“Gosh it’s cold in here,” I said entering Earl’s workshop.
“I just built a fire, it will warm up soon,” Earl said as he hunched down by the woodstove trying to get some warmth. “what’s going on?” he asked.
“About the same as always, Earl, I just stopped by to say hello.”
Eventually the shop warmed up and Earl started to work finish grinding some knives that had been forged, rough ground, and heat treated sometime in the past.
“Earl, I have that Wiggins demo knife that I like so much in the truck.”
“So, it’s a tad thick behind the edge for my taste, how about thinning it a little for me while you’re in the mood to grind.”
“Why don’t you get Wiggins to do it?” Earl asked.
“Well, I got him to give me the knife and I sort of hate to ask him to do some more work on it…it might make me look cheap. You know, like I want something else for nothing.”
“So you want me to do it for nothing?”
“I was hoping you would.”
Earl grumbled and went back to grinding, and I went out and got the knife in question out of the truck. Going back into the shop, I sat in the old office chair that was repaired in several places with duct tape. Bullitt the Bulldog came over, got patted a little and then returned to his place beside the stove. He gave me a look that said, “If you want to pat me, you’ll have to sit over here where it’s warm!”, and then he went back to dreaming bulldog dreams. Since he got fixed I suppose those dreams are about cheeseburgers or whipping some poor coyote’s ass. Whipping coyotes is pretty high on Bullitt’s preferred night time activities list according to Earl.
Earl turned the grinder off and held his hand out for the Bill Wiggins knife. “Well, I could thin it down some, but if Wiggins found out he might not think it’s cool for me to be grinding on a knife that he made…”
“He knows it’s thick, Earl,” I said trying to be reassuring and get my way, “It was a demonstration knife, so he had to make it in a short time. Besides, he’ll never know. He probably doesn’t remember how thick it is, I mean that was a year ago!”
“And you won’t give me up?” Earl asked.
“Of course not,” I lied.
Grumbling some more Earl put a different grit belt on the grinder and went to work. In no time he had the knife blade thinned down and finished with a fine grit belt. “How about rubbing it out?” I asked hoping to get Earl to hand finish the blade.
“No,” Earl said firmly, “I’ll Scotch Brite it, but that’s it.”
“If Mike was here he’d rub it out,” I said hopefully, referring to another local knife maker.
“Yes he would, but I’m not going to. So do you want it Scotch Brited or not?” Earl asked.
“Please,” I answered seeing that was all the free work that I was going to get.
When Earl was done, I’ll admit I was pretty happy with the knife. Earl even sharpened it before he gave it back. I was pretty happy with myself too, feeling that in some small way I had gotten the best of Earl, which is a rare thing for me.
After some small talk I thanked Earl and started to leave, “Wait a minute,” Earl said, “here’s your Christmas present.” He handed me a box that was covered in a light coat of grinder dust.
“Can I open it now?”
“Sure,” he answered.
Inside was a really beautiful paring knife blade that Earl had made, and a killer set of figured wood scales. The handle scales were not shaped or attached to the tang of the blade.
“Thank you, Earl, it’s not quite finished though,” I said.
“It’s a kit and I can explain why,” Earl said and then he told me a story that was right up there with the well-known, ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse. After he was through with his explanation, or excuse depending on how you look at it, he said, “You can put it together, or you can come back in January and we’ll put it together, it won’t take long.”
Bear in mind it’s now the first of December, and if it “won’t take long”, why do I have to wait until January. Well Earl is going deer hunting in some other state until Christmas Eve to hear him tell it, so I guess I have to wait until sometime in January to go back, and get my Christmas present put together. And of course it goes without saying that I’ll need to be bearing some sort of decent gift, if I expect Earl to put my paring knife together… game over, Earl wins.
It is going to be a nice paring knife though, and the Wiggins Demo knife got thinned down.
©Bill North 2014