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What is the fascination of knivemaking?


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Hey,

I'm a fairly new member since I introduced myself last Saturday but I do have a big question to everyone here already. To get right into it: Why is (or at least seems to me) knivemaking so hyped whereas there are so many and fascinating other branches of smithing (toolmaking, blacksmithing, industrial smithing, armouring, etc.)? I really don’t get the excitement about knivemaking. I for myself forged a few knives and blades and it was an interesting experience to me but nothing I wanted to do mainly. It seems to me that the steps are always the same ones (forging the blade, grinding, making the handle, etc.) and the results are, yet everytime individual, always similar not to mention the lack of use for more than a dozen knives for a regular person. I really don’t want to offend anyone here, if you enjoy knivemaking it is just fine! Whether it is a hobby or a job, it needs to make you happy and if it does, everything is as it should be! But could the knivemakers of you (or any other member) please try to share and explain their fascination and reasons for making knives and blades to me? 
 

Greetings

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Way before FiF; there was the fact that people are willing to *pay* for knives when an ornate custom piece of smithing that may have taken just as long to make wouldn't sell for 1/2 the price!

A lot of smiths have started through knifemaking and then gone on into other aspects of the craft as they "matured"...

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In some ways your question is similar to saying you don't understand why some people prefer tomato slices on a sandwich.   People like what they like.  I've been interested in knives, fire, explosives, and firearms since I was young.  I can't tell you why exactly.  I just like them.  Forging knives allows me to work with fire to make blades.  That combines two of those interests at the same time.  I enjoy forging tools and decorative things as well, but I am more drawn to blades than other things.   I don't really enjoy standing in front of the grinder for extended periods of time, but I do like the forging and the end result. I do get a sense of satisfaction from creating something useful for myself or someone else that can potentially be enjoyed for generations.

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In my area, when doing demo, the first question I get is “do you make knives?”. The second is “do you make horse shoes?”. It’s just what people know, and many people here seem to get into smithing to make knives, and they sell! Personally, I like the idea of knife making, but don’t enjoy it as much in practice. I’d rather make tomahawks, tools, or decorative forgings.

In any forging though, I’m really trying to make the best piece possible. I want to push myself to always have a work of art when finished. (I still have a long way to go!)

David

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The question about knives is a relatively recent phenomenon, in my experience.  When I started blacksmithing and demoing in the late '70s the horseshoe question was common but not the one regarding making knives.  In the US I attribute this to Forged In Fire.  Also, more people (like all of them) are familiar with knives while fewer are familiar with other forged objects.  When talking to a smith they will try to find a common subject and knives and shoeing horses is the usual common ground.

When asked if I shoe horses I say, "Sure, 'shoo, horse, shoo'" while waving my hands in a shooing motion.  I then tell folk that the 2 things I know about horses is that one end kicks and the other end bites.

Like many smiths, I don't make many knives because I don't greatly enjoy the bench work of grinding, polishing, and making hilts and scabbards.  I'd rather be hitting hot metal.  That said, I am lusting after a 2"x72" belt grinder.  My old 1"x42" just doesn't do it any more.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Gorge N.M, I'm wanting to try out the 2x48 0r 2x36 multi tool belt grinder. Its not as big as a 2x72  but its cheaper.

To the OP, i don't understand the fascination with knives either. I like tools and ornamental work. Bottle openers and candle holders are my cup of tea. I did forge a blacksmith knife and plan on doing that more because it looks cool, it looks old and i like that.

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Knives are one of the basic tools that set us apart from the rest of God's creation. From Tarzan's  discovery of his father's knife enabling him to defeat a gorilla to Mowgli's "iron tooth" guarded by a white cobra to Tom Sawyer's "Real Barlow" to King Arthur's "Excalibur" the blade is endlessly celebrated in literature. What would the "Lord of the Rings" be without Glamdring, Sting, Orcrist or the shards or Narsil?

As a boy, I had a bowie that was rarely not on my side. I used it to cut firewood, sharpen stakes, open cans of soup and stew, dig holes, skin rabbits and squirrels, break trail, make blaze marks and spent countless hours trying to stick it in an old hackberry tree from various distances. 

I still am rarely without a knife of some kind. The first one I ever made was a bowie made from a leaf spring. It is still unfinished. I had intended to give it to my brother, but he died a few years back. I was 26 when I started that blade. Now I'm 70. I've made (and finished) many since that have gone to friends, sons, a grandson and even my wife. One day I suppose I'll finish that bowie and give it to my nephew.

A knife can be just a tool, but it can be more. A hand made knife has a little bit more character, inherited from its maker. I've had tools that I enjoy and appreciate. Since I retired and re-started smithing there are tools I'm downright fond of, but I would give a sizable sum to have that old bowie of mine lost long ago. 

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Read the poem, "The Song of the Men's Side" by Rudyard Kipling for a story about how an iron knife saves a tribe and its cost.

There is something very basic and fundamental about a knife.  As a cutting edge it was one of man's first tools and pre-dates homo sapiens.  We probably have some sort of racial/species memory and association with knives.

GNM

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Well, thank you all a lot for your answers! I think I can now understand a little bit better why forging knives is so popular. Over all, it is a very good thing to the craft, because knivemaking brings more people into the craft who then get more interested in other aspects of blacksmithing and so prevent the craft from obliteration.

Greetings

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Thanks for sending me down the Rudyard Kipling rabbit hole George. I owe you one! His poetry is like potato chips, nobody can read just one. 

"The Song Of the Men's Side," says it well. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Frosty, read the story The Knife and the Naked Chalk from Kipling's Rewards and Fairies which is part of the Puck of Pook's Hill series.  Here is a link:

https://www.telelib.com/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/prose/RewardsFaries/nakedchalk.html

The poem Song of the Men's Side is the poetical version of the story.  It has also has been set to music by Leslie Fish.  see:  

 

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OTOH, Knives Illustrated, Knives Points of Interest, Knives 198X, 199X, 200X, The Complete Bladesmith, The Master Bladesmith, The Pattern Welded Blade; The Knifemakers Guild, the American Bladesmith Society, etc;   all predate 'Forged in Fire'   I'd say there was a lot of interest starting in the 1970's.  I know Bill Moran's work lured me to the dark side!

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If it hadn't been for those, there wouldn't be competitors on FIF with twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years' experience!

FIF has certainly raised the public profile of artisanal knifemaking, and while one might argue whether this is good or bad, it is certainly true that having larger numbers of people pursuing a craft increases the chances of those with exceptional talent and dedication achieving the skills to rise to the top of the field.

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A knife is a basic tool for me, and I have carried one since high school...back when it wasn't a crime to do so at school.  I usually have a multi bladed folder type of pocketknife with me.  My Dad taught me wood carving, and I was also in the Boy Scouts, so a knife was needed for several tasks.

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When I was a teen,  I carved a gladiolus from a 2 x 4, I said when I was a young Marine I wanted to learn how to make knives,  even tried to cut one out while I was in Japan.  I knew absolutely nothing about the process or even where to look to get started.   It wasn't until FIF that I got the initial push.  I looked at it as a starting point.   I payed close attention to more of the technical aspects and started researching.  For me a knife is the physical form of reliabilty.  It does what you need it to do, no batteries,  no charging, no loading.  It's form is deceptively simple yet open to endless variety of design.   That's what it is for me.  Though other aspects of Smith do appeal,  a blade is a tool that will be used.  Decorative stuff in general doesn't appeal as much since I'm a spartan living kinda person. 

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Now it's a Friday; I was just contemplating the carving of a flower from a 2x4 with a knife...

As a kid we spent a lot of vacations in Florida  as my Father worked on the Apollo Project.  I used to use my boy scout pocket knife and carve swords from palm frond center ribs.   Of course Mel Fisher was finding the 1715 treasure fleet back then too.

IIRC, the first documentation I remember about knifemaking was how to make a knife from an old file in the Last Whole Earth Catalog.

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While TLWEC had a bit of smithing info in it my first dedicated to smithing book was "The Modern Blacksmith" published in 1974 and I think I found a copy remaindered in the late 1970's and it's still a favorite of mine even over "The Edge of the Anvil".

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They were my two literary start into blacksmithing as well. I think the fox fire books were about the same time. However I got grabbed  around that time by "The Gunsmith of Williamsburg" vid and the idea of making a flintlock rifle real bad. Its still on my to do list.

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I still have a piece of air dried oak to make a crossbow stock out of; been drying for over 200 years now, yes 200 years. (Barn torn down by a developer in NJ)  Maybe when I retire...

IIRC The modern Blacksmith predated Foxfire 5 by half a decade.  Coming from the hills myself, Ozarks, I've liked the Foxfire series and understand that their methods are often based on what they had rather than what might be best. (Shoot a lot of my work is still based on that!)

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