Handling a Knife

Damascus steel Zhen Nakiri knife blank

I recently wrote about Damascus Steel, and showed this knife from Professional Woodworkers Supplies as an example of a modern interpretation of this traditional steel-making technique.

Over the weekend, I had a chance to complete the handle for this knife, so I was able to put it to use!

Queen Ebony timber stock

I started, as always, scrounging around through my timber stocks, looking for just the right piece of timber for the job.  Not sure which is the more rewarding: having a project and the excitement/anticipation of the project commencement while out sourcing and purchasing just the right pieces of timber for the job, or scrounging around your own existing timber store, though pieces collected over the years and waiting for just the right project to come along to be able to finally do it justice.

For this project I looked at many pieces and different species.  Even tried a couple to see if there was enough detail for the project at hand, but rejected them in the end.  I finally had a look at the pack of Queen Ebony strips I had purchased at a wood show a few years ago, and suddenly realised that the bottom two strips (about 1.5m long each) were thicker than the others, and were in fact thick enough for this project, even after being machined flat!

This is a perfect scenario – it gives me a chance to actually machine one face smooth and flat, and then match the opposite side and still end up with timber thick enough for the task at hand.

The project is pretty straight forward, and follows the steps I took when doing the steak knives.  After sizing the scales, they were double-sided taped together (carpet tape).  These were then stuck to one side of the blade.  On the drill press, holes where then drilled through the holes in the knife blank, then while still attached to the blade, the whole lot were transferred to the bandsaw, and the rough outline of the blade handle cut.

The scales were then separated, glued (epoxy) to either side of the blade blank, and the rivets inserted.

Once the glue was dry, the whole contraption was transferred to the spindle sander for the final shaping.

To complete, the Festool ETS 150/5 was used to polish the sides and edges.

Completed knife

The Queen Ebony really looks the part – I am most impressed!

Finally, the real test is in the kitchen, so I gave a piece of pumpkin a workout.

Nakiri Blade in its element

The final verdict is in the use, and this knife handled beautifully!  The sharpness of the blade, the scalloped blade and a home-made stunning handle.

A fun little project, and a very satisfying result!

 

Damascus steel

There are not a lot of swords around these days, and the original techniques for producing Damascus steel have been lost to the ages.  Modern Damascus steel is typically created by a technique called billet welding.  This is where a billet of steel is hammered out, folded over, then hammered together again which causes the steel to weld together.  Hammered out again, folded, hammered together.  Rinse and repeat.

Japanese forgers used to use a similar technique, throwing a layer of carbon over the steel before folding it.  This creates layers of ferrite and cementite – soft and hard microlayers.

The result of whatever method is used, is steel with a distinctive organic wavy pattern across the surface.

Despite Damascus steel swords no longer being a household item (well in the household of a knight, or Samurai), you can still buy products that benefit from the tough, durable, yet razor-sharp edge that Damascus steel provides.  These are kitchen knives, with the incredible distinctive surface that layers upon layers of folded, billet welded steel creates.

So you may be wondering where this is leading? Well, you remember the steak knife project I did recently, creating wooden handles on a set of four knives?  (These kits are still available by the way).  How would you like to have a kitchen knife made from Damascus steel for which you have created the handle?

Professional Woodworkers Supplies have Damascus steel kitchen knife blanks that you can handle with a distinctive timber of your choice.  I do a great deal of cooking, and like having good knives.  So having one made from Damascus steel is something I have wanted for a while, and even better as a shed project.

Damascus steel Zhen Nakiri knife blank

They make great gifts as well.

Creating a handle for this knife blank will be featured in an upcoming article (just as soon as I make it!)

This particular blank is a Zhen Nakiri blade, which is particularly suited to cutting vegetables.  It has a blade length of 170mm, and a Rockwell C hardness of 60-62, and has 67 layers. Check out the range available here.

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