Boojum’s knife

Late last year I mentioned on social media that I was looking for knife projects if anyone wanted me to make something for them.

My friend Boojum, from back in my Perl days, mentioned that she had an unfinished project from her mother, started before her untimely passing, that maybe I could try my hand at finishing.

She sent me the components of a knife that had been started many years ago and never finished.

Now, this project has a number of challenges. The first, and most significant, is that of course this is an object of sentimental value. And it’s something that I could very easily screw up. This is offset by the fact that Boojum is awesome and wanted an object that she could use rather than something that was just collecting dust somewhere. And this is how I view these projects as well. I don’t want to ever make something that just sits on a shelf being admired. I want to make things that get used and scuffed up and broken in daily life.

The other challenge is that the blade itself is aluminum rather than steel and so it was very soft and that increased the chances that I would ruin it while I was working with it. The blade was already cut to shape and had a weird little tang that I didn’t understand why it was done that way.

(The tang of a knife is the part that is concealed within the handle.)

She sent me two blades and one handle. The blades were pretty much finished and the one handle was roughed in but needed some work. So what I needed to do was put one of the blades in the existing handle and then craft a handle for the other one.

I put it off for quite some time because it’s a lot of responsibility working with something with this much sentimental value.

In early January I started working on the first knife. I cut a slot in the handle and drilled two holes in the blade and attached it to the handle with 1/16th” brass pins.

Overall, I was mostly pleased with this final product. The upper pin is obviously too close to the end of the handle, and that worried me, but it seems to have worked out ok. And I used the original handle, made by her mom, almost without changes. It was very rough, and I sanded it, but other than that, didn’t change the original.

I finished the handle with teak oil, and buffed the blade to 3000 grit.

The second one took a lot longer, because I’ve been traveling a lot this year, but yesterday I started working on it.

I sketched a handle to try to complement the shape of the blade, and sacrificed about a centimeter of the blade to get a solid hold inside the handle.

Looks good on paper!

The handle is canary wood. I cut a channel down the center, drilled two holes in the blade, as you can see from the diagram, and put the same 1/16″ brass pins in that I used for the first one. That was definitely the hardest part – trying to align the pins with the teensy holes.

And I used epoxy to fill the cut and set it all up.

Then the usual hours of sanding through the grits, from 40, through 80, 120, 400, 1000, 1500, and finally 3000 to get a glossy finish, and then used several coats of teak oil to finish it up.

You can see more of the full process in my Flickr album, along with the notes I kept as I went along.

Overall, it was a hugely fun project, and I’m very honored that I was trusted to do it.

So, anyone else want me to make something?

One thought on “Boojum’s knife”

  1. I could not have entrusted a more talented and thoughtful friend with this task! I think you were more worried about the riskiness of working on such a sentimental project than I was. I knew that you would try your best (maybe even more than your best) and regardless of the outcomes that these blades would have tried to become something useful in this world vs sitting in a drawer or keepsake box. What you made are so special to me that I will treasure using them regularly. Now their story includes not just my mom’s journey, but yours, as well our that of our friendship. Thanks for turning these unfinished ideas into beautiful and functional tools in my home that I will derive genuine joy from using! I’m glad to call you a friend. ❤️

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