Oyster knives

Today I was wondering about what I should write to you. I mean to stick to my plan. After a little thought, I remembered you have never seen the knives I recently made. This was a lot of fun. A good friend of mine needed a pair of knives for shucking oysters. He had the great idea to add a little bottle opener on the pommel of the knife. As I love new challenges, I gladly accepted.

The process of making the blade is a pretty simple affair. Using a 3# crosspeen I flatten and spread about 4″ of material. I switch to a 2# hammer and then set in the bevels. These blades are not sharp like you might expect. In fact they have a visible flat face about one sixteenth of an inch. They have a thick central spine. With the 1# and 1 & ½# ballpeen hammers I finish the blade and form the tip. Oyster knives do not have a point so much as a chisel. It has to be robust enough not to give, while prying apart what is essentially two rocks, held closed by a muscle.

The thumb or finger divot in the center was set in with the 1# ballpeen placed where the depression is to be, and struck with another, heavier hammer. The bottle opener is the head of the spike, drawn out, scrolled around and then set with a curve, once again by the 1# ballpeen struck by another hammer.

Below is a video we made showing the bottle opener in action. We went and bought commercial cider especially to try it out. We had a lot of fun on this project, this element held it’s own special excitement. I had never created a purpose built bottle opener before.

This is actually the second bottle. The first one was out of frame!

I did the twists in between finishing the other elements of the knife. In hindsight, I probably should have made both knives and done the twists last. Live and learn.

Once the forging was complete, I began filing. Cleaning up the twists was done with a coarse round file. For everything else I used a mill file. The blade was scraped to bare metal by draw filing, then smoothed. I sanded them with 180 grit paper, then 220 grit. This is so they will not trap any food and be easy to clean.

I heat treated after filing but before sanding, more filing had to be done after the treatment. Here are everyone’s favorite sort of pictures:

They were quenched in a mixture of waste oil, linseed oil, and vegetable oil. They did indeed harden. As rail spikes seldom exceed .3% carbon they are not very hard, but these knives should be plenty tough for the kind of twisting and prying they are going to be subjected to.

I cleaned them for the last time and then drew temper on them. I used a steel block for tempering, heating the knives from the heat in the block. This offers a little more control. The process requires two hands and high heat. So I got no pictures of it. Here are some pictures of the temper process completed.

While the work is hot from the tempering, I coat the entire knife with paste wax. It bakes into the skin of the knife and creates a more durable coating. It can be touched up with more of the same wax.

Last look!

Then off they went to another’s hands. I hope they give good service!

I had a lot of fun making these knives. I had a lot of fun writing about them, and sharing it with you. Having been informed that my son needs chocolate milk, I will have to conclude this little article here. Thank you dear reader for your interest. I look forward to writing for you again this Friday!

Until next time, dear reader,

Fare well, wherever you fare,


Published by Wulf's Fire

I am a father, husband and smith. I focus on doing a the best things I can with what I have available. This leads to some creative solutions. My wife and three children live and work a homestead and smithy in the swamps of northern Florida.

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