Leather Work

It might be based on my life experiences in the military and as a civilian contractor living with little to no support in the Middle East. But I’ve always had a hard and fast rule to always wear shoes you can run for your life in and of course, never be without some kind of cutting tool.

As I get older, I find my “go-to” every day carry is my SAK (Swiss Army Knife) and a light of some kind. I’ve finally got around to making myself a leather sheath for these two items. I’m not a fan of the pocket clip style of knife. For my life-style and work, a belted sheath knife is more practical and comfortable.

Leather Sheath For The SAK
Swiss Army Knife & rechargeable O-Light.
Yes! Or course there’s a compass on the sheath.

In my travels, I find most craftsmen and artists aren’t just skilled in their chosen craft or medium. They are also leather workers or wood workers as well.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

The only way to get really good at something is by doing the thing you want to be good at.

And then prepare to fail epically at it. And fail a lot!

If you’re around other artist’s, craftsmen and creators you’ll quickly find that they all talk a lot more about their failures than their successes. I suppose it has something to do with the camaraderie that’s built by having something in common with your fellow creators. That one thing that we all have in common being…failure. Epic failure!

K.J. Eriksson Mora with Burlap handle.

Inspired by helping my good pal and professional Blade-smith Tony Roed teach “Knife Kit” classes, I get to learn more about the art of knife making.

Putting new handles on old blades I find at flea markets is my “cheaper” way to practice my “fit & finish” skills.

It’s a win even if the project doesn’t turn out 100% because it makes for another unique, usable knife in the kitchen drawer. And you can never have too many knives…right?

Knife Class

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own knife, I recommend you save yourself lots of time and money and first start out by taking a knife “kit” class.

Professional knife makers know that the magic of knife making results because of great attention to the “fit & finish” of the knife. It’s the part of the knife making process where you attach the handle and file, grind, sand and polish to fit.

Tony Roed & Jeff Olson practicing their knife making skills.

This is the most important part of the knife making process.

Because this is a vitally important part and incidentally often the most overlooked by would-be knife makers, it’s why Tony Roed and I (Jeff Olson) have developed a class to teach this skill.

We provide our students with pre-made knife blanks, rivets and custom knife scales (handle material).

Students go home with a complete knife and leather sheath.

Tony Roed

In our course, students will have the opportunity to select their own handle material for a provided knife blade. They will learn to affix the handle material via epoxy and rivets. They will also learn how to shape the handle with 2×72 belt grinders and finish off the day by making a leather sheaths for their new knife.

Jeff Olson with a “Knife Kit Class” student on the 2×72 grinder.

We’ve developed the class so there’s no experience needed. Students work closely with professional instructors.

Tony Roed on Forged In Fire. Season 5 episode 32.

Instructed by professional knife maker and “Forged in Fire Contestant” Tony Roed along with co-instructor, artisan blacksmith Jeff Olson.

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We’ve chosen the Russell Green River Ripper, Dadley and Hunter knife blanks for our classes. These were one of the most common knives used during the North American mountain man period of exploration and expansion in both the U.S. and Canada.

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These high carbon steel “Green River” blades are identical to the ones used by our forefathers. They have been made by Russell Harrington Cutlery since the early 1800s, and feature proven designs used as working knives for almost 200 years.

Student knife from a class.

We like these knives because they end up being the most used knives in the house. They stand the test of time and that’s why we use them in our classes. We want to send the students home with a working knife they’ll be proud to say they made.

Student Green River Ripper Knives.

For information on how to attend or schedule a group class, you can contact us directly or watch for up coming classes at The Pine To Prairie Folk School, The Fosston Area Metal Arts and The Northern Minnesota Metalsmith’s organization.

A Busy Year On The Road

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It was a busy year for me this year.

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It started off with my attendance at Thomas Latane’s Norse Axe class held at the Raspberry Island Folk School. 

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The 2017 Summer and Fall also had me collaborating with these two scoundrels, traveling to communities and demonstrating our amazing blacksmith skills to the public 😉

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That’s knife maker/blacksmith  Tony Roed of Stony’s Custom Designs on the right and knife maker/blacksmith Jerry Hobbs of Jerry Hobbs Blacksmithing on the left.  Two talented craftsman who are wholeheartedly dedicated to making sure their customers get their best work.

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They not only run their own shops and travel with me on occasion. They also are heavily involved with the Northern Minnesota Metalsmith’s Club teaching and promoting the blacksmith trade (and all trades) to the young and the “seasoned” alike.

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I look forward to our adventures in 2018.

If you’d like to check out the metal-works of Jerry and Tony, make sure you click the links I’ve provided in this post.

Cheers!

A Good Knife and A Good Plan

All you need in life is a good knife and a good plan.

The Following is my journey to obtain a one-of-a-kind knife.

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I commissioned professional knife maker Jerry Hobbs of  J.Hobbs Blacksmithing to forge my blade design into reality.

Why a custom blade?

A knife is the most taken for granted tool on the planet. Everyone eventually uses a knife to cut something.

It’s the tool that allowed humans to climb up a couple of links on the food chain.  It gave us tooth and claw.

It allowed us to create other tools.

Along with fire, it allowed us to not fear the beasts that lurked in the dark.

“Knives are everywhere but not all are equal.”

I’m a full time metal artist who uses traditional blacksmith tools and techniques to create metal sculptures and jewelry.  This allows me to interact with other metal-workers, artists and knife makers.

It wasn’t until I had experience with these blade-smiths, examined their fine hand made knives that I truly understood the difference between a factory knife and hand crafted blade.

I’ve hammered out a few blades of my own and I can tell you from experience, that making a knife by hand is a hell of a lot harder than it looks.

Now, I fully recognize that most people who use knives do so only occasionally, so a factory knife works just fine for them. But for someone who’s livelihood or life depends on the performance of a simple knife, the longevity, durability, usefulness, and value of a knife is paramount.

“A factory knife is a clone.  It has no soul.”

Factory knives are manufactured for mass production on an assembly line.

Manufactures who deal in volume are in the business of making the most money for the lowest cost of product and labor they can. Pure and simple, the less they spend on making the knife, the more money they make.

This fact limits any knife you buy that’s produced in just about any factory, large or small.

I wanted a knife that was created for me by an Artist/Craftsman who is in love with the process.  And I found that very passion for hand forging knives in Jerry Hobbs.

Here’s my story:

I wanted a knife to fit my lifestyle.  I’m an outdoorsman and needed an Every Day Carry (EDC) tool to meet the demands of that environment.

I live in the harsh climate of Northern Minnesota. I hunt, fish, hike and venture on foot to remote lakes summer and winter.

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My former life as a military man and later chapter as a security contractor in the Middle East had me carrying a “tactical” style of blade.

However, now that I’ve left that warmongering life behind me, I found I needed a more practical knife that’s built for field dressing game, skinning and still of use in the camp or kitchen.

“The Longer you’re in Special Forces, the shorter your knife gets.”
– Anonymous Old SF Dude.

I started with a sketch.  Then a cardboard cut out to get the feel of the design. Sometimes it may look good on paper but feel all wrong in the hand.

Refinements were made until it felt like a lost part of my soul.

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Once that was done, I cut out a mild steel blank and refined that until it felt just right.

Then I sought out blade-smith Jerry Hobbs, told him what I was looking for in a knife and gave him some creative freedom.

Jerry kept in touch with me all through the process of the knife.

Jerry even sent pictures of the journey.

I forgot to tell you that I wanted a Damascus blade.  One of the reasons I chose Jerry Hobbs to forge my blade is that he makes his own Damascus.

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He used 1095 steel .156 thick by 4 inch wide by 48 inch long and 15n20 .095 thick by 4 inch wide by 48 inch long.

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The 1095 and the 15n20 are then cut 1.5 inches wide by 4 inches long.

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They are then forge welded and hammered into a billet.

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The billet is then drawn out by hammer.  It takes a lot of TLC by the smith to get the “sex-appeal” to pop out of a Damascus billet of steel.

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What I appreciate about Jerry Hobbs is how he kept me in the loop on the progress of the blade.

He sent more pictures than what are shown here.  I was also surprised how he took the time and explained what he was doing with the steel as it progressed on its journey.

He even sent me pictures of the knife being sharpened!

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Here is the final product.  I couldn’t be happier with the craftsmanship of Jerry Hobbs.

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I highly recommend a man commission a knife maker to hand forge him a custom knife at least once during his life time.

Jerry Hobbs can be reached at J. Hobbs Blacksmithing.

Exploring The World of Knife Making.

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I’m surrounded by very talented knife makers in the “Northern Minnesota Metalsmiths” club.  They’re starting to influence me to hammer out some blades.  Here’s a little knife I made out of a horse shoe.

I must confess, it is very challenging to forge a blade.  Which is why it’s also addicting.

Whatever you craft, I encourage you to challenge yourself with something new.  Reach up for that next rung on the ladder and pull yourself up.  The view does get better with the effort.