Saturday, 23 April 2011

Make Your Own Kitchen Knife! I Did.

It’s peeing with rain today and though we were supposed to go out race training, it’s blowing about 50 odd knots out there, so we cancelled. I’m pleased. It’s a lot of hard work when it’s blowing and we get very wet and very tired. It can be exhilarating if it’s a good race with great competition but today we were just training and we’d have been the only ones out and we don’t want our mast to fall down unless in anger.

Actually we don’t want the mast to fall down at all so even in a race, if it get’s too much for our 100 year old, beautiful, Fife design, gaff rigged cutter – we’d go in. We’d run back home to port.

That’s not to say we haven’t pushed it. Last year’s racing at the Pendennis regatta in Falmouth had us harnessed on and life-jacketed up. The wet weather gear remained wet all week and the staysail team (Matty, my hard-working and trusty number 2) and I did a lot of our job underwater. Mind you, I think we saw a lot more air then Will and his runner’s team did. That was an awesome regatta and we held our own and more against the big-boy-schooners. We were brave.

So whilst down-below, dry and safe, I thought I’d tell you about my kitchen knife. (Blimey, sandwiches, her cabin drawers and now her knife – is she trying to get rid of us?) 

But really, stay! I made it myself. I did! And I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough as a one-off arts and crafts project. It’s really not that difficult, although I did get some very helpful guidance from my Fella who has made a few of his own rigging knives. He’s so clever, my Fella. As well as handsome, did I mention that already?

When you first use it for that true culinary purpose you designed it for, it is the most gratifying moment. Pride, I really can’t say more than that other than that you will be swelling with it.

My Knife. A sturdy cutting machine with a lovely rose wood handle and bronze rivets.
Being a ‘Global’ knife fan (weak wrists me, had the carpel tunnel operation done in both now) which are so lovely and light and sleek, I decided I needed something a bit more robust and solid. I’m not a fan of meat cleavers but wanted something of that calibre. So I designed my own ‘demi-cleaver/butchers knife’.

The steel I used is 440 grade, stainless-steel from the metal supermarket. The exciting bit is that this needs to be hardened by you, in your back garden in a fire. Cool eh?

The handle is made from rose wood and a small bit of ebony near the hilt. Rose wood is lovely and has a distinct smell.

So I chose my favourite design, drew it onto my piece of metal and cut that out with a hack-saw. That really didn’t take too long and wasn’t that hard to do surprisingly.  I then drilled 2 holes into the ‘tang’ to fix my handle on after it had been hardened. The trick is to sharpen your knife (I used an angle-grinder but in doing so you must make sure the metal stays below 150 degrees, or thereabouts.) but don’t sharpen it all the way. You finish off the sharpening after you’ve hardened the knife in your cool, homemade forge. Which could be a fire in a wheel-barrow. Hey, it worked.

Our knife hardening forge. Good excercise too.
So the Fella and I used a wheel-barrow as our forge. We put a hole in the bottom of the wheel-barrow and put a dinghy pump hose into the hole (everybody point at the yachties!) so that once we’d built a fire in the wheel barrow, we could pump a constant flow of air into the fire to get the heat right up.

So before this get’s way too boring and I lose you, (Hello? Hello, anybody there?) I’ll just say that you get your knife to a cherry-red colour which means it has reached the desired, hardened temperature and is now hard. You need to quench the knife as soon as it’s out of the fire, in water or oil. I used oil. Then you can complete sharpening it and put on your handle with rivets. I shaped the handle once it was riveted onto the knife, again with an angle grinder (the best tool ever).

And there we have it, see easy. Actually now I’ve written that down I can honestly say I won’t be making one again but also that I will have this knife forever and feel so good every time I use it. Especially when it’s to butcher a whole, road-kill, wild-boar we picked up off the road during the winter. (Wild-Boar recipe described in blog titled ‘A Week Late!’) That was a very special moment for me and my homemade knife.

Road-kill and a handmade knife. Cool.

So have a go, why not? You could always email me for more detailed instruction and I’ll just ask George, the expert.

Apparently we’re still on for race training tomorrow. Let’s hope we get some of what you guys are getting in the UK this Easter weekend. Here we are in the South of France, the sunny Cote D’Azur. Mmm.

Happy Easter! See you soon.