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Custom Steak Knives: Stainless Steel Damascus Blades; Elk Antler, Scrimshaw, Rustic Display Box

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 11-29-2007 at 12:23 PM 6356 views 1 time favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This set of Steak Knives was a commissioned project, so it has been sold.

If you would like something similar, please email me at: mark@decoustudio.com

Here are other Knife Sets I’ve built:

Click for details

Click for details

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Other Knives?

I have Hunting Knives and Bowie Knives also, so just email me if you are interested. None of my knives are “cheap” or inexpensive compared to what you can find in a mail order catalog.

But, if you want something special, and customized, send me a note.

They make great Christmas Gifts, or graduation gifts, or hunting buddy gifts, or wedding gifts, anniversary gifts, Father’s Day, retirement gifts….......

Think about this one; instead of buying stamped out silver dinnerware that anyone can buy at store, why not give the engaged couple a set of custom steak knives? They won’t trade it in for something else they like better (at least I hope not).

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Here are some more Photos:

The box of knives is comprised of 16 knives that look similar to this one:

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The other two knives are more decorated with the monograms of the client’s names on elephant ivory, with a turquoise inlay. On the rear of the handle, I put some scrimshaw artwork of “Bugling Elk.”

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Here is a photo showing the Knives with the “Gold Bar” carved block removed. Each knife sits in it’s own cradle, with the blade being protected. The interior of the box is lined with a rustic brown, heavy cowhide to match the refined rustic feel of the design.

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Project Story:
I blogged about this project, so I won’t repeat all of the story here. These 18 knives have been built as a collectible set of steak knives for a customer in Las Vegas. I was able to get the project through an interior design firm that heard about my work through another set of artists, saddle makers Loren & Lisa Skyhorse of Durango, CO. They are working on this project design also. I met them at the Western Design Conference show last year in September, 2006, as their display area was beside mine.

The handles are Elk Tine antlers, all from shed antlers from an elk ranch that friends of mine own here in the Kansas Flinthills. You can read more about these folks in my blog on my Scrimshaw Art Journey, the link to that article is shown below.

I had a huge pile of antlers to look through for this project thanks to Larry & Nancy, but still, finding 18 handles that matched in color, size, shape, curve, etc., was a chore, mainly because I am pretty picky. So, I had to cut up a bunch of antlers to do it.

Now, I’m looking for ways to use up an elk antler with a tine, or two cut off. Any ideas? Let me know. There has to be some way to use them. I’m thinking about a refined rustic Maloof-Inspired rocking chair with elk antler arms, but just a thought at this point. Guess you wouldn’t call it a Maloof with that significant change.

Back to the Story:

The blade blanks are a 33 layer damascus style stainless steel that I purchased. Over in the blog, several kind folks asked if I made the damascus. I did not. I have to adapt the purchased blades to my project, but the steel making and forging process was done by others.

I tried that about 8-9 years back, and had some success with making steel knives. However, at the first show where I took my knives, people would not buy them, because they didn’t trust my background in blacksmithing. I found that in expensive art-knives, folks were as concerned about the look of the knife as much as the quality of the blade material. Since then, I have purchased the damascus blade blanks from bladesmiths who have an international reputation for making great steel. This particular damascus stainless steel is made in Japan is sold as the finest quality cutlery steel available. Just my type for this project, and the client agreed.

The inlay work is elephant ivory, (legal pre-ban material) and turquoise. I buy my ivory from only one reliable source, the David Warther Museum in Ohio. He provides me with an Affidavit of Origin for the ivory, and then I give a copy of that document to the customer.

Elephant ivory that was obtained pre-ban is legal to own in the U.S.A., but transporting it outside of the country is prohibited. I prefer to scrimshaw on elephant ivory.

The display box is natural edged walnut, inspired by the work I did last year in the “Nakashima-Inspired” styling. I remember reading in Sam Maloof’s autobiography about how he uses walnut sapwood as an accent color. I appreciate that the Nakashimas and Mr. Maloof gave me a vision for a way to use the walnut in it’s natural state. I like it much better than the plain walnut boxes I used to make years ago. I shudder to think how many sticks of sap wood I cut off of walnut in year’s past to get rid of it. There are folks that actually try to use it and stain it to look like heart wood. Not me, at least not anymore.

Finish on the box is Deft Oil, followed by a couple dozen coats of hand rubbed out lacquer.

I used a small ball peen hammer to carefully crush up some turquoise to inlay in the knots of the wood. I searched through a whole pile of walnut in my barn to find the perfect boards to use, with just the right knot, of the right size, in the right location. I could buy the crushed stone from several suppliers, but I prefer to do it myself so that I know the quality and color of the material, and I can make the little chips the size I want.

The interior design for this dining room is refined rustic, with a Western, or Mountain theme. After hearing the description of the entire room, and all of the work being done by other artisans to bring the room together, I would love to see it all in place. To be blunt, I doubt anyone will even notice my knives. It is that impressive. Pretty cool.

The carved wood “Gold Bar” board is walnut, with the letters carved in a raised style, that is typical of the other lettering I have done on many of my furniture projects. This wood bar is held down by two little knobs that I made out of the antler material, and it holds the knives down in position while transporting the box. This box design took a lot of head scratching, and some important ideas from my Wife.

This was a lot of fun to build, although time consuming. The schedule was rushed, and so I had to work more hours per work week than I ever have before. Still, I was able to get them shipped to Las Vegas two days ahead of schedule. Now, I’m resting, and letting my tendonitis in my right elbow relax a little. Knife making is an absolute blast, but it is also a dangerous job. Polishing knives and working with sharp knives when your tired is a receipe for disaster. I am glad to have finished up this project with only three minor cuts, just requiring small bandaids. Whew.

Next on the list, is another set of 12 knives that this customer ordered as a Christmas Gift for one of their close friends. I’ll be back in another couple of weeks with that project, another tight schedule. I love getting new work, so I’m not complaining.

I hope this is the start of a long history of collectible steak knife projects.

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Here are the blog postings for this project:
  1. Progress Update on the Custom Steak Knife Commission Project
  2. Confirmation on the order for the Custom Steak Knife Sets
  3. Samples Shipped for a Custom Steak Knife Set; with Antler Handles, Scrimshaw and Inlay work

Here is a link to another set of similar Steak Knives:
Click for details
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What is ”Scrimshaw” you say?
Go to this blog, for a thorough discussion and examples of my past work:

A Scrimshaw Art Journey

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If you like knives, here are some other LJ project postings of knives I have built:

Damascus Steel Hunting Knives:
  1. Elk Antler with Turquoise Nugget Custom Knife
  2. Large Damascus Steel Blade Custom Knife with Antler, Turquoise and Brass
  3. Custom Hunting Knife with Elk Shed Antler Handle, Ivory, Scrimshaw, and Hand-forged Damascus Blade
  4. Custom Knife with Damascus Steel Blade & Whitetail Deer Shed Antler
  5. Custom Art Knives, set of three with Damascus Steel Blades and Scrimshaw artwork
Damascus Stainless Steak Knife Sets:
  1. Elk Antler & Fossilized Walrus Six (6) Piece Steak Knife set in a box
  2. Elk Antler & Scrimshaw Steak Knives for the Gold Bar Dining Room in Las Vegas
  3. Deer Crown Antler Steak Knife Set and Box with Turquoise Inlay
Folding Knives:
  1. Custom Folding Knife with Zebra Wood, Abalone, and Scrimshaw Ready
  2. Custom Folding Knife: Elk Antler Handle, Turquoise Stone, Abalone, Nautical Scrimshaw Artwork
  3. Custom Folding Knife with Elk Naturally Shed Antler Handle
Stainless Steel Hunting Knives:
  1. Commemorative Bowie Knife with Whitetail Deer Shed Antler Handle for a Retiring Navy Seal Veteran
  2. A Young Soldier's Commemorative Hunting Knife, with Elk Antler Handle and Scrimshaw Artwork
  3. Custom Hunting Knife with Elk Naturally Shed Antler Handle
  4. Custom Deep Cut Skinner Hunting Knife with Elk Naturally Shed Antler Handle
  5. Skinning Knife, with Gut Hook, Elk Natural Shed Antler Handle
  6. Custom Knife; Frontier Bowie with Elk Naturally Shed Antler Handle

Here is my website page with knives:
Mark DeCou Studio Knife Page Website

(Note: All photos, project design, and text is protected by copyright 2007-2012 by the author M.A. DeCou, all rights reserved, no unauthorized use of this material in whole, or part is allowed without expressed written permission.)

Thanks for looking,
Mark DeCou
decoustudio.com

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com





32 comments so far

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

12938 posts in 2620 days


#1 posted 11-29-2007 at 12:29 PM

BEAUTIFUL work Mark !

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Max's profile

Max

55956 posts in 2910 days


#2 posted 11-29-2007 at 12:32 PM

As always Mark another wonderful project. I really like the turquoise inlay and your choice of walnut. It all looks wonderful…

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4435 posts in 2599 days


#3 posted 11-29-2007 at 12:33 PM

Well, I happened to be in the house when you posted this. Nice work, Mark. I’m sure the client will be impresssed. And….,. you got it done by the deadline. That alone will get you more work. That is a lot of horn to work. I too prefer elephant ivory. I like the damascus steel. I really sets off the work you have done. Well done.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15693 posts in 2855 days


#4 posted 11-29-2007 at 12:38 PM

Beautiful work as always, Mark!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2673 days


#5 posted 11-29-2007 at 01:02 PM

Yowsa!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Duane Kohles's profile

Duane Kohles

38 posts in 2937 days


#6 posted 11-29-2007 at 02:16 PM

Very Nice Mark! I will let others more eloquent than I elaborate. Thanks for sharing.

-- Duane Kohles

View oscorner's profile

oscorner

4564 posts in 2948 days


#7 posted 11-29-2007 at 02:59 PM

I’m speechless! EXCELLENT! STUPENDOUS! WONDERFUL! ASTOUNDING!

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2531 posts in 2594 days


#8 posted 11-29-2007 at 03:00 PM

Really outstanding work. You are a true craftsman, sir! That client sure loves their steak!

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View Dadoo's profile

Dadoo

1764 posts in 2627 days


#9 posted 11-29-2007 at 03:04 PM

Only a real artist would pick thru a pile of walnut looking for the right knot in the right place! This is a real sweet project.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View ThreeJs's profile

ThreeJs

82 posts in 2577 days


#10 posted 11-29-2007 at 03:29 PM

As for the spare antlers.. Take up pen turning, or just turning in general. You should be able to make some nice stuff from them.

-- David, Charlotte NC (http://beechcreeknaturals.etsy.com)

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 2706 days


#11 posted 11-29-2007 at 03:30 PM

Like I said on your blog.Beautiful work as always!!!

-- Scott NM,http://www.shangrilawoodworks.com

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2659 days


#12 posted 11-29-2007 at 03:41 PM

Stunning work, ingenous design. It is my honor to know you Mr. Decou.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

645 posts in 2771 days


#13 posted 11-29-2007 at 04:24 PM

Thanks for inspiring many of us to reach a little higher for what we want.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2951 days


#14 posted 11-29-2007 at 04:29 PM

A real nice package…Top quality as always!

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2723 days


#15 posted 11-29-2007 at 04:36 PM

Wow….

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

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