:

 

It is the same guy as in videos above,but now he's on his own,without that other odd guy.

 

This man's name is Nikolay Iosifovich(N.I.) Aboimov.He has moved to that part of Siberia(North of Sakha Republic,Verkhoyansk Range,Stanovoy Range,et c) in the late 1960-ies.,and pretty much spent his entire life there,working as a commercial hunter,trapper,deer-herder and guide to geologic and ethnographic expeditions.

Besides being extremely knowledgeable i also am learning to like and respect his attitude towards the Evenki,and other aboriginal people of the area.

He's respectful to a fault,consistently crediting them with concepts/designs/methods et c.,making sure to bring up their own names for objects.Several times in every video he states that he's showing things that were shown to him by Evenki,shared with him freely and in the spirit of benignity and helpfullness.

Whatever his motivation is in making these videos(i've no idea what material gains may be implicit),but i'd not be surprised that there's more than a healthy dose of altruism there,he just wants to share all that he learned and loved about his life on the tundra and taiga).

He cooperates closely with at least one regional ethnographic museum,and all that i've seen so far gives me an idea that he's a very decent,honest,well-meaning man.

So i'm very relieved to've found none of the (too common)propensity to capitalise on the Evenki culture in any sleazy,inappropriate manner,but quite the opposite-he's entirely truthful and informative and therefore trustworthy on these matters.

 

 

Anyway,in that video above he shows a typical knife that an Evenki man would carry and use on the daily basis,the main and often the only tool out in the "field".

 

He points out specifically that the point tends to be a symmetrical cone,for assorted boring.Smaller holes with the very tip,and larger mortises that about everything used in taiga requires. 

(everything from a deer-,or a dog-sled to pack-boards saddles et c.,et c.,is mortised and lashed-strict necessity allowing things to flex to stay in one piece by dissipating forces vs absorbing them).

 

Planing is another function that is very important,having to do with joining the surfaces but also with waterproofing them for longevity,but many mechanical issues as well(like the bottoms of skis).

Planing is often done using the knife as a drawknife,tip held in other hand,bevel down.

And of course like any knife whittling away from you bevel up.

 

I might have to add another knife to my schedule! If I understand the video/your description of the uses correctly, these knives are slightly concave on the left side, and slightly convex on the right side? I got turned off of that shape when I was making my first Sakha knives (though the other "handed" version), as the exaggerated convexity on the forge-scale bearing modern versions just doesn't cut very well (at least in my experience with the few knives I made that way).

 

Having the bevel on the right seems to help with boring (at least for a righthander), since you can tilt the knife a bit and twist clockwise to cut chips instead of painfully scraping out dust and possibly chipping the edge. I'll check out a more of his videos too, I watched a bit of the stuff recommended from the sheath videos. I really like these multi-purpose knives and the depth involved in learning all the different ways to use them.

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1 hour ago, Aiden CC said:

If I understand the video/your description of the uses correctly, these knives are slightly concave on the left side, and slightly convex on the right side?

 

Aiden,no...just the opposite...His knife in this video is concave/fullered on the Right side (as you look down at the spine of the knife/knife pointing away from you).

But-Aboimov himself may be a lefty...In the video about making skis he sure uses his axe easily and handily with his left...either that or he's enviably ambidextrous.

 

You're right in that to "drill" with,for a Right-handed guy,would be easier with fuller on the Left(and going clock-wise).

So maybe he's a Lefty(i'll try to find out),or it's a matter of adaptation,getting used to that awkward outward motion with your wrist.

 

He does say that getting used to this knife is half or more of the battle,that it took him quite a bit of time to acquire the necessary automatism...

He also states that the knife in this video is quite old and worn(i too noticed that it's quite narrow closer to handle).

 

 

You also bring up a tricky point here-Hardness...I don't quite know what to say...Cautiously i want to think that their knives in general were on the much softer side if you consider how hard everything is nowadays.

There's even anecdotal evidence that Sakha at times would bend a knife just for a specific task at hand(like scraping a bowl of a given radius).This has not been substantuated to my knowledge.

So the jury is still out on this.

And it also brings us to the question of Bi-metallism...Were their knives laminated?Was that long delicate tip mostly soft iron,with a thin steeling on convex side?

Is that a part of the design,sharpening on the flat/fullered side,just like hollow-ground wood chisel,or some of Japanese cutlery?

(there Is a faction that tries to draw parallels between Sakha shapes and those of Japanese tools...for the most part they seem to be russians set on proving that native people did not,could not have any technologies of their own but must by definition have borrowed them elsewhere.Bad science,that,and most unpleasant bigotry).

 

From the ancient Sakha epic poem,"Olonho",we know that they clearly differentiated between the low-/medium-/and high-carbon content in their steel.The larger knife-like hunter's spear,baty'yah,was often  a composite.They definitely practiced steeling edges on things.

 

Evenki,who live to the North of Sakha,have metalworking traditions of their own.Were those based or derived from those of Sakha i do not know...To the East of all these people(but not unimaginably far)were the Mohe(or Churchen)culture.Sometimes referred to as proto-Koreans,the peak of their culture was around 9th-10th c.c. AD,during which time their metalworking was insanely developed and complex.

So the derivation question in Eastern Siberia(including parts of China,Korea,and Japan south of it) is hugely complex.

 

 

 

Edited by jake pogrebinsky
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16 minutes ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

 

Aiden,no...just the opposite...His knife in this video is concave/fullered on the Right side (as you look down at the spine of the knife/knife pointing away from you).

But-Aboimov himself may be a lefty...In the video about making skis he sure uses his axe easily and handily with his left...either that or he's enviably ambidextrous.

 

You're right in that to "drill" with,for a Right-handed guy,would be easier with fuller on the Left(and going clock-wise).

So maybe he's a Lefty(i'll try to find out),or it's a matter of adaptation,getting used to that awkward outward motion with your wrist.

 

He does say that getting used to this knife is half or more of the battle,that it took him quite a bit of time to acquire the necessary automatism...

He also states that the knife in this video is quite old and worn(i too noticed that it's quite narrow closer to handle).

 

Looking closely at the video again, I can see what you mean. I think he is left handed, he says something about it in the video below around 1:20, though through the translation I'm not sure if the knife is meant for a right or left handed person. I'll also look around for more sources on these knives, like all of this stuff, definitive information seems hard to find. A quick google image search turns up mostly knives with grooves on the right with a few exceptions, though most of them are modern replicas which are often unreliable. Looks like it's time for more research.

 

 

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Aiden,he starts out by saying that among all those knives on the table only one is Evenki-the one he picks up.

 

Then he says that for the Right-handed person the fuller is on the Right(just like the other video above).

He himself is a Lefty,but before he figured it out he just got used to using Right-handed knife... 

 

Another reason they're on the narrow side is for taking game meat apart at the joint.It is taboo for Evenki to use an axe on meat,and all joints get taken apart using a knife.

 

That much longer knife at about 7:40 is for fleshing hides.

 

Later he talks for the necessity of a knife to have the point drop somewhat.That is for doing the tails on fur-bearers,and for gutting.

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52 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

 I'll also look around for more sources on these knives, like all of this stuff, definitive information seems hard to find.

 

Yes,and please let me know if i can help any with translation(Russian is the only language i have other than English,but i'm a fluent speaker).

 

P.S.

Another characteristic he points out is that Evenki make their knives somewhat thicker than other people around,that too pertains to taking joints apart.

 

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13 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Aiden,he starts out by saying that among all those knives on the table only one is Evenki-the one he picks up.

 

Then he says that for the Right-handed person the fuller is on the Right(just like the other video above).

He himself is a Lefty,but before he figured it out he just got used to using Right-handed knife... 

 

Another reason they're on the narrow side is for taking game meat apart at the joint.It is taboo for Evenki to use an axe on meat,and all joints get taken apart using a knife.

 

That much longer knife at about 7:40 is for fleshing hides.

 

Later he talks for the necessity of a knife to have the point drop somewhat.That is for doing the tails on fur-bearers,and for gutting.

That makes sense, most of the knives in the first shot look like modern-ish hunting knives. That's an interesting point about not using axes for breaking down game. I guess meat processing could be one reason to have the bevel on the left instead of the right, as in a cut most of the pressure is on the beveled side with the flat side touching the work more gently. Not sure how applicable it is to Evenki butchering, as the insight comes from (my limited understanding of) Japanese deba and yanagi-ba use where the bevel goes against the "sturdy" side (the carcass for a deba or the bigger side of the block of fish for a yanagi-ba)  and the concave side goes against the piece you want to treat gently (either the flesh of the fish or the small piece of sushi you are shaving off). It seems like a similar principle applies when making stroganina where the bevel goes against he bulk of the frozen fish and a thin "chip" curls off of the flat side, and I could imagine something similar with taking meat off of bones.

 

I was looking back at a video I found last December, and I think I actually may have made one of these knives already, though since I was thinking of it more in the context of Sakha knives, the blade is a little wider and thinner, with a more asymmetric tip:

 

IMG_8314.JPGIMG_8315.JPG

 

13 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

 

Yes,and please let me know if i can help any with translation(Russian is the only language i have other than English,but i'm a fluent speaker).

 

P.S.

Another characteristic he points out is that Evenki make their knives somewhat thicker than other people around,that too pertains to taking joints apart.

 

Thank you very much, I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I'll definitely let you know about any interesting sources I find. Google translate can get fairly far for text and I know a handful of native Slovak speakers who can understand spoken Russian fairly well and have helped me with videos/pictures of Russian text, but current events mean I am a long way away from them.

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14 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

I was looking back at a video I found last December, and I think I actually may have made one of these knives already, though since I was thinking of it more in the context of Sakha knives, the blade is a little wider and thinner, with a more asymmetric tip:

 

It's an interesting video.Knife he talks about around 5:10 is something he says was forged(circular saw blade)by a well-known Evenki smith.Curiously,the sheath is strictly from Sakha tradition-a seamless cow tail.Sakha uniquely for the area are the stockmen,the only cattle herders there.So it's an interesting blend of both traditions.

That little steel attached to that knife this man praises highly(it's a piece of hardened steel).He says:"Never sharpen this,only planish it with this steel".He uses a funny made-up word  that'd translate as "shavy" as applied to his knives that take a very keen edge,and this is the one he particularly points out that is like that.

 

I think you've done a terrific job interpreting that shape,Aiden,good for you,man.That's a beautiful knife,and i'd bet some serious experienced user would totally appreciate it's qualities.

 

I think all this benefits you as a knifemaker Tremendously.No matter what kind of a knife you may be working on in the future,this here is an exercise in the "language" of knife-making,of "knife-thinking",and is extremely beneficial to you as a craftsman.

 

Thanks for your thoughts on Japanese knives,interesting,and makes a lot of sense.

And you're very right about Stroganina.S. is a kind of a cult with many older people there.The sequence,the sides of fish,and certainly the nature of the cuts themselves are very important to them.

I've seen a video a while back of an old Sakha man explaining some of this,and you could tell that there was a lot more there as well.

 

And shouldn't be any problem,don't hesitate to holler if translation will be an obstacle in your research.

As you say,these "current events" have changed the game for many of us,and we might as well make the best use of this as we can...and there's Lots of very cool things that we Can do with it!:)  

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On 4/6/2020 at 1:09 AM, jake pogrebinsky said:

The larger knife-like hunter's spear,baty'yah,was often  a composite


 

Hi Jake

 

Sorry for the hijack but I seem to be struggling with finding information on these spears. Do you perhaps have any more information or links about these?

 

Thanks,

CdP

 

PS, I did find the bit on bushcraftusa you posted (https://bushcraftusa.com/forum/threads/yakut-knives-useful-for-bushcraft.273546/).

 

Edited by Charles dP
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Charles,hi.

Good question(-s),that,i'm not sure that i know really too much about all that...

 

I think the latest ,coming from an authoritative Sakha gentleman Mandar Uus(author of that book on Sakha knives with brown background/pencil-drawn illustrations),is that there are 27 types of Sakha knives that he differentiates.

The largest/longest of those is called "budy'yih",it probably was close to a foot in length.

That's a leuku-type tool that still has a knife-like tang.

After these,in size, come the three general types of Spears.

They're different in that their tang is shaped like that of nihonto,a wide long fairly massive one,and they're mounted in the haft in this very specific manner.

 

So these three spear types,from smaller on up,are called "hotokon","baty'yah",and "batas".

 

Here's some of Aleksey's photos of his experimenting with forging the smallest one,Hotokon:

 

Concave/the fuller side:

hotokon2.jpg

 

Convex side:

hotokon1.jpg

 

And the spine.Note that "step" right above the tang.That is an important integral bolster-like device,present on the two smaller types if not on all three.It was pretty beefy and structural,but also that's where much of decorating took place(very typical there'd be three stripes incised or inlaid in there symbolic of the three souls that each hunter has):

 

hotokon3.jpg

 

The spine is pretty darn thick,even for this modest sized hotokon.

 

Baty'yah,a size larger,could have spine as thick as 1/2"  sometimes....

 

 

 

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Thanks Jake. I guess that explains the short stout hafts.

"The way we win matters" (Ender Wiggins) Orson Scott Card

 

Nos qui libertate donati nescimus quid constat

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1 hour ago, Charles dP said:

Thanks Jake. I guess that explains the short stout hafts.

 

Charles,if there's anything i can help with,i'd be only too happy...But,other than translation,i'm about wuthless:)

(do feel free to ask if you think you found something cool but in russian,as much of this info is).

 

Hafts varied Wildly,length-wise.From knife-handle length to 7'+ on larger Bataas jobs(which were rather Naginata-like) 

 

That photo below(V.Popov's photo from Irkutsk Ethnography museum) from top down:

 

1.Some stray Russian/European knife with locally ornamented sheath.

2.Baty'yah

3.Hotokon

4,Bataas

5.Spear(typical for Sakha design,btw)

 

V.Popov.jpg

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Baty'yah and bataas(V.Popov's files):

 

V.P.1.jpg

 

A close-up of integral bolster detail:

 

b.6.jpg

 

Nicely finished baty'yah:

 

b..jpg

 

That last photo has a rare feature,a seemingly-preserved original mounting system.

It's more often to see those when they're trashed or improvised :

 

b.4.jpg

 

To illustrate the technology i'll use photos of my own(pathetic)attempt to bootleg a baty'yah several years back:

 

JP.jpg

 

A recess is cut into the haft leaving one side open.Then a bone segment is fitted to make up for forth side.It goes on the Edge side of the haft.

JP1.jpg

 

JP2.jpg

 

I did my usual bush-ghetto thing and seized it on with nylon fishing twine(tuna leader we call it here)but the originals were made in a complex,and ritually-prescribed manner.

It involved very even thin strips of birch-bark wound in layers in opposite direction to each other,fish glue,and sometimes laminations of other materials(bone,ivory,et c).So pretty much the composite bow technology.

On the outside a rawhide covering enclosed and waterproofed the entire system,giving it the appearance of what often passes for that silly contrived "primitive" look...(there wasn't much stinking "primitive" about anything in Sakha material culture),it's so often a misunderstanding based on lack of information.

(anyway,i had fun trying to ape that complex tool,failed pretty much entirely,and moved on to other projects like Bandar-log that i am...photo of my buddy Mike whom i tricked into doing the testing for me)

 

JP5.jpg 

 

 

Lastly,a bit of an idea of an actual section of baty'yah.The concave side:

 

b.5.jpg 

 

And the convex:

 

b.7.jpg

 

That makes the idea that Sakha knives only got to be concave  recently kind of odd...As these here things go way back...

(and some other stuff...like a T-section witch-woman's knife,concave on both sides...are also odd...but those i really know nothing about above and beyond that description)

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On 4/6/2020 at 10:26 AM, jake pogrebinsky said:

I think you've done a terrific job interpreting that shape,Aiden,good for you,man.That's a beautiful knife,and i'd bet some serious experienced user would totally appreciate it's qualities.

 

I think all this benefits you as a knifemaker Tremendously.No matter what kind of a knife you may be working on in the future,this here is an exercise in the "language" of knife-making,of "knife-thinking",and is extremely beneficial to you as a craftsman.

Thanks! I've definitely found that studying these knives has gotten me to do a lot of thinking about the design choices that go into making a practical knife (as well as how to go about doing internet research on an obscure topic in a language I don't speak).

 

On 4/6/2020 at 10:26 AM, jake pogrebinsky said:

Thanks for your thoughts on Japanese knives,interesting,and makes a lot of sense.

And you're very right about Stroganina.S. is a kind of a cult with many older people there.The sequence,the sides of fish,and certainly the nature of the cuts themselves are very important to them.

I've seen a video a while back of an old Sakha man explaining some of this,and you could tell that there was a lot more there as well.

On the topic of fish processing, I found the video below that shows a large rigid knife (with a hotokon-like profile, but much thinner) being used to break down a pike in a way fairly similar to how you might use a deba (though in reverse because the bevel is on the opposite side). It's hard to tell in the video, but it seems the knife might also be slightly concave on the right side?

 

 

I also found an interesting video where Nikolay shows the drilling and planing processes, interestingly enough he turns the knife clockwise, but with his left hand (which to me seems like the worst of both worlds, but he clearly knows what he is doing), it's possibly that with a relatively low bevel angle the direction of the turning is not so critical. My experiment was with a Komi style knife with has a somewhat stouter edge (and mine was on the thin and wide side compared to some originals), which could help to explain why those knives have the flat on the left. Watching the planing, I can see how he might have cut his knee a lot when he was learning, which he mentioned in one of the videos you posted.

 

I also found a video with lots of close shots of the narrow Evenki style knife he uses for the drilling, and he talks for a bit about the heat treating as well (though the specialized words don't translate well). I'm beginning to really like the lines on that knife, and might make something based off of it soon, the main detail I'm still fuzzy on is the size/method for the groove. It looks sort of like the filed-in ones on Sakha knives, but maybe a little wider and shallower. I think the one in the video where he is reading outside was made with a grinder, but I'm not sure about this on. He has a few longer videos about Sakha/Evenki knives I'll probably dive into later as well.

 

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3 hours ago, Aiden CC said:

On the topic of fish processing, I found the video below that shows a large rigid knife (with a hotokon-like profile, but much thinner) being used to break down a pike in a way fairly similar to how you might use a deba (though in reverse because the bevel is on the opposite side). It's hard to tell in the video, but it seems the knife might also be slightly concave on the right side?

Ok,just watched that first video.

Not sure about his fish-cutting;i'm entirely unfamiliar with Japanese ways,but for around here that'd be pretty unskilled  cutting(cuts themselves are quite different here too,but of course these are some serious fish-eating injuns,it's the main staple here).

 

He says that he got the knife from Evenki man(for a bottle,as he states with satisfaction:(,as he points out just how much work went into the sheath.....).But had to re-grind it himself.

I kept looking for convexity on the right side,but i don't think i see it...The left is where he shaped that single bevel

He also talks of the right side being "flat",or "straight"...So i think i'm leaning towards it being a store-bought blade(it's got that peculiarly high-gloss finish),originally symmetrical,handled and sold by Evenki.

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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Yes,second video is cool.

Nikolai is cool.He don't say too much,but everything he does say is pretty much to the point.

Now the third video:

He says in the beginning that the knife is typical for Evenki it being on the thicker side(though not as thick as is more usual).

Knife is made out of an old file,but hasn't been forged,just reduced by whatever means.

Apparently,whoever ground it out of a file controlled it well enough(or thought he did),to temper it down from original file hardness.

But Mikolai has tempered it down yet softer,he likes for his knife to take an edge quickly once he stops to resharpen.

His requirement seems to be able to sharpen the knife on whatever rock happens to be in the vicinity.

 

Then he talks about Evenki being able to make a knife out in the field out of Anything.Valves/scythes/files et c.,et c.,way out on the tundra out of a broken trap spring.

They anneal the steel and shape the knife by forging and finish with a file.Quenching is done by making a wooden trough and filling it with soap,fat,or melted parrafin from candles.

When in the village they use gear lube(70-90 w),occasionally floated on top of water.

At the very end he mentions how uneven heating warps the blade at times,and it shatters at attempts to straighten as quenched or after tempering...

On the table with the knives is an old classic of the soviet era,a mechanical hack-saw blade.Those are still sold among knifemakers there,and are a popular material.He views it as good stuff but on the thin side.

 

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God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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27 minutes ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Ok,just watched that first video.

Not sure about his fish-cutting;i'm entirely unfamiliar with Japanese ways,but for around here that'd be pretty unskilled  cutting(cuts themselves are quite different here too,but of course these are some serious fish-eating injuns,it's the main staple here).

I guess the main similarity I noticed was the use of a wide, stiff, single beveled knife rather than a narrower flexible one and keeping the beveled side towards the bones with the flat side towards the flesh. I'm definitely not a good judge of fish cutting; being from Colorado, I've pretty much just caught trout and I usually just clean and cook those whole. I recently have been trying to learn how to fillet medium size fish (whole fish like red snapper has been up to half off at grocery stores now that restaurants aren't buying as much of them and Spanish mackerel has always been fairly cheap/tasty), but am still not at all skillful (ragged fillets and lots of fish soup).

 

1 hour ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

He says that he got the knife from Evenki man(for a bottle,as he states with satisfaction:(,as he points out just how much work went into the sheath.....).But had to re-grind it himself.

I kept looking for convexity on the right side,but i don't think i see it...The left is where he shaped that single bevel

He also talks of the right side being "flat",or "straight"...So i think i'm leaning towards it being a store-bought blade(it's got that peculiarly high-gloss finish),originally symmetrical,handled and sold by Evenki.

Unfortunate that the video doesn't seem to be as respectful of the culture as a lot of the others from the channel. My ideal that it was convex cam from the look of sharpening at the bottom edge, but re-watching it, it seems likely that this is just wear from putting the flat face on a stone. I could see the knife being re-ground, the two small fullers are interesting too.

 

53 minutes ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Yes,second video is cool.

Nikolai is cool.He don't say too much,but everything he does say is pretty much to the point.

Now the third video:

He says in the beginning that the knife is typical for Evenki it being on the thicker side(though not as thick as is more usual).

Knife is made out of an old file,but hasn't been forged,just reduced by whatever means.

Apparently,whoever ground it out of a file controlled it well enough(or thought he did),to temper it down from original file hardness.

But Mikolai has tempered it down yet softer,he likes for his knife to take an edge quickly once he stops to resharpen.

His requirement seems to be able to sharpen the knife on whatever rock happens to be in the vicinity.

 

Then he talks about Evenki being able to make a knife out in the field out of Anything.Valves/scythes/files et c.,et c.,way out on the tundra out of a broken trap spring.

They anneal the steel and shape the knife by forging and finish with a file.Quenching is done by making a wooden trough and filling it with soap,fat,or melted parrafin from candles.

When in the village they use gear lube(70-90 w),occasionally floated on top of water.

At the very end he mentions how uneven heating warps the blade at times,and it shatters at attempts to straighten as quenched or after tempering...

On the table with the knives is an old classic of the soviet era,a mechanical hack-saw blade.Those are still sold among knifemakers there,and are a popular material.He views it as good stuff but on the thin side.

 

The "field serviceability"  hardness requirement makes sense . Given the amount of surface on that knife that needs to tough a stone it would also be a real pain to sharpen past a big chip if it was very hard. I think I saw a video of a blacksmith in Siberia quenching a big knife in a wooden trough, I'll try and track it down at some point. There's something very cool about being able to do something as involved as making a knife with such minimal tools (tying back in with the idea of non-sedentary metalworking from way earlier in this thread). I have a stack of old springs I've been making these knives out of along with a few old files, which I'll probably continue to use. Since the knife was all stock removal, the groove must have been ground or scraped in. It looks wider and shallower than what you would get from a round file anyways. I'll do some experimenting with an angle grinder/contact wheel/maybe a spacer.

 

One of the design choices I've been struggling with is how much to apply the fit and finish I would normally aim for on knives to pieces inspired by originals that were meant to be practical rather than pretty, especially when an original wasn't made by a specialized knife-maker. My approach has been to use the time and tools I have to aim for a tight fit and homogeneous finish, but sometimes it seems like aspects of the fit/finish are a part of the design/ Some examples are the as-forged non-flush shoulders on many old Scandinavian knives or a bit of the reverse case with the concave side of Sakha knives where many modern ones leave forge scale while older originals usually have a clean surface.

 

There are also always exceptions; at first it seemed like leaving forge scale on Sami/Scandinavian knives was a modern trend to make them look "rustic", but as I found more information and pictures on old knives, many of them (especially leukus) were ground enough to be flat, leaving in the deepest pits of forging, and there are lots of simple old Finnish knives with forge scale on the flats/spine (though modern versions usually clean up the whole profile, only leaving scale on the flats). With antiques, it can also be difficult to tell forge scale from pitting due to age and it seems like a lot of the time archaeologists don't think too closely about the exact abrasive process used to finish a metal artifact (at least from my past attempts to learn about historic finishing techniques).  

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48 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

One of the design choices I've been struggling with is how much to apply the fit and finish I would normally aim for on knives to pieces inspired by originals that were meant to be practical rather than pretty, especially when an original wasn't made by a specialized knife-maker. My approach has been to use the time and tools I have to aim for a tight fit and homogeneous finish, but sometimes it seems like aspects of the fit/finish are a part of the design/ Some examples are the as-forged non-flush shoulders on many old Scandinavian knives or a bit of the reverse case with the concave side of Sakha knives where many modern ones leave forge scale while older originals usually have a clean surface.

 

Aiden,that's one of them million-dollar questions!:)

 

It's probably the most difficult balance to strike.

You're a modern maker,working in a tradition of very accurate geometric lines,nearly-perfect surfaces,very machine-work degree of precision and fit.

I think that it's a very good thing,and only being technically better,more advanced than say Evenki in this case,can you then adjust "down",so to speak.Never the other way around-afterall,you must wrap your mind around any technique you wish to practice,be able to envision what it was like for the original maker,and the best way of doing that is being more Broadly experienced.

 

So with your knowledge of and access to modern equipment you can do that,you can get there.

 

But making knives is an Art,it is a language whereby you communicate to someone else,a system of symbols if you will.That involves even more of your potential capacities,very complex interplay of intuition and vision and spatial relationships.

 

I think you're Very good at mensuration and precision of craft,and you're Very good at reading and re-interpreting these complex shapes.

You're smart-all the cultural background is not lost on you.You're young,your mind is flexible,and you're keeping it open,too!:)

 

I think you have All the potential that one can possibly desire to get Any place you'd set your mind on!These knives are probably just one of the stepping stones,but i think you're progressing excellently along with them!

 

So good,in fact,that you've led me into temptation...I actually needed to make something like this for a few years now,a close friend asked me for a Sakha-like knife...So today i embarked on forging some hybrid between several of these we've been discussing.

I won't clutter this thread for us,Alan wisely pinned it so it be a repository for all we manage to dig up collectively,i'll stick it elsewhere and maybe throw a link in here later(as we should link your "Northern knives" thread to here.)

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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Ok,Aiden,a few more loose thought on this very important issue-just How far we go in finishing these?And in what direction(-s)?!

 

Something i forgot to mention about that fish-cutting video:When the guy shows off his sheath,he deliberately points out the Elaborate manner in which it was made.He marvels about how closely/evenly those prick-marks are made(and awl or knife-point).Those we know from Aboimov to be a part of the locking mechanism that keeps the metal parts adhering to wood.

He also admires those C-shapes burned into the exposed parts of wooden sheaf,and you can see how about them too the maker wasn't lazy-they're stacked very close together.

Those Nikolay mentions specifically in one of his videos.He tells how a guy would make up 2-3 little bent-wire pokers,and sitting by the fire at end of the day would have them all heating up and using them in turn to burn in those decorative marks.

 

All that helps us to see the Whole picture,how they were working in general,what were their requirements,circumstances,et c.

 

We know that a knife is really kinda inseparable from it's sheath,right?Look at puukot,leuku(what's pl. for leuku?:)...they all have their very distinct,characteristic sheaths,complete with style,decoration,material et c.

 

So if a knife+it's sheath make an equation(and i argue they do),then the sheath must be then telling us enough about the degree of knife finish.

They Must be balanced,and probably by intuition,and "artistic" vision,we must try to achieve that balance...

 

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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18 hours ago, Aiden CC said:

it seems like a lot of the time archaeologists don't think too closely about the exact abrasive process used to finish a metal artifact

 

In general, we don't.  It takes time and money to do the testing (often just optical microscopy, sometimes SEM), and even then IF the original surface is present (which it almost never is, especially on museum pieces that have been cleaned by the Victorians, bless their chemical-loving hearts), all we can tell is what the very last process was.  Take Japanese blades, for example.  Everyone puts a lot of weight on going from sen to rough stones, on up the grits until you're polishing with a drop of rust-infused clove oil on your fingertip for the final mirror polish.  However, you can replicate the look by power grinding up into the micron-level belts (if you're good!) and then just doing the finger stones and oil for the final polish.  Saves a few days labor, and the end result is indistinguishable provided the skill is there, i.e. no low-grit scratches and so on.  Those of us who are interested know how to use various leathers and natural abrasives, but since the end result is the same as using modern methods for most things it doesn't matter unless you're just in it for the purity.  But a buff of walrus neck hide leather charged with natural emery powder from Chios in hide glue produces pretty much the same finish as a hard felt wheel with cut-and-color compound on steel.

 

Keep up the good work!  I suspect this is the only thread of its type in the English-speaking world that goes into such depth of detail.  

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Another insight into how the finish Was,or would look "best" in our execution,is of course our interpreting the technique of manufacture.

How WAS it made?What characteristic finish did the process impart?....

(an EXCELLENT post by Alan as i'm writing this...Great stuff!!!).

 

I once met this madman(literally),and this one emphatic statement from him i'll never forget.He said several times,describing his approach to building :"High-tech principle/Low-tech application".

 

I think it can be applied in a general sense to many ancient working methods.Alan says it all best,i'll just add that what really impressed me once and made me think was when the Chinese analysed those two ritual axes they have in one of the museums that are made of Carborundum.

How do you polish Corund,which is #9 on that scale of hardness where 1 is chalk and 10 diamond?Right,only using diamond.

And sure nuff,microscopy reveals scratches made by crushed diamond(probably just per Alan's description,on a piece of oil-impregnated leather,walrus or not i'm not sure they can tell:).

 

So,it is known from archaeology done by J.Giddings for example(on ancient Inuit culture in Western Alaska,Pt.Hope et c.,some sites dating back as far as 5500 years i believe),that those guys were really into their microblades.

So much so,apparently,that the flakes and fragments constiture a significant component of the very beaches they inhabited.

 

A Very high-tech principle,that,to make an engraving burin out of very soft matrix tipped with something very hard...

 

From all this we may safely assume that technical limitations were Not the factor in design or execution,that all those guys were capable of just about Anything...They were guided in their design by utility principles of many kinds,but Not a lack of technologies.

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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