Knifemaking: going deep and the Kingfisher

When a needle falls into a deep well, many people will look into the well, but few will be ready to go down after it”

-African Proverb

I went to music school.  I was shown many ways to teach myself to be good at things.  I spent many hours in a practice room by myself, many more hours in front of a piano composing and arranging, and even more time listening.  To everything.  The education I got reached far beyond any classroom or practice space.  Life becomes those spaces.

Learning how to listen to things was the biggest lesson I learned.  When you listen, really listen, not just hear, your world opens up.  You notice all the nuanced bits of wonder.  As life gets busier and more complicated I still have to remind myself that it’s all still there, that it hasn’t and won’t go anywhere.  That within a world that holds a good deal of pain and sorrow for everyone there are also things that move and stir the soul, but they don’t always sit on the surface of our awareness…

There was one class that really opened things up and is sort of the inspiration for this writing.  It was called World Music, which is a rather vapid title for an experience that was so much more that.  It was taught by a very wonderful and kind man, one of the more enlightened people I’ve ever met.  Classes started off in silence and darkness, with the ringing of chimes.  Sometimes ambient music was played, or Tuvan throat singing, or guitar players from West Africa with rhythms I had never heard before.  There were many books to read, records to check out, and some of the most real discussions on being and the human condition that I have ever experienced.

It was during one of these discussions that something came up, and I don’t quite remember the context but it has stuck with me.  In the course of the discussion, it came up that our professor’s spirit animal was a dolphin.  He said that he was at the beach surfing when he was sixteen and nearly drowned and shortly thereafter found he related deeply with the dolphin.  The dolphin is able to dive very deep but always returns to the surface to breathe.  He told us he built his whole philosophy of teaching on that premise.

This is something that has been with me for awhile.  Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and go deep.  When you are exhausted, when it feels like life is more than you can handle, when you need to heal.  You can handle a lot more than you think you can but the tools and nourishment you need don’t always sit at the surface.  That doesn’t mean the process of finding these things doesn’t hurt like hell or isn’t terrifying at times.

Take the Kingfisher bird, for example.  To get the food it needs to sustain itself, it has to dive far beneath it’s comfort zone.  They sit on their perch overhanging the water and when they see their prey they dive, eyes closed, into the deep.  I think about this and wonder what is going through his little bird brain before he hits the water…


This is the lesson of the Kingfisher.  You close your eyes, you dive deep, and you come up with something nourishing.  Repeat as necessary, adding faith and a bit of courage as required.

I wanted to make a filet knife, something to help me dive.  I made her out of a thin piece of bedframe steel.  She has a 6in blade.

I initially ground two of these, but one didn’t turn out.  I left it soaking in the acid too long (for a deep etch) and there wasn’t much blade left….

My very dear friend James did the handle on this one.  She has Mora wood scales and brass hardware.


My good friends Mike and Jen using the Kingfisher to de-bone a goose… 

Sometimes you have go below the surface of things to find what you need.  This is the lesson of the Kingfisher.

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