more sharp tools and meeting a knifemaker

Well I had partial success and partial failure with my new turning hooks. I have used them heavily for several days now and 3 have broken, the tips have snapped off. Close inspection showed the grain structure was fine so there are three things I can work on for the next batch. Make the whole tool a little softer by raising the tempering temperature, leave the edge at the same hardness but try to get a little more heat into the back of the hook so it has a hard edge supported by a tougher back or make them with a slightly thicker back.

Out of the tools that worked however I have a couple of really good tools and one of those that lost just the end of its tip is also still working very well. That tool is a completely new design for the fine finishing of the inside of the bowl and has definitely improved the quality of the bowls I made this week so I feel I am making progress. I can very easily make strong tools that would work well enough but I have a lot of those already, what I am after is making harder, thiner tools that cut more efficiently and hold a sharper edge for longer, the only way to find out what the hardest, thinnest edge is that will work is by pushing the boundaries until they break then backing off a little.

On Thursday I treated myself by visiting Mik Hodgkinson an inspirational knife-maker in Birmingham. I have been using a knife-makers internet forum to learn more about toolmaking and had seen Mik’s work there, his knives are truly works of art but functional art. They are very much made in the Scandinavian tradition and when we have traveled in Sweden we have seen that it is commonplace for folk to have beautiful handmade knives which they use for everything from slicing bread and cheese to whittling spoons or pointing a stick to toast sausages over a campfire. Children are taught to use knives as tools from a young age, I never heard of “knife crime” there but it would be interesting to see comparative statistics. Here are our children learning from master carver Wille Sundqvist in 2003.

So on thursday I went to see Mik and his knives and bought two of them. Mik has a wonderful eye for balancing the blade and handle and creating sweet lines to the knife. These two are made with blades from two different Smiths, Poul Strand from Norway and Mattias Styrefors from Sweden. The handles are made from 10,000 year old mamoth bone and mamoth ivory, this becomes available ocasionally as glaciers in Siberia melt and the frozen mamoths are released. I adore Mik’s work and that of these talented smiths and it will be a joy to use these tools when I am carving my spoons and poringers.

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