The Making of... a Bowie Named "Rampart" by Russ Andrews, JS

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This story begins not with a bowie, but with a sweet little walnut-handled hunter that Russ had available at the 2004 Arkansas Custom Knife show in Little Rock.

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Walnut has long been just about my favorite premium wood for a knife handle. This classic gunstock wood offers a winning combination of subtle beauty and durability that I find most appealing. Given that I already had a bowie on order with Russ, we decided that the bowie should become its companion piece. This, of course, meant that Russ was going to have to find some more gorgeous walnut for the handle.

This he did, spending the better part of what would no doubt have been a more pleasant Saturday afternoon chopping up a massive walnut root ball into “smaller” pieces (merely 10 – 15 lb. each!).

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One such chunk would ultimately yield the right piece of wood for my bowie. As Russ explains:

” The walnut came from the top of a root, at the juncture of the root and trunk just below ground level. The curve of the wood in that area allows me to cut following the curve, and have a piece that naturally follows the curve of the handle.”

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As for the design of the bowie we had settled upon a big, broad-bladed design with a more dramatic clip than that of the more subtle and understated hunter. Given that the latter would be the team member dedicated to the small-knife tasks, its companion would be rendered as a no-excuses big honkin’ bowie. Within that broad framework, the execution of the design was left entirely up to Russ. Here is a look at the blade in the process of being forged to shape:

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Further along the process, with the handle material selected and set aside:

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And here the blade has taken its final shape:

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The execution of the grooved ferrule would be a design cue to link the big bowie to its smaller sibling. Here we see a pair of talented hands filing one segment of the ferrule (there are two which, along with the guard, are fashioned from 416 stainless steel and hardened to approx. 30 Rc.)

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The guard itself would be asymmetrical in design and sufficiently broad to visually balance the massive blade. The longer blade-side extension of the guard would be kicked back slightly toward the handle, with the shorter top section curving slightly toward the blade. Here we see all pieces rough-fit together as the knife really begins to take shape:

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Part 1 of 2…….
 
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Part 2 of 2…..


I must say that it was particularly enjoyable receiving these pics of the knife at various stages of completion (all photos above are by Russ). Working closely with a maker on a project such as this is one of the very best aspects of this hobby – though I hasten to add that only one of us was actually doing something that might be described as work.

Having had the opportunity to look at these pics (all too often) over a few months and being very familiar with the exceptional quality Russ’ work, I certainly had an idea of what to expect of the finished product. Yet I was still completely blown away when I opened the box:

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*** WARNING *** The following paragraph contains a useless anecdote regarding the delivery of the knife. Those who value their time may wish to scroll ahead. ***

Okay, for the rest of us loafers…. I had asked Russ to send the knife via Fed-Ex overnight so I could track it on-line all the way from his door to mine. At 9:17 am the next day, I logged onto the FedEx web site from my office computer and saw the magic phrase “On Fed-Ex truck for delivery.” I knew from past experience that, given the close proximity of our office building to the downtown Toronto Fed-Ex hub, the knife would be in my hands in an hour or less. At 10:15 am I am rubbing my hands together in eager anticipation – Oh man – any minute now! And then…. THE FIRE ALARM GOES OFF!! You have GOT to be kidding me. No fire drills in over a year and they run one TODAY!? NOW??!! Ours is not by far a large building by downtown Toronto standards, but it still takes a good while to shuffle a few thousand over-stuffed muffin-eating desk-jockeys down several flights of stairs – get them checked in to their designated reporting locations, and back in again with precious-damned-few using the stairs for the return journey. I fully expected the entry on tracking site to now read “Delivery attempted – unsuccessful.” But as is happened, the Fed-Ex people were running a little slow and the knife made it safely in by noon.


******** We now return to out regularly scheduled programming. *******

The knife you see below (and above, and, well, everywhere in this missive) features a 10” long, 2” wide blade of forged W2 with an overall length of 15 ¼”. It is accompanied by a very well-executed leather sheath with frog button, whose contours closely match the profile of the blade and the curvature of the guard. The sheath is rendered in a rich burnished brown and features tapered welts for a slim profile. Anyone who has had the pleasure of handling an Andrews blade can envision the flawless hand-rubbed satin finish of the blade flats, which contrast nicely with the polished spine and underside of the ricasso.

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The wide asymmetrical double-guard together with the stacked, grooved ferrule provides a solid balance to the broad, aggressive blade and a gives a strong visual anchor to this massive bowie. Like the blade, the guard sports a dual finish with the underside satin brushed and the rest mirror polished.

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The following view shows more clearly Russ’ signature rounded shoulders of the spine and underside of the ricasso. As Russ explains:

” I much prefer grinding past the top on all my hunters and bowies. The intersection of the lines, in combination with a crowned spine gives the back of the blade a strong, carefully thought out, sculpted look. The deeper plunge cuts are also easily visible from the top, and it's really evident whether they're right, or off.” (Note from the author – they’re right.) “Aside from the aesthetics, the crowned spine makes it much more comfortable when it's necessary to put the heel of your off hand on the spine for a little more force.”


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The handle of this knife is every bit as well-executed as the rest, with subtle contours that provide a secure and very comfortable grip. The images do show the nice figure and colour of this piece of walnut, but utterly fail to display the deep chatoyant effect that this particular piece displays. Ambient light seems to penetrate about a ¼” into the wood and swirl around like the most fiery piece of fiddleback maple you ever saw.

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Speaking of things that the photos don’t show, it wasn’t until I got the knife home (and had ample time to wave it around all over the place without fear of alarming my colleagues) that I glimpsed what appeared to be a series of smudges running the length of the blade. I had thoroughly cleaned the blade and simply couldn’t accept the possibility of a marred finish on an Andrews knife. When I slowed down and tipped the blade so that the light hit it just so, a wonderfully active, swirly, smokey, whispy hamon was revealed. This is not a very pronounced see-it-from-across-the-room type of hamon and I have absolutely no hope of capturing it with my camera (which would require the talents of a SharpbyCoop which are far beyond the best efforts of FuzzybyRoger). It’s kind of like a private visual delight reserved for the one actually holding the knife.

The careful and intuitive reader will no doubt have managed to discern that I could not be more pleased with this knife. It was an absolute pleasure working with Russ and I very much look forward to our next project. And before I forget, about the name of the knife – Rampart – Russ chose this name because he felt this would have been a useful companion during the final hours of the Alamo.

I’ll wrap things up with a shot of the bowie-hunter pair:

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Roger Pinnock
 

nifrand

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Geeze Lueeze Rog your gonna give me the big one with stuff like this.
Randy
 
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AWESOME, friggin' AWESOME!!!....the knife, the story, the photos...very cool my friend!

It's 5:30 am, I need to get some sleep, but that was like drinking a cup of coffee...wide awake and ready to go back to the shop!!! :D Very inspirational-

Nick
 

Danbo

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For some reason, these pics aren't showing up here at work. Good thing I already know the story, and have seen the knife the other day. ;) :)

Awesome knife, Roger and Russ.
 
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"Mr. Clean" strikes again!
Great knives, Russ.

Good choice, Roger.

How long have you had the order in?
 
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What a knife, what a post - congratulations on a magnificent addition to my, er ... I mean ... your collection. :D

Russ Andrews work always bowls me over when I see pictures of it. Simply outstanding.

Stephen
 
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Thank you. I totally love those blades, something about them, especially the Bowie, no... BOTH of them. Beautiful!
 

RWS

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Wow! The Bowie is terrific; both knives are.

It looks like the Bowie would fit perfectly in the hand.
 

RAN

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UNREAL UNREAL UNREAL....
Thank You for sharing the process with us..now if you would share that Bowie with me say weekends and every other holiday...
Seriously though Mr Andrews if you are reading "Classicism personified" I am sure those pieces mirror what you are like as a man.
And Roger your enthusiasm and contributions make this forum as enjoyable and interesting as it is..nobody more deserving of such a wonderful set of knives.
 
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Beautiful, just beautiful. One of the things I really like about Russ's work is his sense of very understated but supremely elegant design. That along with his flawless execution equals knives that I've drooled after the most.
 
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That is indeed an awesome piece. Understated elegance at it's finest. I only own one of Russ' knives, a simple little semi-skinner hunter. Even that knife is flawlessly finished with at least a hand rubbed 800 grit finish on the CPM 420V blade (bet that was fun!). I look forward to owning one of his bowies some day.
 
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RAN said:
...nobody more deserving of such a wonderful set of knives.

Well, I can think of one person... :)

Roger, let me say that you suc....ummmm, I mean, uh, you stink! :) Yes, you're just a big stinker... :) (Didnt want to use the other forum's terminology, so, made up something completely different... :) )

Seriously though, nice knife, if you ever want to trade it, I'll give you 6 thousand Frost Cutlery Custom bowies... :) Hey, these are hand crafted customs and they retail for $500 each, so, that's like a few million in knives right there... :)
 

Danbo

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NickWheeler said:
It's 5:30 am, I need to get some sleep, but that was like drinking a cup of coffee...wide awake and ready to go back to the shop!!! :D Very inspirational-

Nick

Nick, I live close enough to Russ, that I can visit/harrass him a few times a year. Usually, I leave his shop feeling intimidated and inadequate. Kinda like when Wayne and Garth met Alice Cooper, and did the "We're not worthy!" routine. :)
 
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Roger this is much better than TV, good job.
And Russ you are a true craftsman / artisan, beautiful knives.

Don Hanson lll

Edit.... That looks like good ol Missouri black walnut :D
 

Danbo

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Whew! After those pictures, am I the only one who needs a cigarette? :)
 
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Gotta be one of the cleanest makers on the planet. Great photo essay as well. Very inspiring.
 

SharpByCoop

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What a pleasure to read and reread this unfolding drama.

I love that guard--the asymmetrical look. The whole knife rocks, but that guard draws me in the most. Congrats, Russ!

No one writes and brings out the subtleties better, Roger. Thanks!

Coop
 
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