Sunday, May 15, 2011

Palette knife customization


Above is an ordinary palette knife. I have been breaking these frequently enough that I needed to come up with a better solution. The first one of these I bought about forty years ago lasted me twenty years, the second, lasted perhaps ten years, the third about a year. Recently they have been breaking in a matter of weeks. The last one I bought broke the first day I used it. The part that breaks is where the tang (the wire neck that runs from the handle) is soldered to its spatulate blade. The second problem with these is that the tang, being round, breaks free from whatever glue holds it inside the handle and begins to swivel. That makes them useless too.

There are better palette knives made by Liquitex that have a flat one piece tang and a larger handle. They don't have a round tang that can become loose and turn in the handle during use and there is no weld where the tang meets its blade. Since I am 32 feet tall and weigh over 1600 pounds, I like that bigger handle too.

Below is one of those knives, the blade is huge, about 4 1/2 inches long. I like to clean my palette with it and use it for tubing paint, but it is really too large to use mixing piles of paint while I am working. This knife costs about six dollars, so it is inexpensive. These Liquitex knives are available through Jerrys artarama and many other places.


I put one of these knives in my bench vise and using an airplane shears, and a tin snips, available at any hardware store, I cut it down. First I drew on the blade with a felt tip pen the new profile I wanted, then carefully snipped it down to that profile. Next I touched it up with a file until it was smooth. I wouldn't want to use a grinder to do this though, I am afraid I would take the temper out of the steel blade if I heated it up too much. You want to be careful to keep your hand from slipping into the blade as you do this, of course.

Below is my custom palette knife with flat tang and power-grip handle. the reshaped blade is now three inches long. Of course you can create any shape or size blade you want this way. I think I have solved that problem and expect the new knife to last for many years.

22 comments:

Tim said...

You could also use it to dig out your car if it ever gets stuck in the snow. Or fight a small animal.

Nina Stephens said...

Love this post!!

Bill Guffey said...

Wicked knife.

David Rodman Johnson said...

Ah yes . . . the artist's shiv, fight your way out/or into any situation !

mariandioguardi.com said...

Could the problem be that you were using a painting knife for scraping? Just saying...

Mary Byrom said...

Heck I thought I was the only person getting these bad knives...my 40 year old knives all finally died 2 years ago...then I had to buy all new knives..they all died in a couple of months...I kept buying new knives and no matter where they were made they would break at that joint...I kept an old knife and compare them... the new ones are a different breed...cheap.

jeff said...

I've used epoxy to fix my knives and it seems to work so far.

Deb said...

hmmmmm... this gives me an idea for a new business enterprise.......

random question: Will we get to see the completed Texas paintings? pretty
pulleeeze????

Plein Air Gal said...

I was told that Richard Schmid heats his knifes to bend the handle in the opposite direction. I've heard that there may be others who do this kind of thing too. So can't help but wonder - why don't the manufacturers make knives the way artists want them? Maybe we all need to do a write-in campaign!

Stapeliad said...

You could fight off the Cryptoprocta Ferox or Malgasy Fossa with that knife!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Tim;
That is exactly what I intend to do.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Nina;
Thanks.
........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill;
Some other knives are not so nice.
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

David;
I thought of titling this post Homemade Shivs for artists.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Masrian;
I do scrape with my knife.
.....Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary;
I wonder if the bayonets made in China are any better?
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

jeff;
That didn't work for me, and welding failed too.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb;
Yes I will probably show some of those.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Plein Air Gal ;
I wonder what they look like when he has finished.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Stapeliad;
Those keep getting into my garden at night, I intend to confront one with my new knife.I studied vivisection in high school.
..............Stape

tom martino said...

I agree that the Liquitex knives seem more durable, but the "business end" (the actual blade)of all these knives seems to lack the flexibility required for sensitive paint application. Yes, the manufacturers would benefit from our inputs as end-users of their mass-produced trinkets!

Johan Derycke said...

I use an old plastic credit card for cleaning my palette. Well, not a credit card, but a similar bank card type, handed out by shops, libraries, etc. It works like a charm and there is plenty of space to pick up lots of paint at once.
Since I don't have many spares, I usually ask my friends every now and then if they have any of those cards they regret carrying everywhere. They're happy to get rid of their old ones, and I'm happy too :D