Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I have gotten a lot done the last day or two. I start out finishing on my spurs with a 40 grit belt, then get progressively finer, to a minimum of 400 grit. I will run some on to 800 grit if they are wall hangers. One thing I've learned is belts are cheap. Keeping a sharp belt cuts my time in half and does a lot better job. I'm kinda in production mode until Christmas, and use every time saver I can find.

Cutting the rowel slot. I cut it close with the band saw, then clean it up on the belt grinder.
I'm missing some minor steps in all of this, sometimes because I get busy and forget to take pictures, and sometimes because it's boring. Maybe I should hire a biographer, at least he could document the cuss words that it takes to make a set of spurs.

This set is almost ready for silver.

I road to the sale barn this morning with a neighbor. Lots of rough, thin cattle. You could tell that the hard to catch ones are finally getting caught. Lots of cattle that have never been out of the brush, much less in a pen and took care of. Every body is out of grass and water, and hay is to expensive. So goes a drought. Look out, it's going to last another summer, and there will be lots of broke cowboys by next fall.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

splitting heel bands

These two sets are 1018/nickel damascus. I forged, cleaned up, and sized the billets, and band saw cut to fairly close to final shape. I leave the bottom part of the shank uncut to give me a little more friction in the vice and give me something to grind off after I beat it into the spur shape.

Both of these spurs are ladies size, and this is my ladies size jig.

Heating to bend my bands. I like to use a rosebud tip and oxygen/acetylene on the damascus spurs, I can concentrate my heat where I want it, and I seem to get a lot less failures in my damascus. There is nothing worse than getting this far, only to have the spur pull apart at the welds.

Two sets roughed out. Now on to finishing.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The bottom is a key chain knife. I've made 2 of them. Kim confiscated the first.

Rasp spurs. Ropers seem to like this style, 7/8" heel band, 1 1/2" shank, with an 1 1/4" rowel.

I am back on spurs for a while. I have 4 sets to do before Christmas. I'm afraid to show to much of them, I really don't know who reads the blog on a regular basis, and would hate to spoil a surprise. Maybe some works in progress, and pictures before I stick the silver.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


After several days of shirking duties around the ranch, making excuses about why he hadn't got one yet, and keeping left-overs at my house to a minimum, the greatest hunter in the world emerged from the bushes  with a turkey for Thanksgiving.

I thought for a while that I would be eating mashed potatoes with no gravy, but he came through at the last minute.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Retirement buckles

This buckle is going out as a retirement gift. 1018 /nickel damascus, sterling letters.

It's funny how things are ordered or sold. I built a friend a buckle like this one a couple of years ago, and some one that owns an electronics store saw it and ordered one just like it.

Word of mouth has always been my best advertising. The web site has always been just a place that some one that already knows about me goes to get my phone number. It is also hard to get updated, thus the blog. I can do most of this myself, post things as they get done, and show some work in progresses when I can remember to take pictures. I have sold more items and had more inquiries off the blog than any thing else I've tried, but it still can't beat some one bragging on, or showing off something I've made.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Some knives

I finished these 2 today. The top is lacewood and mokume' handle on damascus, the bottom is black locust and stainless. It is a match to one I have shown in an earlier post and they are going to the same owner.

Ironwood, bois d'arc, and camel bone.
It's been a busy month!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dee's reply

I was pleasantly surprised this morning by a reply to my email to Ms Dee Jepsen. I won't bore everyone with the entire email, but will summarize by saying she seems to be sympathetic to my cause. She stated that she was only the messenger, not the enforcer. Also, she is not with the dept. of no labor, but is a professor at OSU, that teaches farm safety and was merely commenting on the new rules. I started to invite her to my school, there have been lots of kids through it and they all got quite an education.

Now on to important things:
Our first two calves out of our good cows. If prices hold, I'll be able to retire on these two.
We calve on this set between now and Christmas, work them in April, then ween in June. Most years we turn them out on grass until they weigh around 800 pounds, then send them to the feed yard.

A little knife I finished yesterday. 2.75" cutting edge, 7.25" overall length. The wood is black locust that I bought from Mike928, a follower of this blog. Good stuff Mike, it left for a good home this morning.

Kyle's deer for 2011.  He hunts about 15 minutes every year and gets something like this. I guess it helps that he cowboys all day every day on the ranch and knows where every thing hangs out, and what time they get there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Child farm labor

  I recently read an article where you stated the farm labor laws needed to be changed. Why? We are doing just fine as far as I can tell. Has there been a big increase in injuries or deaths to children helping their grandpas and uncles on the ranch that I haven't heard about? 
 I paid my own way through most things as a kid working with horses, and my children worked horse back and hauling hay as they were growing up. It instilled one heck of a work ethic in them. It taught them how to be real men and women, and the value of a dollar. It is a big boost to a kids self esteem when the neighbors ask them to work, not because they are cheap, but because they are good hands. I look forward to my grand kids helping me on the ranch, and I'm smart enough to teach them how to work safely, just as my grandfather taught me.
 We are not all as stupid here on the ranch as some in the government believe. Please leave us alone.
Chad Cunningham
10693 cr 452
Cross Plains, Tx 76443

P.S. Might I suggest solitaire on your computer if you need something to do, instead of thinking up these asinine rules that don't do any thing but make things harder on a parent and rancher.

This is an email I sent to a Ms Dee Jepsen. She is with the dept. of labor, and, or, the dept. of food, drug, and biological engineering. Either way I am sick of the government treating me like I am stupid. It seems there are more rules every day, that help nothing or anybody. 
 If you haven't heard of the new rules they are proposing for farm labor, you should, hell, your kid won't even be able to mow his grandma's yard. Ridiculous!
This kinda sums it up better than I can, after all I'm stupid, just ask the government.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Knives in various stages of handle installation. For these, I'm using Gorilla glue between the wood and steel, and 2 part epoxy between the wood and pins. I've tried every epoxy known, and the Gorilla has never failed me. A few of the others have. You just can't have any gaps between the wood and steel, but I really shouldn't have any way.
5 of a 10 knife order. Amboyna burl on 4, mesquite on the middle. These knives are 6" overall length, with a 2.5" cutting edge.

2 are 5160/8670/15n20 damascus, the middle is 1095/nickel.
I finished 2 more this afternoon, and should finish the other 3 tomorrow, unless something goes wrong. Then its off to the sheath maker.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


 We have collected quite few corriente cows over the years. We keep most of our heifers from the roping pen, watch the sale barns and papers, and pick them up cheap two or three at a time.
 These cows will average about 900 pounds, live on almost nothing, and raise a calf as big as they are. They can cover a lot more ground in a day than any other breed, and will. They don't hang around the water or feed ground waiting, they get out and hustle.
 I put angus bulls with mine and get a good calf, most end up in the feed lot with the rest of our calves and do just fine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heat treating

Heat treating knives. If I don't get this part right, all the pretty you can put on one won't do any good. All it will be is a hunk of steel with a piece of wood glued on.

I put the blades in my oven and heat to a specific temperature(1550 degrees for this particular steel). When temp and time have been reached I dunk them in the bucket of oil on the floor.
 The oil is formulated for this purpose, and most important, has a high flash point which reduces the chance of my bucket catching on fire. Automatic transmission fluid works well, but I've set the bucket on fire more than once. And it ain't easy to put out. Motor oil doesn't work well, but some of the vegetable oils do.
I then put them back in the oven for a 2 hours at a specific temperature(350 degrees for this steel) to temper them. Tempering makes them where they are not as brittle.
These are the ones I did today. Still a long ways to go before they are a knife. And yes the shop cat is always in the way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just stuff

I came up with these meteorite pieces, and can't wait to try them in a billet of damascus. It may not be the best knife, but it will be a good conversation piece. I have some petrified dinosaur skin I might use for handle material on one, if I can figure out how to cut it.

Some pictures from the game camera behind the house. Not many people see two headed turkeys.

The hunters feed was a big success. Lots of people in town. I sold three knives in the couple of hours I was there, not a bad saturday for Cross Plains.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deer season

But first, important stuff like spurs. Made from farriers rasps, old silver quarters for conchos.

Deer season starts in the morning. Traffic on our dirt roads has been dangerous for the past 2 days, lots more silver cans in the ditch, make sure the dogs stay home, count cattle sunday and monday and check for bullet wounds, direct lost hunters to the road they missed a mile back, and answer the question,"what do ya'll do out here".
 It's really not that bad( except for the traffic, slow down, it ain't the interstate). Cross Plains put on a big hunters feed tomorrow at noon, and my chamber of commerce bigwig daughter has set me up a booth to sell my knives from. 11 am - 3 pm, how bad could it be? She also informed me that I am now a member of the COC, even though I actually live and work in the  big city of Admiral. I will put my foot down when she tries to make me attend one of those meetings.
 http://www.jsartandsoul.com/http://www.photojkc.com are her businesses. Take a look, she's pretty talented.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rodeo spurs

I get to build rough stock spurs once in a while. I don't consider it a specialty or anything, I think I'm just a maker who listens and builds exactly what they want.
 The top is a set of 1 piece bareback spurs that will be at the NFR in December. I will bet he has the only one piece spurs there. 10 points to anyone that can name him!
 The next will be at the NFR in a couple of years. These are welded. I'm not sure I can forge these and keep a clean line and straight shank on these skewed ones.

A cold front is blowing through. Might be a good day to hang around the forge tomorrow. I have a lot to forge, spurs, buckles, and knives, all on the Christmas list. It's coming fast.