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Js Presentation Knife Design Trying to distill the threads...

#1 User is offline   Michael Kemp 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 03:42 PM

I enjoy & respect the people and goals of the ABS - I approach the JS tests as a "proof of competence" - and even if I make other knife styles (a Kukri is on order) - I would consider it an honor and confirmation if I were able to clear the bar for the JS stamp. And BTW - I had a great time in Old Washington at the intro course Spring of 2009 - it really got my feet on the ground and I recommend it to anyone who can put together the time & cash.

I'm starting to work on designs for my JS presentation blades (for 2012 in Atlanta). I've read over the ABS test description and judging guidelines numerous times over the last couple of years. I've read the threads in this forum, esp: Neely's JS testing post, Blade Style for Test Knives, & 20 hints from Hedges.

I may do something dumb. I may include a couple of blades that conform to the test & judging guidelines but are not hunters, utility, or Bowie blades - and hope that my workmanship will carry the day (*IF* my workmanship is worthy).

I definitely plan on two Bowies (one traditional, one not traditional) and a drop-point hunter... but I'd love to have a chef's knife on the table, and I'm finishing up a commissioned fighter that is not a Bowie spin-off that I'd love to re-work for the presentation test. And yes - I'll have at least one extra blade in case one of the five others get trashed in transit.

But I want blunt feedback. Presuming that my workmanship is up to snuff and that all the parameters of the test and judging guidelines are met...

* is a ricasso required on every presentation knife (this would disqualify the chef's knife)?

* would a trailing-point single grind fighter with a sharp recurve and in-line ricasso get me rejected?

I don't have a current photo of the fighter, but below is a "rough" photo - the customer wanted a thick cord wrap handle - but I'd change that to a hidden tang and pommel for presentation (yes it was forged to shape):

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If either a chef's knife or a variation on the fighter that conforms to the test/judging guidelines would get me failed I'll can the idea. I not - I just might risk it. I'm not too bright.

Michael
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#2 User is offline   Dan Cassidy 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 04:51 PM

Michael:

I read your post and would recommend that you examine the photos of some of the knives submitted to the ABS Judging Panel by previous successful candidates for the Journeyman Smith rating in Atlanta which I have posted on the ABS Website in the JS Testing section. Please observe and study the fit and finish on each knife. For your convenience you can click:
Journeyman Smith Candidate Knives.pdf

I would also strongly recommend that you show your knives to a Master Smith or several Master Smiths for a "Critique" and follow their advice before submitting them to the ABS Judging Panel in Atlanta. Best of luck.
Dan Cassidy
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#3 User is offline   Ed Caffrey 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 05:13 PM

Remember what your testing for....ABS JOURNEYMAN SMITH. That means that what is expected is "ABS" style knives. Part of "doing your homework" in preparation for testing should include making your way to a few major shows and see the styles and quality level that is being put out by the top level JS and MS makers.....those types and level of quality is what will be expected. Another MUST DO for those aspiring to test of JS is to attend at least one of the seminars the ABS presents on JS and MS testing. These are generally held at most ABS sponsored events around the country.

Now, I'm not trying to squash your creative juices, but my personal input is that JS or MS testing is NOT someplace you want to take a chance. Whether it be on design, style, grinds, finishes, or anything else. It takes a LOT of drive, determination, as well as a good bit of $$ to get to Atlanta and test. My view is there are two basic schools of thought concerning JS or MS testing.... 1. You go to pass. That means doing everything in your power to ensure your making the "right" type and style of knives...that the ABS and judges want to see, that they are of the VERY BEST fit and finish that you can produce, and they are what the judges want to see. 2. You can go to win awards. Very few people fall into this category, but IF you're sure you have the talent and ability to do it, then I say go for it.

Looking at the pics you posted, I certainly would not submit a knife like that for judging...I'm fairly certain that it would fail, especially if the grinds were are shown in the drawing.
The VERY BEST thing that ANYONE testing for JS or MS can do for themselves is to get their presentation knives finished at least six months ahead of time, and GET THEM TO AS MANY MASTERSMITHS AS POSSIBLE FOR EVALUATION/CRITIQUE. This will give you time to "fix" or replace any knives that the reviewing Mastersmiths find unsatisfactory. The point here is to have a VARIETY of Mastersmiths review/critique your knives....and use the majority opinions to guide you.
It's really all about preparation. Having judged a number of times at both the JS and MS levels, I have found that those who are unwilling to take the steps I've mentioned, generally are disappointed when the judging in Atlanta is over.
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#4 User is offline   John White 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 05:51 PM

Michael,

Dan has asked me to comment on your questions, perhaps because he knows that I'll be one of the JS judges again at Atlanta this year. I believe the JS presentation judging is a real help to ABS members who are seriously trying to improve their skills, and move from fledgling status to a more professional level in their work.

The test criteria, which you seem to have examined, are not terribly restrictive. They are aimed towards a "very good to excellent" level of "fit, finish and symmetry," while keeping an eye on good design characteristics. The fact that you must present five knives, only two of which may be of the same type, is to allow you to show the judges that you can work in several styles.
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Each year, someone, or several people, will ask if knives "outside the standard ABS..." will "disqualify,"or if some unusual design the person is interested in will be judged fairly. The simple answer is that the Mastersmiths who are judging are fully capable of judging a wide variety of styles. We see mostly "mainstream" Bowies, hunters, etc, because as a practical matter, that's what is taught in most classes or hammer-ins, and that's what most beginning knife-makers start out with. We require guards ,at least on almost all of the five, so we can see if the candidates can execute guards correctly.We expect ricassos on almost all for the same reason.I don't see in the criteria on the ABS site a specific requirement that all five have guards and ricassos.

I have seen a clear-cut "Art" knife pass as one of a candidates' five, and I suspect that either of the knives you say you want to enter could pass, IF, let me repeat,IF each were an example of good design, fit and finish. The photo you in your post is of a design that would be very difficult for someone at your level to manage good grind lines, and even from a photo, I can see that this one isn't there.

That being said, let me encourage you to concentrate your energies on achieving the "good to excellent"level of workmanship that the testing criteria are designed to encourage. Take finished knives to every venue you can find and ask as many Mastersmiths as you can to critique them. Listen to what is said about your level of accomplishment, accept and adapt the many helpful suggestions and tips you'll get, and try to upgrade your work. The single most common reason for failure in the JS testing is lack of having gotten , and profited from, the critiques that are freely available from all ABS Mastersmiths as part of their obligation.

I'd encourage you to try to be SURE, using all the help that is out there, that your workmanship is progressing as it should, before you worry too much about exactly what knives you want to enter in judging. A simple, clean, "ordinary" knife is far preferable to any poorly executed knife of some "spectacular" design

.Dan, Ed, and Lin all have posted comments that will also help you think about this effort ahead of you.

I hope this is an encouragement. Your enthusiasm is what will carry you through the hard work. Feedback from those you show your work to, will keep you on the right path.

John White
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#5 User is offline   Lin Rhea 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 06:02 PM

Michael,
I have to jump in here along side Dan and Ed. Their advice is very direct and well said.

I would add this thought. Think of the judges. Who are they and what knives do they themselves make. This will give you an idea of the styles and types of knives that look "normal" to their eyes.
The tests of JS and MS can be analyzed to the point of distraction, in fact, before this is over you'll be writing poetry, but please listen to the good advice already given. I look forward to meeting you in Atlanta.
Lin Rhea, ABS Mastersmith
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#6 User is offline   Michael Kemp 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 07:50 PM

!! Thanks all !!

Yes - the only Master Smith w/in 100 miles has strongly recommended sticking to classic ABS knife styles for all 5 (6) knives - and you folks have confirmed that strong suggestion.

I probably should not have confused the issue by posting a photo of a blade with the forging scale ground off. That notwithstanding: yes - I've got my work cut out for me to get 6 blades that are up to muster on fit, finish, and balanced design for the 2012 Atlanta show (not 2011). It's time to go from bladesmithing as a passionate hobby to bladesmithing as my main job and hope the bills get paid anyway!

I will certainly work with the local MS on my set of blades. And there are two other Master Smiths w/in a day's drive that I am aware of. At my age that's one day there, stay overnight, one day back...

Thanks for the good wishes and I hope I don't let you down in 18 months!

Michael
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#7 User is offline   BrionTomberlin 

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 09:37 PM

Hello Michael. I am glad to see that you are thinking well in advance for your knives. Based on the picture and drawing, personally I would not submit that knife. There are too many areas for problems and I think you would end up spending way too much time on a knife that might fail. Yes you could make some different styles and personally I do not see a problem with say one chefs knife. It is my understanding that you could present a full tang knife, Provided that is has bolsters that execute a very good to excellent level of fit and finsh, and there is only one full tang knife in your five. You could do an integral chefs knife if you are comfortable doing that type of knife. Integrals have passed. One thought is why put more stress on yourself when you already have a stressful situation. As my friend Lin said think about what styles of knives the judges make and the styles shown in the link provided by Dan. These are knives that have passed. Notice that they are all pretty much the same styles with some artistic differences here and there. A smart knifemaker said to me when I was asking some of the same questions two years or so before my JS testing " make the knives the judges like and give you the best chance of passing, then after you get your stamp, you can make whatever floats your boat". The main thing, as John and Ed stated is to concentrate on achieving the best knife that you can make, even and flat grinds, consistent finish, very good to excellent fit, good design, and consistency in every knife. Make every knife as good as possible. Then go see mastersmiths and more mastersmiths and have thick skin. Take their comments and suggestions to heart. It sounds like you are going about this the right way and I wish you luck and look forward to seeing your five knives in Atlanta or San Antonio.
Brion
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#8 User is offline   Mike Williams 

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:12 AM

Michael,
You got sound advice from smiths that know what they are talking about. The judges for your js are knowledgable about all kinds of knives. Pretty much anything you can make, they can be considered experts in that type of knife. I will be blunt here; you are not going to WOW anybody. That room has bladesmiths that are pretty hard to impress; much less wow.
We are looking for: Clean, Fit, and Finish. Design? We can be as adventuresome as you would like. A square wheel is an interesting concept, but all the other wheel makers are going to ask? "How does she ride"? Just because someone wants it, and is willing to pay for it, does not make it a good knife.
Don't get into the mindset that only "ABS" style knives will pass. Do your research on knives of the last 300 years or so. Look at the syles that were used, carried forth, and are still around today.
If you are bold enough to do new and unique, then we know that you will be bold enough to accept the responses to it; positive and negative. I think that knife you posted would not be warmly recieved; as the previous posters have mentioned. Send us a drawing of the sheath you have invisioned for that knife; it would be interesting.
The js rating is simply professional quality knives that are clean,well fitted, well finished. If you can do those things you will have no problems.
I look forward to seeing your knives.
Mike
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#9 User is offline   Greg Neely 

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 08:29 AM

Michael,

Dan brought my attention to your post; on reviewing the thread, it looks like you got a real round table of Masters who give excellent advice.
While it's true that the "accepted norm" is what we normally recommend for your test knives, there is no set design format. The main thing these judges will be lookinng for is design and execution. Design is somewhat subjective, as you know, but a poor design is just that, no matter how well done. Execution is paramount. Can you carry it off to the standards described?

Not all knives have ricassos, and we understand that. What we also understand is that those grind lines going into the ricasso (shoulders) are difficult to do correctly. This is usually the first thing the judges look for when jurying the applicant's knife. Is it straight? Are there waves or digs in the blade? How about the fit and finish? We require that some of them have guards or bolsters because part of being a Journeyman Smith is knowing how to fit these parts up, just as grinding a blade with a ricasso.

It's true that established and accepted patterns are probably safest, but it's by no means the last word. The two questions you should ask yourself are (1) Is it a good design? and (2) Can I make this thing as well as something less esoteric? As you wisely said, you should put your knives in front of the local Master and benefit from his or her experience.

I've judged an awful lot of knives over the years and always find myself going back to the same advice: This is an examination. It's a final exam or test pretty similar to the others you've taken in your life. Hopefully, you'll only have to take it once, so make what you do best and give the judges what they want to see. They want to see as many of the different phases of good knifemaking as they possible can in a sampling of your work. Now is not the time to experiment; now is the time to show the judges what you've learned and perfected.

After the exam, there's plenty of time and opportunity to develop new things and new procedures. That's how all of this cool stuff came to be.

Hope this helps.

Greg Neely
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#10 User is offline   Michael Kemp 

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 01:49 PM

Greg & all,

I really appreciate the advice! I'm humbled that so many Master Smiths took time to respond. You've helped me adjust my attitude. You are right in line with advice I've gotten here. I guess I had to hear it from more than one source.

Now back down to the shop to hone my apprentice skills!

Michael Kemp
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#11 User is offline   Ed Caffrey 

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 03:20 PM

Michael,

I didn't think about this when I responded to your original post...last year when I was laid up after lung surgery, I wrote up a couple of articles for my website....one on the performance phase of testing, and another on the Presentation Phase. It's in no way official ABS information, just a break down based on my experiences as one who has tested, and tested others. The articles might give you some insights that you might not otherwise have. You can see them by following the links:

Performance Phase Testing Article

Presentation Phase Testing Article
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#12 User is offline   Michael Kemp 

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 03:59 AM

Ed,

Thanks! I've re-read your articles and I've printed them out so that they aren't "stuck in the computer" - - - and next time I start questioning the sage advice of the local Master Smith I'll grab these printouts before I demonstrate my bullheadedness online ;-)

And once again to everyone who has given me feedback on this - Thank You!

I'll work to get my skills to where they need to be. I never considered that I would "wow" the judges - I've seen what you folks can do - but I still did not have enough perspective on the judging process. Having everyone take time to make sure I'm looking at this the right way is really appreciated.

Michael
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