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Thread: How do you know if a design will "work"?

  1. #1

    How do you know if a design will "work"?


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    I've been thinking about trying my hand at making a few knives. Of course I know I should start off simple, and I will, but the designs I really want to try out are not so easy or common.

    I wonder how you tell if a less common design will "work" before you put it together? Do you maybe make a cardboard/wood cutout and play around a little bit, or does that not tell you enough and you basically have to just sit down and build the knife?

    Please excuse my ignorance.

  2. #2
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    Mockups are essential in knowing how a design will feel and fit in your hand. Some use thick, or multiple pieces of cardboard, others use wood to cut their designs out of. I use cardboard as I don't have access to a lot of wood or an easy way of cutting it, for now anyway.

  3. #3
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    There are a few design methods that work...and some that don't

    Posting your ideas here or elsewhere for peer review is a good thing. There is not much that hasn't been tried before, so you can usually get good advice.

    Make a wooden model. If it feels right, and seems to work, it is worth trying in metal.

    Make one in metal, and see how it tests out in real use.

    Look at knife books and galleries for inspiration.


    The worst way is to draw up a lot of "new" shapes and knives based on movies and fantasy themes. They almost never work.
    Stacy E.Apelt
    It is better to die fighting evil than to live under it.

  4. #4
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    I use balsa and basswood sheets from the craft store. It's easy to work using knives to shape it.
    I buy sheets of similar thickness to the steel and handle material. To attach wood handles to the blade blank all you need is double sided tape. That way if you like the blade and handles its easy to pull the wooden handles off and trace the blade into steel.

  5. #5
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    Some people do use wood. I have quite a bit of 5160 flat bar and I if I got an idea for a knife I often make one from it and see what problems I have making it and using it before I make one from a more expensive steel or some Damascus. Some times a shape is hard to grind right or something and little changes make a big difference.

  6. #6
    Thanks for the tips guys.

    Quote Originally Posted by bladsmth View Post
    The worst way is to draw up a lot of "new" shapes and knives based on movies and fantasy themes. They almost never work.
    Yeah, I'm not doing that. I am drawing it on paper, trying to imagine different grips, tweaking, and redrawing. I'm trying to base a design on what I think would feel comfortable using my head, but I'm sure it's a lot different than actually holding the finished blade.

    This is what I was currently thinking about. It would be 12" from butt to tip. It would be a chopper but the hole in the blade face and the spine's shape hopefully would allow you to choke up a bit and do some detail work.





    P.S. Stacy, I know you are in the Norfolk area, I was wondering if you ever do any workshops or would let me watch you build a blade? I'm from Virginia Beach myself and would love to see someone that knows what they are doing build a knife/sword.

  7. #7
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    I make blade profiles out of acrylic sheet first. They are very easy to form and can be used as a template if you decide to make it again. This allows you to hold the blade in your hand and judge the size and basic grip. You can then mold some clay or play-dough around the tang to see what it could feel like with some handle material on it.

    For a bigger blade as you drew above, I'd shape it out of 1/8" plastic first. You can get it at home depot/Lowes by the windows or online at a place like US Plastics.

  8. #8
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    The only problem i see is with the handle. A good knife starts with a comfortable handle or grip. First look at your palm is it convex or concave your handle would be perfect for a convex palm but not a normal palm i dont think you would use this knife much after the initial testing of it. Make the handle straight or curve it the other way. Please dont think that i am being rude. Just trying to save an other wise great design!

  9. #9
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    and that sharp point below the hole is going to end up stuck in you at some point

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ib2v4u View Post
    and that sharp point below the hole is going to end up stuck in you at some point
    Agree especially as a chopper

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by chad2 View Post
    The only problem i see is with the handle. A good knife starts with a comfortable handle or grip. First look at your palm is it convex or concave your handle would be perfect for a convex palm but not a normal palm i dont think you would use this knife much after the initial testing of it. Make the handle straight or curve it the other way. Please dont think that i am being rude. Just trying to save an other wise great design!
    Not rude at all. Thanks for the help chad.

    Thanks for the help from everyone else too. I made the point below the hole a little less pronounced, tweaked the handle, and modified the rest a little bit. Currently on cardboard rendition #5. Just have to try it with something a little more substantial then I think I'll actually try to make the blade!

  12. #12
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    Lets see the revision!

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    Looks a lot like one I'm working on. I have since removed the knob at the handle butt.

  14. #14
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    I follow Stacy's line of thinking. If you see a design that has been reproduced for years and sells well overtime, it is a sound design, it works. You can not go wrong using these designs as practice knife designs. Many makers, myself included, try to make a statement early by looking to put out a new design of blade. I still have some of those.

    Work with what works in the beginning, once you have it down, go for the moon.

    Fred

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critikill View Post
    Thanks for the tips guys.


    Yeah, I'm not doing that. I am drawing it on paper, trying to imagine different grips, tweaking, and redrawing. I'm trying to base a design on what I think would feel comfortable using my head, but I'm sure it's a lot different than actually holding the finished blade.

    This is what I was currently thinking about. It would be 12" from butt to tip. It would be a chopper but the hole in the blade face and the spine's shape hopefully would allow you to choke up a bit and do some detail work.





    P.S. Stacy, I know you are in the Norfolk area, I was wondering if you ever do any workshops or would let me watch you build a blade? I'm from Virginia Beach myself and would love to see someone that knows what they are doing build a knife/sword.
    The reverse curve in the handle does not adapt well to a human hand.

  16. #16
    Quick shot of the cardboard cutout on my desk.



    Feels pretty good in the hand. I figure I should probably try to attach something to the sides of the cardboard tang to see how well it would feel with a handle. I like the hole which lets me choke up on the knife when I want to cut something with the tip or do some detail work.

    Edit: added a few pictures with the mock-up in hand.


    Last edited by Critikill; 07-17-2012 at 09:28 PM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Broomhead View Post
    Looks a lot like one I'm working on. I have since removed the knob at the handle butt.
    Broom, is that slot for gripping, weight, or what? I like the look a lot!
    Last edited by Critikill; 07-17-2012 at 09:29 PM.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Fred.Rowe View Post
    I follow Stacy's line of thinking. If you see a design that has been reproduced for years and sells well overtime, it is a sound design, it works. You can not go wrong using these designs as practice knife designs. Many makers, myself included, try to make a statement early by looking to put out a new design of blade. I still have some of those.

    Work with what works in the beginning, once you have it down, go for the moon.

    Fred
    Very wise words. I know I probably SHOULD make a simple drop blade as my first blade, but it's hard to resist the itch...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critikill View Post
    Broom, is that slot for gripping, weight, or what? I like the look a lot!
    The slot was already in the piece, along with the hole that is the finger choil. In a previous life it was a mower blade.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Broomhead View Post
    The slot was already in the piece, along with the hole that is the finger choil. In a previous life it was a mower blade.
    Well it looks damn cool!

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