MoonDog’s “Building Blocks”

I regard ‘Forging your own steel’ in the same way I regard ‘Casting your own bullets’ – it’s something you can get into if so inclined, but not necessary. There are dozens of companies out there who offer ‘Steel Blanks’ upon which a knife blade can be designed, shaped and cut. From these I choose only high quality steel to work with. My preference is exceptional edge retention over corrosion resistance because corrosion can be prevented with proper care and it can be remove if it occurs. However if a knife can not hold an edge, it is useless and ‘High Carbon Steel’ is my primary choice of medium to work with because of it’s ability to hold a truly wicked edge. But because some people can not be bothered with having to care for a knife, I do make knives of ‘High Carbon Stainless Steel’ as well.

My preferred steel for ‘Art Knives’ is Damascus, however using just that would put the cost of knives out of reach for most people. Damascus is a type of blade material where the steel is heated and folded over and over creating layers. The number of folds can vary from 3 to 2000. Obviously the more folds the more expensive the material and this steel is bought by the precious inch. Damascus comes in many different patterns and types. In an effort to keep my knives affordable and still maintain quality I mainly use 512 fold steel. My preference is a blade with a high carbon center for holding an edge and softer stainless steel layers for strength and flexibility.

For non-Damascus steel I tend to prefer ‘High Carbon’ steels (1084, 1095 High Carbon Steels, D2 Carbon Steel, or 01 Tool Steel) and the ‘Stainless Steels’ that I use also have a high carbon content (440C, CPM154 and 5Cr15). What that means for you the buyer is that you will have to look after your knife. By that I mean that you will need to dry it after use, don’t store it in a wet sheath and keep it lubricated with ‘Rust Free’ or some other product that will prevent rust.

All of my knives that are made using natural materials (bone, wood, antler, horn) for handles, are ‘Stabilized’ using either CA glue, Wood Juice – wood stabilizer or Polycryl – wood fortifier. They are all finished with ‘Renaissance wax’ which is used by museums and historic object restorers and collectors as a conservational material.

The other factors that affect the price of Moondog Knives are the handle materials, ranging from deer or elk antlers, to exotic woods like desert iron wood, to handcrafted Micarta. The other material cost is the sheath materials used. I use lightly worked leather keeping the design simple and functional, but built to last. My goal is to make custom handcrafted knives affordable for the average person.

The Making of A Knife

There is a lot to take into consideration when deciding to make a knife; especially if you want the knife to be a success. That is to say, sell more than one, unless it’s deliberately designed to be “one of a kind”. If you want your knives to be known for their quality; if you want form and function to be up to the task you designed the knife for; if you want your customers to be “Happy Campers”, then you need to think and plan the knife very carefully.

A lot depends on the knife maker choosing the right steel, deciding on just the right dimensions and shape of not only the blade but the overall appearance of the knife. He must choose an appropriate handle material(s) that is/are up to the task(s) the knife is being designed for and it has to look good (and not to just the knife maker!).

One aspect of a good knife that is sorely overlooked or downright neglected is an appropriate name. Looking through knife magazines and catalogs this is painfully obvious. A good name can inspire the knife maker and help get his creative juices flowing. I give due consideration to this aspect of my knives as well. There is nothing more hilarious (and annoying) than coming across a knife named something like ‘The Druid’ and it’s a automatic made of high tech materials!

Another important aspect of knife making is the sheath. The sheath must not only protect and securely hold the knife; it should accentuate the design of the knife. Compliment and and enhance it’s appeal. The knife maker must once again make a whole series of choices as to the design, materials, color and type of sheath so as to fulfill these requirements.

Now all of what I have mentioned so far are relevant and applicable for a knife being designed to be sold to “John Q. Public” with the hope that enough people will like it and I will be able to sell at least a couple every month or two.