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Author Topic: If its ugly should you build it?  (Read 2186 times)
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Robertv6
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« on: February 06, 2007, 03:11:26 AM »

I am in the process of drawing out a knife for the son of a friend of mine.  He is a sailor by trade and wants a sailing knife, one of a wharcliff design, of which is not a particularly.....eye pleasing design... to my preference.  I started to make a ...techno type, with a chisel grind and a cord wrapped handle.  Nawww, i like wood and natural handle materials.  The function of this knife is to cut rope primarly...i think.  What i came up with, is a wharcliff blade of about 3 and 3/4 in, 1/2 ricasso, bronze guard and handle.  I was thinking of how he will hold it while cutting rope on ship.  I ended up with the handle being elevated above the centerline of the blade.  Kinda like how mr. scagle had his handles slightly higher than the centerline of his knives.  Reason being it gives, what i believe, more  leverage to the cutting edge and some clearance in downward cutting motion. The elevated handle will also allow some clearance for the fingers, while pushing down on a flat surface...cutting rope on surface, rather than free hanging. I thought to make the guard a continuation from the blade, sweeping up at an incline and rounded at top, so that you could put your thumb there,mainly on the guard and partially on the spine of the blade to add pressure while cutting. This would i think reduce fatigue on the thumb under alot of pressure or with wet and cold hands.
I think the knife from a functional point of view is correct for the task intended, however, it looks real ugly on paper.  I spent yesterday forging it, as well as several other knives.  Im just wondering does anybody else ever make a knife, that they dont like the look of, but think will serve its purpose well? 
Kinda restoring a corvette, and painting it pepto bismol pink!!!

Thanks,
Robert    

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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2007, 03:38:57 AM »

First I would talk to him a lot, find out how he intends to use the knife, what knives he likes and what he does not like about them. He may not be able to verbalize all he wants, you have to listen carefully to more than he says.

Take a close look at the knives he has been using. You can tell a lot about a man and how he uses a knife by how he has sharpened and used it. Butch brought an old folder by the other day. The knife had known a lot of use. The blades had been sharpened a lot, there was no secondary edge on any of them, all clean from cutting edge to spine.

He knew how to sharpen a knife and knew how to use a knife with a fine edge. One blade had been broken off at the tip. Either a whoops or he needed a screw driver. If he needed a screw driver it was for a light screw, there was no indication of twist at the break.

Somewhere I have an old muscrat trapper, two long blades the same from the factory. One of the blades had a very steep edge on it for tough work, the other a very fine edge for delicate stuff.

You don't see much of that kind of knife anymore, mostly from the old timers who sharpened their razors every day and understood lady knife well.

Getting back to the knife you are making, it sounds like you are thinking out function very well. Function is what it is all about, if it works it will be beautiful. Test it out yourself, then let him use it and talk about what he thinks. Don't let him watch you first, watch how he does it, watch, listen then share your thoughts. This is the fun stuff about knife making, there is a lot of room for learning, always!

Good luck on your voyage and please keep us informed.
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radicat
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2007, 04:04:33 AM »

Robert, I write about some things that I'm not an expert on, but I do know about knives for a sailor. I are one. I suppose the only way I can console you is to tell you that sailor's knives are historically ugly. Captains in the old days made their crew line up to have the points broken off their blades at the beginning of a voyage. You've probably seen some of the old rope knives in books with the blunt ended blades that were designed to lay across a line and whack with a wooden belaying pin. Your friend's choice of a wharncliiffe blade is not too unusual because they have the traditional straight edge. The most efficient line cutter today is a blade with serrations to be pushed or pulled through a line. The old way of doing it was necessary to get a very straight and tight cut without unraveling the strands, which were already bound with twine. Today most sailors just want to get-er-done. If he were planning to strike the spine of the blade, it would have to be very stout and the curved wharncliffe spine would cause a glancing blow. So, concentrate on extreme sharpness as the goal. Probably a grind that he will be able to maintain easily. You may have to explain how to do that without ruining the edge bevel. If you want to imagine an ugly knife think about a rigger's knife. I just bought one a couple of weeks ago. A Ka-BAR made before 1951. Take a look at some of Spyderco's knives to see what is popular as far as an edge.
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2007, 12:38:20 AM »

There you go, expert advice from a man who has been there. I forgot that Radicat was our seafaring man. Thanks for the advice.
Ed
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Robertv6
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2007, 01:30:33 AM »

I said earlier that i couldnt draw, i should add to that i aint much at taking pictures either. I took a picture of the drawing i made of the knife i am referring to.  I figure that if he is trying to cut and have a good grip at the same time, the handle needs to be something to wrap a hand around, hence its size. He's a tall guy with big hands.  Ive never forged a marlin spike either, but that shouldnt be a problem.  Ok yall, any suggestions on how to put some lipstick on this pig?

Thanks,

Robert


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radicat
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2007, 02:19:35 AM »

I don't see it as ugly. The wide blade is in proportion to the large handle required. I like the straighter line of the spine of the blade. I was thinking of the curved wharncliffe spine, which would be less appealing. He will most likely be cutting nylon line, unless he is a Boatswain's Mate using some manila. One reason he may want this blade could be that he wants to use it to get knots out and splice line and may not want a marlinspike, especially if he has strong hands. The Sunfish was a good knife for working with large lines. A marlinspike is not that great for larger line work. As far as pulling toward himself or cutting away on a line, the only thing he'll need to get acccustomed to is the angle in which he has the blade in realtion to the line. Since a knife edge is more efficient if allowed to glide along the material like a saw, he should have the line at an angle such that if it slides up the blade it will be toward the point. This little quirk is not enough reason to eliminate the ricasso. Some blades are curved inward to prevent this, but it makes it useless for much else. As far as balance of the knife, I'll have to leave that to you expert knifemakers. I hope I helped in some way.
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Alan
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2007, 03:40:00 AM »

So I understand.

In the photo of your drawing, the sharpened edge is actually the lower straight part of the blade?

And the top part of the blade that is also the curved part, is the flat spine?

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Robertv6
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2007, 02:37:24 PM »

Alan,
That is correct.  The drawing is a rough draft.  Usually i may change something in the building process, because i like it better than i originally thought. The handle may be slimmer, or more contoured.  In this knife, I know the guard will not be as big as ive drawn it.  It looks more like a sheepsfoot than a wharncliff design, but i wanted to make the end blunt and the spine thick, so it could be whacked on if needed.

Robert
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2007, 04:24:53 PM »

One chapter in my high school physics class impressed me more than any other, it was called the resolution of component forces. A very dynamic field of study. The longer I work with tools, the more I appreciate the concept.

Looking at your knife, the handle being that far above the blade could have a tendeancy to twist. This is purely from a theoritical standpoint. Again from theory, the cutting edge may be better in line with the center of force applied to the blade or maybe above it. I would suggest that you make a few of them, vary the locatiion of force and edge and see what happens. This is how we learn and eventually make better tools. I am not very knowledgable of working rope at sea. I do cut a lot of rope in testing and have noticed the tendeancy for blades to twist when too far ahead of the force.
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Harold Locke
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2007, 06:27:37 AM »

Robert,

I say build it!!! Remember, Form Follows Function. I sure she will morph as she comes to fruition. And if you try a few like Ed is suggesting her sisters will be more refined. I hadn't thought about the concept of the blade to far in front of the force, but looking at the drawing again I see that the possibility exists that the force is concentrated on the ricasso end of the blade in this instance. Hmmmm. The concept has potential.

Harold
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