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Thread: Hey, why is your clay hardened blade so much $$$?

  1. #1
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    Hey, why is your clay hardened blade so much $$$?


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    Ever since I started doing clay hardened blades, I get asked, "Why does that blade with the hamon cost as much as (or more than) your damascus blade?"

    Well, for me, it's a heck of a lot of work!!!

    It's pretty straight forward to show a hamon by etching a blade heavily in Ferric Chloride and then scrub the resulting oxides off, but getting it to come out with the look, and most importantly... AS CLEAN as I want, has proven nearly impossible. Again, that's for me, in my shop (OMMV). The majority of guys out there do just fine with that method!!!

    So here's a little insight into what goes into a clay hardened blade in the Wheeler shop.

    First I hand sand, and sand, and sand, and sand... Until I get to 2500 grit sand paper.





    2500 is pretty shiny!!!


    That's the camera lens and shop ceiling you see in the blade...


    It has to be a SUPA' CLEAN 2500.... which is hard for me to do because even a tiny little movement while sanding will show. See the little "j-hooks" in this pic around my name? No good... those have to come out before you move on!
    Last edited by NickWheeler; 08-14-2010 at 07:03 PM.
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  2. #2
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    Once it's at a super clean 2500---


    ---then I start to etch. I have found two methods that I really like. Either vinegar, or lemon juice.


    This blade I did with vinegar. You cut the vinegar with about 5-7 drops of dish soap to help get a more even and consistent etch. The bowl holds that stuff, and has been microwaved for 90 seconds. Application is simply with a wadded up paper towel.... rub back and forth with it saturated in the acid for 10 minutes.



    Here it is after 10 minutes, the acid has been neutralized with ammonia (Windex ). Ain't it pretty?!?!?! "No." Yea, I don't think so either...


    Here's the finishing bench set up for "oxide removal"


    First I go after the blade with liquid Flitz on one of those round make-up pads. (I should buy stock in those little things!)
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  3. #3
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    Keep etching... and polishing... and etching.... and polishing... It's a one step back, two steps forward kind of process.


    Polish, polish, polish... Etch yet again...


    Time to get serious and work on bringing out the ashi (fancy whispy white stuff ).... Some simple tools to help! A temporary handle


    A little foam faced polishing block that mimics my thumb and saves it some grief...


    Some of the abrasives in my "bag of tricks" lol
    Last edited by NickWheeler; 08-14-2010 at 03:38 PM.
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  4. #4
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    Why, when I see pictures of your finishing bench, am I reminded of the old Phil Hartman sketches on SNL where he played the anal retentive chef, fisherman, etc.? And NO, Nick, we could NOT see the little J hooks up by your name in the picture. And I'm not even going to talk about the "temporary handle" But seriously, cool thread.

  5. #5
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    My little polishing gizmo... It's easiest for me to simply hang onto the temp handle, stick the point in or on the gizmo, and polish away moving the blade to wherever it's most comfortable


    The slurry (crud) on the blade is 1500 grit Silicon Carbide powder and either oil or Diamond compound thinner/lubricant. It depends on how the moon is positioned for me to determine which to use that day


    Eventually it comes down to just my thumb anyway.... to get the most feel for what the abrasive powder is doing... i.e. how it's "cutting," how thick or thin the slurry has become.



    This takes a long time, and even at 32...makes my hands feel like a shriveled up old man after the day. And yes, it takes at least a day of this back-forward-back-forward-back-forward movement to get to where I'm happy with the outcome.

    So where did all this bs get us????

    Here.... and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I rather like it



    Last edited by NickWheeler; 08-14-2010 at 03:34 PM.
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  6. #6
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    Good thread. Thanks for the information and pics
    Campbell

  7. #7
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    Okay......I take back SOME of what I said in the previous post. That is impressive.

  8. #8
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    So if the pics didn't help answer the question, here's a few thoughts.

    It's incredibly time consuming.... it takes longer for me to sand a blade to a clean enough 2500 and etch/polish it, than it does for me to forge a random pattern damascus blade, sand it to 600 grit and etch in Ferric Chloride.

    It's a fairly rare thing of beauty to me.... there's not a ton of guys doing this.

    It dances in the light when you move the blade in hand almost like something that's living. The organic nature of the finished product is something that can only be appreciated in hand. A static photo can NEVER truly show what it is.

    Thanks for "listening"
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickWheeler View Post
    It's a fairly rare thing of beauty to me.... there's not a ton of guys doing this.

    It dances in the light when you move the blade in hand almost like something that's living. The organic nature of the finished product is something that can only be appreciated in hand. A static photo can NEVER truly show what it is.

    Thanks for "listening"
    Rare and fleeting....because the upkeep required to maintain this beauty is significant and relentless....the cost is not only measured in dollars, but in an almost religious commitment in maintenance.

    Don Fogg turned me on to Nick Wheeler about 7 years ago, stating that Nick held to Don's values and was willing to try and push it to another level. I have benefited greatly from knowing Nick and his work, and he has been a constant and steadfast companion in moving the knowledge and practice of top quality bladework to the new levels of achievement.

    Nick will never be able to charge what his work is worth, and I doubt that the world in general will ever recognize that worth. That said, a few of us do and will, and that is enough for me.

    It has been an absolute and total pleasure to know Nick and his work, and a simultaneous exercise in frustration and despair, and those that know....know.

    Worth every penny.

    Best Regards,

    STeven Gasson
    Victory comes with the sword still in the scabbard
    The Way of the warrior is a dying art

  10. #10
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    Lightbulb

    I learned long ago that the divisive point of man leaving animals, and becoming the smartest being on the planet, was his adaption and cleverness in creating tools for his work. Nick just showed us about ten different tools of his design and inclination that make HIS procedures easier.

    STeven, how well I know what you refer. Guys, Nick is bringing at least (2) knives to the ABS Show. One of them is mine, and he started finishing the blade to this degree well over a month ago. He literally sent me updates and setbacks daily. It took about three weeks to get it where HE was satisfied. (I told him be done with it in the first few days, but he only listens to the little voices in his head.... )

    This is a rare window into his workshop, and a glimpse of his dilemma: He's a perfectionist and artist with no sense of allowance.

    On top of all that he's a skilled teacher.

    Thanks for the lesson!

    Coop

    BTW: Exactly right about the static photo never showing the shimmer. It's a motion picture of shadows and highlights. I can't do it.
    Jim Cooper - Capturing the Artistry and Significance of Handmade Knives. • Makers: Read Post 815 AND Post 891
    • 2014 Website - Below • SBC on Facebook

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by SharpByCoop View Post
    STeven, how well I know what you refer. Guys, Nick is bringing at least (2) knives to the ABS Show. One of them is mine, and he started finishing the blade to this degree well over a month ago. He literally sent me updates and setbacks daily. It took about three weeks to get it where HE was satisfied. (I told him be done with it in the first few days, but he only listens to the little voices in his head.... )

    .....He's a perfectionist and artist with no sense of allowance.

    On top of all that he's a skilled teacher.
    All the accolades deserved and stated, hasn't Nick owed you a blade for something like 6 years, Coop?

    Best Regards,

    STeven Garsson
    Victory comes with the sword still in the scabbard
    The Way of the warrior is a dying art

  12. #12
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    Ahhhhh STeven.... take 'ya up, and then slap 'ya back down!

    I definitely own up to letting things get away from me and getting in over my head in the knife world. I'm doing my best to remedy all that these days

    I completely agree with STeven about the upkeep. It's a delicate finish. You even have to be careful about how you wipe it down. It is THE FURTHEST thing from a rough and tumble, working grade knife finish that there is. The FURTHEST!

    But to me.... it's worth the efforts and the risks.

    In a perfect world, this blade would look like this forever. But, just like a beautiful woman... I would rather know, see, appreciate, and enjoy the beauty she holds in her youth than NEVER know it simply because age will take it from her.



    As a side note, this is something I posted on Don Fogg's forum, and I thought was worth sharing here too...

    <<<<< I have really bad ADD that forces me to approach my work in a very structured, organized manner... or my shop just becomes a mess of chaos in which nothing ever gets done. Because of that, I have come to rely on precision as a cornerstone of my shop practices. There is something unbelievably gratifying about integrating a refined and particular approach to work, and the art that is creating and bringing out a hamon.

    Hands down, the number one man I have to thank for helping to send me along on that journey is Don Fogg.

    THANK YOU DON!!!
    >>>>>
    Last edited by NickWheeler; 08-14-2010 at 07:02 PM.
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/808140-Wheeler-s-Steel-*-Stuck-in-the-metal-with-you

  13. #13
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    Mighty nice. Thanks for taking the time to post and inform us.
    Looks way good. Dozier (not Bob)

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickWheeler View Post
    Ahhhhh STeven.... take 'ya up, and then slap 'ya back down!
    Do you think that a pleasure, Nick?

    There are few in the knife world that know you like I do, and fewer still that will bring their thoughts to the fore, risking offending you. We are much above that, my friend.

    While I sympathize, it would be foolish and a waste of MY talents not to be honest about the situation, because everytime you make one, which is almost always good, people fawn over it, and forget the bad.

    Helping to keep you rooted , my friend.

    Best Regards,

    STeven Garsson
    Victory comes with the sword still in the scabbard
    The Way of the warrior is a dying art

  15. #15
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    Guys if you keep this up he might make more knives. Nick your the man.

  16. #16
    Thanks for sharing Nick. Great photos! You certainly hold yourself to a very high standard, esp. in the finishing. I noticed a little hunter being sold not too long ago on the exchange. Someone got a good deal..
    David

  17. #17
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    Nick, where do you buy that silicon carbide powder?

  18. #18
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    Steven always ranted to me about how good you really are.


    He was right .

    Beautiful work and a breath of fresh air from the simple etched knives that show a Hamon that is not properly brought out

    Joe Paranee
    JParanee@aol.com
    NRA Life Member
    R.I.P. Phill Hartsfield

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickWheeler View Post
    Yowza!!

    Roger

  20. #20
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    What a treat to see inside the world of an artisan. Thank you very much for the education. I learn so much on Bladeforums.

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