Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First knife sold from Naali Knives

A few weeks ago someone approached my brother and I to make a couple of knives for her, to give to her husband and son for Christmas gifts. How exciting! It was our first official orders. We have made several knives to give out at gifts for our father, friends, and some to keep for ourselves, but never have we had the chance to make knives for someone else, and to get paid to do so. The instructions were fairly specific: two knives - one made with bloodwood and the other made with birdseye maple. Styles were to be made in the Helle fashion, a wonderful knife company out of Norway. I was in charge of making the knife with birdseye maple, and used the Helle Symfoni knife as a design template. We showed her several styles and this was what she wanted. Not exact, mind you, but close yet different. Knife blade specifications were not that specific, so as usual I used a Finnish Lauri carbon 85 x 17 mm steel blade.
I started out by drawing out the tang size onto the maple wood scale. Then, I began drilling the tang hole into the maple by using a small bit to create a pilot hole. I have learned to do this, as it is easy to drill at an angle if not extremely careful. Others may not do this, but I feel it helps me keep the tang hole straight. I then used a larger bit and carefully drilled the hole to the correct size and depth. I then filed the bolster to allow the tang to go through it.
After all the pieces were in place (knife tang, bolster, fiber spacers, reindeer antler spacer, leather spacer) I prepared the epoxy and epoxied the parts together, as well as filled the tang hole. I put a thin amount of epoxy on one side of all the parts and lined them up. After that was done, I put the knife into my makeshift vise and secured everything. I let it sit overnight to allow the epoxy to fully cure. 
Next, sanding was done using my trusty belt sander. I love that thing. It is extremely loud and messy, so I use it outside and in notmal hours, because I would hate the neighbors to hear this thing late at night. I treated the handle with danish oil a couple times, once by immersing the handle in oil and letting it soak for an hour then wiping it off, and secondly by wet sanding using 800 grit paper and danish oil. 
I made a leather sheath to fit perfectly, then treated it with Eco-Flo All-In-One Stain and Finisher from Tandy. After that was complete, I further treated the handle with Howard Feed-N-Wax wood preserver. Here is the final product, and hopefully a well used and much appreciated Christmas gift! To top it off, it was only $50 USD. ;)
I call this knife the Naali Sinfonia, which is Finnish for "symphony", in honor of the Helle knife I used as a guide.
If anyone wishes to purchase a Naali Knife or want one made to your specifications, please contact me.
Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, November 9, 2012

My favorite puukko

I have made several puukko knives up to this point, with some of them turning out OK, a couple I had to stop working on due to problems I ran into, and a couple that turned out even better than expected. In this post, I will talk about one of my favorites - the Karhu, or "Bear" in Finnish.
I used Osage Orange from Argentina (Maclura tinctoria), a wonderful orange-brown wood that was very nice to work with. It is hard (approximate Janka Hardness of 2,400 lbf, or pound-force), very durable, termite-resistant, and finishes very nicely. Also used were reindeer antler spacers, both black and red fiber spacers, two black leather spacers, a brass bolster, and a 77mm x 20mm Lauri carbon steel blade made in the beautiful country of Finland. This knife took some thought; well, all of the knives require some forethought, but this one I wanted to create a more complex handle than some of my previous puukkos. 

I cut a small 1" piece of the wood off the 6" wood blank, and cut another piece which was 4" in length. Then, I drilled the tang hole and widen it at the top to allow the entire tang to fit. I cut six fiber spacers about 1" x 1 1.25" then cut slits in them to allow them to slide the tang in. The black leather spacers already had slits cut so that was nice (and a good way to measure your slits for the fiber spacers).

After filing and shaping the tang hole to properly fit the tang in both the two wood pieces and two reindeer spacers, I did an assembly prior to putting the epoxy in. Actually, with knives that have several pieces in the handle, I do this often, especially when I am filing the tang holes. This is a good way for me to make sure the assembled handle is straight (made that mistake before and it was costly, but that is another post). When I was satisfied with the handle, the shape, and the straightness of everything, I epoxied everything together. I use J-B Weld two-part epoxy. This is incredibly strong (3960 psi tensile strength), sets in 20-25 minutes, and cures in 15-24 hours. I have used the quick set epoxy and it was a frantic mess attaching the parts together, as this stuff sets in 5 minutes, and to be honest it felt like one to two minutes! Never again. I like the J-B Weld because I can take my time and carefully attach the parts of the handle and fill the tang hole without the worry of it setting instantly. Plus, it is hard as steel.

Believe it or not, I use a popsicle stick to apply the epoxy. This was a creative way to apply epoxy given to me by my brother at Fisker Fjord Knives, and a very handy way at that, since I have a four-old boy who likes his popsicles! I apply a thin layer on one side of every layer, whether it be fiber, wood, reindeer, leather, and even the bolster. I have also learned from experience that a little goes a long way. Even though epoxy is thick, this is very strong stuff and if you put too thick a layer on, you will see it on the final product. Eventually, I would like to try to make one sans epoxy, or at least limited epoxy, but for now I think using it is best, just sparingly. After all the pieces are epoxied including the entire tang hole, I place the entire knife in a vise to compress the pieces together even more. I make sure it is straight and adjust the layers that are not, and go back a couple minutes later and wipe off any excess epoxy that has been squeezed out. Here is a photo of the knife before sanding.

I do this a lot at night, so the next day after work I can begin sanding. I used a belt sander to shape the handle to the size and shape I wanted, then used sandpaper of varying grit, from 320 to 800. I oiled the handle with Watco Danish oil and let it dry. Then, I wet sanded using Danish oil. Finally, I place a thin coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax wood preserver on the handle. 
After the knife was done, I made a leather sheath and voilà! My favorite puukko I have made. 

I would love to hear from anyone reading my blog, so feel free to contact me. If you are interested in purchasing this puukko or any here at Naali Knives, please contact me for a price. If you are interested in having a custom puukko made with a specific wood or style, please contact me for a quote. Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Naali Knives blog!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leather knife sheath tutorial

I wanted to post my version of a sheath tutorial, which does not utilize a wooden insert. Wooden inserts do indeed make a sturdier sheath but I like simple things and a while ago I decided to make a sheath sans insert, mostly to see how sturdy it could be, and to try something different. My brother over at Fisker Fjord Knives utilizes the wooden insert for his sheaths and they look fantastic, but sometimes different is good, too, right? Here goes:
Start off with folding a piece of paper lengthwise and place the knife down on the paper, with the spine of the knife parallel to the fold.
Along the edge of the blade and handle, place small marks on the paper, allowing for contours and curves of the knife.
Trace a single line based on your markings. I make the marks about a 1/2" or so wider than the knife and handle. Be sure to mark where you want the sheath to end as well.
Cut out along the line, cutting both sides of the paper at once. This allows an even cut on both sides. Now, I put the knife in the paper cutout and fold over to see if any additional leather will be needed. Remember, it is much easier to work with more leather than less.

Trace the paper cutout on your leather, allowing a little more space if need be and cut the leather to size. I then submerge the leather into warm water for 10-15 minutes. This allows for a full saturation of the leather.
Oil the blade then cover the knife in its entirety to protect it from moisture. Place the knife in the sheath and place clamps along the outer edge of the sheath, pulling it tight. Wetting the leather makes it very pliable and once dried it will maintain its shape, so be sure to get the shape you want. I let my sheath dry for 12-24 hours, in order to allow the leather to dry enough to maintain its shape yet still damp enough to work with  - it is easier than completely dry leather.

 Next, I use an awl to create my holes. I mark them out first with small holes then when satisfied I use the awl to puncture the leather enough to go through one side and make a mark on the other. I then puncture the other side. Do this all the way up. I start from the bottom and go up, and leave a little space at the top - this is where I will make a larger hole for the hanger.
I use synthetic sinew thread. It is waxed and has a sticky feel to it, and looks very similar to actual sinew. This is the next best thing to using the real thing! I do a saddle stitch using two needles and go through each hole with both needles. Remember if you begin with the left side then pass the other needle through the right (or vise verse) you will need to always pass through the left again when beginning a new hole. Pull it tight and sew all the way up. At the top, I reverse order a few holes then back up to the top to create a tighter stitch. Knot several times at the top and cut off excess thread.
Here is the sheath sewed up. Now, I made a hole up at the top for the hanger. For the hanger, I cut a thin slice of leather about 8" long with a wider section at one end and a thin section at the other. Cut a slit in the wide end.
Pass the hanger through the hole and then place the thin section of the hanger through the slit at the wide end.
Make the knot by wrapping the end of the hanger under and through the hole you have created then back through the top hole. Pull it very tight. Sometimes it helps to wet this piece of the hanger to secure the knot even more. I did not have to with this one but it does work well if you wet it. Get hanger the size you want (make sure it is not too small or a belt won't go through). When it is tight and you are happy with it, cut off the excess leather.

It should look something like this. Now it is time to put stain and finisher on it. Finisher will create a waterproof protection and harden the leather not to mention give it a beautiful color. There are many brands out there, but I use Eco-Flo All-In-One Stain and Finisher from Tandy Leather Factory.

Here is the finished sheath. Be sure to use gloves and cloths to put the stain on/wipe off as soon as possible. If you put this stain on and wait too long it begins to streak and you will have to go over it more. I use a healthy amount and rub in a circular pattern, repeating this until the desired color.

Please feel free to send feedback or photos of your sheaths, especially if you use this method. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yellowheart (Pau Amarelo) and Leather Knife

This is a knife I made which is a part of my South American Collection. I have three knives made of South American woods, and another one I intend to start on soon. The other completed knives are made of Argentinian Osage Orange (Maclura Tinctoria) and Canarywood (Centrolobium spp.) and the one planned is going to be Leopardwood (Roupala spp.).

I made the handle design using only two leather spacers and yellowheart. Yellowheart (Euxylophora paraensis) is a yellow wood from Brazil, also known as Brazilian Satinwood, Pau Amarello, Pau Amarelo, Amarelão, Amarelinho, Amarelo, Amarelo-cetim, Cetim, Espinheiro, Limãorana, Muiratanã, Muiratauá, Pau-amarelo, Pau-cetim, Pequiá-cetim, and Piquiá-cetim. That is a lot of names!
I really love the color of this wood, especially since it is so unusual. Take a look at the photo below or click here:

Very beautiful wood! Hardwood is yellow and sapwood is pale yellow to a yellowy-white. Aside from the very odd odor this wood gives off when sanding or cutting, it was a dream to work with. It has a fine texture and even with a belt sander I managed to get this handle quite smooth. It had the occasional splinter when working with it but no issues here as I used gloves (I read somewhere it can splinter, and I did not want to find out the hard way if this exotic wood can cause dermatitis when a splinter gets under the skin).

The photo above shows the knife after the yellowheart was cut into two pieces. I used a Finnish Lauri 85 x 17 mm stainless steel blade.
I have seen a lot of knives with two separate pieces of wood in the the handle, and I like that style a lot, so I decided to do it. I did, however, intentionally make the bottom piece shorter than the upper part to create a unique, seldom seen design in a handle. I used white fiber spacers and tan leather spacers to create a nice color contrast within the handle.
As you can see below, it turned out very nicely!

I also made a Scandinavian style sheath for this knife, take a look below:

Soon, as I work on my next knife and sheath, I will create a tutorial so those who are interested can see this process in a step-by-step basis. Making the sheath is just as fun as making the knife, which is called the Metsä, Finnish for "forest". Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Knife made with family pride

This next knife I want to discuss has a very personal meaning behind it. My oldest brother, Tom, passed away last September. He was an avid hunter, especially deer. He used the meat to make ground venison, steaks, jerky, tenderloin chops, and probably lots of other food items I have no clue about. He saved a couple of antlers and after he passed away, my niece gave me some of the antlers to make a knife with. Much to my wife's chagrin, I kept the antlers in the back of my SUV for several months before doing anything with them. Then, a few months ago, I realized it was time to make a knife out of it, and the best part of all, I decided to make it for my Dad.
My Dad can work circles around me and uses a knife a lot. He is a plumber by trade and has a need to constantly cut loads of things. He, like me and my other two brothers, enjoys carrying a knife, usually of the pocketknife variety. Still, I don't think he owns a fixed blade, or at least I haven't seen him with one. So, I thought this would be a good Christmas present for the man who is impossible to buy for. I feel bad constantly giving him Lowe's or Home Depot gift cards, but this is usually what he asks for (this time, I think he will be pleasantly surprised).
I used cocobolo, a reddish brown, oily wood from the forests of Central America. Like most rosewoods, the oil in the wood provides a natural resistance to decay, and when sanded or cut, it gives off a floral, almost spicy scent. Very unique to say the least. I thought the dark color of the cocobolo would be a nice contrast to the white color of the deer antler. To add even more contrast, I added a tan leather spacer and white fiber spacers. Here is what the knife looked like after I epoxied everything together. As you can see, I got a little crazy with the epoxy, and thought I might have overdone it to the point of failure.

I sent this photo to my brother who also makes knives and sheaths (Fisker Fjord Knives) and, well let's just say he was a little worried about the final result. But, after lots of sanding and sanding some more, I finally stopped. After applying danish oil and re-sanding using 800 grit paper, the "Hirvi" was done (Hirvi is "deer" in Finnish). Here is the finished product:

Much nicer, don't you think? It is hard to believe this is the result of the previous photo. And this is the crux of why I love to work with woods and materials - taking a block of wood, a piece of leather, a metal blade, and a hunk of deer antler, and shaping them together to form one cohesive, artful tool. Fisker Fjord Knives is currently in the process of making a perfectly fitting Scandinavian style leather sheath to complete the Christmas gift to our Dad. 
It gave me such joy to have been able to use Tom's antler to create this knife, and to preserve the memory of a lost brother. And so the legacy lives on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Knife making materials

There are lots of ways to create knives and knife handles. For instance, I have used reindeer and deer antler for spacers, vulcanized fiber materials for spacers, and leather (both tan and black). My brother (Fisker Fjord Knives) has used different types of wood to create his knife handles as well, and this is something I find very interesting. All the knives I have made thus far have included only one type of wood, although on a few I have cut pieces of the wood to create an upper and lower wood portion to the handle. I also have moose antler I am planning on using soon.
Some of the other materials to use include birch bark, camel bone, giraffe bone, zebra bone, mammoth bone, walrus tusk, and even walrus oosik. If you don't know what oosik is, it is the penile bone found in most mammals (humans excluded). These are fossilized mostly, and can be up to two feet or more in length.
For a list of all woods used in my knives, or woods I am planning to use, please click on the Woods link at the top of any of our blog's pages.
There are a lot of places that sell knife making materials on the internet, but I predominantly use Thompson's Scandinavian Knife Supply. They have a very good inventory and shipping/response time is very quick. I would highly recommend them if you are interested in purchasing materials.
I try to think of good combinations of materials and woods to use in conjunction with one another. For example, I made a large puukko once and wanted to use traditional, Scandinavian materials for the knife. As with all my knives, I use Lauri carbon or stainless steel blades, all with the Scandinavian grind of one bevel - and a very sharp one at that. For the handle, I used reindeer antler and Arctic curly birch, both found in Scandinavia. Here is a photo of the knife after the items were put together and sanded, yet before Danish oil was applied:

Also used were a nickel bolster and black fiber spacers. Notice a small scuff mark on the blade, As I was sanding, the blade cover came off and the belt sander hit the blade. I had the blade section taped up, which is a necessity, but the sawdust must have got into the taped section and through the force of the belt sander the taped covering came off before I could stop it. This is a mistake that could have a) caused me injury, and b) decreased the aesthetics of the knife. I have since learned from my mistakes and tightly tape the knife using masking tape along with cardboard for further protection. I think this is a very nice knife even with the small blade scuff, but image is everything, so I will do all I can to prevent these types of mistakes from ever occurring. I also think I could have sanded down the handle more, or used a smaller bolster, but I did want to create a large handle capable of withstanding a lot of force. Here is a photo of the knife after using Danish oil for sealant and protection. 

The last step will be to put some wax (beeswax or carnauba, for example) on the handle and buff it to a satin finish. This Naali knife is the "Poro", which means "Reindeer" in Finnish.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Handmade knives

I have always been interested in knives. I have a varied assortment of knives, from my first one, a Boy Scout multi-tool knife, which is about 30 years old, to Old Timer pocketknives, to traditional, hand made, one of a kind, Finnish puukko knives.

I have also been interested in woodworking, and have made several wood items, from clocks to signs to tables. Last year, however, I was doing my usual perusing of the internet and found something that really, really caught my eye - a knife making kit. A wonderful amalgam of two of my favorite hobbies - knives and woodworking. After that, I was hooked.

This blog will chronicle my knives I have subsequently created and will create. I started from a kit and made a functional if not very aesthetically pleasing knife. After trial and error, in which I am still in the midst of, I will hopefully make knives that are functional, beautiful, and most of all, unique. I have made five knives as of this posting, and will post before and after photos, as well as all my mistakes and  proud moments.

Naali Knives got its name from my fascination with and love of all things Finland. "Naali" is the Finnish word for "arctic fox".