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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Chop Chop!

In accordance with my policy of ‘if I wouldn’t use it in my own workshop then it doesn’t go on the website’, I thought I should treat myself to an Atkinson Walker industrial blade for my mitre saw - and a very satisfying piece of engineering it is too!

The industrial blades are all heat treated at the factory and cooled under pressure, forcing the crystalline structure of the steel to form flat. They are smithed and tensioned by hand (see picture above) to fine tune the internal tensions in the steel. The result is a blade that is not only very flat and very round to begin with, but stays that way when you generate frictional heat around the perimeter but not in the middle.

Huge chunks of carbide are then trifoil braized onto it and ground by some seriously clever machines to a tolerance of one hundreth of a millimetre, before it goes back to the Smithing shop for a final fettle and inspection.

The saw is listed as requiring a 254mm blade but Chris Walker informed me that almost without exception a 255mm will fit. The whole 254mm thing started out as a marketing ploy to try and restrict customers to buying blades from the equipment manufacturer. Sure enough the standard 255mm fits just fine and the performance is out of this world.

It does take a little bit more grunt to get it spinning (it’s nearly twice the weight of the CMT blade I took off) but once it’s moving the blade runs soooo sweetly, it produces beautiful, almost planed, surfaces with barely a whisper of fluff left behind on the exit side, absolutely marvellous!

The thing that continues to astound me is how the Italians and Americans have managed to gain such a strong foothold in the UK market when we make sawblades of this quality in Sheffield. What's more, I can post it back to the factory to have it resharpened up to ten times for a fraction of the price of a throw-away blade.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

A Good Workman Never Blames His Tools

In one form or another, the proverb “A good workman never blames his tools” dates back at least as far as the 13th century but in recent times has often been misinterpreted as “if it goes wrong it can’t possibly be the tool’s fault.” Or worse, “if you think the tool is at fault, then you must be a bad workman.”

The real message is that a good workman wouldn’t have bought a shoddy tool or allowed a good tool to fall into a state of poor repair in the first place.

The market for ‘disposable’ tools has flourished in recent years, but the concept of buying a tool, using it for one job and then throwing it in the skip and buying another one remains utterly unfathomable to me. The souls I really pity are those who buy cheap tools that are designed for this market and then hold themselves accountable when the work isn’t up to standard “because a good workman doesn’t blame his tools, right?” Wrong. Digging back through the earlier incarnations of the expression I found this one, which is less open to misinterpretation:

A bungler cannot find (or fit himselfe with) good tooles.”
R. Congrave, French-English Dictionary, 1611

And let’s face it, no-one wants to be thought of as a bungler do they?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Custom Mora Kitchen Knives

Most knifemakers tend to focus on outdoor knives so this really is a stab in the dark (if you'll pardon the expression), but I've just taken a punt and ordered some food industry knife blades from Mora of Sweden.

I've tried out a sample set of the complete knives and my first impression was 'not really sure about these', I think it was the green handles that caused me to waver - those Swedes and their handles again! But after a week or so I got used to them and gradually started to use them more and more and leave the Wusthofs in the block.

They were designed by a famous Swedish Chef, and I must admit the ergonomics and blade shapes are absolutely spot on.

(OK you can get that image of Bork from the Muppets out of your mind now!!!)

The blades are made of 12C27 high carbon stainless which they carefully heat treat to avoid the formation of large carbides. The end product takes and holds an edge like carbon steel and yet still has high corrosion resistance.

In the end, my wife and I decided to give the Moras to my mother in law as her kitchen knives had seen better days, but by the time it came to actually hand them over we were both a little hesitant to part with them.

We will be getting some of the complete knives over in the next few months, but in the meantime it will be interesting to see whether the knifemaking fraternity show an interest in the blades.