My Sculpture Weblog: Sculptural Knife Vase

Sculptural Knife Vase

The Sculptural Knife Vase

I’ve been teasing for a lot of months that I’ve been working
on a knife challenge…. What sort of knife challenge?… Why, a flower vase in fact! A
machined steel flower vase with fifteen razor-sharp hardened metal blades that
encircle its valuable blooming cargo.

(Truly dried flowers on this case, it’s winter in any case)

This may occasionally look like an odd mixture, possibly even a tad tongue in cheek, nevertheless this piece
has been in improvement for a number of years and embodies most of the themes I
have been laying out over the previous couple of tasks. It connects a lot of
conceptual threads in my work, and does so in ways in which had been sudden even to me.

So please tuck in for a protracted learn (if you’re inclined) and
I’ll do my finest to clarify.


I’ve spent a variety of time serious about conventional craft-forms
inside numerous studio artwork actions. Practices similar to glasswork, woodturning,
and ceramics are all crafts that acquired their begin on a manufacturing facility flooring loads like
machine-work. Nonetheless these crafts differ from machining in a number of vital

Not like machining, every of the above craft actions
represents a course of that has largely fallen out of business use. They’ve since
been picked up by artisans and have been turned in the direction of extra artistic ends. Likewise, these
crafts have signature shapes and kinds which might be widespread inside their commerce
(Vases, bowls, urns and many others). They’re shapes that inform that crafts explicit historical past.
Most of those kinds are used to study their respective practices and have
grow to be inseparable from that crafts visible language.

Knifemaking, Art knives, Knife, Flower

These craft-forms are of curiosity to me as a result of whereas
machining is a craft that shares an identical industrial previous, there are few signature kinds one can level to that uniquely consultant it as a medium. The machinist panorama appears to lack ubiquitous kinds that fall
neatly into the identical paradigm of craft and craft-form. One doubtless cause is that machine-work is a sprawling self-discipline full of specialised expertise. The vary of instruments
and processes at play are so diversified it’s almost unimaginable to seek out tasks
which might be analogous to what one finds in a woodturning class or glass blowing

Due to this absence of distinctive craft-forms inside the world
of machined steel, I’ve spent appreciable time exploring what a “machined craft-form” could be. Ought to machining finally
discover higher standing as a sculptural medium, what kinds may come to outline it?

Knife, Vase, Flower Vase, CNC, Craft

I undertook all kinds of tasks to discover this, together with
hand-held kinetic artwork tasks, a machined vessel collection, and even a number of collaborations
with different makers and machinists. These tasks drew inspiration from a lot of
the commercial crafts listed above, in addition to developments inside the modern
machinist neighborhood, and even historical craft-forms similar to Japanese Netsuke and
Chinese language snuff bottles.

Machined, Metal, flower Vase, CNC Art
Over that point, I’ve grow to be captured by the thought of borrowing
kinds from older crafts and transforming them into extremely engineered machined
craft-forms of my very personal. And whereas it might appear counterintuitive to
use a recent and technologically superior course of to revisit kinds from bygone
industrial eras, you will need to keep in mind that each craft, irrespective of how
outdated, was innovative know-how in some unspecified time in the future in time.

The impulse to formally discover know-how transcends
classic and it has grow to be a vigorous and fruitful line of considering for my work. This
new challenge is the following step alongside that journey and takes the thought of
borrowing, reimagining, and remixing conventional craft-forms to new locations.

Knife making, Art knife, Vase

The Sharp Arts

Now with all of that mentioned, there’s one explicit craft
custom that up till now, I had been avoiding. I’m in fact referring to
the world of latest knife making (each ornamental and utilitarian).

Knife making is a self-discipline that completely captures the
dichotomy between historic and modern industrial processes. A lot within the
method that I’m exploring older traditions with machine instruments, it’s a discipline that
mixes historic and fashionable strategies somewhat elegantly. Knife making is a uncommon
craft, in that it maintains working first hand data of almost each
technological step of its lengthy historical past. Its roots go all the way in which again to the
Stone Age, and it has developed and adjusted with every technological epoch
alongside the way in which.

Machined Flower Vase

The historical past of the knife is the historical past of mans materials
progress. Like machine-work, it embodies a large spectrum of metalworking
processes. One can discover numerous practitioners nonetheless placing hammer to anvil
in a method that’s hundreds of years outdated. And whereas its historic traditions
are alive and properly, the world of knife making has additionally been fully
remodeled by the adoption of contemporary machine instruments and new know-how.

Knife making’s affect on the artistic tradition of machine-work is simple. It has a protracted ornamental arts custom that has solely grown with the adoption of digital fabrication know-how. As a steel sculptor who’s concerned within the methods course of can
inform the aesthetic components of a craft, knife making is past fascinating to

Whereas I’ve resisted taking on knife making straight, preferring as an alternative to maintain my consideration firmly on sculpture, I’m drawn
to it as a supply of inspiration.

Knife, Knives, Metal Flower Vase

The Sculpture Connection

Whereas numerous knife makers have impressed my work, I discovered it
tough to method the craft straight by my work. My course of sometimes
includes stripping away the utility from numerous design or craft ideas to raised reveal what’s aesthetically fascinating about them. I felt that it
could be unimaginable to strip the utility from a knife and nonetheless have an
object that’s each fascinating and spoke meaningfully to the craft.

It lastly occurred to me that it isn’t vital to completely strip
the utility from a knife to understand its inherent aesthetic qualities; one
can merely put these qualities into a novel context. My earlier tasks
involving historic craft-forms have (oddly sufficient) supplied me a conceptual
bridge of kinds. They’ve provided me with the required framework inform a narrative about
materials progress and blade making on the identical time.

Metal Art, Flower Vase

The challenge

Creating this somewhat distinct (if impractical) flower vase may appear an odd
approach to discover knife making, however I felt the most effective method was to make use of the blades
as sculptural components in a method that created an sudden context for them. Reasonably
than stand alone objects, I felt it extra fascinating to distinction the blades with some
of the opposite craft-forms I’ve already been exploring. I needed to make use of my foray into blade making to additional inform the story of how numerous industrial crafts come to be appropriated for the aim of creating artwork. 

So whereas it might appear
counter productive to make a flower vase out of machined knives, that’s
surprisingly sufficient, precisely what I’ve carried out, and never with out cause.

This work is an efficient instance of mixing two comparatively easy
concepts (making a vase and making a knife) to create a state of affairs that impedes the usefulness of each. What stays is an object that mischievously calls for that it’s appreciated for greater than its precarious utility.

CNC art, Digital Fabrication, design

Now there could also be a few of you on the market who’re postpone by the
concept of exploring weapons of any variety as artwork, however I feel this piece simply
demonstrates that knives may be many issues in addition to that. I actually am not
totally positive what all of the implications of utilizing blades as sculptural components
could be. However to those that could be vital, I ask that you just preserve an open thoughts, and acknowledge that as a rule, knives are instruments like another.

There may be magnificence (and humor) to be present in even probably the most tactical aesthetics inside
the artistic industrial arts, so whereas it’s straightforward to evaluate, it’s way more
fascinating to discover, and it’s my intention to do the latter.

Technical Notes:

Since I used to be holding this work sort of a secret, I used to be not
in a position to share course of images in actual time like I’ve grow to be accustom, so under
is breakdown of a few of the challenges I confronted in addition to a few of the
documentation I made alongside the way in which.
Once more, a little bit of a learn, however for these within the nuts and bolts
of the challenge, it needs to be fascinating.

Whereas my desire is to introduce new methods one at a
time, tackling knife making made that method fairly unimaginable. I used to be in over
my head in too some ways to depend, which was refreshing and disorienting on the identical time. I had
by no means made a knife blade earlier than (not on goal anyway), so there’s somewhat a
lot to the touch on right here.

Machining the blades:

There are a number of widespread methods to make knife blades, some are
solid (suppose hammer and anvil), some begin with pre-made bar inventory and go straight
to the grinder to create the form, and nonetheless others machine nearly all of
the geometry after which go to ending operations. In my case, I clearly needed
to machine the blades, however this isn’t as simple because it first appears.

For starters, I had by no means machined excessive efficiency knife
steels earlier than. Knife steels are a lot tougher than the alloys I sometimes choose.
They’re unforgiving to machine, so set-ups and machining parameters have to be
rather more rigorously utilized. Selecting an acceptable alloy was daunting, however after
a variety of analysis, I settled on a metal known as AEBL. Like all knife steels, it
has professionals and cons to be used as knife metal.

The professional: AEBL is utilized in a variety of kitchen cutlery, so it’s
fairly widespread and simple to supply. It has nice corrosion resistance and is understood
to be comparatively straightforward to harden and sharpen. It’s also moderately cheap,
which is vital for an experiment with so many blades in it. Unique knife
steels can get extraordinarily pricy, and there was no have to be unnecessarily spendy
when good choices abound.

The con: Surprisingly, there was not a variety of data on
machining AEBL. I had a tough time getting suggestions on reducing parameters.
I got here to study it’s because AEBL is primarily utilized in making giant amount
business blades. It’s extra generally minimize with abrasives processes like water
jet cutters or lasers, after which floor to ultimate form. That didn’t imply it was
un-machine-able, it simply meant that that it wasn’t widespread, so data was
scarce. I did finally get some helpful steerage from a fellow knife maker to
use as a place to begin.

Total: As soon as work acquired underway, I discovered that AEBL wasn’t
horrible to machine, even on the modest instruments that I’ve, the end was
really fairly good. However, whereas the machines dealt with it properly sufficient, I needed to
take my time and never push issues. I discovered that AEBL has some abrasive
properties to it that wore the tip mills quicker than anticipated.

Since I needed to make 15 blades (plus some spares) for the
challenge, I burned by extra $25 cutters than I care to confess. A few of this
untimely put on may have been mitigated with a extra inflexible and balanced tooling
arrange, however I soldiered by, took my time, and ended up with fairly nice

Under can be a video exhibiting a few of the fixture-ing and the
warping points I additionally encountered.

Warmth-treating and Hardening metal:

One other course of I had little expertise with was
heat-treating and hardening metal. Whereas that is one thing that toolmakers and
machine designers are fairly acquainted, as a sculptor, it simply isn’t one thing I had
a lot of a necessity for, till now.

Warmth-treating is fascinating for a lot of causes; chief amongst
them is that it makes a lot of the steel work I do attainable. At its easiest,
machining is just utilizing a tougher materials, to chop a barely softer one. When
milling brass with metal, this may appear a easy mater of fabric choice.
However when reducing one sort of metal, with an identical sort of metal, issues begin
to get technically fascinating and down proper philosophical.

That is grossly oversimplified, however consider it this manner,
the principle consider figuring out metal’s hardness is its carbon content material, and the way
these carbon atoms are organized inside the steel. Warmth-treating is how one
arranges the atoms to create the hardness one wishes. Cutters and blades solely
have to be barely tougher than the fabric they intend to chop. So it’s
totally attainable to take two items of the identical alloy, heat-treat one to make
it laborious, after which deal with the opposite in order that it’s smooth. From there you’ll be able to simply
form and minimize one with the opposite, form of like reducing heat softened butter
with a tougher piece of frozen butter. That’s fascinating stuff.

So lengthy story brief, with a purpose to harden my knife blades so
they’d take a pleasant edge, I needed to spend money on a particular kiln to heat-treat
them. From there I used to be in a position to crash coarse my method by this fascinating
course of and achieved good outcomes. Having a approach to harden steel additionally opens a
lot of doorways for fascinating future tasks.

Sharpening metal:

Whereas I’ve been shaping steel for many years, I had by no means
deliberately drawn a razor sharp edge onto a bit of steel for the needs
of creating artwork. I’ve sharpened cutlery in a utilitarian context, however by no means in
a method that was cautious of the geometry and polish of the metal. Sharpening
blades with precision was one other ability I must hone (get it).

There are seasoned knife makers who’ve perfected their sharpening method
over a few years, and over hundreds of knives. Some can draw an edge onto a
blade standing at a handbook grinder in only a few minutes utilizing some hard-earned
muscle reminiscence. I nevertheless, wouldn’t have this ability (but!) so regardless of my lengthy
profession in metalworking; I needed to compensate for inexperience with using a
sharpening fixture.

I settled for hand sharpening every blade on a comparatively
gradual, however tried and true, knife sharpening jig. It produced nice outcomes, however
was time consuming. It’s one thing that may doubtless change however gradual and regular
was the way in which to go right here.

Meeting and composition:

The general design of the Vase is an space with which I used to be rather more comfy.

All of my sculptures are constructed round some novel meeting methodology or engineering idea that I can specific in a visually fascinating method, and this work is not any exception.

Every blade has a T formed backbone that engages with a comparable slot alongside the size of the vessel physique. The blades are secured by a few tiny setscrews that interact the backbone and supply a clamping pressure for the blades in every slot.

The screws are accessed from the other facet of the
vessel, by reaching by the work from the ornamental pin holes precisely
reverse the lock screw. From there, the remainder of the meeting was fairly straight ahead, I used the ornamental pin holes as extra locking set screws for the stainless-steel liner of the vase.

I made a brief video to show the idea.  (under)

As you’ll be able to see within the video, I additionally made some enjoyable
units for shifting the work with out having to the touch the blades, one thing that
wanted fairly a bit of additional consideration. Getting this factor into place with out hurting your self or others is definitely fairly difficult. 

Anyhow, thanks for studying. 

As at all times, questions and feedback are fairly welcome.