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Bell Knife Skiver


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#1 bruce johnson

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 10:23 AM

Dave,
You asked in the thread on clickers about my bell knife skiver. I started this thread to keep things on track and more searchable in the future. I bought a bell knife skiver last spring. I have a Landis handcrank skiver, and at one time I had a pair of 3-in-1s sitting around too. I still have the Landis, and have it set up for skirting, great job getting the meat off the edges of ground seat buildups. Poor for softer leather.
Originally I was going to buy one of the new skivers that Artisan. Ferdco, and others all have a version of. A friend told me of Melanie Machine in LA. Kind of a warehouse of leather machinery. I called and talked to Arnold Kay, the owner. This is an aside here. I told Arnold what I was looking for. He had the new versions, as well as a couple used Fotunas. We talked on the phone for a while, and he told me to just bring my leather and come down. He would make the 700 mile round trip worth it. In talking with other guys who have these, they universally told me that a bell knife skiver will not do a good job on vegtan leather unless you have a top and bottom feed. Those were a little over my price range. I threw some vegtan into the sack anyway, and hit the road. You have to realize that I hate driving south of the "grapevine", so Arnold impressed me with his knowledge. Melanie Machine is a museum of working leather machinery. He has one guy that pretty much just walks around dusting machines and cleaning all day. It is not your typical equipment warehouse. Arnold has been in the business for a good while. At one time he had a shoe factory kicking out 5000 pairs a day for Sears. He knows machines, and when the domestic shoe business dried up, went into machinery. He has stitchers, flatbeds, a ton of kickpresses, bandknife splitters, and clickers looked like you could crush a truck with. Arnold had a couple skivers set up for me, the new one and a used Fortuna. They both did the job on chap leather and latigo. I asked about doing vegtan, and he said no problem up to about 11 oz with the bottom feed. The key is changing the feedwheel. They all come with a stone feedwheel standard. It does a fine job feeding the softer leathers. On vegtan if it slips a little, it glazes up the wheel, scorches the backside of the leather, and won't feed. Exactly what everybody else told me it would do, including some other sellers. Arnold put in a steel feedwheel. It has grooves like the feedwheel on handcrank sole splitter. The presser feet for vegtan have rollers in them. With this combination, it feeds well. I ended up and bought the Fortuna because of the heavier casting and ease of changing the wheel. I was planning to haul it hime and save shipping. He wouldn't let me. He wanted his mechanic to change out a belt and a few springs, and tune it up. Stuff that would have taken more time than expected, so he shipped it. Good guy to deal with.
I use mine for skiving edges of chap leather for seams in bags and purses. I use it to split mulehide and latigo for horn wraps. In fact I had some really heavy mulehide I split a strip and the skiving was usable also - 2 for 1. Biggest thing I use it for is thinning edges evenly on vegtan for projects. I can use heavier leather than I might for planners or checkbooks, stuff like that. I thin the edges down so they are not so clunky looking and then I put in my folding grooves. Then I have a little more meat in the tooling area than with thinner leather, and can tool deeper. I can use up more scraps that way from heavier leather. Other than a side of thin leather for wallets, I haven't bought any tooling leather under 7/8 since I got the skiver.
The skiver is pretty easy to use. I dealt for the stone and steel feedwheels, and the presser feet it looked like I would need when I bought it (have used tham all too). I have never changed out the wheel, the steel will feed the soft stuff too. The feet change out easily, and adjust easily also. By sitting down with Arnold and trying the machines, I got some tips and tricks that probably aren't in the manuals too. There are still some things I handskive, but between the Landis handcrank and the bell knife, not much.
Bruce Johnson
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#2 gtwister09

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 10:39 AM

Bruce,

WOW! That was a wealth of information. I was thinking about doing that as well in the future. I will have to keep this information. Thanks!

Regards,
Ben

#3 Doug Mclean

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 09:45 AM

Bruce
I'm interested in knowing more about these skivers. How wide is the knife on the Landis and also the new bell knife skiver you are talking about. What kind of $$$$.

Thanks
DMac
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#4 bruce johnson

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 04:15 PM

Doug,
I am attaching some pics so people know what we are talking about. The Landis handcrank is the gray tool with the handle in the first pic. It has a 2" blade, and can be adjusted for pitch, and the fence can adjust for depth and width of the skive. Good for firm leather like skirting. Actually it was designed for skiving sole leather in the shoe trade. I bought it refurbished with a 3-in-1 for around $300 for both . These show up on ebay a lot. Some of the American ones have the severe feed wheel on top. It will mark your leather. Mine doesn't leave anything that couldn't be rubbed out if needed. Also the 2-in-1, 3-in-1, and 5-in-1 bench machines all have a skiver just like these. They are on ebay a lot too, usually $150-350. My buddy just bought an American "B" skiver for something like $56. It will be cherry when he is done with it. I used to have this Landis along with 2 3-in-1s. I had each of them set to a different skive. Ended up after I got the bell knife skiver I didn't use them. I think Joe Benner had a 4" handcrank skiver at Elko last spring, I hadn't seen one that wide before.
The bell knife skiver has several presser feet. It will do up to a 2" skive, and is pretty much fully adjustable for pitch, width and depth. I bought the skiver along with a steel feed wheel, new knife, new sharpening wheels and dressing sticks, several presser feet, table, and new motor for around $1400 I think. Along with a half day lesson on my leather. Plus I got to eat pizza with Wayne Christensen and Harvey Lutske later on. The casting is heavier on mine vs. the new models. Might be a factor. Parts are pretty readily available. There are a ton of different feet for specific skives and grooves. I bought what feet I figured I would use, and have. I might get one to do a 1/8 or 3/16 channel at some point.

Attached Files


Bruce Johnson
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"the windshield's bigger than the mirror, somewhere west of Laramie" - Dave Stamey
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#5 Doug C

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:10 AM

Bruce,
I am thinking about getting the Artisan NP 4 Bell knife skiver. I do mostly breifcases, notebooks, chaps and chinks. I have never been around these skiveres. How hard is it to learn to operate. Is the set up complicated or slow? Is it hard to find a steel feedwheel for the Artisan?
Thanks,
Doug

#6 Romey

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:54 AM

Neat looking gaget Mr. Johnson, thanks for the info
Romey
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#7 bruce johnson

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 02:23 AM

Bruce,
I am thinking about getting the Artisan NP 4 Bell knife skiver. I do mostly breifcases, notebooks, chaps and chinks. I have never been around these skiveres. How hard is it to learn to operate. Is the set up complicated or slow? Is it hard to find a steel feedwheel for the Artisan?
Thanks,
Doug


Doug,
Dave from Artisan can probably address the specifics of the NP 4, and what presser feet and feedwheels they can get better than I can. I test drove one of theirs at Wickenburg. It was the first time I had sat down at one. That is what opened my mind up to the possibilities of what it could do for my skiving of vegtan, althoough Jerry and ?? were more leaning towards telling me I needed to get the top and bottom feed machine. Good advice sure, but more $$$ than I had at the time (My wife had just visited Ron Edmond's booth and bought his hydraulic drawdown stand). They told me that the bottom feed would glaze, smoke, and not feed vegtan over about 4-5 oz. The top and bottom feed will do skirting. Same thing I was told by the guy who sells them on ebay on the $900 deal. The guys on the boot and shoemakers forum referred me to Arnold at Melanie. He was the first I heard of the steel feedwheel from. He told me that the vegtan also feeds better with presser feet with rollers. He set it up and ran some 8 oz though like nothing. Switched the wheel over to the new import model, and it did just as well. The wheel was harder to change on the import, one factor at the time. He had a bunch of new feet for the Fortuna. Obviously they went right on the Fortuna. On the import the pin that secured them was a bit short, the pin off the Fortuna on the import was a bit long, and they were slightly wobbly, but worked. The stock feet for the import were OK, but he didn't have the selection that he had in Fortuna. There are feet to do straight skives, channels, a channel and thin outer edge for a turned edge, all kinds of configurations. All in all, the Fortuna was just a handier buy for me.
As far as ease of use. In a nutshell they run off a sewing machine motor. You step on the pedal (wide open is best) and they feed and do it all. Way easier to learn than a sewing machine. The angle of the skive is controlled by a thumbscrew setup that changes the pitch of the presser foot. The height is controlled by a thumbscrew set up on top. An adjustable guide fence controls how far in the piece rides under the presser foot. That can help control how far the skive is and the thickness of the finished edge. The knife has a sharpener that you dial the blade against a stone. Then there are dressing sticks that you use to take the burr off. About 10 minutes of playing with scraps will get you pretty far along. Arnold was doing pretty tight inside and outside curves in a single pass like nobody's business. When I change from one setting to another, I check with some scrap. Getting to where I am close by just eyeballing now. Takes me about a minute now to change a foot and set up a different skive. I don't use it every day, but I use it a bunch. It is fun to use.
Bruce Johnson
Malachi 4:2
"the windshield's bigger than the mirror, somewhere west of Laramie" - Dave Stamey
Leather Work and Leather Tools - www.brucejohnsonleather.com

#8 Doug C

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 01:41 PM

Bruce,
Thanks for the help and information. I found Melanie Machine's Web site and called them. They don't currently have any used Fortuna's however they do have the new imports that they can put the steel roller and roller presser foot on for a price. Artisan doesn't carry the steel roller as a option. How often do you need to put the stone roller in to sharpen the knife blades?

Doug

#9 bruce johnson

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 02:21 PM

Doug,
the stone feedwheel doesn't sharpen, it just feeds. It is kind of like that coarse side on the back side of the bench stones that you raely use except on the mower blade. The stone sharpening wheel inside is a whole different piece. I have not changed out from the steel wheel. It feeds the softer stuff as well. I am not sure of the advantages of the stone feedwheel other than old technology or price?? Maybe the stone surface is more easily redressed. The feedhweel on crank splitters, when they lose their bite, it takes a machinist.
Bruce Johnson
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"the windshield's bigger than the mirror, somewhere west of Laramie" - Dave Stamey
Leather Work and Leather Tools - www.brucejohnsonleather.com





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