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

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Critikill, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    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. Broomhead

    Broomhead

    335
    Jan 12, 2012
    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. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    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.
     
  4. fumbler

    fumbler

    299
    May 19, 2009
    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. SteelSlaver

    SteelSlaver

    Feb 17, 2007
    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. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    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.


    [​IMG]


    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. dperk

    dperk

    132
    May 16, 2006
    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. chad2

    chad2

    999
    Sep 2, 2011
    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. SteelSlaver

    SteelSlaver

    Feb 17, 2007
    and that sharp point below the hole is going to end up stuck in you at some point
     
  10. chad2

    chad2

    999
    Sep 2, 2011
    Agree especially as a chopper
     
  11. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    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. chad2

    chad2

    999
    Sep 2, 2011
    Lets see the revision!
     
  13. Broomhead

    Broomhead

    335
    Jan 12, 2012
    Looks a lot like one I'm working on. I have since removed the knob at the handle butt.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Fred.Rowe

    Fred.Rowe Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    May 2, 2004
    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. Fred.Rowe

    Fred.Rowe Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    May 2, 2004
    The reverse curve in the handle does not adapt well to a human hand.
     
  16. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    Quick shot of the cardboard cutout on my desk.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
  17. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    Broom, is that slot for gripping, weight, or what? I like the look a lot!
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
  18. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    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... :confused:
     
  19. Broomhead

    Broomhead

    335
    Jan 12, 2012
    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. Critikill

    Critikill

    150
    Jun 19, 2012
    Well it looks damn cool!
     

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