I had intended the work on my old knife to be a project for the weekends. Today, I simply couldn’t leave it alone.
When we left off in the previous blog entry, the knife was taped up and ready for the sandblasting cabinet. It has been quite a while since I last used the sandblaster, so I was a bit nervous subjecting “my precious” to its erosive stream. I gave it a light blast to remove the small amounts of corrosion and then carefully cleaned it up to evaluate the work thus far. As it turned out, I was overly cautious. The first session in the blaster did in fact remove the corrosion but I was hoping to remove most of the printing on the blade so that I could do some engraving in that space. A second and then a third session did little to further my cause. The blade was clean, but the printing was most persistent.
Knowing that I was finished with the sandblasting phase at least for now, I changed my focus back to the handle of the knife. I began carving with no particular plan, striving only to approximate the form of the grips. As I shaped the lignum vitae, I was getting a very glossy finish with each slice of my carving knife. My vision of the completed project began to change radically for I realized that a highly polished handle was not at all in keeping with the character of the blade. As I continued, I roughed up the surface and gradually discovered a shape and texture which I found pleasing to both my hand and my sense of what this knife was all about. The handle of the knife was the branch of a tree! It just seemed so obvious.
I left the workshop and went to my desk. I looked at my drawings for the blade engraving from the night before. I had several sketches which were distinctly Damascus-inspired. Obviously they were all wrong for this blade. I did another rough sketch and instinctively knew that the design had to be simple and an natural extension of the tree branch. I came up with this.
The blade received a name. It was to be called “Lyfe”. Too many knives have names that sound like characters or props from “Conan the Barbarian” or worse yet are not recognized as worthy of naming. This blade is a tree. Trees are the source of life and inspiration.
So back to the workshop I did go, anxious to finalize the nature and final form of the handle. I made several gross adjustments to conform the handle to my right hand and then proceeded to do the final shaping and texture work. I needed to grow the branch of a tree from my two pieces of lignum vitae.
The handle is quite irregular and lacks symmetry. At first glance one might think that it was misshapen. The original handle was perfect in my hand when I bought it at the age of thirteen. As an adult, I always felt the handle seemed a bit lacking. The new handle has significantly more mass, both in size and in density. It lends a perfect balance to Lyfe. If I hold it in my left hand, it simply feels wrong. When I hold it in my right hand, it comes alive. It’s warm and slightly rough in the hand, just like the bark of a tree. It has a unique and slightly spicy aroma which lingers on your hand after you have been using it. It is as if the blade is reminding you of a bond that shall not again be forgotten.
I confess, I could not not contain my excitement with the changes. I had to polish the blade and sharpen it. I did not want to wait until after I had completed the engraving. I had to put Lyfe to work. The blade did clean up quite nicely. Most important of all is that it sharpened to literally a razor’s edge. Both of my forearms are now entirely devoid of hair as I tested various parts of the blade during the sharpening process. Lyfe was hungry and needed to be fed.
Here is what Lyfe looks like at this point in time.
I am going to keep the rough engraving diagram on file and strap Lyfe to my hip as I go about business in my workshop. I have higher priority projects which require my attention and I suspect that it may be some time before I’ll get around to the engraving. In the mean time, I’m very happy with the new “Lyfe” that my trusty knife has assumed.
Do you have an old friend that has been neglected and needs a facelift?