A Kitchen Knife

This was a gift for my mother-in-law.

It’s a simple take on a classic chef’s knife with a blade about 6″ and overall length about 10.5″. Full-tang 1095 high-carbon steel blade, mesquite handle, steel pins. Sealed with my customary olive oil and beeswax finish.

For this one I tried something new, and made a simple wooden sheath out of two leaves of mesquite, something to keep the edge away from fingers in the knife drawer. It has the same finish as the handle, 1000 grit sandpaper (mesquite takes a very nice polish), olive oil and beeswax.

I would sell a similar knife (each piece is unique!) for $150, plus $35 for a wooden sheath.

Back from the High North!

Sunburned, windchapped, flybitten, barkscraped, shovelsore, pickaxe-blistered, toddler-weary, glad to be home, and already planning our next trip to Tequila Springs.

This was our boy’s first camping trip. He loved it. Dirt, sun, sticks, rocks, bugs, and no baths for a week. What could be wrong with that?

His mother was not quite as refreshed as he was by the experience.

Somehow, whenever he was in frame, I didn’t have a spare hand to take a picture of him. Next time.

On this trip we started digging our little hobbit hole! It is about 10’x12′, and will eventually be a partially-subterranean dwelling built entirely by hand, using materials found on-site, to the exent that can be managed. As you can see in the pictures there is no shortage of beautiful weathered limestone on the property, so that will likely make up the bulk of the walls and floors. We are still working out how we are going to make the earth-and-timber roof watertight without any newfangled stuff like rubber pond liners, tar paper, concrete, etc.–but we’ll figure it out. So far it is just a big hole, and there is a lot of digging left to be done, so the roof is Future Alex’s Problem.

Warlock, Chapter 1

You never get used to the smell. Not really. I’ve had lifetimes to try, and it still coats the back of my throat like a slick of putrid garbage water: old rot, with the gagging tang of powdered mold. Then comes the sting. Your eyes run, and your nose runs, and you worry that it’s eating away at your skin, if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Under all that floats the dry, musty stink of a snake pit. That’s enough to send some folks running all by itself.

I looked around, and fought the urge to hack and spit on the ground. A body just naturally wants to rid itself of anything that vile. But it wouldn’t do any good, and I had work to do. Still, I wished I had packed my gas mask that morning.

The Nofera had been denning here for a while, that was clear. The stink was stronger than I’d smelled in a long time. The old factory made sense for a safehouse; it was condemned, and set back from the road by a cracked and overgrown parking lot. It hunched up against a tangled woodlot on the other side, perfect for discreet comings and goings at any time of day or night. The owners clearly hadn’t been around to check on the place in years. Or hell, maybe they had, and the Nofera had eaten them. Either way, the place was in bad shape: flakes coming off the concrete walls, rust holes starting in the roof where the paint was worn through. Graffiti all over, though none of it looked recent. Normal people can’t sense them like I can, but the little bit of smell that leaked outside was probably enough to keep away anyone who didn’t have a good reason to be there.

The doors were all locked, but a broken window on the second floor around back was just the right size for a scuttle hole, and the glass was cleaned out of the frame. Nofera don’t like to go in and out on the ground if they can help it.

It only took a minute to draw a focus circle around the lock on one of the back doors with a piece of chalk. A trickle of Water, Air and Fire—the steel provided the Earth—and the whole mechanism powdered away, leaving nothing but a heap of rust flakes on the threshold. Continue reading “Warlock, Chapter 1”

A new grip, for an old rapier

The grip on my friend’s rapier broke, so I made a new one for him.

This is four pieces of mesquite with four steel spacers. I routed a channel for the sword tang into the mesquite blocks, then glued the whole shebang together. I cut it down with files and the belt sander to make it comfortable in the hand, and to fit smoothly in the pre-existing hilt assembly. It is sanded to 500 grit and finished with olive oil and beeswax, as is my customary procedure.

On Fools

Fools speak first and loudest, heeding no one.

The Righteous speak passionately, and hear those who will serve them.

The Wise hear all, and speak when they must.

Cowards do not speak, and might as well be Fools.

A set of wooden dominoes

These are a standard set (28) of 6 x 6 dominoes, larger than usual, about 2-1/4″ long by 1-1/8″ wide, and 1/4″ thick. They were a custom order from a neighbor who is giving them as a graduation gift. I cut them on the table saw from a single plank of mesquite, so they all match.

Mesquite is notorious for pin holes and cracks, and I filled the worst of these with a mixture of mesquite sawdust and clear epoxy, which matches the wood color nicely and sands smooth to become barely noticeable.

The pips are drilled, and the lines cut on the bandsaw, by hand. Then they are filled with marine epoxy, which hardens to a pleasant off-white color, before final sanding and breaking of edges and corners. They are finished with olive oil and beeswax.

I would sell a similar set for $85.

A 1095 belt knife

This is a knife for me to carry, and a leather sheath to carry it in.

It’s made in much the same way as the previous one, with a 1095 blade oil-hardened and tempered at 400F, mesquite handle scales sealed with olive oil and beeswax, and brass handle pins.

The sheath is vegetable-tanned leather, wet-formed around the blade and handle to hold it securely, even when turned upside down. It is sealed with olive oil and beeswax, and stitched with waxed hemp cord.

I would sell a knife like this for $160, and include a sheath for $40.

A 1095 light chopper machete

This still needs a sheath. I think I will make a wooden one out of the same mesquite as the handle.

Full-tang 1095 high-carbon steel, 16″ overall length with 10.5″ edge. Just under 3/16″ at the thickest point of the spine, tapering to about 0.1″ at both ends for very lively balance and a quick flicking action in the chop. Mesquite handle scales, milled out of a log that I harvested locally, finished with olive oil and beeswax. Brass handle pins.

I would produce a similar tool for $200; adding a wooden or leather sheath would require another $50.


Gopheroidus opuntiphilis — the Cactoise.

A future descendant of the Sonoran desert tortoise, perhaps 10 or 25 million years from today, which has co-evolved with a species of prickly pear cactus. It uses the cactus for shade, food and camouflage, and the cactus gets its seeds dispersed over a wide area and fertilized by the tortoise’s dung.

In the dry season, the tortoise digs a shallow burrow or pallet to stay cool, and hibernates. During this time the roots of the cactus may extend into the surrounding soil. When rains return, the tortoise may require two or three days to wake up and free itself from the binding roots, which gives the cactus ample time to replenish its water supply.

These tortoises still have a similar diet to their modern ancestors, eating all manner of desert plants including the pads, fruits and flowers of their own cactus partners. They maintain the size and shape of their shell “garden” by preening, shaking and rubbing to remove excess plant material. They are also semi-social and may prune or taste each others’ cactus when getting acquainted. Males are frequently seen following females for several days, nipping at their hindquarters–researchers presume this is to clear a space to mount the female, and perhaps the ritual is also part of the courtship.

When resting or hiding from danger, they retract their heads and forelegs against their shells. Millions of years of natural selection have shaped each species’ limbs to blend in with its particular species of symbiote cactus–as seen here. The tortoise’s “spines” are not really thorny, but leathery and flexible–but the illusion convinces most would-be predators not to bother.