Dust Circles

It is a little known fact that although crop circles have all but been proven as hoaxes by the scientific community, dust circles also exist. Unlike the crop circles in wheat and other agricultural produce, dust circles are created, not in the dust as the name implies, but in solid wood, which in turn creates a lot of dust. (Perhaps better called dust-creation circles).

Some still suspect the hand of man is involved in these creations, but overwhelmingly, the dust circles have been subsequently used in furniture making and period details, disguising their true origins.  They then go by another name, one you may be more familiar with: rosettes, as they also are representative of flowers and this second term is the French diminutive of rose.

In modern times, companies have provided woodworkers with the tools to make their own rosettes that they can use to add period details to their creations, and it is one of these tools that we are looking at today.

Today being the operative word, as this rosette cutter comes from Toolstoday.com

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Unlike many other rosette cutters I have seen in the past, the one from Toolstoday.com has some unique features that are particularly interesting.

For one, the cutter has replaceable/exchangeable carbide edged knives.  Rather than spending money on the shaft and body of the cutter each time, you can buy the much more affordable cutters of different profiles and insert the style you want for a particular job.

Being carbide edged, these are sharp with an enduring edge. There are 15 different rosette profiles to choose from, as well as blank knives that you can have made to a specific custom design.

The cutter may look like a router bit, but it is far from it (and would be incredibly dangerous if mounted in a high speed router).  The shaft has flats on it, which is an excellent feature as these allow the teeth of a drill chuck to grip it firmly and prevent slippage.

They are designed to be used in a drill press, lathe, mill or similar, running around 800 RPM or so.  However, as I found as well, the drill press has to be heavy duty.  My floor pedestal drill may be ok for basic drilling operations, but it was not up to the task of a rosette cutting operation.  Too much runout in the shaft, too much slack in the components, and the rosette cutter had a tendency to whirl offcentre, and the subsequent vibration was not able to be resisted by clamps, table or drill head, and the chuck kept falling out.

However, I may not have the best drill press (yet – as in that one will get sold once I have a replacement lined up at some stage (hopefully the Teknatool DVR drill press won’t take forever to come to market)), but my lathe is well up for the challenge.

With the chuck (and MT2) secured in the tailstock (with the rosette cutter), and the workpiece held in the lathe chuck, the workpiece was spun up to 1000 RPM, and the non-rotating tailstock wound in.  The net result is the same effect, and the whole system a lot more stable than my drill press.

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In this case I was looking more for a test, so grabbed a scrap of timber that the jaws could grip easily.  It was prone to tearout, so the rosette wasn’t as pristine as is possible, but still it confirmed the proof-of-concept.

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(For those playing at home, that happens to be the Titan chuck with Powerjaws – that puppy wasn’t going ANYWHERE!)

Back to the rosette cutter, and just to reiterate those points – tungsten carbide blade edges, interchangeable knives, and solid body – it is a serious rosette cutter.  I was thinking that it would make for an interesting wheel cutter if the particular knives were made, and being interchangeable, you could have a much wide range of sizes, and wheel types without the cost of a full wheel cutter each time.

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You can get this particular rosette cutter here, knives here, and start making your own dust circles!

Damascus steel

There are not a lot of swords around these days, and the original techniques for producing Damascus steel have been lost to the ages.  Modern Damascus steel is typically created by a technique called billet welding.  This is where a billet of steel is hammered out, folded over, then hammered together again which causes the steel to weld together.  Hammered out again, folded, hammered together.  Rinse and repeat.

Japanese forgers used to use a similar technique, throwing a layer of carbon over the steel before folding it.  This creates layers of ferrite and cementite – soft and hard microlayers.

The result of whatever method is used, is steel with a distinctive organic wavy pattern across the surface.

Despite Damascus steel swords no longer being a household item (well in the household of a knight, or Samurai), you can still buy products that benefit from the tough, durable, yet razor-sharp edge that Damascus steel provides.  These are kitchen knives, with the incredible distinctive surface that layers upon layers of folded, billet welded steel creates.

So you may be wondering where this is leading? Well, you remember the steak knife project I did recently, creating wooden handles on a set of four knives?  (These kits are still available by the way).  How would you like to have a kitchen knife made from Damascus steel for which you have created the handle?

Professional Woodworkers Supplies have Damascus steel kitchen knife blanks that you can handle with a distinctive timber of your choice.  I do a great deal of cooking, and like having good knives.  So having one made from Damascus steel is something I have wanted for a while, and even better as a shed project.

Damascus steel Zhen Nakiri knife blank

They make great gifts as well.

Creating a handle for this knife blank will be featured in an upcoming article (just as soon as I make it!)

This particular blank is a Zhen Nakiri blade, which is particularly suited to cutting vegetables.  It has a blade length of 170mm, and a Rockwell C hardness of 60-62, and has 67 layers. Check out the range available here.

Hock Carving Knives

Ron Hock has long been renowned for producing superior blades for planes, and his approach is based on a strong understanding of the metallurgy involved in producing high quality steel that is specifically suited to the purpose of plane blades.

But what is interesting to know, is producing high-carbon steel blades is not where he started.  It was making knives, and it came to be that his knowledge of steel lead him into focusing on plane blades.

It sounds like it was a long time coming then, but Ron has (finally) returned to where he started, and has released a set of carving knives that incorporate his high-carbon Rc62 blades in a Bubinga handle. These knives just make you want to take up carving (if you don’t already!) They are visually aesthetically pleasing, and you know beyond any doubt that they have the best possible steel blades incorporated into them.

Hock Carving Knives

Hock Carving Knives

This set has been sourced from Professional Woodworkers Supplies, and they can be purchased individually, or as a set of 5.

The knife range

The knife range

From left to right, they are:

1.25″ Stab Carving Knife (32mm Angled) High Carbon Steel
1.25″ Carving Knife (32mm Straight) High Carbon Steel
1.25″ Detail Knife (32mm Fine Point) High Carbon Steel
1″ Chip Carving Knife (25mm Offset) High Carbon Steel
1″ Carving Knife (25mm Straight) High Carbon Steel

Did I mention they are sharp?!

Blade Cover

Blade Cover

Speaking of which, each comes fitted with a piece of plastic tubing, which makes a good blade cover, to protect the blade if it happens to fall on the floor (and yourself if you do something silly (unless you happen to be using that particular blade at the time, but I guess that goes without saying….))

So if you are already a carver (or are interested in giving it a try), these knives are certainly worth having a good look at. (And they won’t break the bank).

Hock Carving Knives

Hock Carving Knives

And as an aside, if you have not heard of Hock Blades before, here are a couple of his YouTube videos, which are definitely worth watching.

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