Knifemaking: how to behave in the world, and the Dummy

“You big dummy!”

-Fred Sanford

It was New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago and it had been a pretty crappy year.  I was with very good friends, half drunk, and a bit reflective.  There are times in life when challenges present themselves, as they always will.  You can deal with them with grace, dignity, and elegance and use them as an opportunity to move forward….or you can let each one smack you in the head until you find yourself sitting in a pile on the ground feeling sorry for yourself.  My year could be summarized by the latter.  So in my half drunken state I came up with the last New Year’s resolution I would ever make.  I wrote it down:


Don’t be a dumbass. The next day in a brand new year I thought about this.  I proposed that whatever future situation I found myself in and there was a decision to make I would ask myself, “What would a dumbass do?”.  When I had determined what course of action a dumbass would follow, I would simply not follow that course.  

The beauty of the whole thing is the simplicity of it.  Much like kindness, it functions on a continuum.  It will meet you where you are and, if you are diligent in your practice of not being a dumbass, it will expand into your entire universe.  Before long, what started as a way to make your immediate life better turns into a lifestyle.  You set an intention to be present in your life and your relationships.  You are navigating opportunities.  You are not perfect but anyone who is not a dumbass knows that no one is.  It is quite challenging but the payoff is that you, my dear friend, are not being a dumbass.

But alas, no system is perfect.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you find yourself ambling down an avenue of unbridled, unbuttoned, and completely unadulterated dumbassery.

I found myself on that avenue the other week.  It was one of the most embarrassing and humbling days of my professional life.

I had a contracted production runner job working for a big televised arena show.  My job was to run around town and procure necessary items for the show.  I’m generally very good this job.  They give you a list of things they need done to make the show happen, you figure out the best way to accomplish those things, and everyone works together to make a production happen.  Many times you are part of a well-oiled machine that makes incredible things happen and it is very satisfying.

This particular show, being a massive televised touring production with many things that can potentially go wrong, required a copy of our drivers’s license for insurance purposes.  Most production runner gigs don’t do this.  No worries though and I handed over my license.

It had expired.  Then I remembered the notice I had gotten from the DMV a couple of months ago and how I said I’d get around to it and how I actually hadn’t.  This wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to be reminded.  It was hugely embarrassing and I wanted to run away and hide. 

I did not run away and hide, because that’s what a dumbass does.  The people on the production team for this organization are incredibly kind and though I couldn’t do my normal job and was working my way out of a shame funk, they let me work in catering.  I hadn’t done anything in food service since I was 19.

They sent me to the kitchen and I met with the head catering lady who just laughed at me, handed me an apron, and sent me to help unload a cargo van slam full of food to be prepared that day.  The cargo van was in the loading dock and the loading dock was a zoo.  In addition to the van there were four tractor trailers being unloaded by about forty stagehands.  There were four forklifts unstacking road cases and half a dozen men with radios directing all of this.  I joined four or five other guys at the van and start loading up carts with everything from fresh salmon to the biggest can of marinara sauce I had ever seen. 

I get one of the loaded carts to take to the kitchen and it is slam full.  I am trying to navigate the insanity of the loading dock and I hit a bump.  There is a gallon-sized tub of dijon mustard sitting on top of the cart that I watch, in slow motion, fly off the top of the cart, hit the ground, break open, and splay all over the crew chief directing the insanity.  He was not happy….

So food gets back to the kitchen and unloaded.  I would spend the next four hours peeling potatoes, cutting endives, and shredding raddichio.  It was surprisingly calm in there.  I made sandwiches for lunches, ran dirty dishes to the wash area, and cut up more vegetables.  Every time I ran into the head catering lady she would say ‘here comes trouble…’.

They were all very sweet and kind.  They sent me home with a hotel tray full of baked ziti which fed me for two weeks:

This is the lesson of the Dummy.  Sometimes you have to stay with your dumbassery and it will pass.  Everyone is a dumbass sometimes.  Thank you Universe for teaching me humility….

I started with 1095 spring steel.  Here it is cut, with bevels started:

Hardened:

Wet sanding:

….for a satin finish

In gratitude for the many meals I was gifted, I wanted to work ziti into the handle:

Hulk smash:

Fiberglass resin:

Dinner is served:

The dijon mustard, a low point of my dummy day:

I used this to force a patina on the blade:

The Dummy:

With all the love in my heart, don’t be a dumbass.

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