Tool Thursday: Swivel Knife

As I mentioned last month, as part of the Tandy “Black Friday” deals, I was able to secure a new swivel knife for myself. I am the proud owner of a brand new Craftool Pro Swivel Knife. I think I have written about my first knife before (probably the most basic knife Tandy sells), and I may have recommended it at the time because it is inexpensive… but I am rescinding that now!

Well, maybe not rescinding that entirely, but giving a different perspective. If you plan to do this for more than an occasional hobby, do not use a cheap swivel knife! If you’re only planning to do things maybe once a year or once a month and small amounts, go ahead. I did pretty nice things with the cheap knife. I thought maybe I wasn’t doing work quite as nicely as my leatherwork mentor/role model because she’s been doing it much longer and much more… and then I spent an hour with the new knife.

The first half hour was AWFUL, and this is why I am suggesting you DO NOT use a cheap knife to learn if you plan to make more than an occasional hobby out of this and get a nice knife “eventually.” I basically had to re-learn how to use a swivel knife, it is that different! While a half hour isn’t too long to anguish, I learn really, really (no really) quickly and can imagine far more frustration for most people.

The weight is not much different, but the way it moves is entirely. It is ever slightly so much thinner and taller, the ball bearings make the movements astronomically more smooth, and it all adds up to relearning a tool I was starting to feel some mastery of. Seriously, I managed to drop it while I was using it and overall felt like an uncoordinated toddler for that first half hour.

If I could do it all over again, I would never have started with a cheap knife, and I’m passing that learning along to the world wide web. Admittedly, I should have known better. EVERY STEP of the way with leather crafting has been get a new tool, suddenly work improves some percent. It has, by far, been the most tool-intensive artistic endeavor I have undertaken. Every time I find a new thing to buy, it becomes more apparent why adding designs to the leather is called “tooling” and possibly a bit why the traditional ways are dying out.

Give me a surface and some paint and I can create a painting- you don’t even need brushes. Give me a hook and yarn and you can create crochet. Origami you only need paper! I can think of other examples that only need a handful of things. And while I can create a passable project out of just leather, a swivel knife, and one stamp– I can add so much more with more stamps, and then a bevel tool for the edges, and a burnisher to finish them, and the list goes on. Rivets and the tool to set them. Hole punches of various types. Blah, blah, blah…

I love this art/craft, but it is not for the faint of heart or empty of pockets.

Join me next week to hear about my latest projects. Happy Holidaze!

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