Made in the Craft Lab

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Ben Orford

The Bushcraft Knives and tools that you see on these pages are made by myself here in The Craft Lab. The designs come from my many years of working with wood and metal. I came into the tool making side of things through the traditional craft of green wood working, pole-lathe turning and woodland crafts. I studied a traditional Green Woodworking apprenticeship for three years in my home county of Herefordshire.

I had always had a knife in my pocket from as early as I can remember and as I grew up and bought more serious fixed blades, I found that they were never quite the right shape or size for the job, so I started to produce my own. Through the action of making knives and using them for woodcraft, I found that experimenting with various shapes, sizes and thicknesses could produce a tool that worked much better for me. Many of my first knives were not what I would call pretty, but they worked well and this encouraged me to pursue my passion. For me it was also a great feeling to be able to carve wood, or go camping with a knife that I had made myself.

After more than seventeen years of making tools and using them, the knives you see here are now very functional and, I hope, also aesthetically pleasing.

Most styles of  my knives have a Scandinavian style flat grind, which is imperative on a good carving tool. This flat grind adds to the ease of sharpening, strength and the control of use whilst carving. The standard knives are made from 01 tool steel, which is a high carbon tool steel which means it needs a bit more care than a stainless steel knife, but to my mind is superior because it is easier to sharpen, has a good edge holding ability and feels nicer to use. We do make knives from other steels, including various Stainless steels, D2 and Damascus steels.

I heat treat all my own tools in specialist heat treatment kilns, including Cryo treatments on the high alloy steels. I test each blade on my calibrated Rockwell tester after hardening to ensure full hardness is achieved and then again after tempering to ensure each blade has been tempered to the required hardness.

These full tang knives are great all round woodcraft tools, very good for splitting material down for feather sticks and all outdoor tasks. The smaller partial tang knives (the metal does not go all the way through the handle) are for finer carving and smaller jobs where a high degree of leverage is not required.

I use mostly British hardwoods for the handle scales, many of which I have harvested myself. I also buy timber from local wood yards where they have a good selection of local timbers. We have such beautiful native wood here in the UK that there seems little reason to import other woods from around the world, but do use woods such as Masur Birch from Scandinavia and Birdseye Maple from the USA due to their practical and unique nature. I also use Reindeer Antler and Camel bone as many people prefer a more exotic knife handle. Some handles are made from Micarta, G10 and other synthetic materials for people who want a more maintenance free handle or if they are going into very extreme environments. I use brass, stainless and alloy Loveless style rivets or Corby bolts to attach the handle and epoxy adhesive. I use a wide range of coloured liners between the handle scales and the blade which adds a practical and cosmetic effect, these are made from vulcanised fibre or G10. All knives have a thong tube for a lanyard if needed and come honed ready for use.

I also make a range of green woodworking and carving tools, some of which are hand forged.

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Lois Orford

I make all the leather work that you see on these pages.  From a very early age I found I had some skills with sewing and textiles and over the years developed this to make my own camping kit.  Over time I found myself drawn to leather for it’s toughness and durability for outdoor use especially the fact that it was perfect for protecting the edge on my woodworking tools.  After some attempts to make my own tool covers for my greenwood tools I realised I needed some extra help to hone my skills, so I booked onto a leather work course with a chap called Ben Orford.  My new skills opened up a whole world of creative possibilities that led to the range of leather work that you see here.

All my work is handmade and hand-stitched using a lock stitch, which means it will not all unravel if you damage a few threads, unlike many machine stitched goods. I use veg tanned leather in various thicknesses ranging from 2mm – 4mm depending on the product requirements.  Vegetable tanned leather gives the ability for it to be wet moulded which makes it perfect for making knife sheaths with a locking fit and for shaped pouches. Each knife sheath is moulded to each individual knife, so that it fits perfectly and is held in place securely.

I used to dye all the leather myself but as productivity increased I decided to have it pre-dyed which gives a superior finish and gives me more time for actually making the products.  The leather is dyed to our range of colours, Natural, Woodland Tan, Conker Brown, Smoky Brown and Charcoal Black.  All our products are stitched with braided polyester thread for toughness and longevity.  I mainly use natural coloured thread but at the shows we attend you will also see green, orange, yellow and red on display.  I use solid brass hardware for it’s traditional appearance and strength.

My intention is to make products that not only look good but have long term practical use in the field.

I can also now be found helping Ben out in his part of the workshop, when time allows, sawing and drilling the carving tool handles and glueing them up.  A nice time for a chat together before I go back upstairs to my world of leather.  Another necessary part of my working day is of course the admin and the packaging of all the tools and leather work that gets sent all over the world each week.