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Handling a knife- productive procrastination

I’m in that funny limbo state between a book being finished and being published. My translation and interpretation of Fiore’s longsword plays (of which the current working title is now From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice: The Longsword Plays of Fiore dei Liberi. What do you think?) is back from the editor, his 2,370 comments and changes accepted, rejected, or otherwise acted on (that number is exact, not figurative. 2,370. Really. That's normal for a good editor with a 65,000 word document) and the resulting draft is now being proof-read. I expect that back in a couple of weeks, then it’ll be off to layout. Hurrah!

So it's a Schrödinger’s book, both finished and not finished. Done and not done. I can’t really concentrate on another sword related writing project (I think the replacement volume for The Duellist’s Companion is next up) until this one is really done. Instead I’m doing some productive procrastination, which for me is usually some craft-related activity. It’s something of a relief to get away from ideas and pixels, and back to physical materials. I’m making bookcases. This one is basically done:

That’s 18mm birch ply with solid cherry banding, and adjustable shelves, held onto the wall with a French cleat.

I haven’t done the cap or base yet, because I’m concentrating on getting books out of boxes. I can add the decorative but not actually necessary elements later. Bookcase 2 is basically the same, but with maple accents. I’ve been using the kiridashi knives daily since I made them– and holy cow, they are beautiful tools. They led me to dust off a chip-carving knife I’ve had knocking about the workshop for maybe 6 years. I got JT Pälikkö to make the blade for me, and I stuck a crappy birch handle on it just to get it into use asap. But I haven’t used it nearly as much as the quality of the blade deserves, which is partly because the handle just wasn’t appealing. So in some down-time between bookcases, while all my clamps were occupied with a glue-up, I started re-shaping the handle. After five minutes I thought ‘you know what? This knife deserves better’, and stripped off the old handle, and made a new one out of maple, cherry, and walnut. You can see part of the old handle in this photo.

Top tip: leave the wood long as long as possible- it's much easier to hold it still if it has a built-in handle! I epoxied the whole thing together.

Then I did 90% of the shaping before cutting the handle to length. I went so far as to actually finish the handle at the blade end before cutting the waste away.

The handle is finished in boiled linseed oil, then shellac. I made a home for it on my tool board- it fits in beautifully!

Of course, in my enthusiasm, I drilled the hole for the tang too deep, and it was visible at the pommel end, so I plugged it with a square cherry plug. I could have made it disappear with some antique-restorer trickery, but decided to highlight the error with a contrasting wood.

This is in the spirit of wabi-sabi: the things that make something imperfect can also make them beautiful. This is true in many fields, but not, ever, book editing!

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

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