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This page is to be a potpourri of many things that are of interest to me. Some of it will be about knife making, equipment, tools, how-to's, etc.
Hunting has been a passion to me all my life. No doubt there will be stories & pictures of "The Hunt". A little leather work & gunsmithing now & then might be of interest to others.
Let's not forget motorcycles! I bought my first ride in 1967. I have not been without one (or more!) since. Dirt bikes, street bikes, British bikes, Jap bikes, & of course Harley Davidson! I love them all...
Since this is my site, I get to editorialize a bit. I have no intention of stepping on anyone's toes but to simply add a few words on issues that deeply concern me.
Try to click on the small images. Some will be thumbnails & expand for you.
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After 15 years of making knives, I finally got around to taking some pictures of the various tools or equipment that I use. You will see that I use very little in the way of power tools. If one is not going to forge, you only need a belt grinder, a drill press, & a buffer if you want that mirror finish. The rest of your tools will be files, sanding blocks of various shapes, & hammers. If you are going to solder guards or other fittings, you will need some type of torch to supply the heat required. A small oxygen & acetylene system will work the best for you but is not required.
The forge in the picture above was made from a 14" pipe. It is 18" long & will reach temperatures of +/- 2400 degrees F. Notice that I use a blower on my gas forge as I find I can control the gas environment in the forge much more critically. I used to use a rheostat to control the air/gas mixture. I now use 2 air gates. This is really handy as I can set the air gates up for welding & then simply close one down & reduce the acetylene pressure for forging operations. When it is time to make another weld, I only have to open the one gate & increase the propane pressure & all is right back where it was with the previous weld. That kind of repeatability makes the welding job much easier.
Heat treating the blade is done in the forge. I do not use much heat & raise the temperature of the blade very slowly. Turning the blade every minute or so will help it to heat evenly & will reduce warping. Almost always I use a reducing flame in the forge. In this operation the slightly rich flame will prevent most all scale from forming. Experiment with the reducing flame. You will have to judge it by using your equipment & paying attention to subtle details. I even take notes when starting with new or different equipment as all is unique to itself. Once you know what you are looking for, you will find that your blades will warp much less, you will have no scale to grind off, & your blades will not have suffered the anguish of excessive heat!
Quenching! This is one of the pivotal moments in the blade making procedure. If your forging operations have not been properly executed & your heating to critical temperature too rapid, you can have problems. Minor ones include warping and scale build up. The ones that will ruin your work to this point are cracking of the blade or finding a bad weld in your Damascus. These 2 happenings will make you learn how to do it right the next time! I am a bit superstitious so I always quench my blades in a north-south direction. Tip first but still somewhat north-south.
The quenched blade is not very pretty. Most of what you see here will wipe off with your finger. This is the point that I get to see the pattern in Damascus. One can etch the blade earlier but I like to wait & be surprised. It is kind of like the old days when you waited in the waiting room of the hospital to see if you had a new baby boy or girl. Finding out what you have too early takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. After I clean the blade I test it for hardness. I usually use a dull file that I have used for some time. You will get used to the feel of the file if you use the same one each time. Consistency! The dull file better simply skate or slide off the blade edge. If not, if it bites, back to the forge to anneal, normalize, & heat treat again. It is at this stage that I check for any warping, cracks, inclusions, or other maladies that require attention or the "tossing of the blade".
One of the advantages of plain carbon steel is the ability to differentially temper the blade. The process that I use is to draw the temper of the entire blade in the oven first. I draw to the hardness that I want in the edge. Then I draw more temper in other areas of the blade. I have 2 tools for doing that. One is a pair of tongs that have heavy blocks of steel welded to the jaws. I heat the blocks in the forge & grab the blade in the areas that I want to draw the temper. The other tool is the simple block that is in the photo. Notice that it is a substantial block of steel with a groove ground down the center. It is used in a similar manner. I heat it in the forge & then set it on my table & place the blade in the groove back down. I then move the blade back & forth to get the heat to the areas I need it. Carefully watching the temper colors flow from the tang, the back, & toward the edge. When it is just right, I quickly place the blade in oil to stop the heat migration. I like the block better than the tongs as I feel that I have more control. From this point on it is just a matter of cleaning the blade up & putting it all together!
Wow! It's about time...
This is the finished blade that was seen in the photos above. The blade is 3 3/4" long with a 4 1/4" handle. The spine is +/- 1/4" thick. I usually make my forged or Damascus knives with a hidden or stick tang. This one is for a customer who wanted the full tang type of construction.
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When one thinks of "Blacksmith", this is probably what comes to mind. The anvil. When I started to forge blades, I spent more time looking for an anvil than anything else. Tongs I could find anywhere, hammers were everywhere, but an anvil that had not been abused was a different matter. I don't know what people do with these things! Broken edges, cracked bases, horns that had been beat on the ends till they were smashed back to where the point was now 1" or bigger in diameter. The first anvil I found that was in decent shape was this 140# Brooks. I had very little repair work to do on this one. Dress the edges & fill in a few spots on the horn I was forging! Later I stumbled into a nice 200# Hay Budden. It had a shallow dish to it. I took it to a friend that has a massive surface grinder & it is now in perfect condition. Lastly, I found a Mouse Hole weighing 1 0 10 (122#). I have it set up in the assembly shop as I don't do any heavy forging on it. It is very handy to have anvils in different areas of your work.
Here is a bending tool that I thought was a good idea. I used a plate with a piece of square stock forged to fit the hardy hole for the base. I used different size pipe or tubing to get the various radiuses that I might need. I welded 1/4 plate to the bottom of the pieces of pipe. To this point the bender is just like many others. Now, to make this unique, I drilled the mounting holes in the bottom of the closed tubing way off center. This gives me an eccentric effect. I can adjust the space between the uprights to accommodate most any size material I might want to use! This has been very handy when I need to make repeat bends of the same radius.
This is a formula that I had learned many years ago when in some high school algebra class. I am glad that I paid attention that day! It will allow one to figure the number of layers in ones Damascus billet.
Total Number = (n x 2f).
To use this formula:
Total Number is the number of layers that you will have in your billet.
n... is the number of layers in your initial stack before your first weld.
2... is the number you use if you fold or double your billet layer with each weld. If you cut your billet into thirds, so that you increase your billet 3x with each weld, then place a 3 in that position.
f... is the number of folds that you will make. If you do not make any folds, place a 0 in the f position. Remember that any number raised to the 0 power has a value of 1... not zero!
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This picture says it all. Hunting can be and often is a family activity. What a grand time we all had on this hunt. I was with 2 of my best friends, my wife Barb & Harry, a long time friend. Melt & his wife, I had just met as they were friends of Harry's & this was my first time to hunt this area. There is some fantastic hunting here. The area is northwestern Colorado! As you can see, there are 2 young kids with us & there are a couple of more that are in school this day & missed the hunt. They were all with us on the weekend.
This hunt turned out just right. The night we arrived the snow
came. Not too deep but jus enough to get the deer moving & to make them easy
to see. We hunted about 25 miles from the house this morning. Chaining up the
pickup & getting off the paved road was no problem. Reaching our destination
we all embarked in different directions to see if we could cut a track. It was
not difficult as we all stumbled into deer almost immediately. 3 deer were taken
that morning, one of them being quite nice.
Be sure to click on this image & get a better look. We had already taken 2 bucks this morning & it was still early. We had all met back at the pickup for a snack. We had apples, chips, sandwiches, coffee, cookies, bananas,... After admiring our morning success, Milt decided to take a look just over the rise. There was a long valley over the rise. 300 yards across at the bottom & it ran out to the flats for miles. We had been in this valley several times already & had seen deer in it just about every time we entered. They easily gave us the slip each time we tried to enter. This time the buck & his 9 does were busy eating too. As we peeked over the top rise & looked down into the valley, the deer could be seen on this side of the valley. Not more than 150 yards away. The deer saw us immediately & the buck began to herd his harem out of there. Milt fired a shot at the running buck which was bringing up the rear. The shot did not seem to have much effect on them. They ran at a slow pace 220 yards down the valley & then turned up the hill that we were sitting on! Upon reaching the top, they stopped. The does started eating, the buck stood still & watched intently, Milt fell prone in the snow, & at the shot the buck reared up, fell over in the snow, & slid down the hill. What a conclusion. The old '06 did it again! The does stood around for a few minutes as we waited where we were, in position, to see that the buck was not getting up. Finally the deer walked off another 300 yards to a sunny slope a laid down in the sun for a rest. In afterthought, I don't believe the deer ever figured out who we were or where we were. They knew something came over the hill & spooked them but they never got a fix on it. Needless to say, the work now began in earnest. We all pulled, pushed, picked up, & scooted that buck up the hill to level ground where we could clean it & get it in the truck. I was time to get the meat home where we could finish the job at hand properly.
is a good time to explain that the people in this area eat game as their main
meat source. We spent the first 3 evenings cutting, wrapping, labeling, &
freezing meat! With 4 licensed hunters in the household, one can imagine the
amount of elk, antelope, & deer that is in this cool room. It will supply
them with the meat they need for the remainder of the year. Being from southern
CA, it is strange to see deer hanging in most of the front yards. Deer in the
trees, deer hanging from swing sets, deer hanging from the eves of houses. This
was definitely a different world for us to see. When we got home with the deer
we had taken that morning, we started the work of skinning & washing the carcasses.
After wrapping them we let them hang for a few days & then cut, boned,
wrapped, & put this meat away too. It is quite a site to see 3 kids & 4
adults attacking this job. A real assembly line of efficient workers. Boards laid
out on tables with the big knives on one end, moving on to the smaller boning
knives, & finally to those doing the wrapping & labeling. It was all
over too soon & Barb & I headed for home. Needless to say, we took
plenty of that great venison with us. I need to get back there soon!
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Desert Hunt '89
The year of 1989 was a monumental one for me. It had been
several years since I had fired a shot at one of the elusive desert bucks. I had
seen bighorn sheep, burrows, quail, geese, tortoises, coyotes, fox, badgers,
bobcats, hundreds of tarantulas, rattle snakes, plenty of does, but not one buck
worthy of a shot! It looked like this year was going to be a repeat of the past.
For some reason I tend to get my opportunities on the last day of the season. Karma
of some kind I guess. I have a description of this area in the next story so I
won't repeat it here. The last Sunday of the season found me taking my old jeep
into some rather remote terrain. I packed my day pack with the essentials &
headed out for my last hunt. The sun was quite bright & warm. I walked
slowly & glassed the shadows of the ocotillo plants searching for a bedded
down buck. As I approached a steep arroyo, I rested my gear & began glassing
again. I didn't see anything but after a couple of minutes of glassing, I heard
the sound of falling rock. I turned to look in the direction of the sound &
there he was. Nice buck not more than 70 yards away trying to get up the bank of
the arroyo. Feet slipping, dirt & rock falling, he finally made it to the
top & off he went. He was in a bad spot now as there was no cover. He ran
across the flat malipai (spelling) toward a saddle 450 yards away. There was
another arroyo 200 yards in the direction he was running but I could not see it
at the time. It really was a rather easy shot. The buck was running away at
about 20 degrees to me & 125 to 150 yards out. It was just like shooting
quail. Move that rifle, don't stop the swing, & when you are out ahead
enough, let it go. As the .270 Win. went off, the buck went head over heels. He
got up & slowly wobbled another 15 yards & sank out of site. I did not
shoot a second shot as I thought the country was more flat & did not realize
that he could wander over a rise & disappear. Now I had a problem. I could
not see the buck & I was on the wrong side of the arroyo. It was straight
banked & I had to search for a place to enter it & find another place to
exit. Before I left the spot of the shot, I took notice & lined up on
landmarks from me to the last sighting of the buck. I would need this
information when I got out of the arroyo or I might loose my buck. Upon arriving
at the last spot that I saw the buck, my heart sank as I could not see a buck
anywhere. After so many years of not a single shot, I did not want to loose this
buck. Most of my friends think I am crazy to hunt this area year after year
& I needed this buck to set them straight! I sat down on a small rock &
just looked. He could not have gone anywhere but I couldn't see him. Finally,
there he was. Dead.
Not more than 20 yards from me! What a relief. It is amazing how well these deer
blend in with the terrain. Notice the color of the deer & terrain. It is
just amazing how they naturally fit in with this environment. Since this is not
Colorado or some other area with cool temperatures, it is imperative to get the
deer cooled as quickly as possible. I field dressed the buck, propped open the
chest cavity & placed it in the shade of an ocotillo. Now for the hard part.
I had to figure a way to get the jeep closer so I could load him up & get
him home to cool on ice. After scouting the area for 20 minutes I thought I
found a way to get the jeep to the buck. I marked the buck's location with a
white rag placed in an ocotillo & hiked back to the jeep. One hour later I
had the jeep along side the buck & with the use of ropes & pulling &
pushing, I finally got him loaded.
The rest of the day was uneventful as I slowly made my way back to civilization. Camp was a welcome sight. I had some refreshment, a bit of a lunch, & finished packing for the trip home as the season was over. As the other hunters came into camp empty handed, they could not keep but come over & find out how, when, where it all took place. We don't keep secrets among ourselves as we know that whatever happened today will have no bearing on what happens next year. Every year I go to this same area but I have not seen a deer of any kind since...but you never know.
Arriving home that evening I had to cut the buck up in quarters as I needed to put him in an ice chest to cool for a few days. On the 4th day, I had a party at the house. Harry & his favorite came over & we started in with the chore of getting the meat ready for the freezer. Notice that Harry is using one of my knives but his design! All in all, this was a great hunt...
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Deer Hunt '97
This is what the area that I hunt most of the time looks like. You can see that it is extremely arid. The beginning of the season in November will see temperatures in the high 90s & low 100s. Not what most of us think of as "Deer Hunting" temperatures! Very vast & rugged country. In the photo above, my hunting partner is walking along the opposite side of the ravine about mid picture. You can see it better if you expand the photo.
Hunter success in this area generally hovers around 2.5%. This is generally the lowest in the state. With 1000 permits in this area, one should average one deer every 40 years! Of course the good hunters can better that by quite a bit. Maybe one every 10 years on average. The challenge is great. I think what brings us back to this area is the proximity to where we live, the perfect weather throughout the season, and that unique position one holds who has actually taken a deer here! In my experience, I usually see 20 - 25 deer each season. They are mostly doe with yearlings & a fawn or two. I have actually seen more bighorn sheep here than buck deer! Oh well, no sheep hunting here at this time.
There are several ways to cover the vast amount of hunting terrain. I feel that the vehicle should be used to get into the hunting area. From that point on, it is best to walk and GLASS!! I still find it difficult to spend the time that is needed to cover an area properly with the glasses but it is one of the best approaches to use here.
One of the old wells that is left over from the 1920s or so. It was used as a water supply when early ranchers grazed cattle in this area. Obviously they had to be a rather hearty breed! both cattle and ranchers. In more recent times, this has been used as a water source for the deer, quail, bighorn sheep & the infamous burro. The last 20 years or so has seen the local hunters and wildlife groups working together to build some unique drinkers for the animal population. These drinkers have even been seen and written about in the National Geographic. The unique drinkers were envisioned and designed by one of the local hunters. An excellent contribution to the wildlife in the region. Now, if we can figure out what to do with the burro problem. They are so prolific, so hearty, that they are pressuring the other animals out. The burro is also the dirtiest animal here. He will lay in these water sources and do all of his natural functions. The deer and especially the bighorn sheep cannot tolerate the filthy water that the burro leaves behind. Consequently, the deer and sheep often have to travel great distances to find other water supplies. That is a great burden to them, especially in the hotter times of the year.
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This is the the year of the big miss! It had been a few years since I had seen a buck. Only does, fawns, burrows, & the tortoise were seen on a regular basis. My wife & I had spent some 15 days looking for the big one. Not all at once but 3 days now & 4 days later & so on until the final weekend of the season was here. That Sunday found us facing 30-40 mile per hour winds. My wife had not been feeling well and elected to stay in camp. Since we would be packing up early and going home, I decided to go for a short hike into some of the most rugged country in the area. An area not frequented by jeep, quad, horse, or man. I have never seen another hunter in the area in all the years that I have been hunting there. I drove my jeep to the end of the canyon, parked it, and got my gear ready for the arduous hike that lay ahead. Upon reaching the area I saw that no one had been there this year either! Good sign. I tried to glass the nooks and crannies and ravines. It was very difficult with the gusting winds. If I was not carefully planted, the wind would actually blow me over while squatting and searching. Nothing was to be seen. I walked and looked. That is the routine. Sometimes I would look and walk. It made no difference in the outcome. Three hours later it was time to start the walk back to the jeep and call it another year of great hunting. I was not being too careful at this point as I needed to get back to camp and help my wife back up and head home a bit early as work was waiting for both of us in the morning.
The wind was in my back. It had not subsided at all. I had hurriedly crossed about 1/4 mile of rock, ravines full of palo verde, cactus, and the ocotillo. In the bottom of the ravines there is usually a deep cut about 4 feet wide & 2 feet or a bit more in depth. Upon reaching one of these cuts, I saw out of the bottom of my glasses, something move. This movement was no more than 5 feet from me. By the time I could recognize what it was, the big buck had trotted off behind a palo verde. There he stood thinking he was protected by the tree. He was about 35 yards from me at that time. I could not see his head well I did not know at the time if he was a buck or doe. Just too much tree in the way. His body I could see much better. Probably 80% exposed. The head was just reversed. 20% exposed. We both just stood there trying to figure out what the other one was. I am sure he had been sleeping down in the cut trying to stay out of the wind. I had just come along and almost stepped on him startling both of us. I am certainly glad that he got up and ran before I was crossing that cut with one foot on one side and the other wherever. Neither of us moved for what seemed like several minutes. I finally took some very small steps back up the slope I had been coming down. Trying to change my point of vision. He moved his head for the first time and I could see he was a nice 4 point! Now what do I do. If he ran, he would be out of site in about 4 bounds. The palo verde was just that thick in the ravine. I was sure he would not head out of the ravine as he would then be in the open for a couple hundred yards before he reached the next ravine. I carry my 2-7 variable on 2 power at all times. If a deer is far away, I have time to raise the power if really necessary. (probably never is) I raise the rifle slowly and looked at the body area and the line between us. I felt that I had an honest clear shot if I could just hold that tightly in this wind. At the shot, the buck simply trotted off down the ravine and was out of sight. I immediately ran back up the hill to gain some elevation and see what I could see. I saw his butt still trotting, in no real hurry, in and out of the trees and cactus. He was gone and still doesn't know if he should be afraid or not. He never did figure out that I was danger. I spent the next 2 hours looking around in the area for any sign of a hit. There was none. There was no sign of him either! There is no doubt in my mind that I simply moved that rifle off the intended line and the bullet impacted to some degree on one of those palo verde limbs.
is a picture of a nice lion track that I found on the day of the missed buck.
There are a few lions in the area but are rarely seen. I have never seen one and
have only seen this and one other track in the many years that I have hunted in
It was another season of the hunt. Good times at the campfire in the evening. Time to be close to my wife without the distractions of the daily grind. Time to reflect on what is important in and to our lives. Next year will be another chance, an opportunity to find that buck, and time to enjoy the natural beauty of nature.
Now, just so you can see that there really are deer out in this stuff, here is a picture of a friend that got a nice one. Rich is one of those guys who can sit & look through those glasses all day. He is also one of the most successful hunters. Way above the average for this area. He has found his priorities & spends several times more on glasses than his rifle & scope. Good idea! Not only did Rich get this nice buck but a couple of days later his son, shown here, got his first desert muley. Sorry for the picture but the skinning was in progress when I got into camp & this was the only photo I got of the buck. Keep that .270 clean Rich...
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This is the beautiful turkey country of the California coast.
Actually this is the east side of the Coast Range in the hills west of King
City. (more or less!) ....:) If you can talk turkey, you have a chance of
getting one of the most grand game birds in America.
Bill, is seen on the stand trying to bring in Tom. After several hours in various locations it turned out not to be. This is very difficult & stressful hunting. Turkeys have some of the highest levels of sight of any game animal. The scenery, the weather, the friendships make it all worthwhile.
Here is another weary hunter! Sometimes sitting on the stand communing with nature is just too much. Charlie knows & appreciates nature. He can enjoy it anywhere... especially in Turkey Country.
This is yours truly. In the morning we could hear the toms in the distance. We talked turkey for quite some time but we could not get them to show much interest in us. Later in the day, we returned to the same area & tried to call again. This time I was more successful. Immediately, the tom showed interest in what I was talking about. As he came closer to us, it became obvious to me that I better get my shotgun & get ready. I moved to a tree to get some protection from his vision. We had two calls working this tom. In time he appeared out of the trees like a ghost. He was looking & walking with intensity. Extremely cautious. As he got closer, I made the wrong choice as to which side of the tree he was going to pass by me. For a bit I had my shotgun pointed the wrong way & could not move it around for fear of him seeing the movement. In time he was right off to my side & when he responded to the call I slowly moved the shotgun to the other side. He did not see me make the switch & in a few seconds, he was mine. This was not the end of a great hunt but just the beginning. What a magnificent bird. The meals in camp, the sharing with nature, the time spent with friends. These are all elements of the hunt.
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The '02 deer season came sooner than expected. It seems that I wait all year for it to arrive & then it is here & gone all too soon. This year I had decided that I would hunt only with a handgun. I would be carrying Ruger Old Model Blackhawk in 45 Colt. The load would be the 18.5 grs. of 2400 with the RCBS 45-270 bullet. With the alloy that I normally use, the bullet weighed about 280 grs.
The opening weekend turned out to be a windy one. Wind was blowing most all the time 35 to 45 mph. I have found the winds will make the deer hold up much tighter. They don't seem to like it anymore than I do. An added benefit is that they don't hear as well either.
I had driven my jeep into a favorite area & started my walk. I hadn't gone 300 yds. when I jumped a deer that was below me in an arroyo. The range might have been 30 yards almost straight down. The problem was the brush in the background blended in with the deer's antlers so well that I could not see if he was a legal buck. He trotted on down the arroyo putting brush between me & him. I felt he would eventually come out of the arroyo & let me have a look at him. I got my binoculars out & sat down for the wait. It didn't take but a few seconds & he was out on the mesa standing broadside & looking toward me. 150 yds. out & no rifle! I looked at him for a minute or so & believe that he never did see me or figure out what I was. He finally turned his head & trotted down another small cut & out of site. This buck was a 3x2 still in full velvet. Not a piece of it was falling off yet. Since I felt that he did not know what the danger was, I took a circuitous rout hoping to intercept him later if he did not leave the country. Next time I would be ready as I now had him identified. Two hours later I jumped him again at bout 50 yds. I pulled my 45 & I got lined up just as he passed over a low saddle, probably a 20 yd. bound for him. I moved up to the saddle & looked everywhere for him. I sat on a comfortable rock & searched the open malapai but never did see that buck the rest of the season.
Buck #2 was to appear a couple of hours later. While eating lunch from the jeep, I caught movement out the corner of my eye. 250 yds. out was a very small buck running across to me. When he got directly opposite me, he slid to a stop, turned 180 degrees & took off. After a short run, he stopped, looked around a bit, turned 180 degrees again & off he went. As he approached the same spot as before, he stopped again, turned & this time left the area. I suppose with that wind blowing so strongly, my scent did not have time to spread & was in a rather narrow corridor. When that buck entered that area, it hit him hard & he didn't not know what to do. It was rather comical to watch.
Doe deer were seen every day that I was able to hunt. The last day of the season I came across a couple more bucks. One, a spike was not legal, & the other, a little fork horn, was just too small. Maybe next year.
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Deer Hunt '05
Story & photo pending
To see my 5 pg web on my motorcycle trip to AK, click HERE
Bow Fishing click HERE