Knife Artistry with John Dingman

My husband, John, started making knives in 2017. He had always been a talented wood artist, making wooden swords and axes with ease. Let’s just say the Boy Scout’s woodcarving badge was cake for him! He enjoys making avant-garde blades for people to use, admire, and treasure.

Knife Artistry with John Dingman
Knife Artistry with John Dingman
Follow the life of the “Sonora” blade from beginning to end!
Video Credit: Hunter Rand

John never thought about working with metal until he met with his Uncle Doug and Rod Chappel. The curves on John’s knives are unique, inspired by legendary knifemaker, Roderick “Caribou” Chappel, who I’ve written about more extensively in a previous post. They are designed to be ergonomic and artistically inspired by the curves of the womanly figure.

We wanted to take you on a blade’s journey from start, to finish. John works out of our garage in a space that is approximately 10′ x 6′. In this video you will see that he uses a commercial size (Burr King) belt grinder, bench grinder, drill press, metal files, and spindle sander in order to fashion this blade. He dreams of having a spacious workshop dedicated to his knifemaking business one day. John is heading in the right direction!

He appreciates an assortment of artwork, from blades and wood carvings, to drawings and paintings. John enjoys creating things from scratch. This is his passion, and he is striving for perfection and uniqueness in every blade.

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Kammi

The Sonora Knife by John Dingman
This is the end product!
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Outdoor Chef

We have experienced false Spring, second Winter, and will be slowly transitioning to Summer here in Nevada. As things begin to warm up, BBQ or smoked meat and veggies sure hit the spot. When camping, taking a hardy knife will make the task of cooking a lot easier. If you don’t want to take your fancy chef’s knives from home, you can invest in a decent cooking all-around camp knife, which I talk about in a previous blog post, or knife kit that will aid you in your food preparation tasks. If you do want to bring your nice knives to the outdoors, just be aware of the rusting that the environment inflicts on the steels with higher carbon content.

From onions and meats to twine and sticks, the robust camp kitchen chef’s knife will perform and prove its worth in more than just the camp kitchen activities. Chef’s knives are the bigger and more robust knives in the kitchen. Rubberized handles make it easier for you to clean and sanitize the knife between tasks. After your adventure, these blades can usually be put in the dishwasher to deep-clean and sanitize at high temperatures. Let’s not underestimate the usefulness of a good camp kitchen paring knife. Paring knives are smaller knives that are great for peeling skins in addition to chopping fruits, vegetables, cheese, and sausages. I would also greatly recommend bringing tin foil and a pair of tongs to pull things off of the grill or fire so that you don’t burn your hands during your outdoor cooking experience.

Of course, we can take our nice cutlery to the wilderness, but we shouldn’t expect some of the indoor oriented knives to perform well in the conditions of the environment. For instance, some blades like the Japanese carbon steel gyuto knives require really stringent drying and maintenance, otherwise the blade will rust. Also, the patina must be maintained for aesthetics. Chef’s knives constructed from stainless steels are the much lower maintenance option that are better for the outdoors. Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, and Shun have great options for everyone. I’ve owned a lot of cooking knives and I really enjoy the Wusthof brand.

Camp kitchen cutlery knife sets are reviewed from Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit ($35 on Amazon), GSI Santoku Knife Set ($35 on Amazon), and Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit ($85 on Amazon) in a post written by Cameron Martindell from Gearjunkie.com. Some even come in hard cases that are designed to double as cutting boards. When you’re on the go, sometimes you’re in your car and in between destinations. It’s much easier to make a sandwich or prepare a good snack with a trusty camp kitchen set that was born for the job! Multi-utensils, like those made by Light My Fire, are great because they offer the knife, spoon, and fork all-in-one ($10 for four on Amazon).  Don’t forget the java with the portable AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker ($30 on Amazon). Happy outdoor cooking!

If you enjoyed this content, please share this post with someone who enjoys cooking and the outdoors!

Kammi

Knife Building- Stock Removal Procedure

I enjoy watching my husband make knives using the stock removal method. Stock removal means that you are essentially carving out a knife and removing the excess metal from a slab. First, he begins by drawing blade designs on paper, and after some amendments, cuts out the shapes using plexiglass (acrylic glass). Always save your plexiglass blade figure for your portfolio. Then he traces the image in marker and profiles out the knife from the steel stock.

Once the knife has the desired shape, it’s time to drill holes for pins and grind into the steel to actually thin the knife out. John creates a hollow grind on his blades using a Burr King grinder. Rough grits should be used first to shred away a majority of the metal. Once the blade is properly ground, it’s time to heat treat it. This is the procedure where the steel gets hardened. Various steels have different heat treating protocols. Hardness can be tested using the Rockwell scale.

After heat treating, knives are ground using fine sandpaper grits and polished up using a polishing wheel and compound. We can also engrave dates, names, and logos onto the blade. If John is making a full-tang and using scales for the handle, he proactively anticipates the location of the pins and how much material he will need in order to shape the handle. After a lot of sanding and testing the grip, he sharpens the blade. Sharpening is the last step and should be carefully performed. My previous blog post, Looking Sharp, discusses the popular sharpening methods used in this stage.

There is a helpful knifemaking article published on Blade Website by Wayne Goddard called Knifemaking 101- Read This Before You Make a Knife. The article addresses how to set up shop and advises on what materials to use. Whether or not you’re a prospective bladesmith, this literature is a fantastic read. Thank you for reading and please share and comment if you enjoy the artistry of knives!

Kammi

Epoxy step for a custom hidden-tang knife. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman