Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One Down, One To Go

I made some good progress on the first of the two "Virtue" knives.  In fact, it's practically finished, lacking only a good sharpening.  I decided to focus on the one knife, taking it through to completion before I bring the second knife along.  I had a craving to hold a finished knife in my hand, and finishing them one at a time helps me get to the finish line sooner.  Here's a look at what I was able to accomplish over the weekend.

The handle is all fitted and ready for a final satin finish.  I got everything polished up nice and shiny on the grinder and a little bit of hand work.  I wanted to put a satin finish on this knife, so I left the bolsters attached to the liners and removed the mammoth scales.
A satin finish is a fairly simple process, but requires a lot of work.  I chose to put a 1500 grit finish on this knife, so I sanded successively up through the grits and finished up with 1500 grit paper.  The big trick to a good finish is a nice, consistent scratch line over the whole bolster.  The reason for leaving the bolsters attached to the liners is to be able to keep the small pieces supported while they get finished.  A simple clamp holds the piece securely to the workbench.  It can be a little difficult on the curved surfaces to keep the lines straight, but with a little patience and persistence, it's quite doable.  To back the sandpaper, I use a rubber pad that I cut out of a sanding block designed for use on drywall finishing.  It has enough flex to it to help get around those curves, and yet is firm enough to work the flat areas.

This picture is a little fuzzy, but I think you can still see the difference between the bottom and the top halves of the handle.  I really like the softness that a good satin finish creates.  It's certainly worth the extra effort and it doesn't show scratches and wear like a mirror finish will.

Next, it was on to the spacer.  Polishing up file work can be a little tricky, depending on the actual pattern used.  This particular pattern is what I call "twisted ribbon".  Some may call it a rope pattern, but I think it looks more like a ribbon wrapped around a cylinder.  Using sandpaper wrapped around a file, I get into the grooves of the file work pattern to bring up the polish.  It then gets a turn on the buffing wheel to really bring out the brilliant shine.  In fact, it's so shiny that it blurred the picture.  Bummer!  I guess you'll have to take my word for it that it looks great.  I'll get some much better photos of this knife real soon so you can see all the details clearly.  I take progress photos with my phone as I don't want to damage my good camera.

With the bolsters and spacer finished, it's time to tackle the liners.  On the last build, I showed my process of jeweling the inside of the liners of the "Guardian" knife, so I won't repeat it here.  Here's a link if you missed it Jeweling Liners.  It's a subtle detail since you have to look inside the knife with just the right light in order to even see it, but I think it's worth the effort.  But, it is quite visible at the thumb release part of the lock bar.

With the liners polished and jeweled, it's time to give them some color.  Titanium is truly a wonder of nature.  By passing electrical current through a bath of electrolyte, titanium builds up layers of titanium oxide.  By varying the voltage, the thickness of the oxide layer is controlled, producing different colors.  Mr. Titanium explains this very well on his website at Mr. Titanium if you are interested in the science of the process.

My setup is fairly basic.  At the right of the above photo you can see my DC power supply.  The negative lead attaches to a sacrificial piece of steel suspended in the electrolyte bath.  This particular piece of steel happens to be a messed up liner from the very first folding knife that I ever made.  A piece of stainless steel would be better, but this hunk of O1 works just fine and holds some sentimental value.  It's as though that first knife is imparting something of itself to all of its progenitors.  Kind of cheesy, I know, but hey, I'm sentimental.

The positive lead gets attached to the liner that will be anodized.  The bath is filled with electrolyte which is simply water and Borax laundry detergent mixed together to full saturation.  In the upper left corner of the photo, you can catch a glimpse of a little color chart with listed voltages for the different possible colors.  I have three or four go-to colors that I really like, but it's good to have possibilities to choose from.  If you do your own anodizing, don't trust any chart explicitly.  Each set up has different variables that effect the true voltage needed to achieve a desired result.  Run a trial run with your set up and record the voltages that work for your process before you ruin all the hard work that you put into making your liners.

After a few seconds at 13 volts, this is what we get.  I chose a nice bronze color that will go well with the red spacer behind the scales as well as compliment nicely with the colors of the mammoth.  I feel it's very important to carefully choose your colors, textures and finishes that are used in a knife.  I want the end product to be as aesthetically pleasing as it can possibly be.  Like Hannibal used to say on the old TV show the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together."  This is by far my favorite anodizing color.

Next up, the blade gets its 1500 grit, hand-rubbed, satin finish.  The photo doesn't show it, but the spine and tang get a mirror polish for some added contrast and drama.  That's a great looking blade if I do say so myself.

I fired up my new, shop-made electrochemical etcher and etched my mark into the blade.  Man, I like that look!  I've had many people ask me why I don't mark my blades.  Now I can tell them I do.  Maybe it will improve my name recognition along the way too.  Classy!

Pictured here is the completed knife.  I know you hear it all the time, but let me tell you, the picture really doesn't do this knife justice, and it looks pretty darn good in the photo!  I missed taking photos of the fabrication of the thumb stud, so I'll be sure to include that in the next knife too.  I have to say, that this is by far my best knife to date.  The fit and finish is really nice and the knife opens and closes effortlessly.  As I stated at the beginning of this post, I still need to put an edge on the blade.  Once I do, I'll take some good photos with a better camera to show off the knife in its best light.

This has been a really fun build and I continue to learn with each knife I make.  The great thing is that I have another knife sitting on my workbench that is just waiting for the detail work, which is the funnest part of knife building.  I'll get back on that one if I have some time over the 4th of July holiday weekend coming up.

I appreciate you following along with me on my knife making adventures and hope you are enjoying your visit.  Thanks for stopping by the Robinson Edge.

-  Brandant Robinson

Monday, June 22, 2015

Almost There!

I was able to sneak in a few hours out in the shop this last weekend.  Not as many as I would have liked, but at least I made some good progress.  During those few hours I was able to get one of the two knives that I have on my bench almost complete.  Here is what I was able to get done.

 First off, this is the setup that I use when hollow grinding my blades.  For the time being, I only have a 6" contact wheel to use for hollow grinding.  I hope to be able to afford an 8" wheel in the near future, but until then, the 6" wheel gets the job done quite well.  I have a small work rest that I move back and forth when grinding each side of the blade.  I also have two LED lights that I use from different angles in order to keep my work area well lighted.

 I use a shop-made file guide attached to the tang of my blades in order to keep the plunge lines symmetrical.  I rest the spine of the blade on the tool rest as I draw the blade across the belt.  I use to grind without the work rest, but I've found that I can get much better, more even results if I use the rest.

Here's the blade after the grinding is complete.  It's almost at a mirror polish, which will make the hand satin finish easy to achieve.  Without a doubt, this is the best hollow grind that I have been able to achieve to date.  I'm very excited with how this little blade turned out.  I still have a lot of work left to polish and satin finish this blade, but that will all be done by hand.

One of the last things that needs to be done before final finishing is to cut and fit the lock into the liner.  I've shown this before, but my process for doing this is to blacken the liner with a black marker at the area of the lock, mark where the blade tang is in the open position, and scratch a line with a razor blade.  The photo above shows the liner ready to be cut.

Here's the liner after the lock bar has been cut.  The next series of steps involves filing the lock face until it engages the tang in just the right position, setting the detent ball into the lock, and drilling the detent hole in the blade tang.  I didn't get any photos of these steps, but I will try to get some pics with the second knife.

Here is the knife completely assembled.  I'm really please with how this little knife is turning out.  It has a solid lockup, the blade centers perfectly between the liners, and the detent ball snaps the blade shut really well.  You can also see that a thumb notch has been cut into the front liner, bolster, and scale, in order to make disengaging the lock possible with one hand.

This knife is getting close to the finish line.  Only a few more things left to do including putting the finishing treatment on the blade and handle, etching the blade, and anodizing the liners.  Thanks for stopping by the Robinson Edge.

-  Brandant Robinson

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Electro Etcher

I didn't get much knife building done last weekend.  I spent most of my time building a new toy for me to play with in the shop.  I've often admired the look of other folks makers marks etched into their nice, shiny blades.  They always have a clear, professional look to them.  I decided that my knives could use this too, not to mention it would give my blades a little better name recognition.  So, I went to the internet in search of an electrochemical etcher that would suit my needs.  There are many good etchers out there, but all were a little more than I wanted to spend on such a machine.  My continued research led me to the website of Chris Crawford, a well-known knife maker in the custom community.  On his site I found plans to build your own etcher for much less than the cost of a commercially available model.  I downloaded the plans and the shopping list and headed to my local Radio Shack.

After a few short hours of drilling, stripping wires, and soldering, I ended up with something that very closely resembles an electro etcher.

I worked with a fellow who makes stencils for etching and came up with a design that closely resembles the mark that I have put on my woodcarving knives for years.  I really wanted to have my full name on the mark, but with a long name like mine, and a small area to mark like a folder blade, that just didn't work out.  I'll probably still continue putting my signature on the back spacer.  That way there shouldn't be any doubt as to who the maker is.

Once I received my new stencils in the mail, I put the etcher to the test on an old throwaway blade.  Here is the results.

The last photo above of the blade is a little out of focus.  The etched image is actually fairly crisp.  It does have a little frosting or ghosting around the edges, but I think that is due to the quality of the finish on this blade (only a 120 grit).  I will play around with different techniques and try to dial in the process before I try etching a finished blade.  All in all, I am quite pleased with the results and look forward to seeing a finished knife with my mark etched into the blade.

Thanks for stopping by the Robinson Edge.

-  Brandant Robinson

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Purchasing Options Upgraded

If you happen to visit my "Available Knives" page (just click the tab at the top of this page) you will notice that I have streamlined the procedure for purchasing one of my knives.  Those wishing to make a purchase may do so immediately by clicking the "Add to Cart" button found below each available knife.  This will take you to a check out page where payment may be made by PayPal or credit card.  Of course, I will still accept payment by personal checks or money orders, but with electronic payments, you will receive your knife much sooner.

I hope this makes the purchasing process easier and more convenient for everyone.  And don't forget to sign up for the Email Subscription.  Subscribers will receive email notifications each time a new knife becomes available and notifications of sales.  Don't worry, I'm not going to inundate you with a bunch of emails all the time.  I only send out emails when new knives are available or when prices are changed.  Details on how to join are found at the top right of this page.

A big thanks to everyone for your interest in my work and for stopping by the Robinson Edge.

-  Brandant Robinson

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Build Continues

Have you ever had your life changed with a single telephone call?  For good, or for bad, your life can change in an instant.  Luckily, this time, it was for the good.  Because of this new direction in my personal life, my shop time has been limited for the past couple of weeks.  Hence, the absence of any progress on the project knives.  After all the craziness, I was still able to get some file work done on the blades and back spacers.  Here are some pics of the new progress on the Virtue knives.

The first step in the process of adding file work is to blacken the edges of the pieces with a black, permanent marker.

The next step is to make some layout lines to keep the file work uniform.  To do this, I scratch lines at 1/8" increments with an Exacto knife.

I chose to do a twisted ribbon pattern on one of the knives.  This pattern starts out using a jewelers saw to cut angled lines at every other mark.  I don't cut too deep at this time, just deep enough to keep things aligned.

I then use a small 1/8" round file to cut grooves in between each saw mark.  I then use a slightly larger chainsaw file to increase the diameter of the round cuts, taking care to round over the cuts at the edges for a more 3D look.

On the left is the blade with the file work nearly completed.  All sharp edges have been rounded over with a three-corner file and the saw marks have been remade on the rounded surface, making the saw cuts uniform.  The next step is to clamp the spacer in line with the blade, making sure everything is butted up tightly.  The process of filing is continued down the spine to the file work termination point.  Butting the two pieces together enables me to make a seamless joint between them.  This makes the file work look continuous once the knife is assembled and the blade locked in the open position.  Done right, the observer has to look very closely to see where the blade ends and the spacer starts.

Here are the two finished spacers for the two separate knives.  I didn't take any pics of the second knife, but the pattern is quite different.  Unfortunately, this photo doesn't show off the file work very well.  I'll take some better photos later on when the knives are finished and you can see the work up close and personal.  File work is very time consuming and can be quite tedious, but in my opinion, it really sets off a handmade knife, putting it on a shelf far above any production knife.

Here the blades are wrapped in stainless steel tool foil, ready to the heat treatment.  The blades will get hardened in the electric heat treat oven, followed by a subzero (- 40 degrees F) treatment in dry ice and two tempers to give a final Rockwell hardness of about 59-60.
Well, that about does it for this post.  I hope you are enjoying following along with me on this knife making adventure.  The next step after heat treatment will be to grind and polish up the blades.  That's always the step that worries me the most.  I've messed up a couple of blades over the course of this hobby, which is a crying shame after all the work that goes into them.  But, with the new grinder to work with, my chances of achieving good, consistent grinds have improved exponentially.  Wish me luck.  Thanks for stopping by the Robinson Edge.
-  Brandant Robinson