Tuesday, June 03, 2008
At the last Gathering at Chuck’s, we (the Tribal Edge guys with Buzz and myself) did a trial run for what may become a regular occurrence: Knife Making 101. It was a spontaneous thing for me to do, and I am so glad I did it.
Keep an eye out for the announcement if this becomes an official class.
For the last few years, Chuck, along with Mushtaq Ali Shah, Buddha Weatherby and now, Ian Robbins, have been producing pointy things at Tribal Edge Knifeworks
Along the back half of Chuck’s garage (anyone else think of Joe’s Garage?)are the tools and equipment of Tribal Edge. The forge is propane driven and has a wall of firebrick on the backside to prevent the flames from igniting the building. The ignition process sounds like an F-4 Phantom at full afterburner.
Fire in the hole!
The group works with a variety of steels and in the case of the knives that Buzz and I decided to make, it was a former coil spring from a vehicle. It is 5160 high carbon steel, which, according to Chuck, makes great blades.
The first step was to pound it into a billet to work with and then we began the shaping process. Buzz was going for a custom fit kerambit. I like the retention ring from the kerambit I carry and decided to see how that would function as a straight blade with edge on the “inside.”
Ian did a lot of the initial work and some shaping. He let us hammer enough to make us feel like we were doing something, however. Just as I was getting the rhythm of the swing down, it was done. I hadn’t noticed that I had blistered until near the end of the hammering. There is definitely something therapeutic in the swinging. We then let the metal cool in the forge overnight.
Following the forging, we did what Chuck referred to as “stock removal.” We smoothed out a lot of the hammer marks, trued the lines of the overall profile a little as well as dressed up the geometry of the blade that would save us time on draw filing. All of which I think was a result of my novice hammer strokes. We did this fixing up using a belt sander. Chuck was apt to point out to be very aware of the grip as the sander could snatch the blade-in-waiting and pull in a finger to smooth.
The next step was to bust out the lube. We used Oil Stones to smooth out the appearance of the blade’s texture and move toward a good shape and look. The first run was with 120 grit stone to get the groove going. That was followed up with 320 grit to get a little deeper. We also located and drilled the holes for the pins using the drill press.
Then we moved the blade slowly in and out of the forge repeatedly to normalize the metal. In other words, we just heated and manipulated the heck out of it and this process to will help the metal align its chakras. It’s Tantric.
The blade was then heated to a non-magnetic state and I found this rather interesting. Using a magnetic bullet, I pressed it against red hot metal to see if it would still pull. When it was no longer attractive, we quenched it in oil. This hardened the metal to a state of brittleness such that it would have shattered if dropped. Needless to say, after all the work that went into the knife so far, that would have sucked. Chuck was rather nonchalant about it, so I didn’t let it worry me.
In order to get the metal back to a state that if would not become a pile of shards, we applied what Chuck referred to as the “drawing process.”
This involved a high tech piece of equipment: the toaster oven, which happened to be the only piece of equipment not in the garage. We heated the metal for an hour at 375 degrees and then let it cool to room temperature. Chuck had buffed an area of the tang so we could watch for a color change. The process was repeated until we saw a distinct golden straw color. This indicated the brittleness of the metal had lessened enough to allow it to hold and edge and not shatter when dropped.
We again used the Oil Stones to polish the blade further. This process was actually a little challenging due to the taper from the original thickness of the metal down to the eventual edge of the knife. It took a skilled hand and I definitely let Chuck smooth out my rough edges on that.
At this step, we also cut out and rough shaped the wood that will become the handle. Tribal Edge offers a number of cool woods to fit the mood. I chose Gabon Ebony for this knife, as the lighter grain really looks great on the overall black. We aligned and drilled the holes for the pins in the wood. Using a band saw we rough shaped the handle and fit it with homemade pins. The pins are varying sizes of metal tubing with epoxy holding them together. They are surprisingly simple things that add a tremendous amount to the aesthetics of the finished product.
Now is the moment when it all comes together. The wood is affixed to the tang with a binary epoxy and the pins get a layer of super glue and are slid into place. The piece is clamped and allowed to set overnight.
The main thing left to do is sand down the pins and shape the wood using a combination of belt sander and hand sanding. Once the correct and ergonomic feel of the handle has been found, it is slathered in Danish Oil. The oil soaks into the pores and crystallizes. This helps protect the wood from moisture. Chuck applies oil to the wood multiple times to assure it is deeply penetrated.
Chuck kept the blade to make a leather sheath similar to the one he fabricated for my kerambit. I also asked him to make a trainer version for me and am sure that will be nice. That is one of the coolest benefits about working with the guys; they made the live blade and can easily replicate a trainer with the feel and weight of the original. This is highly advisable investment, particularly so if the blade you have made can be your everyday carry.
Chuck is fairly demanding about all the custom blades made at Tribal Edge having a name. The first thing that came to mind was, “Call it Terry Trahan,” because it was his fondness for the pikal grip that led me to the design I chose. The next thing just rolled off the tongue and everyone liked it, so it stuck:
Reversal of Fortune
Sunday, June 01, 2008
The biannual event at Chuck Pippin's was held over the Memorial Day Weekend. New experiences at this gathering were sobering and not so sobering. The non-sobering aspect was me: margaritas and Chimay. Needless to say, I was falling down by the end of the evening on Friday and dinner (which was take-n-bake and should have been a warning to me to eat the curry) reemerged around 2 AM. The morning brought no relief and neither did the afternoon. So here is what I recall for the most part with interpretation based upon photos given to me.
Buzz started Saturday off discussing the finer points of elbows and moved on to cover some of the locks of his system.
I slept, oh, and dry heaved.
Looks like Bobbe covered aspects of Hubud-lubud and other things with a stick.
Poor, poor Sterling
Cody went over the government conspiracy to control every American by forcing them to not only watch but also participate in gladiator-esque reality programs.
Cody recently had an article posted here: Organic MMA
I think I may have been near consciousness at this point, but movement caused waves of dizziness as well as nausea, but the retching did not return.
Sterling and Dan presented a solo-training device suspiciously looking like some sort of "hookah…"
I slept some more.
After the day’s session (and me feeling well enough to venture out and take my verbal medicine), we took time to recognize the dedication of some of our fellow martial artists.
First we called out Norm Basile and his wife, Marcia, and congratulated them on their respective rankings that are well earned.
Next, we wanted to show respect to someone that is generous with his knowledge and gracious with his friends. This guy has been doing his art since just after I was born (sorry dude) and has dedicated his life to it. Those in The League of Non-Aligned Martial Artists decided that it would be a good idea to give some props where they were due. Therefore, we recognized Brian “Buzz” Smith as Maha Guru in Maharlika Kuntaw. It was well deserved and I think well received.
The evening commenced with the traditional Potluck and was a good variety as usual. It was a good time and people orbited the house discussing everything from the food to martial arts or just hanging out by the fire. Buddha brought some fireworks and the kids all enjoyed that treat. Another late night as usual and it is all good.
Sunday was started off by Mushtaq Ali Shah and we did knife worked based upon the basics derived from the Kujang.
I applied them with my kerambit trainer as that is closer to what I carry and was trying to modify the movements to its vastly different form compared to the kujang. The principles were there regardless of weapon. I was working out with Anton, a student of Buzz’s, and he can bowl you over in a blink. Very good! My shoulder took a hit while I was with him and James Kohlenberg came and stole me to try and work out some kinks.
Conveniently, James was next up. He did some myofascial release and that was a good thing and I will be doing that to help with some of the things that ail me. James’ session consisted of the active release using a tennis ball or harder and we hit various points on our bodies starting with our feet and moving up to our head with a couple of detours to the arms along the way. Good stuff!
The rest of the post lunch afternoon was made up of various breakout sessions.
Later in the day, Buzz and I had a little private session in the yard and we discussed and practiced two of his principles, “can I have my allowance?” and “what time is it?” I have mentioned this on many times but I need to reiterate that you should go where Buzz is and train with him or bring him to you! Hmmmm…
On Monday, Sterling and I were able to get together and shoot our level 4 tests for Pencak Silat Pertempuran and are looking forward to Keluarga at the end of July. There were more breakout sessions this day as well, albeit fewer people, but that’s cool.
I also had some fun getting tossed by Mariah the Eskrimadiva shooting some spots of a promo video for her.
All in all, I go to hang with a lot of people I admire and genuinely love to be around, so it was a good time. I believe Mushtaq said it best at one point, “this is the most fun I have had at one of these.”
Next time, no booze for me though…
You! You stick with Guinness!