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

Discussion in 'Custom & Handmade Knives' started by NickWheeler, Aug 14, 2010.

  1. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    2500 is pretty shiny!!! ;)
    [​IMG]

    That's the camera lens and shop ceiling you see in the blade...
    [​IMG]

    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!
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
  2. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    Once it's at a super clean 2500---
    [​IMG]

    ---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.

    [​IMG]

    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...
    [​IMG]

    Here's the finishing bench set up for "oxide removal" :)
    [​IMG]

    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!)
    [​IMG]
     
  3. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    Keep etching... and polishing... and etching.... and polishing... It's a one step back, two steps forward kind of process.
    [​IMG]

    Polish, polish, polish... Etch yet again...
    [​IMG]

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

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

    Some of the abrasives in my "bag of tricks" lol
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
  4. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    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.?:D 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.:thumbup:
     
  5. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    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
    [​IMG]

    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 ;)
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]


    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 :)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
  6. cnas122

    cnas122

    Mar 23, 2008
    Good thread. Thanks for the information and pics
     
  7. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Okay......I take back SOME of what I said in the previous post. That is impressive.:D
     
  8. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    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" :)
     
  9. Kohai999

    Kohai999 Second Degree Cutter Platinum Member

    Jul 15, 2003
    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
     
  10. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    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.... :eek: ;))

    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. :thumbup:

    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.
     
  11. Kohai999

    Kohai999 Second Degree Cutter Platinum Member

    Jul 15, 2003
    All the accolades deserved and stated, hasn't Nick owed you a blade for something like 6 years, Coop?;)

    Best Regards,

    STeven Garsson
     
  12. NickWheeler

    NickWheeler

    Dec 3, 1999
    Ahhhhh STeven.... take 'ya up, and then slap 'ya back down! ;) :D

    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!!!
    [​IMG] >>>>>
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
  13. wdtorque

    wdtorque

    May 29, 2010
    Mighty nice. Thanks for taking the time to post and inform us.
    Looks way good. Dozier (not Bob)
     
  14. Kohai999

    Kohai999 Second Degree Cutter Platinum Member

    Jul 15, 2003
    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
     
  15. Jon Brand

    Jon Brand Gold Member Gold Member

    May 28, 2007
    Guys if you keep this up he might make more knives. :) Nick your the man.
     
  16. 2knife

    2knife

    Mar 13, 2002
    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. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Nick, where do you buy that silicon carbide powder?
     
  18. JParanee

    JParanee Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    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
     
  19. RogerP

    RogerP Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 28, 2002
    Yowza!! :eek:

    Roger
     
  20. jhakken

    jhakken

    Dec 12, 2009
    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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