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Northern Knives WIP


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After asking about all-wooden sheathes in the thread below, I fell down a rabbit hole researching different knives from the far North. I have a few projects started in that vein, and I'll add any new ones here as I start them. 

 

The first one is a 20 cm leuku I just glued a handle on. Now that I have that small axe I made in December, I find that there isn't a niche for my 25cm leuku anymore (not as good at chopping as an axe, and the weight/edge geometry aren't great for fine work). This one is meant to be a bit lighter with a keener edge so it can actually carve.

 

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I've had trouble peining the tangs on big knives like this, so I scarf-welded on a piece of mild steel, which also seems to be a practice on a variety of historic knives. The handle junction is still 80CRV2, so it should be plenty strong. You can kind of see the weld line in the second photo, about 1/3 of the way from the shoulders to the end of the tang. Just from how different it felt to grind the two steels, I think it will make peining a lot easier.

 

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I typically find it easier to grind the belvels on these after HT. The low scandi grind on a piece of thin steel is surprisingly challenging. I also burned in the tang right before hardening, which saved a lot of time. This is going to be a wedged handle, so burnt up wood on the blade side will just get scraped out. I also plan on using a steel rivet plate, as a decent number of originals seem to have one. The handle is a piece of birch root burl I collected myself. 

 

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I really like wedged handles, and the technique seems to be used in knives both from Scandinavia and Siberia. I carved these wedges out of a piece of pine and also used epoxy to make sure nothing moves around when I rivet the tang. You can see of the burn-in naturally makes a nice shape for a wedge to fill. For this fit I drilled a single 3/16" hole and did all the rest with the burn in. To make room for the wedges, I just filed the opening until I felt solid wood.

 

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I also forged these two blades inspired by the knives made and used by Komi people. There is more about this type of knife in the thread I linked to at the top of this post. These knives are used for both cutting and boring, so they have very slender blades. They are also asymmetric, with the left side often either having a much higher bevel than the right, or being completely flat. 

 

I hope to have more progress on these, and maybe a few more started, soon. Thanks for looking! 

Edited by Aiden CC
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Made a bit of progress on these. 
 

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The having a mild steel tang made a huge difference in the ease of riveting. The blade never slipped in the vice, the rivet  didn’t crack, and it took about 1/4 of the time. Definitely worth the little bit of extra effort to forge weld it on. 
 

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Got these ground and filed in the shoulders. This is definitely a unique geometry. I may test out how they are at drilling by using them to make their sheaths/the one for the leuku. 

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Got the two little ones hardened today and did some forging on my last day before online classes start up.

 

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Two Sakha style knives. The big one will be hollow ground on one side and flat on the other (like Japanese single bevel knives, but with the opposite handedness), the little one is curved so I can file in a fuller before I straighten it and chisel/file in the other ornamentation. 

 

I'm realizing this is a lot of knives to have going at once, but honestly I'm a bit scattered at the moment. Plus, I'm going to need a lot to work on to fill the extra time for the next few months.

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Great to see that bent one,and to hear you're planning on ornamenting it as well,good idea.

46 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

I'm realizing this is a lot of knives to have going at once, but honestly I'm a bit scattered at the moment. Plus, I'm going to need a lot to work on to fill the extra time for the next few months.

 

Sometimes it's great to have several projects going at once,it gives them that Space in between that often helps to focus one's perspective on each.

 

An abstract question:Have you ever considered combining business with pleasure and see if there's a professor around who'd let you qualify your study of some of these knives as anthropology credits?:) 

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16 hours ago, jake cleland said:

ok, that fullering trick is genius...

Yeah +1 to that.

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21 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

An abstract question:Have you ever considered combining business with pleasure and see if there's a professor around who'd let you qualify your study of some of these knives as anthropology credits?:) 

I've thought about doing something like that. I've done an one and a half independent studies on heat treating and metallography, and also got a bit of credit and reimbursement for materials for making punches and drifts so it's definitely within the realm of possibility. It is notoriously hard to get any kind of humanities credits for an independent study at my school because they are a graduation requirement, but I could probably get 1/2 a class or so of typeless credits. 

 

17 hours ago, jake cleland said:

ok, that fullering trick is genius...

1 hour ago, Joshua States said:

Yeah +1 to that.

It's a little tricky at first (filing the groove to a uniform depth is deceptively difficult), but it gives very clean results. It seems like it has been used for at least 100 years to make this kind of fuller, possibly longer.

 

Made a bit of progress on the Leuku:

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Here it is after 120 grit plumber's tape. I may have positioned the tang poorly in this block and sanded off all of the interesting part, but I guess I'll see once I get it to a higher grit.

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That's a handsome handle,the shape and the material too...Way cool,in all respects,i think you're doing a great job interpreting those beautiful traditional forms.Special congrats on harvesting and processing your own materials too.

 

16 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

I've thought about doing something like that. I've done an one and a half independent studies on heat treating and metallography, and also got a bit of credit and reimbursement for materials for making punches and drifts so it's definitely within the realm of possibility. It is notoriously hard to get any kind of humanities credits for an independent study at my school because they are a graduation requirement, but I could probably get 1/2 a class or so of typeless credits. 

 

 

Right on.

I'm not of the academia whatsoever,and know nothing of the practical ins and outs of it.But i have a few friends who function very intensely in the Arctic Studies program,https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/anthropology/programs/arctic-studies-center

I don't know if your school may have any connections to that,but i'd certainly look in that direction....

There're some Outstanding people involved in this program,from a huge number and range of schools...(it's actually who we have to thank for much of the info for all this to begin with).I'd not be at all surprised if they'd be interested in the direction you're taking with this,and possibly willing to help...

This enforced hiatus with the virus et c. may turn out to be a blessing in disguise in some unexpected ways...:) 

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On 3/23/2020 at 11:36 AM, jake pogrebinsky said:

I'm not of the academia whatsoever,and know nothing of the practical ins and outs of it.But i have a few friends who function very intensely in the Arctic Studies program,https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/anthropology/programs/arctic-studies-center

I don't know if your school may have any connections to that,but i'd certainly look in that direction....

There're some Outstanding people involved in this program,from a huge number and range of schools...(it's actually who we have to thank for much of the info for all this to begin with).I'd not be at all surprised if they'd be interested in the direction you're taking with this,and possibly willing to help...

This enforced hiatus with the virus et c. may turn out to be a blessing in disguise in some unexpected ways...:) 

I'll have to look into that! In the past I've done research when I wasn't able to work on knives, but now I might be able to do both.

 

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I finished the leuku and it has been soaking up tones of linseed oil. I'll take better pictures at some point, but with so many knives in the works, I'll wait until a few more are done. I've tried it out a little bit, and the geometry is definitely an improvement over the last one. 

 

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The fullering on the short Sakha knife and the pre-ht grind on the other. The forge-finish fuller that a lot of modern versions of these knives have seem to be somewhat a-historic, with old originals being either flat or hollow ground on the right side. In this case, the left side is flat ground and will have a secondary bevel with the right side being ground on an 8" wheel.

 

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The shorter one after being straightened and having the second groove chiseled in. Both the fuller and the groove need to be deeper that you would think they should because they were done onto an as-forged surface. It's tempting to grind the surface clean after bending, but if you do that it will be crowned when you straighten it (ask me how I know <_<). The geometry of the chisel is also important; if the included angle is too high, you end up with a groove that is too shallow and gets ground out. If it's too low the groove won't get wide enough and the chisel will dull faster. A generous radius is also important so you can "walk" the cut up the blade. The plan is to grind this one then do some file work on the spine and go to heat treat.

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Looking good. B)

 

I also agree that the bend-and-file fullering method you show looks brilliant.

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Aiden,in case it may come in handy with HT of all those asymmetric blades,here's a pretty cool video by Aleksey:

 

 

To avoid warpage with the more radical of asymmetric designs he uses a simple press.

He hold the forging in the quenchant for 10 seconds,trying to hit the zone illustrated on 3:43

(all other info is there,typed(all in deg.C),the pressure with which he clams the jig is not excessive he notes).

 

It's a fairly standard industrial process,utilising that zone where quenched steel remains fairly elastic,used in manufacture of circular saw blade and other parts where the lack of any warp is critical.

 

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3 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Aiden,in case it may come in handy with HT of all those asymmetric blades,here's a pretty cool video by Aleksey:

 

 

To avoid warpage with the more radical of asymmetric designs he uses a simple press.

He hold the forging in the quenchant for 10 seconds,trying to hit the zone illustrated on 3:43

(all other info is there,typed(all in deg.C),the pressure with which he clams the jig is not excessive he notes).

 

It's a fairly standard industrial process,utilising that zone where quenched steel remains fairly elastic,used in manufacture of circular saw blade and other parts where the lack of any warp is critical.

 

I’ve definitely experienced the warping with asymmetrical blades. My approach has been to use two 2x4s and a heavy weight during cooling/straightening during tempering. On some of his recent work it seems like Alexey has been doing edge quenches in addition to/instead of tempering the spine, which I do know for this kind of knife, as least with steels where it will work.

 

I ended up grinding a slight corkscrew into the big Sakha knife, but I think I can grind/bend it out with some care, hopefully some time tomorrow afternoon. This type of knife is very challenging to grind!

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Finally got around to finish grinding those three yesterday. The hollow on the big Sakha one was tricky. Now the blades just need some hand work. I also forged a handful of puukkos today. The “copies of copies” phenomena also happens with these knives (though many modern adaptations are beautiful and functional in their own right), I’m trying to base these on examples from the Finnish national museum. Forging so many asymmetric knives admittedly has me a bit out of wack! I can usually crank out puukkos, but I’m not really happy with the forging on these ones (they came out too wide and the bevels aren’t very crisp). Should come out in grinding, but I’ll probably forge a few more to get back into the swing of it. 

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Great job,Aiden,right on.

I also think it's entirely worthwhile to skip as many of the uncertain intermediate imitators between the originals(?...pre-Idustrial?),and the present.

Might as well go as close to the source of the design as one can.

Looking good on all these knives.

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Got the Sakha knife and one Komi knife rough polished ready for handle fit-up.

 

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Pretty labor intensive to polish the hollow side! It took twice as much sand paper as the flat side. You can see the relatively small depth of the hollow. It's enough to make sharpening easy, but not nearly as much as on a lot of modern versions.

 

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I decided to test out the boring capabilities of one of the Komi knives. I think if the knife was dedicated to this it would make sense for it to be narrower and thicker, since I could imagine damaging the edge on this one if you didn't do it right. It would probably be somewhat easier in green wood. For a more versatile cut-and-drill blade, I would say it works reasonably well.

 

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I think you're doing an Excellent job re-interpreting,synthesizing these old designs with the originals,on the one hand,and your own/modern vision of the lines.

All that as applies to aesthetics and physics both(what makes it so challenging).

That Sakha blade is awesome,lovely lines.

 

I've learned a bit more about Evenki "koto" knives,will try to post it in the Wooden Sheath thread...

 

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I've been slowly chipping away at these this week (and started another, though I probably should finish what I started first).

 

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The big Sakha knife is all polished out and glued/peened into a handle. In the picture on the left you can see the faint hamon from the edge quench. The Komi knife still needs its final polish. It's handle is going to be made from a piece of birch root burl I harvested, and I plan to glue it in with home-made cutler's resin. The blade is from a spring I found in the woods, so I'm going for that theme (don't have a piece of wood for the sheath unfortunately, so that will be store-bought).

 

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This is the angry duck. It looks like one and makes awful screeching sounds that are almost like quacking. I forged an Evenki style knife today and will try to scrape in the fuller instead of the bend/file method. I had pretty good luck starting the groove with a grinder then bringing it in to round with the scraper. The blade is 1075 quenched in water and tempered at 350F, handle is birch. I still need to get the hang of it, there are lots of little waves in the groove. I found that by changing the cutting angle, using less force, and flipping the piece around I can get rid of them, but it's not ideal. Also, I need to add perpendicular handle up by the cutter.

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You're happening,man.Nice and thorough and systematic,very cool.I think all these will turn out great,and will be very interesting to hear what'll you think once they're in your hand,being real knives.

 

I like that scraper,neat job on that,right on! 

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Had some time today to finish up two of these.

 

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Some overflowed resin from the glue up. This stuff is nicer to work with than epoxy in a lot ow ways: fast cure time, you can clean it up after it hardens, and smells a whole lot nicer.

 

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This is the Komi knife. The butt of the handle ended up a little smaller than I was shooting for, and the way it shows up against this background really brings that out. It's pretty close to some of the originals I'm working from and otherwise, I'm happy with it. This is wood I harvested from a birch stump and two worm holes I thought were separate ended up being connected, but I filled it with resin and I think it looks ok. I've been trying to work around the insect damage in this wood, but I may just leave it in and fill in the holes like I did here (I won't be selling these knives anyways). That would double or even triple the amount of handles I can get out of the material. The finish is home-made pine tar.

 

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I'm really happy with how this one came out. The handle is birch burl, but I can't take credit for harvesting it. It was very hard to track down un-stabilized though. This finish is linseed oil and turpentine, it will likely get darker and more orange as it oxidizes. I've stained this wood in the past, I'll put up a comparison at some point. First picture shows the concave side, second the flat one. Blade is 180 mm, overall length 290 mm, it's a fairly big knife. At some point I should probably start on the sheaths that inspired me to make these knives in the first place.

 

On 4/10/2020 at 7:51 PM, jake pogrebinsky said:

You're happening,man.Nice and thorough and systematic,very cool.I think all these will turn out great,and will be very interesting to hear what'll you think once they're in your hand,being real knives.

 

I like that scraper,neat job on that,right on! 

Thanks! I started so many knives I'll never finish them if I don't keep plugging on through. The main thing I notice about them is that they both feel pretty light for their size. With the Komi one it's probably because the blade is so small and the wood is relatively light. With the Sakha one I think the hollow grind makes it a pretty light blade. I might not get much of a chance to use them for a while, though I guess the Komi one will probably make most of it's own sheath and I'm curious to see how it cuts.

 

Next I'll probably get on to grinding and hardening that Evenki style knife (and seeing how hard it is to scrape a fuller in high carbon steel) and grinding/polishing the little Sakha knife based on an original by Amynnyky Uus.

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Excellent job on both of these,Aiden,congrats.

You've done a great job translating original designs into this REALLY clean lines+finish of your responsible,modern process-Not an easy thing to do,either to envision or to execute.

So the best of both worlds,i think,the beauty utility cool-factor of originals preserved,and indeed improved upon in modern materials.

Doesn't get much better.

 

 

  

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