Here is an update on my on-going quest for a standard, utilitarian (and hopefully aesthetically pleasing) knife that I can offer from my shop at a cost reasonable to my customers but also friendly to my one-man-shop business. I’ve been increasingly interested in the concepts of art versus craft. In Japan, Scandinavia and elsewhere there has been a movement towards an appreciation of beauty in the utilitarian items made by craftsmen for everyday use. Things such as rice bowls, tea cups, spoons and other items that people can easily take for granted especially in a world that favors inexpensive, mass production. These things can often be breathtakingly beautiful even though this was never the intent of the maker. The beauty stems from the method of how they were made, the materials available to the craftsman and the mastery due to making of the thing over and over again. This beauty is often transcendant from the simply utility of the object. Nothing is forced. These things are made over and over again yet each piece has it’s own character.. because the method and materials themselves allow this. The repetition of the method becomes a sort of meditation. This appeals to me because the impetus to make an original piece of ‘art’ every time I go into the shop can be stressful sometimes. So I like the idea here… it is comforting.
This is one version of an idea. A simple knife inspired by my interest in both Scandinavian and Japanese craft where everything is distilled to pure usefulness and efficiency and the outcome is constrained by the method and the materials at hand. The method has to be streamlined to something that is economical without a sacrifice of quality. This one is made by stock-removal of 0.095 15n20 and hidden tang construction. 15n20 is an incredibly tough blade material and I personally love thin blades for everyday use. Thin knives cut well. The finish on the blade is derived from force-rusting the blade and then boiling in an oak leaf infusion. This is a very tough, rust resistant (it’s already rusted!) finish that can be considered attractive to some people. I love hidden tang construction because of how they feel in the hand and the fact that I have a method for making these that is streamlined for me. I will continue to use old growth white oak (black oak) salvaged from Lake Superior via diving until I run out (they’ve stopped harvesting this wood). The blade is 3.25″ and the overall length is 7 3/4″. Each knife will come with a Scandi style center seam sheath and a deer bone toggle (netsuke) that can be used to hang from a belt loop or belt without running through the loop. This is a method inspired by Japanese netsuke and a wonderful, easy way to carry something. It can also be strung through the loop in a typical fashion. Each ‘netsuke’ will be unique and sometimes decorated with ‘antler engraving’ methods.
IF I carry out this idea.. I will also do a forged variation with a heavier spine and will also do a handle style that is more in the tradition of the the European Iron Age and would therefore work well in historical reenactment. I may also do limited runs on carved grips.
These will start at $175 with the 15n20 blade and sheath and go up with the use of a forged blade, damascus steel, carved grips, etc.