Knifemaking: the courage to be and the Ace

“If you love something, you know what the best in the world actually looks like.”

James Altucher


This blade was a commission for a six-year old boy who lives on a farm.  His parents are close friends of mine.  They have several acres of property in Montpelier, which is about 40 minutes outside the city.

I go out there as often as I can, usually just to get away from the city.  They have goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, and other animals.  I keep turning down offers to hunt.  I’m not much for guns or shooting things but I have made knives for them to skin and clean with, and I will always eat whatever they brought back, provided it’s already dead.

I’ve known this little boy since he was about three.  He loves to play and is curious about almost everything.  He asks questions that I don’t really have the answers to but I always answer him as best I am able.   He is open and fearless and kind.  He loves his family and everyone close to him is a dear friend.  He sees the best in everyone and wants to help as much as he can.  I have to remember to watch my mouth when I spend time with him.

As an adult I see this as profound and courageous and often inspiring.  This what I would call the Courage to Be.  But as a little boy he is only doing what he knows how to do.  He just loves and in those moments I can feel that whatever he has going on is pretty much the best thing ever.  As a former little boy, I know this feeling well.

I was out there recently for dinner and he showed me where he had lost a tooth.  I asked him if the tooth fairy had visited him and he lost it and screamed “THERE IS NO TOOTH FAIRY” and ran out of the room.  Apparently, his mother explained, he had found out the tooth fairy does not exist.  She said he threw her two dollars at her and demanded his tooth back.

His little world was shaken and he wasn’t afraid to let the big people know how he felt.  Sometimes I wish I could get away with demanding my tooth back…

I was out there the other day and his father needed a hand installing a new washer and dryer.  I had this little boy help me while his father did chores.  He kept asking me when we were going to play and make things.  I couldn’t lie to him.  I told him I had to help his dad and I might not have time for play.  He wasn’t very fond of my games- break the water line with the channel locks, hold the door while I cart out the old dryer, hand me a screwdriver.  I thought we were having fun.  I like hanging out with this little being, even when there is much to do.

And then this little boy had a meltdown.  Tears and everything.  “All you do is work,” he says.  “Maybe you work and save some time for play and then maybe you won’t be so tired,” he says.

I asked him if he would like a hug, and he said yes.  I didn’t tell him I had come out there to have his mother help me with my resume.  I didn’t tell him that his parents work hard and sacrifice so he can play and learn and Be.  What I did do was put him on my shoulders and tell him to hold on tight.  He said he wasn’t scared.

This is the lesson of the Ace.  To find the Courage to Be, even when the grown-up world has dimmed your shine and made it painful to love without condition.  To know what the best in the world looks and feels like, even when you have trouble paying your bills, or sorrow makes you weary, or there are many moments when there isn’t enough of anything.  To know that while you are not going to get your tooth back, you don’t have to like it or settle for anything less than you believe you deserve.

I had traded a skinning knife and a small paring knife for some supplies from his parents.  This little boy found them and said he wanted one.  His parents found a two-foot machete in his play fort.  The little boy said it was for “keeping bad guys away.”  I have seen no bad guys in the vicinity so it must be working.  They asked me if I could make a small knife with a blunted edge for him to carry and learn with.  I then asked the little boy what kind of knife he would like.  I received a drawing and a strict set of parameters, the last of which required that it be a sword.  Right little man, I’ll get right on that…

This is what I came up with.  A blade for a smaller hand.  He’s an inch across at his widest point.  This is the smallest blade I’ve ever made.

full flat grind…

 …hardened and tempered…  

testing for handle fit…  

  The grip is a piece of Mahogany floorboard

The Ace: O1 tool steel with a satin finish, Mahogany handle and brass hardware.

I made a small leather sheath for him to carry it with.  The blade is blunted and I ground the tip down per his parents request.  He’ll grow into it and I’ll build him another one when he’s ready.

Take note of the little ones.  Try to find your Courage to Be.

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