Shigefusa 270mm kasumi yanagiba with custom, by me, desert ironwood handle

9 Dec 2010

Some of my earlier knife builds - Hunting & exhibition knives

In this post I would like to do a short presentation of some of my previous knife projects. I have been building knives for many years, and my interest for cooking knives is actually quite new. Most of these older knives or at least the handle materials have interesting stories, as many of them were built for special occasions. As my kitchen knife and natural stone addiction keeps getting worse, I am considering to sell off some of my knives. If you are interested, please let me know. I will also be interested in trades for a high grade yanagiba or a sakimaru takobiki. Maybe also a Japanese natural stone of the right kind, size and quality. I have put a suggested price in brackets for reference.

In this first post I would like to present to you four knives. A couple of them are real exotic and I have done my very best to preserve the handles as close to their natural origin as possible. Most of the blades I use I get from a famous Danish blacksmith living in Norway called Steen Nielsen. You can see some of his work and buy his blades at . He uses mainly powder steel or SKD die steel in the edge and hardens them to around 58-60 HRC. This makes them easy to sharpen and use, and they hold an edge very well for normal use. For soft steel he uses old ships anchors, anchor chains, old iron nails and other old materials. Especially the blades made from old anchors are really beautiful. Almost old etched Damascus like.

Looking at the below picture from the left is a knife with a nashiji finished laminated san-mai blade with a handle made from a fang from an African wild Boar. Second from left you can see a knife with a nashiji finished laminated san-mai blade with handle made from one entire very old tooth from a  whale. Then a knife with a san-mai laminated blade made from an old ships anchor with whale tooth bolsters. Finally to the far right a plain laminated san-mai blade with a Water Buffalo horn handle and whale tooth bolsters.

The whale teeth I am using are vintage material found in the attic in my grand-grandparents house and I figured that I might as well make something beautiful and useful out of them instead of letting them go to waste.

I start the show from the left. The story behind this knife started almost ten years ago when I was in the middle of another project. My neighbour came over to my work shop to watch my work, when he suddenly asked if I did custom orders. I said it depended on what he had in mind, as my skills have obvious limitations. He ran off and returned with a small box containing two ugly looking monster fangs from an African Wild Boar. He had gotten these teeth from his father more than 30 years ago when they had been together on a hunting safari in Africa.

During the hunting he had accidentally just wounded the Boar and it had disappeared from sight. They went back to their car to wait it out, and just when they had closed the door they heard an incredible crash. The Boar had attacked them and hit the car door full force. Looking out the window they discovered the Boar lying apparently lifeless just outside the car. His father had given it the final shot out of the car window. So, now, more than 30 years later his father soon would turn 75 and he wanted to give him a memory from that trip long ago. So, he asked me to build him a knife using the best of the two teeth as handle material. He asked me what my fee was, and I made him an offer that I would build him the knife for free in exchange for the other tooth. He accepted, so I built two almost identical knives and let him choose the one for his father. The other one you see here. There are some natural thin cracks along the tooth, but they have not expanded for the many years I have had the knife on display, so they all seem stable. I have not yet made a sheath for it, but one will be custom made from raw hide if you are interested in buying or trading. ($800 incl. sheath)

The next knife out is the whale tooth knife. I have made a sheath for it from raw hide and shaped it like a whale. As I mentioned earlier I found a couple of these large wonderful teeth in an old sailors pouch in the attic of my grand-grandparents house. I was told that the teeth were once taken from a huge whale that had drifted ashore and stranded in Northern Norway. It took a lot of work to carefully sand and polish away the outer layer revealing the almost ivory like bone structure underneath and drilling it by hand to avoid any heat that would crack the tooth from inside. 

The laminated san-mai blade is custom made by blacksmith Steen Nielsen to match the shape of the tooth, continuing the lines from the tip of the handle all the way to the tip of the blade. It has a nashiji finish which is polished to a nice shine. I am very pleased with his excellent work and I think it looks just the right size and the shape for the tooth. The nashiji surface is a nice contrast to the shiny and polished handle.

The knife is quite heavy due to the massive bone handle, but it feels surprisingly well balanced in the hand making it a pleasure to use. This is a true one of a kind knife. I have never seen anything like it. The old whale tooth is totally without cracks and blemishes and looks absolutely incredible. If you are interested in this knife, please let me know.  ($1000 incl. sheath)

The blade on the next knife is a real beauty. Made from an old anchor san-mai style and etched to reveal the wood or Damascus like structure. The handle is made from very nice Rosewood and pieces from a small tooth from the above mentioned whale. I have custom made the sheath from raw hide and shaped an anchor in the leather to complement the anchor steel in the blade.



The blade is a very limited series of blades from Steen Nielsen, as he is almost all out of this beautifully structured anchor material. I am open for offers or nice trades for this knife as well. ($750 incl. sheath)

The last knife I will show off in this post is a more main stream knife. Made from a plain san-mai laminated blade, sanded and polished. The handle is made from one large slab of Water Buffalo horn and with whale tooth bolsters. The shape of the handle fits very nicely in the hand and the balance is really nice. The Water Buffalo handle is not high polished, rather to a more matte finish which doesn't get too slippery. If you are interested in the knife, I will be happy to give the handle a high shine and custom make a raw hide sheath for it. ($600 incl. sheath)

Well, that was some of my previous projects. More to come on this issue. And please do send me a note if you are interested in buying or trading.

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