Knifemaking: the Lioness, revisited

“The stuff we make don’t go bad”

“The ugly dog barks the longest”

Tray Eppes: potter, musician, fully present citizen of the Universe

(you can find the initial crafting of the Lioness here)

So a number of years ago one of my best friends asked me if I wanted to play a gig with him and his godfather.  It was a Christmas parade in a small town about two hours away.  We were both in music school and played near any gig we could get.  Neither of had cars at the time and a big ass Dodge truck piloted by a gentleman with a large beard pulled up.  This was Tray.  On the way we stopped at a jazz club, had a few cold ones, and heard some badass tunes.  We got to Tray’s farm at around 2am and he showed me his guitar rig (at full blast).  I went to sleep to the sound of coyotes howling.  I got up and Tray’s wife had made us smoked venison with Hollandaise sauce on a lightly toasted English muffin.  We drove to town and played brass band versions of Christmas songs and it was a blast.

We played those parades for the next couple of years.  We spent a New Years out there.  As I recall we drank gin and sat in the outdoor hot tub in front of a fire the size of Rhode Island.  I make sure to keep in touch with Tray and his wife.

A couple months ago I was standing in the middle of a field working security for a country music concert, alone with my thoughts due to the fact that most of the audience was in the beer tent and there wasn’t much securing to do.  In those moments I often find myself thinking about places I’d rather be and in this case I would have rather been, well, almost anywhere else.  I decided I would call Tray and see how he made a living making the things he makes: killer pottery.

He told me about selling pottery to the Amish.  The Amish don’t have any possessions that are purely decorative. If there are pictures on the wall, it is most likely a Bible verse written in a modest calligraphy.  Likewise, nothing is frivolously decorated.  This particular group, Tray was telling me, used white dishes.  Tray also told me that white pottery is a bit more labor intensive than his normal work and the Amish are the only ones who ask for it.  So he can make a large batch of it and have it on hand and not have to fool with it for awhile.  He was explaining to the Amish man he can make it and sell it years later.

“Ahh”, said the Amish man.  “Not like spoilt cow’s milk.”

This was when he told me the stuff we make doesn’t spoil.  You can go back and rework things that you aren’t happy with.  I’ve had a few proverbial ugly dogs barking at me and recently I’ve been reworking those.   And it’s not limited to just pottery, or knives, or music…just because you were one way yesterday doesn’t mean that’s how you have to be today.

Tray also ordered a knife and a sheath.  I made him this:

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For the Lioness I found the blade to be too thick.  I went and ground down the bevel, which in turn improved the balance of the blade.  I wasn’t happy with the finish so I took care of that as well.  All of this came from a gentle place.  Nothing is going to spoil.

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O1 tool steel, Cherrywood handle, and brass hardware

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The nice thing about refinishing a wooden handle (or wooden anything) is that the grain is so much more prominent due to the permeation of the finishing oil.  The grain pops much more grandly than it did the first time around.  I see it as a little gift for going back and trying to make it better.

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I also smoothed and polished up the tang.

Tray and a much younger me

Tray and a much younger me

Check out Tray’s site at here and drop him a line

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