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WEB EXCLUSIVE: On the cutting edge: Paul Henicke creating knives of beauty, utility
BY Luke Clayton, Special to Star Local News
In an era where mass production is the name of the game, owning something custom made is becoming rare.
I think that is one of the primary reasons why custom-made knives, guns and even clothing will always appeal to many, especially hunters and fishermen.
We sportsmen and women get attached to the tools that we depend upon when afield or on the water. Using items that were custom made for us adds much to the sentimental value and often to the usefulness of these tools.
“I build a wide variety of knives, each with a different design to match the needs of the individual that puts my knives to work,” Henicke said. “Most of my blades are designed to do multi-purpose tasks such as field dressing and skinning game. A good knife for the hunter needs to have a tip that’s pointed enough to do the field dressing job, but have a rounded blade for skinning.”
Henicke believes the quality of his knives come from tempering the metal correctly.
“The majority of my knives are made from either D2 or 440C steel, both ideal for knife blades,” he said. “The Rockwell scale is used to determine hardness of steel. I temper the quarter-inch of the cutting part of the blade to around 58 Rockwell. This makes for the perfect hardness of the cutting edge. There is a very fine line between being too soft, resulting in an edge that loses its sharpness quickly, to an edge that is too hard, which makes it brittle and difficult to sharpen. The upper part of the blade needs a bit of flexibility, which is accomplished in the tempering process.”
The proper handle is another very important aspect of custom knife building.
Not everyone has the same size hands and although many stock knives are built so they can be used by just about anyone, Henicke makes sure the handle or gripping part of the knife fits the user.
“I use several different materials for knife handles,” he said. “Antlers are very popular, but it’s often challenging to find an antler with the perfect curvature to make the knife handle an extension of the user’s hand. Many of my clients prefer exotic hardwoods such as the wood from the very dense grain Bocote tree, native to Africa or Dynwood, which is also very durable.”
Fish fillets knives are one of Henicke’s specialties.
And, although stainless steel is often used to prevent rusting after regular exposure to water, he favors 1095 regular steel for fillet knives.
“This steel is a bit more flexible but because it is not stainless, it requires drying and the application of a light coating of oil to prevent rust after each use,” Henicke said. “Most stock fish fillet knives are a bit too flimsy and short for heavy duty fish cleaning. I like blades 6-9 inches long that are strong enough to easily cut through the fish’s rib cage, but flexible enough so that the user can feel the bone structure during the filleting process.”
Custom knives, like custom cars or rifles, can be extremely functional and useful or showy, designed and crafted for display.
Henicke’s knives are made for work and priced likewise, but don’t think for a minute they aren’t works of art. I learned their worth the first time I tackled the skinning and quartering of two wild porkers. At the end of the process, the blade was brought back to razor sharpness with a few strokes on the sharpener.
To learn more about the art of knife building, give Henicke a call at: 817-240-7983.
A list of common blade types used by knife makers:
A normal or straightback blade has a curving edge and flat back. A dull back lets the wielder use fingers to concentrate force; it also makes the knife heavy and strong for its size. The curve concentrates force on a small point, making cutting easier. This knife can chop as well as pick and slice.
A curved, trailing-point knife has a back edge that curves upward. This lets a lightweight knife have a larger curve on its edge Trailing point blades provide a larger cutting area, or belly, and are common on skinning knives.
A clip-point blade is like a normal blade with the back concavely formed to make the tip thinner and sharper. The back edge of the clip may have a false edge that could be sharpened to make a second edge. The sharp tip is useful as a pick or for cutting in tight places. If the false edge is sharpened it increases the knife's effectiveness in piercing. The Bowie knife has a clipped blade and clip points are quite common on pocket knives and other folding knives.
A drop-point blade has a convex curve of the back toward the point. It handles much like the clip-point with a stronger point less suitable for piercing. Swiss army pocket knives often have drop-points on their larger blades.
Deer hunting opportunities still available
The primary deer hunting season is closed in the northern part of the state but deer hunting opportunities are still available for bucks and does through February on many ranches under TPWD management programs.
Many counties offer late-season doe and spike buck hunting. Check the TPWD website for specific details.
Duck season update
Duck hunting has been slower than normal on many of the bigger reservoirs, despite the predicted plethora of ducks this season.
Duck guide Larry Large (970-819-3464) reports good shooting on mallards, widgeon and gadwall on private waters where he guides east of Dallas.
“We hunt one private lake that encompasses almost 300 acres and this time of the year, it’s usually covered with ducks,” he said. “This year, the birds have abandoned the big waters. They have moved to the more isolated pot holes where shooting has been good during the first couple hours of daylight as ducks move from one pond to the next. Action type decoys are proving valuable on our late season hunts, especially the swimming decoys.”
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