Meat Cleaver and Kitchen Knife in Classic Coffin Grind Handles

My first attempt at a meat cleaver!

These two knives are two more in a set of two completed a few months ago.  If you go back far enough in my Instagram, I bet you can figure out what two knives those were.

This kitchen knife is a little  more practical for everyday use.  The first two were just to impress and replicate days gone bye.

The Cleaver:

Processing meats with a heavy cleaver
1095 High Carbon Steel
Maple Scales
Brass Pins

1095 Steel, Maple Scales, Brass Pins.  I chose not to bolster the cleaver.  My thoughts behind not doing so was more practical.  A cleaver is used with great force to crack and separate bone/joints.  The bolsters being made of brass would or could be easily damaged by bone or hitting something hard.  Best to keep a tool simple in my mind!   I will say , this maple is beautiful.  Its hit or miss on maple, sometimes its just blah.  This was an exception.

The Kitchen Knife:

Vintage replica of western knife
1095 High Carbon Steel
Maple Scales
Brass Pins Bolsters

Same skeletons as the clever with 1095, maple, and brass. The exception being more pins than needed and brass bolsters.  She is a bit of a show queen with an added hamon.  You know for discussion with friends.  


Going Back in Time:

Its fun to go back and research vintage knives.  A knife being a tool can tell us a lot about life in the times of its creation and use.  These were based off late 1700’s – mid 1800’s buffalo skinning knives and bowies.  The coffin handle was used on bowies. Being an item of self defense , bowies were made to be noticed.  This was a way of making a threat think twice before making a move.   The buffalo skinners usually had square handles but the long upward swoop was prominent in these knives but the size of the knife varied depending on use.

Maple Scales on Custom Kitchen knife
Maple Scales

These knives hint of both bowie and buffalo skinners heritage but the added benefit of modern steel, heat treat methods and wood finishes.  So you cannot go back in time, but you can bring it forward and make it a little better.  N.J.H.

Knives and Stuff

Its been a few since I have posted any work.  I have gotten lazy with the Instagram feed doing all the work for me.  Instagram is great but it does little to explain the work or thought that goes into a knife.

I have been focusing on details with some success.  I study the knives of the greats trying to figure out how they do it! How do they get perfect symmetry, zero scratches, and perfect fit on scales and guards?  I believe I have it figured out.  Its simple.. years and years of working at it , patiently.

What I mean by that is, building a lot of knives won’t help a blade smith/ stock removal maker get any better.

It goes back to the old saying ” practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”

I have stopped the deadlines from my customers.  I try to get a knife built in two months max but it can be longer.  I’d rather take my time and build the knife at my own pace , than haul butt and leave a scratch or not be perfect on my plunge lines.  Not that I purposely would do that.  Its an example.

Even then, it will still take years to get to that point.  I guess that is what makes legends , legendary.

On the other hand:

Talking with a professional blade smith tonight , the subject came up about makers that purposely build to keep a rustic appearance on the knife.  Meaning leaving scratches , and hammer marks.  Signatures that a knife was hand made.  Its been seen as a trend for sometime now and I wonder if its because we have a couple generations that want to see imperfect, working art made by a person.  As if that knife is conscious or a part of its creator. By owning it you own a part of that magic.

Who knows? I might be making something of nothing or I might be on to something.

My personal preference is both kinds of knives.  I respect a working tool, meant to be used and not put on a shelf.  I also  strive to achieve the perfectly made knife as so many of the Art Knives have inspired my attempts.

In a time where so much knowledge is present and at our fingers.. lets not declare a winner, just enjoy the variety.  Unless someone is making a big pile of crap.. that’s never cool.  N.J.H.

Oh and here are some projects I’ve been working on.  Let me know what you think!

Dovetail Bolster on My Bulldog Hunter

Always Learning – Dovetail Bolsters


One thing great about knife making is there is always something to learn.  Always a new way of doing something or a skill that can better be perfected.  If you are stock removal or forging blades a serious maker is always after the perfect knife.  A goal that is never attainable but perused, nonetheless .

I watched a YouTube video with Caleb White Knives where he explains how he makes dovetail bolsters.  He does a great job explaining how he makes knives I recommend watching his video if you are just starting out or even been around awhile.  We can all learn something new from other makers.

I have been fighting the idea of doing bolstered knives.  Bolsters are tedious and easy to mess up.  As you can see in this pic.  these bolsters are not dead on.  What I need to do to get them dead on is increase the angle width putting more scale material behind the bolster for a tighter fit. If you don’t do that it seems like the wood gets too thin and wants to bow out at the tip of the scale making it look as if your bolster is off.   Easy fix next go round.

One point I make when trying a new method of knife making is attack it.  I will keep on making bolstered knives until I can get them to art knife levels.  That’s going to take a while.  They kind of suck to do , to be honest.  They do add to the knife and really make the lines of a knife flow better. So regardless I will keep doing bolsters.

Copper-  beautiful color… hell to work with.

I really need to try something else.  My fingers can’t take much more of the instant heat copper likes to transfer to the hand.  But copper seems to look so good against so many handle materials.  The other down side to copper is it scratches easy.  I might try to run down some bronze on my next inventory fill.



Custom Hunter and More.. Catching Up On Some Project Knives

It’s been a little bit! I have been making knives but not posting. Shame on me but here are a few projects I have finished up the last weekend.  I work on knives on my open nights and weekends so work flow is inconsistent but I manage to get one or two out the door every week.

First Knife: 1095 Hunter in Zebra Wood:  This knife is a large blade.  More a Western style fighter than a hunting knife really.  Could be used in both situations if the need should arise.   The profile on the handle are what sets this knife apart from knives I’ve done in the past.  Two finger choil sit side by side so the user can choke up on the knife and do detail work .  Or the user can slide the hand back for more leverage on the swing.   I chose not to bolster this one.  Not sure if that was the right choice or not but it is what it is.  I am still happy with it.

Western fighting knife
1095 Steel , Zebra Wood Scales Stainless pins
profiling the handle
Profile still not finished but you get the idea.  Lots of cleanup still to do.

Second Knife:  This one I’m kind of proud of.  I got over my fear of bolsters and just kept going until they were right.  I want to keep on the gas with the bolsters until I am comfortable with the process.  Its tedious but a challenge worth taking on.  It does bring something to certain knives that ups the appeal.  1095 ( yeah I bought a bunch of 1095)  Ambrosia Maple ( fancy way of saying orange , spalted maple )  , copper bolsters, and pins.  The orange from the maple and copper really blended well.  The other first for this hunter was the gut hook.  Lots of detail work was done just to get her to cut a 1/8″ slab of tanned leather , properly.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Custom 1095 Hunting Knife with Guy Hook
1095 High Carbon Steel, Spalted Ambrosia Maple , and Copper Bolsters and Pins


Last but not least:  Kitchen Utility Knife in Osage: This knife was a fix from a bad epoxy job.  Yes, I will take the fail on this one.  That said, I always stand behind my work and fixed the wrong.  This time I used a lot more sturdy handle material and a completely different finish on the O1 blade.  This time around I decided to use Osage Orange.  I have a big box of Osage Orange my father-in-law found and cut up for me.

This was my moms knife and she uses it a lot .  This is also one of my first knives so the second time around I put everything I had learned from that time forward into making it ” the best work I can do.”

Utility knife used for light duty kitchen work
O1 Tool Steel , Osage Orange Scales, Copper Pins


Going Forward:  I am starting to focus more on my finish work and trying to get to that next level in knife making.  This means, I’m slowing down as much as it takes to finish with the best product possible.  I do that today but I want to push myself further and really work on clean lines, no scratches, and perfect pins.  Everyone has to have  goals!



Damascus in the Snow

10.5″ Slicer & 5.5″ Santoku


My Slicer has been a popular knife this spring , probably because not a lot of custom knife makers seem to make them.  This slicer or abbreviated scimitar as prefer to call it, is just a touch smaller than the knives I’ve done early this year by about two inches.

damascus scimitar for cutting large cuts of meat
Alabama Damascus Steel
9.5″ cutting edge
Osage Orange scales
Stainless steel pins
red liners

red liners on osage scales

The scales are made from Osage Orange post that was taken out of a fence after serving time holding back cattle for over 100 years.  The age of the wood was evident by the deep orange-red color.  Still harder than a rock and very durable.

100 year old Osage Orange taken from a Nebraska Homestead







 Santoku –

I’m not sure this little guy counts as a Santoku considering he has a western style handle.  Nothing wrong with the Japanese handle I just feel a western handle with a nice birds beak is hard to beat.

santoku with western style handle
5.5″ cutting edge
spalted magnolia handle
stainless steel pins
red liners
Santoku used for chopping and everyday use in the kitchen
I consider this to be a perfect do most things blade size


Another Hunting Knife in 1095

New Spec. Hunting Knife in 1095. 


Well not much has changed with my skinner. I just used 1095 instead of O1 , its usual spec steel.  More for the ability to get a hamon on the blade than anything.

Micarta and 1095 hunting knife
Steel : 1095 Scales : Micarta Tan and Black OAL: 8″ Blade Length : 4″ Handle Length : 4″

Both steels are great steels I would still favor the O1 in performance, but its hard to get a hold of sometimes and I must admit using  New Jersey Steel Baron’s 1095 has been nothing but consistent and fun.

The story behind this knife.

This blade was commissioned by a friend looking for a graduation gift for his nephew.  I have known this friend for a lot of years and jumped at the chance to make him a knife.

His nephew is an avid sportsman.  Shooting sports and hunting are his passions  it was just natural to assume his choice in knives would follow those lines.

I am pushing my hunting line to be high performance, razor sharp, light weight blades.  They have a slim profile to keep out of the way on the belt. I contour the handle heavily to make up for the lost mass.  The swoop in the blade helps catch tissue or hide giving the user more control.  A deep finger choil helps keep the knife in the hand.  Micarta is a favorite handle material in my hunting knives.  As I have said before it is one of the few materials that gets sticky when it is wet.

For a hunting knife 1095 is a great choice.

Carbon steels are excellent heavy use steels and in my opinion can’t be matched by a stainless steel.  There are some stainless steels out there that are amazing, like AEB-L.  To me its still not the same as a good old 10X , high, and low alloy steel.

I have been doing some research on knives made in the 17-1900’s in the U.S and England.  The styles and production processes, and that’s helped feed my interest in the traditional steels I suppose.

I’ve read a lot of performance charts on a lot of different steels.  I’m no expert.  However, I am starting to believe the difference between steels that have been around a long time and some of the super steels is minimal.  The super steels are great on paper but performance in real life might be so minute that the average user will never really notice.

I’m not saying , stay away from the super steels.  Not at all!  I have all kinds of S30V and other super steel blades.  I am actually a big fan of such steels.  However marginal the improvements might be , they are still improvements and that’s what this game is all about, making better knives.

So like anything, be skeptical , be cautious and don’t rush out to be the guy to have the first  knife in the latest greatest steel.  There has never been a steel to do it all.

Custom 10″ Slicer for Cutting Prime Rib.

A Custom Knife made for a Retirement Gift.

High Carbon Steel Custom Blade for Cutting Large Roast
10 ” Edge
O1 Steel
Spalted Magnolia and Eastern Red Cedar Scales



I love the blue shade O1 takes on !
Scabbard to protect a long blade inteneded to be used and travels frequently
Scabbard for a blade that travels . Slicer is kept in place by leather strap that is held on copper pin by a cotter pin.  I figured its a 10 cent fix if its ever lost. 


Satin finish on Custom Slicer


This slicer was made as a retirement gift for a guy who likes to do presentations with prime ribs and larger cuts of meat.  I like a lot of contrast in my handles and stumbled across some spalted magnolia that surprised me when finish was applied.  The dark rings and detail really set this knife off in my opinion.

I’m no expert on the ” rules” behind what makes a knife this or that kind of knife.  I realize there are probably names and specifics around certain styles of knives especially Japanese knives.  I know there is a difference between a French chefs knife and a German chefs knife and so on and I get the need for such designations.

However, I just like to make knives and call them what I like.  This knife is made to slice large cuts of meat.  What seems important to me is that friction is reduced as much as possible.  I kept the blade long and thin.  The finger choil is added to provide the user with some clearance for the fingers so they can worry about a long smooth cut and not their fingers hitting a cutting board.

I researched a ” good cut on large roast ”  and what I found out is the carver wants to avoid a lot of small hand movements that result in a saw like cutting pattern on the surface of the meat.   This is also why the length of the knife is important.  Slicing knives are 9″ up to 14″ in some cases.  Since this knife would travel I chose to keep it at 10″ for convenience.

The handle scales are coated in tongue oil to bring out the color and I have found gets a little sticky when wet.  Its also easy to maintain should the handle need some attention down the road.

The wooden scabbard ( I’m sure there is a fancy name from the far East I don’t know)  but scabbard sounds like something a pirate would use so that’s what I am going to call it  was an after thought when I was trying to find a box to ship this knife safely in.  I figured the only way to protect the blade was incase it in some wood.  I had seen kitchen knives kept in wooden scabbards before , but had never tried my hand at it.  The challenge was how I was going to secure the knife in the scabbard.  The solution was simple, just a leather strap that is held in place by a pin.

Bowie Knife – Well… kind of.

The Bowie Knife! The American Fighting Knife


Its surprising to me how many people do not realize the Bowie’s origins ( despite being named after an early American hero.)  The Bowie is characterized by its massive size from clip to pommel .

Its said that the original bowie was influenced by Spanish / French sailors.  The Bowie started life out as a fighting knife.  Commissioned by Jim Bowie’s brother as a way for Jim to protect himself it was the Colonial concealed carry at the time.. only there was no concealing it was all about intimidation and in the right hands probably intimidation turned into a bad day for the guy on the other end.

This knife is modeled after the bowie , with a sharpened clip and oversized features.  I would not classify this as a full bowie knife.  Anything with a blade under 9″ really isn’t a bowie knife but that could be argued by some.

I used copper for the guard and pins.  Ebony handle and an O1 blade.

Knife Specs:

Overall Length- 12 ” approx.

Blade Length – 6.75″

Handle Length – 5.5″ from pommel to end of guard

Blade Material — trusty O1 Tool Steel

Handle Material – Macassar Ebony ( not endangered)

Grind – flat grind with a secondary bevel

Satin finish on blade.  Copper pins and guards




Damascus Skinner

“A style of my own ” Damascus Skinner


Damascus is a beautiful material.  It like all steels has its issues but the end results , if skill and luck hold out are beautiful.  This knife was made from Alabama Damascus , a brand name known for its unusually dark patterns.  This was my first attempt at a Damascus from the U.S. and was very impressed by it.

knife specs :

Overall Length- 9.5″

Blade Length- 5″

Handle Length- 4.5″

Blade Material – Damascus

Handle Material –  Ebony

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