In Focus is a regular feature produced
by the photography staff of the Daily Journal.
Posted on January 16, 2017 by Adam Robison in News

2A   |   MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 2017


The final pieces of Crawford's slip-joint knife sit on a paper towel in his shop as he gets belts changed on one of his grinders.

Chris Crawford of Saltillo made his first knife in 2001, having learned the skill from the late Ted McMinn of Mooreville.

As the years passed, he has sharpened his skills and gained experience. He starts with bare materials and finishes with a handcrafted knife.

He starts with making his slip-joint knife by steel for the blade and spring. He uses nickel silver for the liners and bolsters.

The scales – handles – are made of jigged bone. Crawford uses a metal-cutting band saw to cut the parts and shapes them on belt grinders.

A drill press is used to create holes for the pins, a dovetail bit is used for the nail nick and a head spinner bit is used for the knife pins. Other tools used in the process are a forge, ball-peen hammers, tape and a hand-held sander. In the end, after having almost 20 hours of work, he has a knife that is a piece of artwork.

To find Crawford’s work go to

Crawford pulls the blade out from his forge at his workshop. Heating the blade and then quenching it in oil causes it to harden. Once it’s hardened, the blade is tempered to keep it from breaking easily.

With one side of the liners set in the handle, Crawford has the spring held in place by setting a couple of pins as he assembles the knife. The handle is made of green jigged bone.

Crawford changes sand paper on his horizontal belt grinder as he works on one of his slip-joint knives. It usually takes about 20 hours to build one knife.

Using a hand-held torch, Crawford heats the spring for the knife to temper it. This process allows the spring to bend without breaking and return to the same position. When it reaches the proper temperature, the steel turns bright blue.

Sparks fly as Crawford grinds the bevels on the knife blade. He places the blade into a grinding jig he made to hold the blade into place as he works on his belt grinder.

After using a small ball-peen hammer to set the pins flush, Crawford uses a head spinner attachment on his drill press to clean the edges.

Here’s the final product. After hours of work, all done by hand, the slip-joint knife is ready for use.