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Knives from straight razor

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  • Knives from straight razor

    Excellent link for making knives.Interesting that bowmakers have been making these knives for years. Who would known.

  • #2
    Great article Mike. Never used one of those on a bow.


    • #3
      To bad this isn’t the bow makers forum.


      • #4
        Very interesting article... Carvers have been using razors for ages too!
        I used to watch for them at yard sales and flea markets... but I wasn't willing to put in the time to grind and file them to shape! (instant gratification!)
        I really like the way they bored the scales to fit the handle... Interesting!!


        • #5
          While surfing I found more than a few skeptics about using the razors as knives. One, they are too hard, brittle and there fore prone to breaking. Two,difficult to regrind into the shape you need. There are also quite a few who have made blades successfully. One fellow actually stuffed his razor in his bench vise and with vice grips snapped off the shaving edge, seems a bit drastic.


          • #6
            The Hudson's Bay Company was set up in the 1600's in Britain, principally to extract Canadian wild animal furs for European fashion. Meticulous records kept by the HBC show that they were selling Sheffield knife blades (by the barrel! in the late 1700's) which came to be known in eastern North America as the "Mocotaugan" knife blade. It isn't a wood carving knife in the usual sense. The actual trappers and fur traders needed a tool to make and repair canoes, pack frames and snow shoes.
            Gotta keep them going. It really functions as a one-handed draw knife.

            The price was objectionable, unreasonable, for what it was. What was a lot cheaper in the HBC Trading s were 6" mill files. I've studied pictures of fewer than 100 Mocotaugan knives. I'll guess that 3/4 of them were made from files with elaborately carved handles. It was humbling to learn that the First Nations forge was an earth-covered trench in the ground. Could melt a file.

            Here's mine. The real deal from a blade smith factory in Sheffield, England. Poor metal, sharpened both faces and a bear to try to cut the skin off a potato. No wonder a back woods technology arose to beat the HBC at their own game.

            Brian T


            • #7
              <slightly OT>
              I worked at the HBC wharehouse in London in the early 70s during an artschool easter break, getting bales of furs for buyers, huge refrigerated rooms in old victorian buildings on many floors, about 5 or 6 storeys high.

              Each huge room had just one type of fur, skin etc in bales. Buyers would say what they wanted, you would race around anbd upstairs to the room where that was stored , ask the room supervisor for the best bale(s) then carry it ( some were around 80 to 100 kgs per bale ) to the opening that opened onto the huge interior courtyards.

              Then attach the bale by a hook to a rope ( always loads of ropes hanging on front of each opening ) and jump on and ride the bale down to the buyer. No "safety" ( ELF ) anywhere, but risks everywhere, if you got the bales to the buyer and they were pleased they'd tip you cash, Could make a hundred pounds a day in cash tips easy if you rode the bales fast.

              Some of the old guys who were supervisors caught some horrible deseases from the furs and skins, everyone worried about anthrax etc. No idea if the place is still there.
              </slightly OT>

              Yeah, Sheffield steel was supposedly a sign of quality, but there was also some real rubbish shipped out with that mark.

              A friend is an official translator of some native languages, Inuktut and others. She has often said the level of technical abilities and acheivements, wisdom etc of many of the native peoples of the North American continent was vastly underated or ignored, still is.

              Repurposing old razors is interesting ( I'm keeping the beard though ) I often see them in French "Brocantes" (dit.. brokonts ) .. ( a cross between yard sales and antique fairs ) next time I see any I'll be tempted.

              Brocante season is upon us here , after all of them being cancelled due to Covid for the last two years.

              Old files I already have, ( lot of very good old tools shop up in brocantes, and no-one can ever have enough good tools ) have to break out the railway track anvil, or buy a real old anvil, but they are scarce and very expensive.
              Last edited by MikeW; 07-19-2022, 07:27 PM. Reason: speeling


              • #8
                I found that the whole business did little more than satisfy my curiosity. I have no interest in becoming a bladesmith. I own more tools and toys than I play with as it is. Crossed paths with a guy in the UK, a tool collector, who wanted info that I happened to have in duplicate. His restorations looked nearly new. Never believed I would some day own a real Mocotaugan blade. It would be a mercy killing to stop making them. Junk. What?

                Our local farrier messes with steel to stay warm in the winter when there's little real work. I must trade several coffee cans of old rusty files with him for a few more Hall worn down hoof knives. Buy him $75.00 propane for his lah-dee-dah gas forge and see what comes of it. Horse shoe yellow hot in 90 seconds.
                Brian T


                • #9
                  Rick Ferry at Little Shaver's Carving Supply in Washington state used to make and sell straight razor knives in the late 90's and early 2000's before he passed away. He used to be on the board here...He sold them for around $35-$40 at the time, and I thought that was too much to pay for a knife, now I wish I had gulped, sent him the money and bought one!

                  I have been seeing quite a few straight razors at estate and garage sales of late. They are getting reasonable...around $5.00 to $10.00 per razor...


                  • #10
                    Rick was selling them for over $100 at the end. I have made a few, and they are almost magical how nice they slice through basswood. You have to get rid of the paper thin metal at the shaving edge, as it is paper thin. Then get to the thicker metal, and grind away. It is definitely worth the time, but I can almost guarantee that you break off the tip at some point. It is very brittle steel.
                    If I took the time to fix all my mistakes, I wouldn,t have time to make new ones.



                    • #11
                      FWIW - Rick left a tutorial on how to make knives from straight razors as well.

                      Making a Carving Knife from Little Shavers (


                      • #12
                        It's easier to find discarded good steel than to have to pay up front for a razor.

                        Brian T


                        • #13
                          Great idea. And recycling good old steel.


                          • #14
                            For centuries, First Nations made their knife blades from what ever steel they found. On the west coast, it was rubbish that came across the Pacific in the Japan Current. Mocotaugan knives were made in eastern communities from 6" files. The forge was an earth-covered trench in the ground. Hot enough to actually melt the file.

                            These days, a couple of different vehicle leaf springs for adze blades. I suspect that the choice
                            depends upon the width of the spring leaf. Most sawmills now run gang-saws, a multiple blade band saw that will reduce an entire log to lumber in one pass. Cut carefully with a Dremel and cut off disks for the shape and very careful grinding for the bevels. Crooked knives then require more heating and bending.

                            My neighbor runs a portable bandsaw mill, the blade is maybe 2" wide and some 16-20' long. Any three-foot offcut could last you for a few years. So far, I have resisted temptation.
                            Brian T


                            • #15
                              I saw this post and took the plunge and bought a few razors from betty5686 on ebay. I contacted her about other razors and she had a box of them! Anyway I was able to buy 4 for $10.Seems like a good deal to one on fixed income. I bought 3 Norton blaze belts for my 1x30 sander.Lots of work ahead, the only knives I have were from scraper blades.