So about 6 months ago I decided I did not enjoy using my Artifex anymore. The Artifex was not a bad knife, but my knife rack was becoming populated by higher priced knives that simply made the Artifex...dated. This was compounded by the fact that Mark has done such an amazing job bringing in outstanding knives at ridiculous prices, ie the Goko Damascus.
Now I had long considered a number of projects but I did not have any knives either in need of work or that I was willing to try my inexperienced hand at modifying. So rather than sell my Artifex, I decided I would make it....my Frankefex.
So the plan was:
1) thin the Artifex: this idea came from a Ken video detailing a convex zero grind on an Artifex (IIRC)
2) remove the yo handle and convert tang to accept wa handles: Tim has done a few of these and if Tim can do it, I can screw it up
3) make a wa handle for install: this was the part I sat on the longest, then estayton...well he didn't know it but he called down the thunder.
So I got to work!
The convex zero grind went better than I could have hoped. Using a Harbor Freight 1x30 belt sander and the belts that came with it I was able to do exactly what I set out to do. Now being inexperienced there were some hangups and some pit falls persist. There are several spots where there are over grinds. Time will tell if these will result in holes in the edge, but right now there are just thinner spots in the grind. I also did not appreciate how delicate I needed to be while thinning the tip and ended up rounding off the tip and loosing about 6.5mm. Along with the lost length, I also lost some of the pointed tip profile of the KS styled. Perhaps the more persistent question is will the edge hold up, did I ruin the heat treat? I don't know. I checked temperature frequently, dunked the blade in water frequently, and worked to minimalism belt contact with the edge, I only needed to work down to the edge, I would do finial sharpening on the edge with stones.
Once I reached a reasonably consistent grind along the length of the blade and attained the convexity and thinness I wanted, it was time to clean up the grind marks and restore an attractive, uniform finish. My original plan was a mirrored finish. But since my only power tool was a 1x30 belt sander and I did not want to spend a lot of money on materials, I attempted to finish the knife by hand with wet/dry sand paper. All you knife makers, stop laughing. You started out too, once. It turns out stainless steel hardened to 61 Rockwell does not yield easily to anything. It is amazing a knife has every been made, yet alone made to look good and preform well. So after many, many, many hours hand sanding, I returned to the Harbor Freight 1x30, put my finest belt on and went to work on a brushed type finish. The only problem was the convexity of the edge and the combination of tension and slack in the belt made consistent contact nearly impossible. I would get a streak of nice clean grind marks about 1/2 inch wide, but these swatches would never match up and there were several dead zones where I could not get the belt to make contact at all. So I did something monumentally cringe worthy. I used binder clips to attach a swatch of Scotch Brite pad to the platen on the belt sander to provide yielding back pressure to the belt. It is amazing that using an abrasive on the back side of a belt sander did not end in tears but IT WORKED! Now when I removed the pad there was a lot of powdered Scotch Brite pad and I cannot imagine that belt is much good anymore, but I got what I wanted out of the deal.
Next step was to remove the handle and convert the tang. Handle scale removal began by drilling out the rivets in the scales. A pop from a punch drove out the rivets and the scales fell free. You culinary pros should never, EVER let health inspectors know what filth resides under handle scales. I freehand sketched a rat tail pattern on the tang and went to work with a Dremel and a cut off wheel. This actually went far better than I had expected. I kept the blade wet to alleviate concerns about heat buildup but I don't know that it was necessary, the blade itself did not get that hot. I probably only needed 1 1/2 cutoff wheels, but I used a third to get the additional radius to reach into the machi area and square it up. Finally I gave the tang a few passes on the belt sander to clean up the rather jagged cut.
For the overview of the handle build look at any of several posts by Tim, or the outstanding walk through with pictures by estayton. I will not rehash what others have far more expertly covered. Instead I will regale you with the tales of my special brand of success. First of all, can anyone recommend a table saw blade and tooth count for very hard woods? Once my handle blank was glued up, I could not find a tool that would do a satisfactory job rough cutting it to spec. So I chopped it to spec with a chisel. The correspondingly crap rough cut ended up well away from center and not particularly square to the original blank. As a result, one wall of the handle was thinner than I was comfortable with and I had to amend my plans for traditional octagonal handle for one with smaller bevels on the top and more exaggerated bevels on the bottom. Furthermore, my dowel joinery, which was supposed to be easy to carve out for the tang of the knife ran diagonally through the handle...so that was fun.
Since I had such a monumentally rough cut for the handle I needed to move slowly and guarantee straight sides. I did not have excess stock around the dowel to screw up. So I used a combination of sanding block with 80 grit sand paper for targeted and aggressive stock removal, and a sheet of 80 grit on a polished granite reference surface to true my surfaces up. I used a square and a straight edge to constantly confirm progress. I managed an amazingly perfect square cross section before screwing it up on the bevels. Overall the bevels don't suck, but they ain't awesome either. The bevel facets were too small to give good tactile feedback so I could not...did not hold them as square as I did getting my initial squared up cross section. The end result is the handle looks slightly torqued. Like someone grabbed the front and back and twisted in opposing directions.
The horror of making the handle worsened when I had to cut the mortise for the tang. A few lessons from this exercise: 1) use needle rasps as Tim says, not needle files; 2) make sure your drill bit is long enough, files suck at deepening a hole; 3) make sure the dowel joining your handle is straight and square; 4) don't put too much faith in a Harbor Freight drill press; 5) test fit the knife frequently; 6) be prepared to redefine generally meeting the definition of a handle as a soaring success.
The handle install went OK. The mortise was too big, so the knife wanted to move while the epoxy set up. It took several tries to get the knife lined up in a way that looked straight...it was not, but it looked it. I set the knife in a tube from a roll of tape mounted in my bench vise, it was the best way I could get the knife to "stand up" in a way that the knife would stay, well we'll call it straight. Unfortunately, the 20 minute epoxy only needed 20 minutes to run out of the mortise and leave not only lovely gaps in the install, but stunning runs 1/2 an inch down my new handle. The judicious use of a razor cleaned that up, but it did necessitate refilling the mortise with epoxy and ultimately resanding the handle.
At this point, home free. A brief soak in mineral oil for the handle and a Shapton Pro progression finishing on an Arashiyama 6k and I have a new old knife.
I have not used the knife. I have not report for its performance. I am very excited to play with it as soon as I am done with the pass around knives. My three biggest concerns going forward are: Will the handle fall off? Is the HT OK, will it hold an edge? and Will the over grinds make the edge unusable over time?
The original Richmond Artifex can be seen here: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/riar24gy.html
height @ heel: 46.5mm
width @ spine: 2.4mm
And the Richmond Cedarhouse Frankenfex
height @ heel: 45mm
width @ spine: 2mm
machi gap: 16mm
Twisted handle (is that a band name?):
Balance point, the blade is balanced on the cork: