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Post by Tank » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:58 pm

I suppose we could ask to maybe start a new thread about knives? But actually, although the title says "knives" it should really say: "Cutlery and the End of an Era". Bit strong that though, but true.
So this is probably going to be quite a long post, anyone who has been trapped by me having to endure one of my "explanations" knows exactly what I mean. I make no apologies I like everyone to know the full story :mrgreen:

So, over the last couple of weeks I have been working on a bit of a project of mine as someone has asked me to carry out some stock work of a particularly special nature. They wanted a small plaque inletting into the stock, you know the sort of thing...... "Presented to Such and Such on the whatever" but tiny, just a bit exactly like those small plaques we have all seen on pocketknives we own, have owned. Or just inletted as decoration, like this one:


You see how well the small Nickle Silver oval sits in the Scales? Beautifully done.
But How? was the question. How do you get a small metal shape, with sharp corners to fit so well in the handle? I could cast the handle around it - IF i was making a knife and IF i was using plastic, neither of which I was doing. So, time to browse 'tinternet. Or waste my evening, depending upon where you were sitting:-)
My "research" led me around the world to Peter Mcbride's (" onclick=";return false;) website in Australia where Peter shows and describes the tool made for the job. It is called a "Parser" . Usually the only Parser's I come into contact with are of the email and code type, this was new, one I could not only touch but I also had the opportunity to make one myself, because you can be damned sure the local toolshop - and I don't care how long they have been there - will definitely NOT have one in stock!

Here is the collection of bits:


So what is it? How do you work it? Well the bit that looks like a violin bow was traditionally made from an old umbrella spine or shaft and the Fiddlestick (for our younger readers, this is a real word) used a leather thong as the drive mechanism, Peter used heavy cord i have used leather on mine. This is the actual business end of the Parser:


I won't go into the details of construction but it was a bit of a "make it up as we go along" project. I found hacksaw blades off the big Donkey Saw perfect for the job and it involved a couple of hours at the Anvil too. The rest of the bits were all cobbled together from the Itllcomeinuseful bin so the actual cost was nothing, but time and the use of kit I already own. This is Peter demonstrating the tool in use:


The technique is, you make a pattern in a piece of steel the shape you want to inlet and hold this pattern tight against the surface you wish to inlet - you then poke the two rather sharp legs into the pattern, hold the weight of your body against the spike of the parser and with the Bow propel the tool back and forth. At high speed. So don't get in the way of the business end. On this page you can see some of the inletting done by Peter:" onclick=";return false;

So, I dig a bit more (can't help it really when it is interesting) and to my surprise discover that Peter discovered the technique from a Watchmaker I had come across in the past: ... arser.html" onclick=";return false;
In turn, I discover that Roy had discovered the technique being used by the venerable Stan Shaw, of Sheffield. Thirty minutes up the road from me!

So I decided to watch a couple of the interviews featuring Stan Shaw and although Stan is not a learned man, by that I mean some University Professor or TV Pundit (they are the same nowadays) what he says is just so factual, born of his own life and experiences, that it made me extremely angry watching them. And very, very sad. There was some discussion some time ago about Stan teaching his skills. As he repeats in the video interviews, he doesn't have time. I understand perfectly what he means. At fifty years old and unemployed he had to find a job, couldn't and so set up from scratch his workshop and business in order to feed and support his family. I would ask any of you - in those circumstances, would you stop what you were doing and give your time freely and unpaid to teach someone your skills? Nor would I sadly.

People have recently started asking me why I so freely show people, by the use of this and other forums, how to repair and make things for themselves. Am I not cutting a revenue stream for myself? Knowledge is power and all that? Well, I have a bit of a radical approach to this. Although I will not answer my "business phone" to idly chat the afternoon away on how a particular technique should be applied I have no qualms, when I get an opportunity, of publishing that technique so others may, if they so wish, do the same. However, I would suggest that of every thousand people who read the article a very small number will actually try it out for themselves and of that number an even smaller proportion will have the tools and skills to actually do the job in a safe and satisfactory manner. No, they usually give it to me - because they can see from my writings that actually, I can do that and with much less hassle than if you do it. Generally.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that highly skilled individuals are becoming the exception nowadays, in the past if you went to Sheffield and wanted to find a Cutler, a Knifemaker, you didn't have far to look. Now I know of three or four. Not big conglomerates, small one-man-band type operations who produce a handmade individual product. Knifemakers today have, by and large, had very little formal training, they have "learned at the bench" but not in the traditional way either they have learned much of their skill by trial and error which is an expensive school to go to. As an example of what I mean here are a couple of Stan's knives. You see the exquisite decoration along the bacvks and the backs of the blades?


Do you know how that is done? Files! the decoration is hand carved into the spine of the knife by filing it with a selection of fine files. This is a skill developed after countless hours at the bench and not taught in any school I know of. Why do you think Purdy Hammerlock shotguns fetch so much? Because these skills are no longer being taught and if they are the cost is so great the apprentice has to contract to stay with the company for a good number of years repaying back into the company that sponsored him or her. Or get someone from Eastern Europe. Fact of life.
So here you are, the interview that prompted this: ... video/497/" onclick=";return false;

And the links to the other parts of the series: ... video/500/" onclick=";return false; ... /video/499" onclick=";return false; ... /video/499" onclick=";return false;
Last edited by Tank on Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I’m going off to go find myself. If I’m not back by the time I return, keep me here.

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Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:44 pm

Re: Knives

Post by micken » Wed Apr 23, 2014 5:13 pm

Hi Graham, thanks for the detailed article and the links, interesting reading. I'll make good use of them when I get the time to look into this a little further.

All the best, Mick

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