Knifemaking: being content, releasing, and the Minimalist

“Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.”

Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Originally, I wanted to call this blade The Monk.  When I see images or videos of Buddhist monks, or anyone living in a monastic setting, I used to wonder how they survive on so little.  Recently it was explained to me that they aren’t choosing a life of poverty.  They are choosing a life of contentment.  The idea as I’ve come to understand it is that they have enough and this brings contentment.  Enough, but in a gentle and satisfactory way.  This is pretty much counter to most of the ideas of what we are taught about being successful in Western society.

That was the inspiration for this blade.  Something simple.  Enough.  Content to just be.

There is an elegance in the simple.  Simple is difficult to pull off well.  Think of the best things.  Bach is simple but by no means easy to perform and certainly not lacking in beauty or depth.  Then there is steak- the best steak needs nothing but salt, pepper and a hot grill.  The list can go on.

This is where the beauty is.  An idea or tool or work of art or meal that has everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t.

There is a practice in many Buddhist temples that consists of tidying and cleaning.  It is believed that a tidy workspace helps with concentration.  There are books on the matter of getting rid of clutter.  Behind this is the idea that when we release the material things that are no longer serving us it will follow that we also release the emotional things that hold us back from being our naturally vibrant selves.

Ultimately I find this blade to be a reflection of how I desire to be.  In a way I am this blade.  As I was slowly removing the things that ultimately didn’t serve the purpose, function, being, beauty or existence of this knife I thought of the things that don’t serve me that I desire to release.  Like the grinding of this blade, release doesn’t happen all at once and if I tried to do it all at once I would be an overwhelmed, anxious, and contracted human being.  I’ve been there.  I think we all have.  Breathe deeply and appreciate how beautiful the simplicity of something can be.

I started this blade with a bit of O1 tool steel stock:

I wanted to make something simple and functional and beautiful.  This is what I came up with:

 

And a flat grind…

 

In keeping with the idea of not having anything unnecessary, I removed some of the stock in the handle.  It also makes it lighter.  Here he is after filing and sanding….

 

Hardening and tempering.  It took some tries but I got a forge built that gets plenty hot: the Brigid Marsal 3.0…

 

And after a dunk in some warm cooking oil…

 

He cleans up nice:

 

So for the handle I went back to the idea of the monk- enough clothes to keep you warm and decent, a safe place to sleep, and enough to eat.  Having just enough to help you really feel your inner being.  I found a dough proofing board used by bakers.  I made the handle out of that, one’s proverbial daily bread.  A simple coat of Danish Oil protects the handle and brings out it’s beauty.

 

 And the secondary bevel…

Handle detail.  So much love…. 

As I learn and grow, I find that some of the things I thought I needed aren’t serving me.  It’s ok to release these things.  This is the lesson of the Minimalist.

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