After searching the net, I came across a fantastic site with just what I needed -Deepwoods Ventures selling various carving knife blanks. I decided to order their general carving knife, spoon carver, and "bent knife" (i.e. crooked knife blade). The crooked knife blade was the most interesting to me, as this is the traditional tool for paddlemaking and canoe construction. The Deepwoods Ventures blade is by no means a full length crooked knife blade. Its cutting edge is only 2" so it makes it more suitable to smaller jobs, but I wanted to try it out anyway.
Now that the blades had been selected, working on the handles was next. On my last excursion to the Carpenter's Square, I brought along a bunch of woodscraps destined for the fireplace and cut out various knife handle patterns so that I could experiment and find the right ones for my pudgy hands.
When the freshly forged blades arrived 2 weeks later (amazingly sharp and protected with an improvised foam sheath), I layed out the blanks on the balcony table and started to get a feel for the blade/hand patterns I liked.
The knife blanks; Various handles of birch, walnut, cherry
Once I had made a rough decision in my mind, I started shaping the handles with a coarse rasp, my indispensible Mora, and some sandpaper. Funny how sometimes, the handles that seemed to fit well as a blank, got less comfortable as they were rounded and shaped to appropriate size...and vice versa. In the end, I settled on the "whale - tail" walnut shape (3rd from top) as my preferred design for the general carving knife as it seemed most comfortable for the verical positioning of the blade. The cherry handle (4th from top) was also very comfortable, especially for the crooked knife hand position. The walnut "crooked handle" (1st from top) was cut to a standard shape for most crooked knives and was also nice in the hand, but the mini 2" blade seemed dwarfed by the huge handle size. I think I'll be keeping that handle for when I make a full sized crooked knife from a rusty file I have on hand (yet another project in the background). For the spoon carver, I ended up with the birch handle (bottom)
Once these were all shaped and sanded, I needed to drill the hole for the tang. The blades came with instructions to use a 19/64 drill bit that I marked off with red electrical tape to ensure proper depth of the hole to fit each tang. Then, while clamping in vise, I carefully drilled out a hole.
Marking out the depth with tape
Clamping and drilling out the tang hole
With some standard harware store epoxy on hand, the blades and handles were layed out and set. The next day I made some simple sheaths by sewing some leather coverings onto the temporary foam sheaths that shipped with the blades. After some basic labelling with the pyrography kit and oiling the handles, the knives were all ready for work. I've all ready used them with some spoon blanks and scrap wood. All in all an easy side project that serve me well for years to come.
Blades in position; epoxied up
Final Carving Knives