Thoughts on Design

I had been working on a collaboration piece with a friend, Timothy Artymko, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. The blade is a san mai (three laminated layers) bowie style with a lot of character. The thing was, it was a little different in style than I'm used to working. This one had distinct curves and a wide blade with a large belly. 

My job was the handle. 

I started working on a fairly basic handle, a pretty standard shape that I use with some variation on a lot of my blades, and got it all the way to where I had it polished out and fit up. I was going for a takedown style so it wasn't (thankfully) permanently fixed to the blade. 

I just didn't like it. Something seemed.... off. Like the handle was too skinny for the blade, even though it felt very natural and useful in the hand. It fit my grip but not the blade. 

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And so even though I felt that it was "oh well", I didn't finish it. Just put it in the "almost done" drawer and worked on other projects. Which I felt bad about delaying on, but I didn't feel the life in that. 

So, after finishing another blade, I decided to push myself and get back to it. I thought "Okay, so this handle seems too slim and fast looking. The blade looks thick and curvy. I need a handle that reflects that."

With a bit of tweaking I went with some more dramatic curves, and some more tipping down of the butt, going for a curve that reflects the dip of the blade's chill. Because the blade's features are fairly dramatic, I went with some dramatic curves and corners in the hand. 

As many practitioners of the martial arts know, "The weapon is simply an extension of the wielder." So too, the handle is simply an extension of the blade. It should reflect it. 

This new handle was a huge improvement, you can see this even with the second one in extremely rough shape. I'm not saying that it could be better still, there are always little bits that could be made better, but I am very happy with the profile on this one. 



See if you can identify what features made improvements from one to another. There are often invisible lines you can imagine which point out either errors or successes in making the design flow from blade to handle. 

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Caleb Harris

I’ve always fooled around with tools and hardware, but I think my passion with blades started far back in my childhood: wooden swordfights with the neighborhood kids. I became the neighborhood “blacksmith”, using my grandfather’s tools to hammer little crossguards onto wooden sticks. I always tried to find the best scrap wood: lightest, strongest, trying to get the perfect length and shape for each “customer”. This started my passion with blades.
 
When I was ten years old, I joined a local rock and gem club, learning stonecutting and cabbing, and through that came to take silversmithing lessons from a local jeweler. It wasn’t until around the age of 13, that I turned my attention to bladesmithing, which has captured my heart. 
 My personal obsession with bladesmithing, as I’m sure you can relate, isn’t just the joy and passion of the making: the musical clang of the hammer on steel, the shower of sparks on the grinder, the whisk of the blade over the sharpening stone, but also of the fulfillment in creating something that is twofold: that of beauty, and that of function. It’s trying to make something that is as much an art piece, as a tool that you can trust your life with. That’s what caught my heart, and the pursuit of that perfect combination still drives me.