Knifemaking: making your mark and the Cuchilla Pequita

“Control what you can control, maggot!  Let everything else take a flying fuck at you and if you must go down, go down with your guns blazing.”

Cort the Gunslinger, from Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three

The Gauchos were a group of cowboys who worked on the grasslands of South America during the 18th and 19th century. They were a people without boundaries, solitary, and existing on the Pampas of Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil.  The Gauchos were a pretty wild bunch and had a lifestyle that was similar to the gypsies and travelers of Europe.  Always moving from place to place, job to job, and always on the hustle.  Most were nomadic and had few possessions. 

They were a solitary people, yes, but when they did run into other gauchos there was usually high-proof alcohol involved.  Also gambling.  And prostitutes.  Those three things made for a trifecta of machismo, and that usually resulted in conflict which manifested as duels.  Guns were expensive and hard to come by so the weapons of choice were usually knives.

When Gauchos dueled the objective was not to kill (although fatalities most definitely occurred); it was to leave a mark, preferably on the face.  A gaucho with a scar on his face had lost a duel, and all the other Gauchos knew this.  He would carry this scar for the rest of his life, but looking a little deeper one can find that scars are not always a badge of shame.

There is an inherent drive to leave your mark on the world but sometimes the world leaves its mark on you.  Things aren’t always the way we think they should be and in taking a risk to make a difference we can fail spectacularly.  We all lose duels everyday and some of us carry many scars, both seen and unseen.  Some of the most powerful and profound people I know carry scars that are both large and deep, yet these people shine brightly and leave their mark on the world everyday.  They are beautiful even though life has done its damnedest to leave its mark on them.  How is this possible?

I had a teacher once tell me that no one is in control.  This is something that is a bit of a struggle for me almost daily, even though I know that in the grand scheme of things my sphere of control is very small.  It comes down to choosing how to react to the things in our lives.

So there is a choice.  You can choose to not get pissy about the holiday Starbucks cup.  You can choose to not to feel like a victim because your candidate didn’t win.  You can choose connection over isolation.  You can choose to do something about situations that don’t serve you.  You can choose to wear your scars proudly because whatever left its mark on you wasn’t strong enough to take you down.  You can choose to let the things beyond your control take a flying fuck at you and fall as they may.  Though we can’t always control the circumstances in our lives, we can choose how we respond to them.  This is where we make our mark and is also the lesson of the Cuchilla Pequita.

There are several types of knives carried by the Gauchos.  The Cuchilla Pequita is loosely based on the Cuchilla.  The Spanish word for knife is el cuchillo, a masculine noun in the vocabulary.  The Gauchos feminized cuchillo and applied it to their particular style of knives, which had a ‘pregnant’ blade belly and a slightly dropped point.  This design is based on that style and starts in 1095 spring steel:

After grinding and hardening:

Drilling rivet holes:

Texas Mesquite:

Fitting the handle:

Fiber spacers for a splash of contrast:

Clamped:

Profiled:

Sanded up to 2000 grit:

The Cuchilla Pequita:

How we choose to react in our lives affects the impact we can make.  This is the lesson of the Cuchilla Pequita

Here are some sources that were incredibly helpful:

A Short Essay About Gaucho Knives: Facón, Daga, Cuchilla and Puñal

Brittanica Online

Knifemaking: learning your craft and the Maestro

“This is Mr. Beethoven.  Do you hear that?  You don’t?  This doesn’t move you?  Well that’s ok baby, you can always go sell shoes.”

-Doug Richards

This knife was a commission for one of my former teachers and good friends, Doug Richards.  I first met Doug when I was fifteen.  I had been accepted to a summer residential arts program and went to study music and trombone.  I was there with about 50 other musicians and vocalists from across the state.  One of the classes I took was run by a jazz saxophonist, who also played every wind instrument known to man.  To help us learn about jazz he brought in a very passionate man to speak to us about Duke Ellington, one of the great American composers.  This man was Doug.

This particular class was at 8am and we had all been up late doing God knows what, as teenagers away from home living on a college campus are wont to do.  Doug noted this and suggested that if we were tired and didn’t have time for the Duke then we could leave and take a nap.

This took us all aback.  We all paid attention as Doug put on an Ellington video and proceeded to dance around the room, deigning us with the story of the music and the man…and every member of the band.  The man has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and the lore around it.

I ended up coming to university to study with him.  He taught a two year course of study on how to write big band music.  That was the course description anyway but it was so much more than that.  In this class I learned how to listen, really listen, to music.  I learned how to discern the masters from the dilettantes.  I learned what moved me and the mechanisms of the sounds that held me in those places.  Amidst all of this I learned how to compose and arrange music that sounded like me, and no one else.

What I learned most from Doug was the importance of craft.  Craft encapsulates art.  Without it, your art isn’t as articulate as it could be and your vocabulary to put what you want to say out into the world is stunted.  I started to see this all over in my world- in the people I would work with, in the music I listened to, in the food I ate, and the films I would watch.  I paid attention to the manner in which things were put together.  I spent hours working on assignments from Doug, exercises in craft, to the point where I would seriously question my life decisions.  Often times I felt that these exercises didn’t leave room for any emotion.  Over and over I heard “Do not emote” when we approached these exercises, but then I would hear something that Doug had written and it dripped with emotion.  Was this some cruel joke?

It was not.  In time we were told to write things.  I would think of what I wanted to say, write it down, and the craft I applied would make it blossom.  Almost without even thinking about it.  You just know what to do.  The way that a warrior knows to make the kill, or a seventh grade guitar player knows to hit the distortion button.  And so I started devouring the craft.  I studied classical orchestration with Doug, orchestrating Ravel piano scores for wind ensembles.  I played in a Stravinsky ensemble he ran and we worked through pieces the likes of which I’d never heard. 

As an adult I remember all the lessons from this man.  I always try to remember craft, and to practice it.  Like a good meal, or good music, or good love, craft is not something that is easily bullshitted.  In a world where quality is often compromised for time and quantity, craft stands out.  This is the lesson of the Maestro.       

The stories of this man are legendary.  Here are a few:

-Most of us had heard of Doug doing one-handed pushups before rehearsals back in the day.  Somebody mentioned it to him one day before a rehearsal and he dropped down and did 17.  None of us could do any…

-When we were rushing the tempo on a piece of music in rehearsal, Doug told us to slow down or we would get a reputation with the ladies.

-There was a limited edition of a recording re-released and Doug told me that I needed to have it.  When I told him I didn’t have the money he suggested I get a paper route…

– Before one performance, Doug made an announcement: “Ladies and Gentleman, please take your cell phones, pagers, and all of your other electronic jive out into the lobby, throw them onto the ground and step on them because I don’t want to hear any of them during this performance.  Thank you.”

 

Doug asked for a chef’s knife, for the kitchen.  I started with a piece of thin stock O1 tool steel:

Hardened:

Grinding:

More grinding:

That’s about right…off the grinder at 40 grit:

Hand sanding station:

handwork starts at 80 grit:

120 grit:

220 grit:

Hours later at 320 grit….

This is a score of Doug’s, meticulously handwritten and every note exactly where it should be, articulated just so…

…so of course I cut it up…

Ready to be made into a handle:

Soaked in fiberglass resin:

I think I can work with this…

Be sure to learn your craft.

Also be sure to check out Doug’s record– it’s really fantastic.

Knifemaking: standing on the edge and the Stuntjumper

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

ee cummings– (dive for dreams)

This knife was a commission for a gentleman who was a professional stuntman.  He runs a screen printing company now, but his curriculum vitae shows him to be quite the daredevil.  What I really enjoy about this is how he steps right up to the edge of what most people (myself included) would deem comfortable or sane, and then leaps right off:

I started thinking about this idea of the edge we step up to and what it means.  Everything behind the edge is safe and comfortable.  Beyond the edge is the unfamiliar.  Maybe there is a job you don’t feel qualified for but want to apply anyway.  Or there is a project you want to pursue but are afraid of failing.  Maybe you are afraid of letting loved ones down, or yourself down.  Anytime we move closer to something that fulfills us, moves us, makes our life better, or helps us to grow, we get closer to that edge.  Beyond that edge is something new and different.  And that can be scary.

So you step up to the edge.  Perhaps there is a bit of reluctance there, with a splash of self-doubt, a shot of fear, and garnished with a cherry of mistrust, shaken (not stirred), making everyone’s favorite I’m-not-sure-I’m-up-for-this cocktail.  The trick is finding the thing that made you step up to the edge in the first place.  If you are truly ready to take the leap then that thing will outweigh the ingredients of the cocktail.  I think the secret of life is to find that thing.

As a kid, my family would go to the swimming pool most days in the summer.  My first favorite part of this was the snack bar.  My second favorite part was the diving board.  I would spend hours jumping off the diving board and eventually I taught myself to do somersaults and twists.  You know, the fancy dives.

I did this for many summers, well into high school.  Then during my senior year of high school an announcement was made that there was going to be a multi-school dive team.  I signed up.  I got a physical, bought a pair of speedos and went to the first practice.

I was awful.  I found myself surrounded by gymnasts who were much shorter and more agile and able to turn somersaults more quickly than I was.  The diving boards themselves were much more springy than the ones at the seasonal summer swimming pools with the snack bars, launching me at least three times as high.  My summer pool technique did me no favors.  There were some inward and reverse dives we had to perform where our heads came pretty close to the board.  I did many back flops and belly flops.  The coach talked me into working on a double somersault, and the velocity with which your face can slam into the water if you turn too far is rather high and a bit painful.

I remember many times stepping up to the edge of the board, wondering what I was doing out there, and then making the leap anyway. I remember what the reluctance felt like and what it felt like to not trust myself.  The thing that helped me to make the leap was that I wanted to be there and I wanted to try something I hadn’t done before and might not have the chance to do again.  I was pretty far out of my comfort zone but I found standing out on the edge in nothing but my speedos to be quite liberating.  I was never as good as I wanted to be but I was better than when I started and that was enough. 

As you move through life and it’s seasons you may find that the thing (the thing that is stronger than the I’m-not-sure-I’m-up-for-this cocktail) is constantly shifting and moving and it takes real work to find that thing that gets us to the edge.  It doesn’t feel safe, it’s uncomfortable, and it leaves us vulnerable to criticism and the negative opinions of others.  Sometimes getting to the edge is held up by our own judgements and self-criticism.  The upside is that the process of getting up to the edge can give a profound sense of purpose, even if we don’t quite make it there on the first try.  This is the lesson of the Stuntjumper.

Preliminary sketch:

…and working through a large 3/16″ chunk of O1 tool steel.

Night drilling…

Blank for the Stuntjumper, with half inch holes drilled to lighten the load a bit.

This is where the blade edge will be:

Midway through the initial grinding of the bevels:

Sanding before heat treat.  The more sanding you do on the soft steel, the easier it will be to sand when the steel is hardened.

Hardening the skullcrusher:

Ready for tempering:

Removing the slag…

…for a smooth satin finish

I wanted to include something that represented an edge of some sort.  This is a walnut shelf ledge that my partner got from his father-in-law.  I thought it would do nicely

Red fiber spacers for a bit of contrast:

Shaped:

More shaping:

Make sure you are stepping up to your edge- the hardest part is getting there.  Don’t forget your Speedos…


Check out Mr. Snow’s business Mobile InkPod

Knifemaking: how to behave in the world, and the Dummy

“You big dummy!”

-Fred Sanford

It was New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago and it had been a pretty crappy year.  I was with very good friends, half drunk, and a bit reflective.  There are times in life when challenges present themselves, as they always will.  You can deal with them with grace, dignity, and elegance and use them as an opportunity to move forward….or you can let each one smack you in the head until you find yourself sitting in a pile on the ground feeling sorry for yourself.  My year could be summarized by the latter.  So in my half drunken state I came up with the last New Year’s resolution I would ever make.  I wrote it down:


Don’t be a dumbass. The next day in a brand new year I thought about this.  I proposed that whatever future situation I found myself in and there was a decision to make I would ask myself, “What would a dumbass do?”.  When I had determined what course of action a dumbass would follow, I would simply not follow that course.  

The beauty of the whole thing is the simplicity of it.  Much like kindness, it functions on a continuum.  It will meet you where you are and, if you are diligent in your practice of not being a dumbass, it will expand into your entire universe.  Before long, what started as a way to make your immediate life better turns into a lifestyle.  You set an intention to be present in your life and your relationships.  You are navigating opportunities.  You are not perfect but anyone who is not a dumbass knows that no one is.  It is quite challenging but the payoff is that you, my dear friend, are not being a dumbass.

But alas, no system is perfect.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you find yourself ambling down an avenue of unbridled, unbuttoned, and completely unadulterated dumbassery.

I found myself on that avenue the other week.  It was one of the most embarrassing and humbling days of my professional life.

I had a contracted production runner job working for a big televised arena show.  My job was to run around town and procure necessary items for the show.  I’m generally very good this job.  They give you a list of things they need done to make the show happen, you figure out the best way to accomplish those things, and everyone works together to make a production happen.  Many times you are part of a well-oiled machine that makes incredible things happen and it is very satisfying.

This particular show, being a massive televised touring production with many things that can potentially go wrong, required a copy of our drivers’s license for insurance purposes.  Most production runner gigs don’t do this.  No worries though and I handed over my license.

It had expired.  Then I remembered the notice I had gotten from the DMV a couple of months ago and how I said I’d get around to it and how I actually hadn’t.  This wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to be reminded.  It was hugely embarrassing and I wanted to run away and hide. 

I did not run away and hide, because that’s what a dumbass does.  The people on the production team for this organization are incredibly kind and though I couldn’t do my normal job and was working my way out of a shame funk, they let me work in catering.  I hadn’t done anything in food service since I was 19.

They sent me to the kitchen and I met with the head catering lady who just laughed at me, handed me an apron, and sent me to help unload a cargo van slam full of food to be prepared that day.  The cargo van was in the loading dock and the loading dock was a zoo.  In addition to the van there were four tractor trailers being unloaded by about forty stagehands.  There were four forklifts unstacking road cases and half a dozen men with radios directing all of this.  I joined four or five other guys at the van and start loading up carts with everything from fresh salmon to the biggest can of marinara sauce I had ever seen. 

I get one of the loaded carts to take to the kitchen and it is slam full.  I am trying to navigate the insanity of the loading dock and I hit a bump.  There is a gallon-sized tub of dijon mustard sitting on top of the cart that I watch, in slow motion, fly off the top of the cart, hit the ground, break open, and splay all over the crew chief directing the insanity.  He was not happy….

So food gets back to the kitchen and unloaded.  I would spend the next four hours peeling potatoes, cutting endives, and shredding raddichio.  It was surprisingly calm in there.  I made sandwiches for lunches, ran dirty dishes to the wash area, and cut up more vegetables.  Every time I ran into the head catering lady she would say ‘here comes trouble…’.

They were all very sweet and kind.  They sent me home with a hotel tray full of baked ziti which fed me for two weeks:

This is the lesson of the Dummy.  Sometimes you have to stay with your dumbassery and it will pass.  Everyone is a dumbass sometimes.  Thank you Universe for teaching me humility….

I started with 1095 spring steel.  Here it is cut, with bevels started:

Hardened:

Wet sanding:

….for a satin finish

In gratitude for the many meals I was gifted, I wanted to work ziti into the handle:

Hulk smash:

Fiberglass resin:

Dinner is served:

The dijon mustard, a low point of my dummy day:

I used this to force a patina on the blade:

The Dummy:

With all the love in my heart, don’t be a dumbass.

Knifemaking: past things made present and a restoration project

An acquaintance brought me three knives to be restored: three beautiful old kitchen knives, a trifecta of culinary efficiency.  There is a massive cleaver, a 10″ German style chef’s knife, and a 6″ French style utility knife:

They have been through the paces.

Everything breaks down at some point.  As someone who will push himself to the point of exhaustion I find this to be a strangely comforting and, paradoxically, terrifying idea.  There are times in life when the only way to get to the beauty that once was is to go through the worn out parts.

Wait…how did these things get worn out in the first place?

I’ve found that there are seasons of life when it feels as if the universe is screaming at you to make something happen, to make changes, to do better, and to seize opportunity.  And suddenly inside yourself you can see a path to these things.  You begin to feel a sense of urgency so strong that it feels like the whips are being cracked.

And so whatever your task at hand is becomes an insatiable vixen.  At least this is what it can feel like.

In these moments we often neglect to take care of ourselves and then wonder why things aren’t working as they should.  But still we keep pushing.  And in our zeal to accomplish we can end up depleted- physically, emotionally, and spiritually, appear as shells of the amazing things that we are.

Sort of like these knives…

Restorative processes are not always pretty.  Sometimes they hurt a little or a even a lot.  They can be alienating to the people we care most about.  And they come with the moments of hesitation and questioning and reluctance.  These things are still functioning so why mess with them?  Is it worth the time and work?  Maybe it’s ok the way it is.  Maybe if I pretend that there isn’t an issue it will all be fine.  These are healthy things to ask.  But are they working at their best?  Are they past their prime?  Are they getting any better?  Absolutely not. And in this life, leaving something better than you found it is one of the sweeter things we can experience.

So you strip away the layers of rust that came from daily exposure to the elements.  The wood that has become cracked from moisture exposure after years of washings has to come off.  New wood is put on and sanded and finished with the deepest of love.  The dull edges are honed sharp again.  Everything thing is oiled and brought back to life.  When you start these processes, and they are processes which can take awhile, it requires a commitment and a degree of tenacity to stick to it.

These knives were out of commission for a bit but it was necessary in order for them to function at their best.  Similar things happen in us when we take the time to look after ourselves.  It’s always a process and there isn’t necessarily a discernable timetable.  In this particular instance the restoration took me several days.

I started by removing two of the handles:

I soaked the small French knife in vinegar for about two days.  The vinegar eats away rust and corrosion but doesn’t harm the integrity of the blade.  It does create a reaction with the steel that leaves this residue on the blade.

She gets a sanding with high grit paper to make sure all the corrosion is gone.

Ready for a handle:

Glued and clamped:

Ready for shaping:

Shaped:

On the initial sanding I stopped at 220 grit and applied a liberal coat of oil and let it dry overnight.  Doing this makes for a more pronounced, nuanced, and beautiful grain pattern.

Working through the grits, up to 2000.  I think this is 600:

Our friend the cleaver:

A vinegar bath for a couple of days:

The spine was pretty roughed up:

So I smoothed and deburred it:

Quarter sawn white oak:

The customer asked to keep the original handle for the 10″ chef’s knife.  Here it is at about 120 grit:

Here it is at 2000 grit.  I believe it is Mahogany:

Oiled, of the Tung variety:

Sharpening:

Stropping:

Past things made present.  All restoration does is enhance the beauty within.  These are ready for the kitchen:

Knifemaking: finding your roots and the Treethrower

‘In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.’

Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

I have an old friend and his name is Joe.  Joe is a fascinating guy.  We went to music school together.  Joe is a killer rock musician, a badass chef, and is also really good at climbing trees.

This is Joe:

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Joe does tree work full time at the moment.  On weekends and his off days he does side work for friends.  Sometimes he calls me to give him a hand.  Sometimes the money is good and sometimes it is not but it’s refreshing work to do and it’s nice to be along for the ride.  His clients are always happy with his work.

The work I did with Joe consisted of removing dead or sick branches and limbs, and removing branches or limbs in order to open up a client’s yard to sun.  Any part of the tree extruding over a client’s house was also removed, by way of a block and tackle pulley system rigged to the tree so the branch could be slowly and safely lowered to the ground.  All of this was done with regard for the tree, with chainsaw cuts executed in such a fashion so that limbs could healthily grow back.  Deadwood was removed and cut flush at the trunk.

There was a quiet and zen process to a lot of this.  It all started with laying all of our tools out.  Joe would put on his rigging gear and I would fuel up and oil the chainsaws.  He would then set a climb line high in the tree and start to ascend, lugging a chainsaw, some handsaws and some tools.  The zen in this work comes from ritual.  All ropes and lines are kept coiled and tidy.  All brush is cut, cleared and neatly piled as soon as it comes down from the tree.  If you are using a chainsaw then you are wearing kevlar chaps and the chainsaw stops as soon as you are through cutting and before you move to the next cut.  If you are using the chainsaw in a tree then you have set at least three independent safety points, in case you accidentally cut your support line.  These little rituals and protocols help to remove some of the thinking from the process.  It creates a sort of space to be present with yourself and really feel what you are doing.  In this space you can start to feel a grounding and calm in the process.  It also allows you to really focus on what you are doing and helps to keep you safe.  All these things gently coerce you into slowing down and this is a good thing.  Tree work is pretty dangerous after all.

This space that has been created allows more mental real estate for when things get a bit hairy.  There was a the time when a line came loose and giant log cut from a tree fell and put a giant hole in the client’s deck.  Or the ‘how the fuck are we going to get all of this done?’ moments.  Or it’s rainy or icy and you feel extra unsafe.

It’s really refreshing to feel this because it’s a microcosm of life I forget to feel at times.  In this season of life, for myself and many of those close to me, sometimes you forget to ground yourself and everything feels uncertain.  Life changes quickly, living gets more expensive, and what worked yesterday doesn’t necessarily work today.  Focus wanes, a feeling of security becomes a commodity, and one can find themselves feeling a bit daft and inadequate.  This can be remedied by practices and rituals.  Keeping your ropes and lines tidy, in a spiritual and emotional sense.  This can be a bit of a process, especially if you come from a place where roots were shallow and conditional on things outside of yourself.

This is the lesson of the Treethrower.  I came to this idea while tossing massive logs we had cut down into a firewood pile.  It’s important to find roots in what you are doing.  When this doesn’t happen everything can feel daunting.  Often times these rooting things are right beneath your nose and, paradoxically, the last place we tend to look.  Finding them, even for a moment each day, can make a world of difference in your life.

It starts with a massive bar of 1/4″ 1095 spring steel.  My good friend and partner picked this up at a steel mill in North Carolina.

The angle of the blade on this design allows for much more leverage during large cutting chores.

I burned through about 8 cut off discs cutting this out:

Some half inch holes to remove weight.

Several hours later…

There is a lot of material to remove…

Full flat grind

Hand sanding before heat treatment

Into the forge:

Tempering…

This is a large piece of spalted pecan, sent to me by my wonderful cousin in Texas.

Up to 2000 grit

The Treethrower:  1095 spring steel, spalted Pecan handle scales, kydex spacers and steel hardware.

Thanks for the lessons, Joe.

Knifemaking: love, mixed martial arts, and the Lightbringer

“Love suffereth long, it is bountiful; love envieth not; love doth not boast itself, it is not puffed up

It doth no uncomely thing, it seeketh not her own things, it is not provoked to anger, it thinketh no evil

It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

It suffereth all things, it believeth all things, it hopeth all things, it endureth all things.

Love doeth never fall away, though that prophesyings be abolished, or the tongues cease, or  knowledge vanish away.”

I Corinthians 13, The Geneva Bible

On the other side of fear there is love.  We often here about labors of love, tough love, and doing what we have to do out of love.  These are the things that are easy to talk about but much harder to describe what they actually feel like when one finds themselves in the midst of them.  These are the things that are hard to deliver if your heart is not truly in them.  Like a good meal, love is not something that can be bullshitted, and certainly not for an extended period of time.

Love is connection.  It’s what holds things together through good and bad.  It helps us to feel our light when it feels like the universe is doing it’s best to crush us.  Most of us probably have parts of our lives that we look back on and wonder ‘how did I get through that?’  It’s love.

We all know romantic love with its intoxicating and consuming nature.  It puts the color in our world.  But beyond the rainbows and butterflies it takes a warrior to love someone deeply, to do the hard things, to fight for what is dearest to them.  This is what makes the world shine.

Then there are the times in life when the light of love can go dim and your world goes dark.  I found myself in one of those places a couple years ago.  It was bad.  I talked to a therapist who told me I was absorbing chaos.  Those close to me said it felt like there was a hole in my heart.  I got ultra New Age-y and talked to several light healers who told me my energies were out of alignment with love and that my heart chakra was blocked.

Though it was helpful to hear these things, it shed no light on what I was supposed to do to fix them or how difficult it would be.

It all came to head sometime after Christmas.  I had lost quite a bit of weight.  My friends said that I looked great but I felt awful.  I was getting up and going to work and going through the motions but it felt like moving mountains.  I had to get the office lady to remind me to eat.

There was a gentleman who had been coming in to pick up our scrap metal at our work for quite awhile.  He was a big Puerto Rican gentleman who used to be an MMA fighter.  His name was Jose and he is one of the happiest and most grateful people I’ve ever met.  He used to get into a lot of fights when he was a kid and then he made it into a career.  He said he stopped because he was tired of beating people up.  He had dated a lady who was a Brazilian fighter.  He always told me never to date an MMA fighter.  I told him not to worry.

So it was around this time that I was having all these problems and he came in and just looked at me.

‘Brother what happened?’

I asked what he meant.

‘You used to be BIG and HAPPY, but now you little and sad.  What happened, brother?’

We talked for a bit.  Jose is a really good man.  He told me to not stop loving, no matter what, that love always comes through.  He told me to look up the Bible verse (copied at the top of this post), which I reluctantly did.  I knew it from having it drilled into my head as a kid in Sunday school and I always thought it was cheesy.  I had heard it so many times under such superficial bumper sticker circumstances that I almost forgot how really elegantly composed it is.

So I made it a point to start doing things out of love, in a way that I had never really done before.  I started showing up for myself.  It was really hard and it wasn’t pretty.  In fact it was about as far from rainbows and butterflies as one could possibly get and still be in the realm of love.  Sometimes it’s still hard and not the prettiest to look at but I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let it ever get that dim again.

This is the lesson of the Lightbringer.  It was through that process that I learned that love is something you have to stay on top of and nurture even when, no, especially when it’s hard.   It is living and breathing and a sort of life force that keeps the world beautiful.  Even when the world makes it difficult to love, it doesn’t mean you should stop.  Without it, everything can lose it’s meaning and your world can go dark.

 O1 tool steel, in the process of roughing out the blank

Off the grinder at 80 grit

She is ready for heat treat

Hardened and tempered and sanded to 120 grit at a 45 degree angle

220 grit, cutting in at the opposite 45 degrees…

32o grit straight down the blade for a nice satin finish.  These lines are one of the signatures of a hand finished knife blade.  On the subject of labors of love, hand sanding hardened steel is no joke…

Curly Maple attached to the blade

Toward the end of the shaping, sanding, and bursting process…

The Lightbringer:  O1 tool steel, bursted Curly Maple, Kydex spacers, and brass hardware


I ran into Jose at a gas station the other week.  He told me I looked big again.  I just gave him a hug.