Knifemaking: finding your home, braving the elements, and the Northerner

“A farm of your own is better, even if small. Everyone’s someone at home.”

Hávamálst. 36

Home is what you make it.  The first thing I do when I go into anybody’s home is notice how it smells.  There are many things that can be inferred this way.  It may smell of cooking and spices, a fireplace, clean linens, pets, Murphy’s oil soap, and the people who live there.  All these things are things of love, cultivated in a place where the person who lives there can just come and be.  It’s a safe place where we can take off whatever armor we may wear during the day.  It’s a refuge that shields us from the elements in our lives.

Some brave harsher elements than others.  And in the times we live in, the elements are no longer relegated to heavy rains, freezing blizzards, or lands parched with drought.  They are deadlines for work, the threat of unemployment, passive-aggressive emails, fruitless battles with the DMV, quarterly tax estimations, health insurance premiums, our police executing citizens without arrest or trial, politicians stripping us of our civil liberties and thousands of other things we have little control over.

This can send our stress through the roof and it’s a small wonder.  From an evolutionary standpoint our reactions to stressors were designed to help keep us safe and alive.  You see a bear, you react appropriately by stressing out hard and in turn releasing enough adrenaline to haul ass out of that situation. Then you calm down, throw some logs on the fire and snuggle up with the misses.  Or the mister.  But these days unrelenting stress can lead to unhealthy anxiety and this in turn often leads to depression, ultimately leading to feelings of being stuck and health issues.  Depression and anxiety have their evolutionary purposes but I feel their effects been blown way out of proportion by the amount stimulation and unnecessary stress in today’s world.

This is why it’s important to have a home.  A place where the elements won’t creep in.  This may take some work.  An inspiration for me is John Wemmick from Dickens’ Great Expectations.  He has an unpleasant job, deals with many stressors but goes home to his castle, a safe and gentle refuge he has built for himself.

Throughout history and literature the people from the northern areas are by nature a people more hardened to the elements.  They are a people capable of great acceptance, aware that they can’t change the elements but instead find a way to thrive within them.  That is the inspiration for this blade.

I had to do a bit of research on blade shapes and functions.  I wanted to make something that would aid a modern day Northerner in his outdoor tasks.  This blade is loosely based on a composite of bushcraft designs.  It is a drop point blade with a partial saber grind.  I tried to find a balance between having a deep enough belly for slicing and having enough of a point for effective piercing.  I am rather fond of the O1 tool steel.  It is relatively easy to work with and hardens up beautifully.  it takes a keen edge and is forgiving of my mistakes.

 Cut and profiled

And the grind.  A little bit at a time… 


Ground and sanded.  The larger holes help to lighten the blade. 

Wet sanding after heat treat.  I have been using WD-40.  It won’t rust and I find it gives a smoother finish. 

I went to a lumber mill to try to find some more exotic wood.  It was awesome. 

I found a beautiful piece of quarter sawn white oak.  It is sawn in such a way that gives it more stability and shows the grain more beautifully.  Here is a lovely video on the process and how it affects the grain.

Handle work: brass rivets that I bevelled and the oak shaped and rough sanded.     After much more sanding….  A dark shade of Danish oil

  The Northerner

The grain is stunning.
  A fabulous backside is always a bonus….

Edge detail….

There will always be things in our life that will challenge us and create stress.  As long as we have a place we can go, whether bricks or mortar or built within ourselves, we will always be able to brave the elements.  This is the lesson of the Northerner.

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