Knifemaking: standing on the edge and the Stuntjumper

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

ee cummings– (dive for dreams)

This knife was a commission for a gentleman who was a professional stuntman.  He runs a screen printing company now, but his curriculum vitae shows him to be quite the daredevil.  What I really enjoy about this is how he steps right up to the edge of what most people (myself included) would deem comfortable or sane, and then leaps right off:

I started thinking about this idea of the edge we step up to and what it means.  Everything behind the edge is safe and comfortable.  Beyond the edge is the unfamiliar.  Maybe there is a job you don’t feel qualified for but want to apply anyway.  Or there is a project you want to pursue but are afraid of failing.  Maybe you are afraid of letting loved ones down, or yourself down.  Anytime we move closer to something that fulfills us, moves us, makes our life better, or helps us to grow, we get closer to that edge.  Beyond that edge is something new and different.  And that can be scary.

So you step up to the edge.  Perhaps there is a bit of reluctance there, with a splash of self-doubt, a shot of fear, and garnished with a cherry of mistrust, shaken (not stirred), making everyone’s favorite I’m-not-sure-I’m-up-for-this cocktail.  The trick is finding the thing that made you step up to the edge in the first place.  If you are truly ready to take the leap then that thing will outweigh the ingredients of the cocktail.  I think the secret of life is to find that thing.

As a kid, my family would go to the swimming pool most days in the summer.  My first favorite part of this was the snack bar.  My second favorite part was the diving board.  I would spend hours jumping off the diving board and eventually I taught myself to do somersaults and twists.  You know, the fancy dives.

I did this for many summers, well into high school.  Then during my senior year of high school an announcement was made that there was going to be a multi-school dive team.  I signed up.  I got a physical, bought a pair of speedos and went to the first practice.

I was awful.  I found myself surrounded by gymnasts who were much shorter and more agile and able to turn somersaults more quickly than I was.  The diving boards themselves were much more springy than the ones at the seasonal summer swimming pools with the snack bars, launching me at least three times as high.  My summer pool technique did me no favors.  There were some inward and reverse dives we had to perform where our heads came pretty close to the board.  I did many back flops and belly flops.  The coach talked me into working on a double somersault, and the velocity with which your face can slam into the water if you turn too far is rather high and a bit painful.

I remember many times stepping up to the edge of the board, wondering what I was doing out there, and then making the leap anyway. I remember what the reluctance felt like and what it felt like to not trust myself.  The thing that helped me to make the leap was that I wanted to be there and I wanted to try something I hadn’t done before and might not have the chance to do again.  I was pretty far out of my comfort zone but I found standing out on the edge in nothing but my speedos to be quite liberating.  I was never as good as I wanted to be but I was better than when I started and that was enough. 

As you move through life and it’s seasons you may find that the thing (the thing that is stronger than the I’m-not-sure-I’m-up-for-this cocktail) is constantly shifting and moving and it takes real work to find that thing that gets us to the edge.  It doesn’t feel safe, it’s uncomfortable, and it leaves us vulnerable to criticism and the negative opinions of others.  Sometimes getting to the edge is held up by our own judgements and self-criticism.  The upside is that the process of getting up to the edge can give a profound sense of purpose, even if we don’t quite make it there on the first try.  This is the lesson of the Stuntjumper.

Preliminary sketch:

…and working through a large 3/16″ chunk of O1 tool steel.

Night drilling…

Blank for the Stuntjumper, with half inch holes drilled to lighten the load a bit.

This is where the blade edge will be:

Midway through the initial grinding of the bevels:

Sanding before heat treat.  The more sanding you do on the soft steel, the easier it will be to sand when the steel is hardened.

Hardening the skullcrusher:

Ready for tempering:

Removing the slag…

…for a smooth satin finish

I wanted to include something that represented an edge of some sort.  This is a walnut shelf ledge that my partner got from his father-in-law.  I thought it would do nicely

Red fiber spacers for a bit of contrast:


More shaping:

Make sure you are stepping up to your edge- the hardest part is getting there.  Don’t forget your Speedos…

Check out Mr. Snow’s business Mobile InkPod

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