Custom carved knife handle

A fellow carver sent me two knives that he made. The deal is that if I carve one handle and send it back to him, I can keep the other knife. He’s made the deal with many members of the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board. He ends up with a collection of knives with custom handles, and we each end up with a very nice carving knife. Works for me.

The knives came in back in November while I was in the throes of finishing up my Hundred Birds Project, so I put them on the top of my “to do” list. I took a long break (almost four months) after finishing the birds, and when I started carving again I promptly cut myself, necessitating another stint away from carving.

I really didn’t know what to carve on the knife handle. I considered doing a hillbilly, but some of the other carvers had done caricatures and I wanted mine to stand out. I also considered a ball in cage or some other whimsy, but those would be kind of fragile. I get the idea that these knives will be mostly for show, but I do know that the guy would like to carve with them from time to time. I didn’t want to make a handle that would break with normal use.

So I figured I’d do one of my dogs. But those are only two inches tall and the knife handles are about five inches. After tossing around ideas I finally settled on the dog sitting on a treat, which I called a Yummy Bone.

The knife handle is basswood, which is pretty bland all by itself and is usually painted. My painting is not very good, which is one reason I prefer to work in found wood that doesn’t have to be painted. One wouldn’t paint mesquite, sycamore, walnut, maple, etc. The wood is just too beautiful to cover it in paint!

But Yummy Dog needed paint. So I broke out the acrylics and did the best job I could. The bone is raw sienna. The dog got a couple coats of very light black wash, and then I mixed grey and black, trying to do a charcoal color. The result is … less than what I hoped but better than I expected. I still have a lot to learn about painting.

I let the carving dry for a day and then applied three coats of Deft Satin polyurethane. The shiny part of the blade was stuck in the cork to hold the carving up. I’ll let the new owner buff the poly off the other part of the blade.

The picture below shows the completed carving along with the other, un-carved handle.

The raw handle is five inches long and about one and a quarter inches square. I’m not sure what I’m going to carve on it. I’ve considered another dog, sitting on a fire hydrant. But I’m not sure if that’d be comfortable to carve with. The dog-and-bone handle is surprisingly comfortable.