Knifemaking: finding a reason to celebrate, karaoke, and the Bon Vivant

“There are three things, and three things only, that can lift the pain of mortality and ease the ravages of life. These are wine, women and song.”

Spider Nancy, from Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys

It can often be difficult to find a reason to celebrate in a world of great uncertainty.  Many times accomplishment is drowned out by the next item on a to-do list, or what the next day is going to bring.  When many of us are only one bad month from being out on our asses, the one certain thing is that the only easy day was yesterday.  For this reason, a celebration may feel inopportune or indulgent.

It is also important to acknowledge our triumphs, however small they may seem.  Doing something better than you did the day before, or righting a wrong, or simply finding connection and warmth in a difficult world- these are all excellent reasons to take a moment and celebrate the life you have.

There is a biker bar near my girlfriend’s house.  It’s a weird and wild place.  The entrance posts a sign that says ‘No Gang colors, hard or soft’.  Once stepping inside you will find pool tables, faux potted plants, paneled walls, and a vibe that screams 1987.  There are muted televisions ensconced in twinkling string lights and shining with professional sports, like a blue-collar beacon of hope for the lone souls who find themselves in its glow.

My girlfriend and I go every so often because they have karaoke on Monday through Thursday.  When life bares its teeth we’ve found that singing is a pretty safe way to exorcise the demons and write a love letter to the things that move us.  Officially, we go once a season but sometimes it’s more, because, unofficially, some seasons are rougher than others and necessitate a need for song.

The weirdness of this place doesn’t stop at the decor- the cast of characters is pretty unique bunch.  Imagine if ‘Cheers’ took place inside a carnie’s tent, and the cast of ‘Roseanne’ were the patrons.  Many of the people come to sing and we see familiar faces each time we go.  There’s an elderly lady in a mumu, using a walker and holding a tambourine- her granddaughter comes to pick her up at 11pm sharp.  Over near the pool tables is a group of people who look like they are IT techs for an insurance company, or a large accounting firm.  Sometimes there is a painter who comes, still in his work bibs, to slur out his own renditions of times gone by.

Overseeing this whole operation is the gentleman running the sound system.  With his meticulously permed hair and a mustache that gives Burt Reynolds a run for his money, he is the master of Song (and also not very far out of 1987).  The man is a living and breathing compendium of pop music history and his business is a celebration of song.  He has a little quip about the song and the artist after nearly every song, no matter how obscure or far off the beaten path they may be.

When the music starts, this strange bar in a weird little corner of the universe becomes a celebration.   In the most unlikely of safe spaces there is a surprisingly inclusive environment that reveals itself under the banner of song.

There is an older lady showing us pictures of her poodle on her phone before she is called up to sing Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ with an understated beauty hinting at the soft pain of the past.   When a small, mousy man gets up to sing “God Bless the Broken Road” the room goes quiet, and even the seasoned, most loosewire of alcoholics stop to listen.  My girlfriend gets up to sing Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” and is joined by three bleach-blonde women who take it as their battle cry.  There is the old timer who sits on a stool singing Tom Jones with a gusto that not even arthritis can stifle.  All of this is very sweetly and gently curated by Mr. 1987 at the mixing board.

With a little help from my friend Jameson, I find myself belting out Adam Lambert, or Celine Dion, or Billy Ocean.   In an uncertain world, I am very certain that I will sing the shit out of Def Leppard.  There was an instance when while singing I looked out and saw the painter in his spattered work bibs trying to chat up my girlfriend, who wasn’t having any of it.

There was another instance where I found out how to incite a riot at a biker bar on karaoke night…

On Fridays at this bar there is usually a heavy metal band, but on the Friday after Thanksgiving they were all out of town.  Even Mr. 1987 was out of town.  The bartender called in one of his friends to run karaoke that night and we decided to go.  I get up to put my mark on Journey’s “Any Way You Want It“.   Around the second verse, the part that doesn’t include the lines ‘any way you want it’, the display screen scrolling the words shuts off.  I stopped singing because I needed the words, because really, who knows all the lyrics to the second verse of “Any Way You Want It”?  People started screaming and got out of their chairs.  Three or four people came up to the front and started yelling at me to sing.  I was starting to get a bit concerned for my safety when my girlfriend popped up with the lyrics on her phone.  Crisis averted.  As it turns out, you can deprive people of a great many things, but for the love of all that’s holy don’t deprive them of their Journey.

Celebrating the life you have and love: this is the lesson of the Bon Vivant.  You may not always love it, but then again you definitely won’t always have it.  So take a moment to celebrate and indulge.

This blade was made for a chef.  We decided to go with the top design, a German style blade.  Being the last knife of 2017, I decided it would be a celebration, an edged version of a Celine Dion song, an opulent eggs Benedict.  The handle is made from about eight different materials and is a craftsman equivalent of both a Bechamel and a Hollandaise:

Smoothing everything out:

Hardening:

Still smoking after quench

Sometimes large and thin blades warp a bit after quench.  This is corrected with a blowtorch and three carefully place pins in a vice.

After grinding the bevels:

Hand sanding the blade:

After about three hours per side:

This is a brass deadbolt guard.  The brass makes a nice contrast to the other handle material as a spacer:

It’s important to wear gloves when cutting brass on a table saw because little brass shard are shot at your hand during the process at a velocity that might surprise you, as evidenced by the blood:

This is a bolster of Texas Pecan with the brass, ready to be glued to the handle:

Since it is going to a chef, I used an old apron I had for handle material:

Cut into uniform pieces….

…layered in with fiberglass resin…

…and clamped up:

The apron turned out much thinner than I expected, so I filled it out with a denim micarta I had made from my old blue jeans.  Here is everything getting fit together:

Here are all the individual pieces: Pecan, River Ash, brass spacers and pins, computer board pieces, apron and denim micarta:

Glued:

It comes out looking like this:

Shaped up:

Somewhere in the sanding process:

The Bon Vivant:

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One thought on “Knifemaking: finding a reason to celebrate, karaoke, and the Bon Vivant

  1. I came to this website because my wife gave me one of your knives, The Minimalist. I stayed and poured through many of your stories. They are wonderfully written and inspiring. Thank you for the steel and the wisdom.
    – Mark X

    Liked by 1 person

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