Bill Wiggins Paring Knife

Stock removal knives and kitchen cutlery represent a departure from the forged hunters and choppers that Bill Wiggins usually makes. The example of Bill’s stock removal knives that I am currently using is a paring knife. It is made from carbon steel with beautiful stabilized maple handle scales.

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The knife is 7 3/16” overall in length, and weighs 1.98 ounces. The 1084 blade is 3.375” long, .780” high, .063” thick at the spine just ahead of the handle scales, and .028” thick when measured .250” back from the cutting edge. That geometry tells me that the knife should work well in the kitchen.

The handle is coffin shaped, and the scales are bonded to the tang as well as being secured by two stainless steel pins. The handle is .597” high at the front and .980” at the highest point. It is .478” thick at the front and .627” at the rear. The sides are gently rounded and there is a flat that runs around the perimeter of the handle. The handle is very comfortable in use, and the flats provide excellent indexing.

I tested the knife for edge holding by cutting cardboard packing box material, some of the areas where I cut had glue laminating two thicknesses of the cardboard together and in other places there was packing tape to be cut through. Without going into specific numbers of feet cut, this knife cut as many feet of cardboard as any knife that I have tested this way. When I stopped the knife was still cutting but there was a small area of the blade dulled. It was the area that had performed most of the cuts. That area of the blade would no longer start a cut in thin paper.

While I was doing the cutting I did not notice any “hot spots” or discomfort caused by the handle shape. But to be fair I was wearing Kevlar gloves to protect against accidental cuts to my hands and the glove might have provided some cushioning effect.

Re-sharpening was very easy. A few strokes on a medium Spyderco Stone to eliminate the dull spot and then stropping on compound loaded leather did the trick. The knife was back to shaving arm hair and slicing telephone book paper.

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Overall, I think that these knives offer excellent value. The three people that I know personally who are using them, are very happy with these little paring knives.

Currently Bill offers these knives in several versions which include 1084 or damascus steel, “belt finished” or “hand rubbed” blades. Prices start at $70.00.

In addition to paring knives he is making other kitchen cutlery as well. Bill can be contacted at wncbill@bellsouth.net put “knife” in the subject line.

Disclaimer: Bill and I are friends but the views that I express here are my honest opinion and not colored by our friendship.  

copyright Bill North 2015

 

 

Joe Calton Paring Knife

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In looking at Joe Calton’s website www.caltoncutlery.com I was struck by the utilitarian appearance of his knives and the emphasis that he seemed to place on performance. I set about finding one to test and was able to obtain an unused Calton paring knife to evaluate. It is made from 1095 and has a handle that I believe is lacewood.

The knife is 7 ½” overall in length, blade about 3 5/8” long and .728” in height. The flat ground, carbon steel blade is thin, .071” at the spine and .026” – .027”, measured .235” back from the edge. The knife weighs 1.83 ounces. When it comes to cutting, thin wins, so at first look I was pretty certain that the knife was going to be good at the kitchen tasks that it was designed for.

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The handle is ovoid in cross section and the slabs are secured to the tang with two Corby bolts. It measures about .632” wide and .755” in height at the largest point.

The knife arrived very sharp, and examining the edge under magnification it appears toothy and not polished. The cutting edge as received would easily shave arm hair, push cut post-a-notes, and cut tomatoes as thin as wanted.

Kitchen knives are different animal. Their thin blades create grinding issues that their thicker relatives don’t have; and their very thin edges must be heat treated just right.  They probably will be used, and so customer will be able to see how they perform as compared to factory kitchen knives that the user already owns and has experience with.

I spoke with Joe on the phone and have corresponded with him by email. In speaking with Joe I got the impression that he has done quite a lot of testing and has determined what works best for him to get the performance that he wants from his blades. He was very generous about sharing information regarding his methods of manufacture, testing, and sharpening the knives he makes. I told Joe that if I owned the knife I would test the edge for flex over a brass rod, but since it wasn’t mine I would forgo that. He said that he had performed that test on this knife, and I believe that he said that he performs that test to all knives that leave his shop. According to Joe the knife is triple edge quenched 1095.

After cutting over a hundred feet of cardboard shipping box material using the same area of the blade, the knife was very (and I stress very) slightly dulled but still easily sliced thin, cheap printer paper. Some resistance to starting a push cut in the paper was noticed, and in cutting tomatoes very little, if any difference at all was noted from prior to cutting the cardboard. I would think that the knife would hold an edge for a long time if only food stuffs were cut. I touched the edge up using a medium Spyderco stone and it would easily slice thin phone book paper.

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Overall, my opinion is that Joe’s paring knives offer excellent value at the price he charges. And, if this knife is any indicator, his other types of knives offer the same value. Anything negative that I might say about the knife has more to do with personal preferences as far as ergonomics and visuals go, rather than performance aspects. This knife is an excellent performer at the tasks for which paring knives are normally used in my kitchen.

This is not a highly finished knife in that the blade is not hand rubbed but belt finished, but a slick finish is not required for it to be an excellent tool. Joe explained to me that offering “belt finished” knives allow him to offer knives at a price that his customers seem to like. And I have to say, looking at his website; his knives are very reasonably priced.

Joe Calton’s website www.caltoncutlery.com

Cliff Stamp has done some interesting testing of Joe’s knives and has posted videos on YouTube.

 

©Bill North 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinel paring knife, the most unassuming knife in my house.

I am a knife enthusiast; I see them as particularly interesting and useful tools. There are many knives of many types and price ranges in my house. I am interested in their design, the processes by which they are made, and the materials that they are made from. Today something interesting, (at least to me), struck me The thing that I realized was that what is probably the most unassuming knife in my house, is unquestionably one of the most used.

The knife I am speaking of is not the product of some custom maker, neither is it made from exotic materials, nor is it of some radical design. It is a sharpened piece of thin carbon steel secured into a slot in a wooden handle by two pins. It is the modest Opinel paring knife.

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The carbon steel blade is 3 ¾” long and .630” at the widest point. The spine of the blade measures just .056” immediately ahead of the handle slabs, and the blade is .023” thick measured .250” back from the cutting edge. The thin blade is a great little cutter and the edge is easy to bring back by stropping or touching up lightly on a stone. The knife is light, less than one ounce in weight.

This knife gets used almost every day in the kitchen; it’s small, easy to use size and easy to maintain edge makes it a favorite of mine. I really like this little knife; in fact, I like it so much I have two.

©Bill North 2014

 

 

 

 

Bill Wiggins demo knife

 

This is about the knife that I seem to use for everything except what it was designed for.

The knife that I am writing about today would probably be referred to by most people as a “hunter”, or “hunting knife”. I have not used it for any “hunting” related chores but I have used it for a myriad of other things.

The 4 7/8” blade is forged from 1084 carbon steel and the tiger maple handle is separated from the blade by a stainless steel guard. It was made by American Bladesmith Society board member Bill Wiggins as a demonstration piece. Since it was a demo knife, and time was limited, Bill didn’t rub the blade out and it was left with some grinding marks, perhaps what makers might call a belt finish. “Belt finish”, “working finish”, and “forge finish” are terms that some makers use when describing blade finishes. Often, although not always, knives with these terms attached to them appear to my eye to simply be “unfinished”. Not that any makers care how I interpret the wording they use in describing their knives.

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 But, to get back on topic…..The lack of a rubbed blade out blade finish doesn’t bother me in this instance; I use the knife on a regular basis and fruits and vegetables don’t take long to patina carbon steel. Although this knife would be much more at home as a hunting or general use belt knife around camp, I use it to prepare food, open or cut down shipping boxes, and many other daily cutting chores in my house.

Before you say it, I know that it is not the ideal box cutter or kitchen knife, and I do possess those types of knives, so why do I select it over its better suited relatives for those mundane tasks? It’s simple really; the knife holds its edge and is very, very comfortable in my hand. But I suppose the best thing about it is that I like Bill and it’s a pleasure to use something that he made.

 

copyright Bill North 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Warren ABS Mastersmith damascus pocket knife

Here is a folder made by American Bladesmith Society Mastersmith Dan Warren. Dan is from Haywood County in Western North Carolina.

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And here is the man himself.

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James Batson Scagel folder recreation

James Batson Scagel folder recreation

One of the things that I enjoy about custom / handmade knives is the people that I meet because of my interest in the knives. Actually for me personally, it’s probably the thing that I enjoy the most.

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I was not able to attend the Blade Show in Atlanta this year but when Bill Wiggins got home he had a knife to deliver to me. It is a recreation of a Scagel 3 7/8” single bladed trapper that Jim Batson made for me. One side of the tang is marked with a Scagel type kris and the opposite side of the blade is marked “James Batson / Bladesmith”. The blade is just under .080” at the thickest point of the spine and is thin behind the edge. I touched the edge up on a Spyderco stone and it is now really, really sharp. Its traditional look appeals to me and I am proud to own it. Thank you Jim Batson.

Bill North