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Skald

Straight Vs. Slanted Blade?

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I have just started to explore the world of leather carving, and the stamping and beveling part is actually going quite well, but the carving could really improve.

The swivel knife I got, has a straight edge, and it's also quite a thick blade (I don't really know if there are others thicknesses around?), I have to put my every efforts into getting even semi decent lines (and I seldom do), and sometimes I really just want to grab another more regular knife instead, but I persist trying to learn using it.

Much of the stuff I have made so far, have had quite a lot of curved lines with sharp angles and so forth, and I often have to lift the blade and start cutting anew more often than I feel is proper if you want a good result. Frankly, I feel like I use a bulldozer where a garden shovel should be a better tool. "Knife skills" in general isn't my problem, as I have done quite a lot of wax carving for silver casting, but that's a whole other way of using a blade of course.

However, I have seen that there are these swivel knife blades around, with a slanted edge, and this boils down to my question: Would it help getting hold of such a blade? I.e., does it make "turning" etc. any easier than with the straight kind of blade I am currently using? I got a quite strong "gut feeling" that it would make things a bit easier.

Also, do you have any general suggestions for the cutting part? I am getting some books shortly, so I guess I might found good tips and explanations there. I really hope I get the grip on this, it feels kind of awkward when I am really getting nowhere with the cutting improvements, while I am making quite a good progress with the other parts... ;)

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Welcome to the wonderful world of leather!!!

Seriously, I have a few quite expensive straight and angled knives and after years of swapping around, I wouldn't trade my 3/8" angled ceramic for any of them. Lot's of folks don't like the ceramics but for me they glide through the leather with occasional stropping whereas I get drag from my best blades after a short time.

To answer your question better- I "grew up" with angled blades and can't use a straight blade to save my soul. They undercut the leather around corners and I can't get used to tilting it when I use it. The angled blades can be used straight up and down due to their design, and curves are no problem. Just make sure that they are sharp and stropped all the time.

I hope that this has helped.

pete

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Skald, I imagine you're going to get quite a few differing opinions. For really intricate carving, a thin, light, stainless steel angle blade just seems to work better for me, and have gotten nice clean results with it.

But that's not the case for everyone. Some people find the big, half-inch blades are more comfortable and can do very graceful, intricate work with them. Take a look at this video from Keith Valley:

I learned a lot from watching this. I realized you can cut very tight, smooth curves if you just tilt the blade more as it turns. That takes practice, and can feel very awkward at first. Using an angle blade reduces the amount you have to tilt the knife to make a turn. The trade off is, the angle blade takes a bit more work to keep under control. Minor trade-off, IMO.

So my suggestion is to try different ones and just see what works better for you. But don't be surprised if part of the answer ends up just being more practice.

Kate

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Hi, Skald:

A straight, thick blade is best used on thicker leathers, on long, straight or slightly curved lines & an angled blade is better on short, highly curved lines & detailed work, although, there are people who can do highly detailed, fine work with a straight blade- but I'm not one of them... I'm one of those who absolutely detest ceramic blades (I have 2- an angle & a double line blade & I'd throw them both away if I hadn't have spent so many $$ on them...) I like the old ruby blades (have 2 which I use frequently), but mostly I use Henley blades, either their angle or their fine angle (I also have their double line beader blade & their wide, fat 1/2 inch straight blade, which I do use on occasion when needed.). [At some future point, I'd like to try Paul Zalesak's knives & blades (I think they're called SK Knives- he's on this forum also), but I just can't see putting out $135+ without trying them out first].

Anyway, good luck with tooling- keep practising. For what you are mostly doing, I would think you would be better served with angled, thinner blades, rather than a fat, straight blade.

russ

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Skald,

I think that Kate is right you are probably going to get a lot of mixed advice here. Of course I have my own ideas so here goes. In my humble opinion the best blade to start off with is a 3/8" straight blade. I happen to prefer hollow ground blades. I think it is important to spend the time it takes to learn to handle that blade. There is a certain skill level that once achieved makes the next step up much more pleasant and productive. It's a little like learning to swim before jumping off the high dive.

I consider anything other than a 3/8" or 1/2" straight blade to be a specialty blade. I think a lot folks will disagree with that statement, but my logic is that I can make just about any kind of cut on any pattern with a 3/8" straight blade (if a cut can't be made with the 3/8" straight blade then the pattern is probably way too advanced for you to be trying at this point). Once you have mastered the use of that blade it will be time to try some of the other blades....probably a 1/4" angled blade would be my next choice. You will discover that the specialty blades allow you to make difficult cuts more easily, however if you don't know how to make the cut then the specialty blade will be less useful. The bigger the pattern, the bigger the blade I use. Consequently, the smaller the pattern the smaller the blade. And more often than not I will use at least two knives and very often three knives when cutting a pattern. And I'm a believer in useing good quality knives and blades

Personally I am not a fan of ceramics, however there is absolutely nothing wrong with using them. For me they are too expensive for a blade that is so fragile and which requires such expensive equipment to sharpen. I'll put my money on a quality steel blade that I can resharpen easily with inexpensive equipment...which brings up another subject that has a direct impact on considering a swivel knife. Most of the beginner and intermediate toolers that I have encountered think they know what a sharp knife is and how to sharpen it when the reality is that they don't! So they are evaluating their most important tool which they are struggling with because it's condition is such that you'd sprain your finger with it! Once you learn to sharpen a blade you will be amazed at how well you can cut your pattern.

There are a couple of other important things to keep in mind also. The quality of your leather and your ablility to case it properly, both, will have an enormous impact on your success with the swivel knife. So buy good leather and get it conditioned to cut before you start. Why not give yourself every advantage to be successful? Additionally, spend a lot of time performing perfect practice. There shouldn't be a single scrap in your shop that is not covered with practice swivel knife cuts. And remember, practice doesn't make perfect.....only perfect practice makes perfect! Our cuts are the foundation of everything we tool. Bad cuts = bad tooling. You will discover that all of your tooling will go faster and smoother as your cuts improve.

So anyway, that's my two cents worth...hope it helps.

Bobby

Edited by hidepounder

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I must thank you all a lot for your in-depth answers, more than I had hoped for!

I realize that I should probably take some pieces of leather, and just tune up my cutting skills first and foremost, not bothering to actually "make" something out of it - but concentrate on getting hold of the cuts. Pete put words to what I have been seeing in my cuts too, the undercut problem (among others hehe...), and I'll order myself some simple angled blade right away, and see if it fits me better. The video that CitizenKate posted was a great help too, even though I try not to, I tend to move the leather around more than the knife, and it's really no way to get precision into following the lines I guess. For some reason, I have been trying not to tilt the blade, as I have almost found myself ending up using the knife like some pizza slicer in the end. I realize that there is a way of doing it somewhere in between. ;)

As always, it's good to get mixed advice from different people, what works for someone, isn't really the best way for someone else. I'll drop by my fathers place some day, and get hold of some "spill bits" of leather (he used to make horse gear years ago), to get into the zen of swivel knife cutting. Thank you all!

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Hey Bobby, I just want to say that I am greatly admire your work. I know that there are a great many fantastic leather carvers on our forum, but you are one of the best. I agree with what you said about starting off with a 3/8" straight blade and getting good with it before advancing to other blades, however in my case, when I started there wasn't anyone else within a hundred miles of me working with leather. The only ones that did were at Mrytle Beach and they were selling WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU MAM, give me the money and get out of the way. A friend who had done time in prison was doing some stuff when he got out and he gave a Tandy swivel knife with a 1/4 inch angle blade and that is all I ever knew to use until a few years ago. A friend from Cal. sent me a Henley knife with a 3/8 straight blade, and it is the best knife that I have ever used. It seems that no matter how much I practice with it I still scalp the leather on turns and curves. Do you or any of the other carvers ever have this problem, and if so what can I do to correct it. I ordered a 1/4 angle blade from Mr. Louie, and I use it now, but I still need to learn to use the straight blades. Shoot like Larry told me with the straight blade gets a littl dull and needs stroping, just turn it around and keep using the other side of the blade. Anyway any help or ideas will be appreciated. Billy P

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I am nowhere near the level of Hidepounder or others on this forum, but I have collected a lot of information to assist me over the short years I have been involved in this craft. here is something that might help you understand what is going on on your turns. Your basically scalping the leather.....I too did this at the beginning until one of mentors stopped me and explained to me what this picture will hopefully help you.

Good luck!

post-6330-019745300 1282441658_thumb.jpg

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I am nowhere near the level of Hidepounder or others on this forum, but I have collected a lot of information to assist me over the short years I have been involved in this craft. here is something that might help you understand what is going on on your turns. Your basically scalping the leather.....I too did this at the beginning until one of mentors stopped me and explained to me what this picture will hopefully help you.

Good luck!

I think the image to the right in your picture is misleading. I have never used a square ended swivel knife that I held it with the entire cutting edge on the leather.

The knife would be tilted away from your body/hand. If the blade was held as in the picture you would have a scrape on the leather when you turn.

ferg

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A friend from Cal. sent me a Henley knife with a 3/8 straight blade, and it is the best knife that I have ever used. It seems that no matter how much I practice with it I still scalp the leather on turns and curves. Do you or any of the other carvers ever have this problem, and if so what can I do to correct it. I ordered a 1/4 angle blade from Mr. Louie, and I use it now, but I still need to learn to use the straight blades. Shoot like Larry told me with the straight blade gets a littl dull and needs stroping, just turn it around and keep using the other side of the blade. Anyway any help or ideas will be appreciated. Billy P

Hi Billy....thanks for the kind words! I don't have much trouble with scalping anymore. I've cut enough that I know how to avoid it with the wider blades or recognize the need to use specialty blades. Like anything else it's all a matter of logging enough quality hours. I have several Henleys and like them very much! My two most used knives are a Henley and a Beard. Both have Beard blades.

Bobby

I think the image to the right in your picture is misleading. I have never used a square ended swivel knife that I held it with the entire cutting edge on the leather.

The knife would be tilted away from your body/hand. If the blade was held as in the picture you would have a scrape on the leather when you turn.

ferg

Ferg....I looked at that too and couldn't quite grasp what they were trying to demonstrate....

Bobby

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I think the image to the right in your picture is misleading. I have never used a square ended swivel knife that I held it with the entire cutting edge on the leather.

The knife would be tilted away from your body/hand. If the blade was held as in the picture you would have a scrape on the leather when you turn.

ferg

It was a quite weird picture, but I understood it as the bent arrows means that you should indeed tilt the blade away from you, but it sure could have been illustrated in a better way.

I have another question for you guys too. If you take a look at this picture, especially to the right and at the top picture http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs50/i/2009/339/4/4/Wolfszeit_Detail_II_by_Wodenswolf.jpg there are a lot of "small streaks" (don't know how to describe it better) at the beveled areas, are these cuts, or are they made using those really small/pointy (or ball pointed) modeling tools? I have understood how you make the coloring part (much as when you do stain silver objects really, apply with a rag, and wipe of the excess and it stays in the small contours), but I can't really comprehend how the fine lines themselves are made.

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The picture on the right is a side view of the picture on the far left. You want to tilt the swivel knife away from your and draw towards you while applying pressure with your finger that is settled in the saddle. I hope that explains it better. I know that that the author could have probably done a better job! If anyone has a better picture or demonstration, please by all means post it. I would want to someone to continue down the wrong turn even further.

Good luck

Edited by King's X

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It was a quite weird picture, but I understood it as the bent arrows means that you should indeed tilt the blade away from you, but it sure could have been illustrated in a better way.

I have another question for you guys too. If you take a look at this picture, especially to the right and at the top picture http://fc07.devianta..._Wodenswolf.jpg there are a lot of "small streaks" (don't know how to describe it better) at the beveled areas, are these cuts, or are they made using those really small/pointy (or ball pointed) modeling tools? I have understood how you make the coloring part (much as when you do stain silver objects really, apply with a rag, and wipe of the excess and it stays in the small contours), but I can't really comprehend how the fine lines themselves are made.

Those are swivel knife cuts. I normally make them with a 1/4" angled blade.

ferg

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Skald,

I agree with Ferg that those are cuts with the swivel knife, however in my opinion that was the wrong tool to use in that instance. A hair blade or drag tool would have produce a much nicer result.

Bobby

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Thanks for the advice, I have ordered some new blades now, and hope to get them soon, I really look forward to try them out. I made sure to add a book on carving too, to get some straight "pro" tips along the way too.

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