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Author Topic: recessed ricasso  (Read 4752 times)
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deloid
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« on: December 08, 2009, 04:29:46 PM »

Ed states "recessed ricasso was something I did not want on my blades" I did a search and didn't find a definitive answer. I'd like to know more about the thinking behind this as well as the process. It seems to be more natural to forge the blade wider and sharpening seems easier. Maybe I don't understand what a non recessed ricasso is?    

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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2009, 06:51:23 PM »

Welcome to the form deloid:

First I need a statement of purpose:
I make knives of a design that comes to me through my life style. I want to make a knife that will serve a man living with nature in complete harmony with the tasks he may face. I have spent very little time in the kitchen cutting vegetables, I have never used a cutting board to prepare a meal.

The recessed ricasso is a fine aspect for a knife used in the kitchen, as it allows the person using it an elevated hand from the cutting board. Kitchen knives were the main trade of the Sheffield makers who were all folks who lived in the cities and served that market until the Bowie market opened in what had been the colonies. The folks who bought these kitchen knives modified to represent the Bowies of the frontier were also mostly made up of city folk who preserved the knives in 'mint condition' unused and in drawers and collections.

The exception to this would be the knives of I Willson, they provided the workhorse knives of the fronteir.

When I started to develop knife designs they were absolutely dedicated to be a tool of survival and convenience totally dedicated to function. Part of my guarantee, if you can find any aspect of one of my knives (other than an occasional art knife) that I can not defend from a functional view you can take your pick of any knives on my table for free. (again I must exclude the engraving on the guard).


The way I see the recessed ricasso is that it is a design fault developed through the the economic attributes of taking a flat bar of steel measuring 1/4 if an inch thick, 1 inch wide of some length, give it a few swats with a hammer and call it a forged blade. The Sheffield makers imported thousands of them in the early 1800's to the American market. At the time they were similar to the Pakistan import knives of today.

The English blades were cheap to make for the Sheffield industry, buried the American makers economically with their cheap imports and today they are considered art of the Civil War. Most unused, you can read about their uselessness during this war. The blades were too hard and chippped or borke easily, they were hard because a hard blade takes a more beautiful finish. Thus most were preserved in 'mint condition' of those wannabe warriors who stayed home.

I can find absolutely no functional use for the recessed ricasso, as a field knife. They hang up when skinning or stickng, dig into your index finger and of absolutely no benefit. They are actually a stress raiser by design unless the maker heat treats properly. I have seen many crack right along the notch provided by the recessed ricaso emmanating to the spine developed during hardening.

This is a photo of what has become famous as the ABS knife. The ricasso has never been hit with a hammer, only the edge forged down.



In all probability the ricasso is very close to the same dimensions as it was when he started forging. The ventral aspect of the ricasso has very sharp edges, if you place your index finger ahead of the guard on the ricasso its unfriendly disposition impresses your finger immediately.

The spine of the blade also knows very sharp corners. While easy to maintain are very uncomfortable if you try to choke up on the blade and place your thumb on the spine for added leverage. These sharp edges are easily and economically developed, but devoid of any functional purpose I can understand. Still they have become the mark of symmetry and craftsmanship cherished my many in industry as well as the ABS.

When you see a maker who has knives on his table with a recessed ricasso, ask him why? What for? I would love to hear any functional attributes that I could understand.

The simple goal of the High Endurance Performance Knife is that we have a reason for each and every aspect of our knives. Some aspects can be simply because "I like it", for example my use of brass for guards. Others would work, but I like brass.
 
Thanks for the question!!

Edited Thursday evening, will return later.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2009, 04:40:19 PM by Ed Fowler » Logged

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PhilL
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2009, 07:34:22 PM »

The folks who bought these kitchen knives modified to represent the Bowies of the frontier were also mostly made up of city folk who preserved the knives in 'mint condition' unused and in drawers and collections.

So, what has changed?

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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2009, 10:39:18 PM »

I've been waiting to see if this post would keep going. Looks like in four words you said a mouth full.
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Phil Dwyer
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2009, 02:00:46 PM »

Ed, Although I hear you about the bar stock, I'm not going to concern myself about that too much right now. The knife design though is another matter and much more within my means to address.

....The recessed ricasso is a fine aspect for a knife used in the kitchen, as it allows the person using it an elevated hand from the cutting board....

Yup, works well for chef knives. In that case though the ricasso all but disappears. At most it is likely just a 1/6" to an 1/8" wide so the steel is thicker to create a "guard" edge. In other words the handle starts just about where the blade ends. And it works GREAT (at least for me) in the kitchen, whether at home or in camp!

....The way I see the recessed ricasso is that it is a design fault developed through the the economic attributes of taking a flat bar of steel measuring 1/4 if an inch thick, 1 inch wide of some length, give it a few swats with a hammer and call it a forged blade....

Ouch! As an aspiring bladesmith my modest explorations really started to take off when I switched to bar stock. I don't intend to be limited there, but appreciate the leg up it affords me to actually get a blade forged to completion in the extremely limited amounts of shop time I can eek out of my other responsibilities. I must admit, I've yet to accomplish a blade with just a few swats though. And unfortunately, I can't say my ricassos are free of hammer strikes as my hammer control isn't always what I'd like it to be. Starting with bar stock does take far less forging time and effort than when using larger dimensional material. So much so that, as I mentioned, I can actually get a blade forged. When I do use round rod I still basically forge it down to flat bar before proceeding to forge out a blade.

....I can find absolutely no functional use for the recessed ricasso, as a field knife. They hang up when skinning or sticking, dig into your index finger and of absolutely no benefit. They are actually a stress raiser by design unless the maker heat treats properly. I have seen many crack right along the notch provided by the recessed ricaso emanating to the spine developed during hardening....

Considering the level of smithing I'm at and the shop resources I have, this issue is one that I can most relate to and have some manageable choices over. I suspect that I could almost have the same heat treat challenges where the blade edge offsets at the ricasso whether protruding or not. It does seem like it might be more probable when the edge flares out wide though. I don't do a lot of sternum and bone splitting when field dressing, so getting hung up like that isn't a big concern for me. On the other hand, I do cut a fair amount of rope and other materials. I have always been flustered when a blade hangs up on a protruding edge, or even worse a deep spanish notch. I dislike having to put immense amounts of concentration on blade placement to avoid that when making a simple cut. For me you should just be able to loop a rope over, push the knife into the loop until the rope and guard meet, then pull the blade back while pushing the edge against the rope to make the cut. It should be simple and easy. This might sound silly, but if you need to cut a number of pieces for lashing, or what-have-you, why burn more energy struggling to use a tool that should handle the simplest job it is designed for? The same goes for usages along the lines of whittling, carving and splitting. I don't want to have to constantly pussyfoot around a protruding blade edge that gets snagged on its terminating shoulder, or slips off it.

All the best, Phil
« Last Edit: December 27, 2009, 02:07:59 PM by Farmer Phil » Logged

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byron
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2009, 06:45:40 PM »

To continue the recessed ricasso discussion, I have heard it claimed that this sharp corner could be used to scrape things in some situations, It seems plausible to me in certain specific scenarios but I think there could be a more reasonable explanation. I have just been looking through "Knives 2010" (a Christmas present) and there are many, many knives sporting this configuration. Perhaps this is simply because many knives already have been made that have this look and the public expects it. It does often make for a pleasing effect to my eye I must admit. If you are not aware of what attributes constitute the High Endurance, Performance Knife then you would not even realize the possible drawbacks to such a feature.   I would caution us to keep in mind something that all wise folks deeply understand: all things are connected.  What I am trying to say is that even though we do not want these non-hepk features on our knives we must still respect all those folks who do even if they don't know any better. All aspects of the Knife World are intimately connected. Without the excessively decorated (often to the point of uselessness) Art Knife we would never have enough knives or makers or buyers to support any knife shows or the many fine publications we now have access to. I admit that the color photos of these wildly decorated knives are very well done but I find them hard to look at. If it wasn't for them I would have no pictures of the real knives I so enjoy.   BYRON
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2009, 07:32:16 PM »

Farmer Phil, The second quote of Ed's about the bar stock, was meant to point out the ease of quickly pulling out an edge, and leaving it pulled out, on a 1/4 inch thick piece of steel. I used bar stock when I was at Ed's seminar, so he is not against barstock.
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Phil Dwyer
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2009, 07:50:30 PM »

....What I am trying to say is that even though we do not want these non-hepk features on our knives we must still respect all those folks who do even if they don't know any better....

Not a prob. I make them too. It's just that I prefer something else.

....I used bar stock when I was at Ed's seminar, so he is not against barstock.

Phew, I was worried about that!
« Last Edit: December 27, 2009, 09:38:16 PM by Farmer Phil » Logged

Phil Dwyer - Hawaii
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2009, 11:18:05 PM »

Jimmy: the bar stock you used was forged down from 1 inch round bar stock. The whole idea is that the more steel is worked but greater its potential.

Byron: You bring up an important thought. Many do love the dropped edge (aka) recessed ricasso. Personally I consider these knives as art knives.

There are many of them made and sold, those that have them are proud of them and we need to be careful not to criticize the art they love as we will hurt their feelings. Every knife has its place.

When we consider the HEPK one of the major requirements is that we must be able to defend each and every aspect of its design from a functional aspect. I have found that knives with the recessed ricasso are hazardous for they hang up and require force to get then unstuck, when a knife pulls free you or those around you are at risk. When a knife hangs up it is also aggravating, working in cold weather, or after dark dressing out an animal you do not need to be irritable. A friend lost use of his index finger when his hunting partner got angry and violently pulled his blade free, while working on the other side of the deer they were dressing out, my friend was working on a leg opposite him, he pulled the leg my friend was working on out of his left hand and his knife sliced the tendons of his hand and he lost use of his left index finger and had to pay for a #3000 + operation that failed and was out of work for months.

Another man I did not know was killed when he yanked his knife with a recessed ricasso free and stuck himself in the leg cutting his femoral artery. He died next to the deer.

I have asked many makers to defend the recessed ricasso from a functional aspect and none have been able to. I honestly tried to like them, but can not appreciate them from a functional aspect.

When you look as Scagel knives you will note that all of them have a recessed ricasso, but he set the blade far enough back (close to the guard) that the blade would not hang up. Also all of his handles were beautifully blended into the guard, rather than one's hand coming up against a sharp flat guard, the guards on his knives were designed for comfort and use.

Two great American knives, the Huber (pictured on this form) and the Ames Rifleman's knives did not have recessed ricassos because they were designed by men who intended the knives to be used and put all their energy toward the safety and comfort of the user.

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cfendley
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2009, 07:15:31 AM »

I agree with Ed. I have found no function the recessed ricasso offers. I make some knives with them, some collector "art" knives because it just adds something to the look sometimes. If I want that look on a knife design I intend to be used I hold the edge back close to the guard and put very little recess so it can't hang up. Similar to what Ed referred to on Scagel knives.
This knife has a little of that recessed look to it without letting the knife hang up but that little recess really has no purpose other than looks.
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JimmyR
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2009, 02:44:31 PM »

I was thinking about the recessed ricasso for a bit, and I came up with some theories about them. The ricasso on my Ed Fowler style knife is the same width as the ricasso on one of my damascus art knives. I am thinking that the ricassos are not recessed, but the blades are just generally wider. Perhaps makers like Scagel who knew about the faults of the design but used it anyway, wanted to take advantage of the width. With greater width, the user is granted more, "ammo," more sharpening's over time. From an art knife perspective, a knife with a recessed ricasso's damaged edge can be repaired without it being apparent that it was damaged in the first place.
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byron
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2009, 04:37:04 PM »

I believe I may have heard it claimed somewhere that a recessed ricasso allows you to sharpen the entire length of the blade and also gives you that sharp back corner you might be able to scrape some kind of groove in something or other with. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.   This topic is drawing excellent input from all directions.   BYRON
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2009, 01:08:53 PM »

I have heard that reason for the recessed ricasso also. Same reason for the nick in the back of the blade just in front of the ricasso. Namely that it makes it easy to sharpen to the beginning of the cutting edge.
Actually it is easier, and takes less skill on the part of the person sharpening the blade than to be able to blend the cutting edge to the ricasso.

Yes, the blade is exquisitely sharp - just in front of the fish hook barb (nick) that is waiting to give you trouble!

I can see no reason other than obsession with the entire blade sharp. I ask how many of us would know the difference in using the knife. The knife is used in a sawing motion, if the last 1/64 th of an inch is not sharp I do not think the man using it would ever notice.

One thing we can have some fun with is when going to knife shows where we are not known as knife makers is: walk up to a table with the simple question - Why is the edge so far down?
I wonder how many makers could defend it from a functional aspect??
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