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 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 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 growth for a number of years and embodies lots of the themes I
have been laying out over the previous few tasks. It connects quite a lot of
conceptual threads in my work, and does so in ways in which have been surprising even to me.

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


I’ve spent numerous time occupied with conventional craft-forms
inside numerous studio artwork actions. Practices reminiscent of glasswork, woodturning,
and ceramics are all crafts that obtained their begin on a manufacturing unit ground lots like
machine-work. Nonetheless these crafts differ from machining in a couple of vital

In contrast to machining, every of the above craft actions
represents a course of that has largely fallen out of commercial 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 types which are widespread inside their commerce
(Vases, bowls, urns and many others). They’re shapes that inform that crafts explicit historical past.
Most of those types are used to be taught their respective practices and have
change into 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 the same industrial previous, there are few signature types one can level to that uniquely consultant it as a medium. The machinist panorama appears to lack ubiquitous types that fall
neatly into the identical paradigm of craft and craft-form. One probably motive is that machine-work is a sprawling self-discipline full of specialised abilities. The vary of instruments
and processes at play are so assorted it’s almost inconceivable to seek out tasks
which are 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 types 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 sequence, and even a couple of collaborations
with different makers and machinists. These tasks drew inspiration from a lot of
the commercial crafts listed above, in addition to tendencies inside the up to date
machinist neighborhood, and even historic craft-forms reminiscent of Japanese Netsuke and
Chinese language snuff bottles.

Machined, Metal, flower Vase, CNC Art
Over that point, I’ve change into captured by the thought of borrowing
types 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 recent and technologically superior course of to revisit types from bygone
industrial eras, it is very important keep in mind that each craft, irrespective of how
previous, was innovative know-how sooner or later in time.

The impulse to formally discover know-how transcends
classic and it has change into a energetic and fruitful line of considering 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.

Knife making, Art knife, Vase

The Sharp Arts

Now with all of that mentioned, there may be 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 up to date industrial processes. A lot within the
manner that I’m exploring older traditions with machine instruments, it’s a area that
mixes historic and trendy strategies quite elegantly. Knife making is a uncommon
craft, in that it maintains working first hand information of almost each
technological step of its lengthy historical past. Its roots go all the best way again to the
Stone Age, and it has developed and altered with every technological epoch
alongside the best way.

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 manner that’s hundreds of years previous. 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 plain. It has a protracted ornamental arts custom that has solely grown with the adoption of digital fabrication know-how. As a metallic 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 over knife making immediately, preferring as a substitute 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 immediately by means of my work. My course of sometimes
includes stripping away the utility from numerous design or craft ideas to higher reveal what’s aesthetically attention-grabbing about them. I felt that it
is perhaps inconceivable to strip the utility from a knife and nonetheless have an
object that’s each attention-grabbing and spoke meaningfully to the craft.

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

Metal Art, Flower Vase

The venture

Creating this quite distinct (if impractical) flower vase might sound 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 manner that created an surprising context for them. Quite
than stand alone objects, I felt it extra attention-grabbing to distinction the blades with some
of the opposite craft-forms I’ve already been exploring. I wished 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
unusually sufficient, precisely what I’ve performed, and never with out motive.

This work is an effective 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 or not 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 type as artwork, however I feel this piece simply
demonstrates that knives might be many issues apart from that. I actually am not
totally certain what all of the implications of utilizing blades as sculptural components
is perhaps. However to those that can be crucial, 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 essentially the most tactical aesthetics inside
the artistic industrial arts, so whereas it’s straightforward to guage, it’s way more
attention-grabbing to discover, and it’s my intention to do the latter.

Technical Notes:

Since I used to be preserving this work form of a secret, I used to be not
capable of share course of pictures in actual time like I’ve change into 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 best way.
Once more, a little bit of a learn, however for these within the nuts and bolts
of the venture, it ought to be attention-grabbing.

Whereas my desire is to introduce new strategies one at a
time, tackling knife making made that method fairly inconceivable. I used to be in over
my head in too some ways to rely, which was refreshing and disorienting on the identical time. I had
by no means made a knife blade earlier than (not on function anyway), so there may be quite 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 wished
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 should be
rather more fastidiously utilized. Selecting an applicable alloy was daunting, however after
numerous 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 numerous kitchen cutlery, so it’s
fairly widespread and simple to supply. It has nice corrosion resistance and is thought
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 should be unnecessarily spendy
when good choices abound.

The con: Surprisingly, there was not numerous data on
machining AEBL. I had a tough time getting suggestions on chopping parameters.
I got here to be taught it’s because AEBL is primarily utilized in making giant amount
industrial blades. It’s extra generally lower with abrasives processes like water
jet cutters or lasers, after which floor to remaining 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 steering from a fellow knife maker to
use as a place to begin.

Total: As soon as work obtained 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
venture, I burned by means of extra $25 cutters than I care to confess. A few of this
untimely put on might 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

Under can be a video displaying 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 metallic work I do attainable. At its easiest,
machining is solely 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 chopping one form of metal, with the same form of metal, issues begin
to get technically attention-grabbing 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 wishes. Cutters and blades solely
should 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 exhausting, after which deal with the opposite in order that it’s gentle. From there you possibly can simply
form and lower one with the opposite, form of like chopping heat softened butter
with a tougher piece of frozen butter. That’s fascinating stuff.

So lengthy story quick, 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 capable of crash coarse my manner by means of this fascinating
course of and achieved good outcomes. Having a approach to harden metallic additionally opens a
lot of doorways for attention-grabbing future tasks.

Sharpening metal:

Whereas I’ve been shaping metallic for many years, I had by no means
deliberately drawn a razor sharp edge onto a bit of metallic for the needs
of constructing artwork. I’ve sharpened cutlery in a utilitarian context, however by no means in
a manner 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 approach
over a few years, and over hundreds of knives. Some can draw an edge onto a
blade standing at a handbook grinder in just some minutes utilizing some hard-earned
muscle reminiscence. I nevertheless, would not 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 probably change however gradual and regular
was the best way 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 technique or engineering idea that I can specific in a visually attention-grabbing manner, 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 alternative 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 stainless-steel liner of the vase.

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

As you possibly can 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 all the time, questions and feedback are fairly welcome.