Known for his custom kitchen knives, here are the tools Dmitriy Popov relies upon to craft his creations.
“I am not going to score any originality points for naming my belt grinder as the most important tool in the shop,” Dmitriy Popov begins with a smile. “I have had the pleasure of using a wide variety of grinders and the Wilmont TAG 101 is my favorite. Chris Williams, who builds it, is a knifemaker himself and it shows in the product. Also, Chris is only a message away in case you may need anything, not that you have to worry about it too much the way this machine is built.
“I have a large variety of tooling accessories that I use with the grinder—radius platens, flat platens, rotary plates, large and small wheels, as well as a surface-grinding attachment. I run the grinder off a dedicated Genesis VFD [Variable Frequency Drive], which enables me to control the speed.
“Next up is my Toolmex 1-horsepower disk sander,” Dmitriy continues. “It took me a little while to get to know this machine and to incorporate it into my workflow—but these days I would struggle to make a knife without it. My sander is hooked up to yet another VFD, which is shared between the disk sander and my second belt grinder through a switch. I can slow it right down and change the rotation direction.
“I primarily use a disk sander for two purposes. First, to thin out the knife behind the edge. I do this very carefully with the aid of water cooling in order not to generate any heat that would negatively impact heat treatment. Secondly, I use it to shape facets on my knife handles, which are mostly wa [Japanese-style octagonal] handles these days.”
His power hammer is a real game-changer.
“I used to hate forging as tendinitis in my elbow would flare right up and would take weeks to settle,” he explains. Before Popov moved his shop to a rural area, getting a power hammer was not an option due to the noise level it generates. “Needless to say is how much easier, quicker and more pleasurable my forging experience is now,” he writes. “The hammer is only a 15-kilogram Anyang but it gets the job done in no time.”
Dmitriy does his own heat treating with a Paragon KM24 Pro Heat Treat oven. “Quite a high-ticket item this one,” he notes, “a three-zone 415V/3P/15A unit which reaches temperatures of 1,100° C/2,012 F° in just 15 minutes. It has super precise temperature control front to back, which is so crucial for me in order to be able to squeeze out the most of each steel I work with.
“My milling machine is definitely underutilized in my workshop. When selecting the mill, I wanted something solid and with enough vertical clearance. The Optimum MH28V fit the bill. Machine and tooling is not cheap and I use it only for a couple operations, but it is a real time saver.”
Last but not least, Dmitriy expounds the virtues of his large workbenches.
“This seems simple but if you make knives, you know that you will end up using any horizontal surface available to you. I would say that one-third of my workshop floorspace (page 45) is taken up with workbenches which allow me to work on multiple projects at the same time, and stay organized and productive. I found that yellow-tongue flooring panel is a great workbench surface, and frames can either be built from timber or, alternatively, metal warehouse framing can be purchased from any hardware shop or Costco.”
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