Knifemaking: not taking things personally and the Persuader

“A true warrior can only serve others, not himself…When you become a mercenary, you’re just a bully with a gun.”

Evan Wright, Generation Kill

In the last semester or so of college I got a job building stages for a small production company.  When I say small, it was one gentleman who kept everything in his garage and had a box truck older than I was with no air conditioning.  Everything was rough and tumble.  Most of the jobs were second-rate: fashion shows at dilapidated event halls, seedy parties, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, weddings out in the boondocks, and community events in some of the rougher parts of town (for these I was told to carry a ‘stunt wallet’- a cheap velcro wallet with nothing but my ID and 5 or 6 bucks in it, in case we got mugged)  The biggest job he had was once a year at a county fair.  We would build a large stage, maybe 60ft by 30ft.  Then we set up 40ft by 20ft event tent on top of it.  The headlining act was an Elvis impersonator from North Carolina and for a county fair he could really draw the crowds.

These particular tents are a bit tricky.  They require at least four fit people to set up.  They are the sort of contraptions where there is a one right way to set it up and a thousand stupid ways to set it up.  There’s no in between.  There are several dozen aluminum poles ranging from 8 to 20ft.  They connect to form the frame through a series of elbow joints secured in place with cotter pins.  After you put the frame together, you ‘skin’ it with a weather treated canvas.  It’s all heavy as shit.

Invariably when you are putting the frame together some of the cotter pins won’t go in because the rivet holes in the poles won’t line up with elbow joints, usually due to uneven ground.  This was to be expected.  On these occasions we would bring out the Persuader.

The Persuader was an aptly-named baby sledge hammer for helping those cotter pins to go through the holes.  We weren’t trying to beat anything into submission or make anything do something it wasn’t meant to do.  There was no intimidation, no malice, nothing like that.  Sometimes things don’t quite go together as they were designed and in those instances they might need a bit of persuasion…of the forceful variety.

I find this when I get to the end of a project where there is something I’ve built and it’s almost finished but something isn’t quite going together as I had planned.  Do I start over?  Do I give up?  What usually happens is I percolate a cranky funk and try to wish it into submission.  Alas, wishing does not make it so….

This is where the lesson of the Persuader comes in.  The idea of helping something to do what it does.  Of taking action, manifesting intention, of letting go of the idea that things have to be perfect.  Sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in a project that when something doesn’t work I take it personally.  When that happens the project becomes about me instead of the idea I am trying to honor and serve.  When the cotter pins of Life won’t go through the rivet holes for which they were designed…give them a tap with the Persuader.  Not out of anger or frustration, but love taps.

It is from this place that I designed the Persuader blade.  Something you can pull out when you know where you want to end up but have challenges in your way.  When frustrations and doubts may close your heart.  When the goddamn cotter pin won’t go through the stupid rivet hole and the Elvis impersonator won’t have his tent and the sun melts his pomade and he can’t sing….right, deep breaths…everything is there, it just needs a little persuasion.

This blade started with a bar of 1095 spring steel.  I wanted something utilitarian, yet elegant.  For maximum blade strength and cutting ability I ground a sabre grind on the cutting edge.  For extra cutting utility I made a chisel grind on the top of the blade.

  Sabre grinds are difficult to do well.  I used my cheap little Chinese belt grinder as much as I could and then I evened it out on my filing jig.

  After heat treat and tempering….After lots of cleaning up and finishing work…

Some ornamental filework..,

  brass spacers and Sapele Mahogany
    Chisel grind up front…

 When it gets tough, go ahead and get frustrated and take it personally.  When you’re through with that, grab the Persuader.

  …now to clean all of this up…

One thought on “Knifemaking: not taking things personally and the Persuader

  1. Pingback: Knifemaking: surprises, overthinking, and the Persuader, Mark II | groundedinfire

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