The Sculptural Knife Vase
I’ve been teasing for a lot of months that I’ve been working
on a knife venture…. What sort of knife venture?… Why, a flower vase in fact! A
machined metallic flower vase with fifteen razor-sharp hardened metal blades that
encircle its treasured blooming cargo.
(Really dried flowers on this case, it’s winter in spite of everything)
This will seem to be an odd mixture, possibly even a tad tongue in cheek, nevertheless this piece
has been in growth for a number of years and embodies most of the themes I
have been laying out over the previous few initiatives. It connects quite a few
conceptual threads in my work, and does so in ways in which had been sudden even to me.
So please tuck in for an extended learn (if you’re inclined) and
I’ll do my finest to elucidate.
I’ve spent plenty of time desirous about conventional craft-forms
inside numerous studio artwork actions. Practices comparable to glasswork, woodturning,
and ceramics are all crafts that acquired their begin on a manufacturing facility ground rather a lot like
machine-work. Nonetheless these crafts differ from machining in a number of vital
In contrast to 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 direction of extra artistic ends. Likewise, these
crafts have signature shapes and kinds which can be widespread inside their commerce
(Vases, bowls, urns and so on). They’re shapes that inform that crafts specific historical past.
Most of those kinds are used to be taught their respective practices and have
turn into inseparable from that crafts visible language.
These craft-forms are of curiosity to me as a result of whereas
machining is a craft that shares an analogous 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 purpose is that machine-work is a sprawling self-discipline full of specialised abilities. The vary of instruments
and processes at play are so diverse it’s almost unattainable to search out initiatives
which can 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 metallic, I’ve spent appreciable time exploring what a “machined craft-form” is perhaps. Ought to machining finally
discover higher standing as a sculptural medium, what kinds may come to outline it?
I undertook all kinds of initiatives to discover this, together with
hand-held kinetic artwork initiatives, a machined vessel collection, and even a number of collaborations
with different makers and machinists. These initiatives drew inspiration from a lot of
the economic crafts listed above, in addition to tendencies inside the modern
machinist group, and even historic craft-forms comparable to Japanese Netsuke and
Chinese language snuff bottles.
kinds from older crafts and remodeling them into extremely engineered machined
craft-forms of my very personal. And whereas it could appear counterintuitive to
use a up to date 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 sooner or later in time.
The impulse to formally discover know-how transcends
classic and it has turn into a full of life and fruitful line of pondering for my work. This
new venture is the subsequent step alongside that journey and takes the thought of
borrowing, reimagining, and remixing conventional craft-forms to new locations.
The Sharp Arts
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
means that I’m exploring older traditions with machine instruments, it’s a discipline that
mixes historic and fashionable strategies reasonably 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 advanced and altered with every technological epoch
alongside the way in which.
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 means that’s hundreds of years outdated. And whereas its historic traditions
are alive and properly, the world of knife making has additionally been utterly
remodeled by the adoption of contemporary machine instruments and new know-how.
inform the aesthetic parts of a craft, knife making is past fascinating to
Whereas I’ve resisted taking on knife making straight, preferring as a substitute to maintain my consideration firmly on sculpture, I’m drawn
to it as a supply of inspiration.
The Sculpture Connection
Whereas numerous knife makers have impressed my work, I discovered it
tough to method the craft straight by means of my work. My course of sometimes
entails stripping away the utility from numerous design or craft ideas to higher reveal what’s aesthetically fascinating about them. I felt that it
is perhaps unattainable 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 mandatory 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 initiatives
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 similar time.
approach to discover knife making, however I felt the very best method was to make use of the blades
as sculptural parts in a means that created an sudden context for them. Fairly
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 constructing artwork.
So whereas it could appear
counter productive to make a flower vase out of machined knives, that’s
surprisingly sufficient, precisely what I’ve achieved, and never with out purpose.
This work is an effective instance of mixing two comparatively easy
concepts (making a vase and making a knife) to create a scenario 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.
Now there could also be a few of you on the market who’re postpone by the
thought of exploring weapons of any variety as artwork, however I feel this piece simply
demonstrates that knives could be many issues apart from that. I personally am not
solely certain what all of the implications of utilizing blades as sculptural parts
is perhaps. However to those that can be vital, I ask that you just preserve an open thoughts, and acknowledge that as a rule, knives are instruments like some other.
There’s magnificence (and humor) to be present in even probably the most tactical aesthetics inside
the artistic industrial arts, so whereas it’s simple to evaluate, it’s way more
fascinating to discover, and it’s my intention to do the latter.
Since I used to be protecting this work sort of a secret, I used to be not
in a position to share course of pictures in actual time like I’ve turn into accustom, so beneath
is breakdown of among the challenges I confronted in addition to among 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 venture, it must be fascinating.
Whereas my desire is to introduce new methods one at a
time, tackling knife making made that method fairly unattainable. I used to be in over
my head in too some ways to depend, which was refreshing and disorienting on the similar time. I had
by no means made a knife blade earlier than (not on function anyway), so there’s reasonably a
lot to the touch on right here.
Machining the blades:
There are a number of widespread methods to make knife blades, some are
cast (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 easy 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 must be
way more rigorously utilized. Selecting an applicable alloy was daunting, however after
plenty of analysis, I settled on a metal referred to as AEBL. Like all knife steels, it
has execs and cons to be used as knife metal.
The professional: AEBL is utilized in plenty of kitchen cutlery, so it’s
fairly widespread and simple to supply. It has nice corrosion resistance and is thought
to be comparatively simple 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 must be unnecessarily spendy
when good choices abound.
The con: Surprisingly, there was not plenty of info on
machining AEBL. I had a tough time getting suggestions on reducing parameters.
I got here to be taught it is because AEBL is primarily utilized in making giant amount
business blades. It’s extra generally lower 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 info was
scarce. I did finally get some helpful steering 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
truly 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 sooner than anticipated.
Since I needed to make 15 blades (plus some spares) for the
venture, I burned by means of 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 means of, took my time, and ended up with fairly nice
Beneath can be a video displaying among 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 metallic work I do potential. At its easiest,
machining is just utilizing a tougher materials, to chop a barely softer one. When
milling brass with metal, this could appear a easy mater of fabric choice.
However when reducing one sort of metal, with an analogous sort of metal, issues begin
to get technically fascinating and down proper philosophical.
That is grossly oversimplified, however consider it this fashion,
the principle think about figuring out metal’s hardness is its carbon content material, and the way
these carbon atoms are organized inside the metallic. Warmth-treating is how one
arranges the atoms to create the hardness one needs. Cutters and blades solely
must be barely tougher than the fabric they intend to chop. So it’s
solely potential to take two items of the identical alloy, heat-treat one to make
it arduous, after which deal with the opposite in order that it’s mushy. From there you may simply
form and lower one with the opposite, kind of like reducing heat softened butter
with a tougher piece of frozen butter. That’s fascinating stuff.
they’d take a pleasant edge, I needed to put money into a particular kiln to heat-treat
them. From there I used to be in a position to crash coarse my means by means of this fascinating
course of and achieved good outcomes. Having a approach to harden metallic additionally opens a
lot of doorways for fascinating future initiatives.
Whereas I’ve been shaping metallic for many years, I had by no means
deliberately drawn a razor sharp edge onto a chunk of metallic for the needs
of constructing artwork. I’ve sharpened cutlery in a utilitarian context, however by no means in
a means 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, should not have this ability (but!) so regardless of my lengthy
profession in metalworking; I needed to compensate for inexperience with using a
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 way more snug.
All of my sculptures are constructed round some novel meeting technique or engineering idea that I can specific in a visually fascinating means, 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 aspect of the
vessel, by reaching by means of 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 further locking set screws for the chrome steel liner of the vase.
I made a brief video to exhibit the idea. (beneath)
As you may see within the video, I additionally made some enjoyable
gadgets for transferring 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 tough.
Anyhow, thanks for studying.
As all the time, questions and feedback are fairly welcome.