THE BEGINNING IMPACT  

I saw Paolo's large bowie at Don Fogg's forum where it was posted and I liked it very much and sent P.Abrera an email enquiring.
The next morning I had a kind reply and we were on for a similar project, only a tad more simplified. Designers can be such a neckpain, but I was very enthusiastic that Paolo is from the Philippines and he is working in Manila.
To further assess the size of the handle, I asked Paolo to send me some pictures to see where did the protrusion of the grip was aiming at and so he did.

I wanted to see if it would fit my own grip habit (the handle had to conform to my hand not the other way round).

Now I knew the scale and the grip and that was of paramount importance for me. The texture in the blade is amazing so I started to make a few simple drafts for a similar piece in 1060, a steel that Paolo uses.

 THE DESIGN  

I observed Paolo's designed and absorbed it and drew the outline in which I made the pointed area not so bulging and round, but more pointy. It is more a weapon than a wood chopper, but should be touch enough for it. I also removed the finger separation from the handle. Just a personal preference out of my own ergonomic habits.

In the correspondence we exchanged Paolo mentioned he would like to use a copper spacer and I asked for blackened steel but, just a plain piece of steel about 3 mm thick epoxyed to the wooden handle and blackened guard. The blade would have the same beautiful primitive textured look much better in the picture than in my rendition and I would prefer a very sharp non-beveled edge. Just plain sharp, capable of the paper test and of cutting tree branches. But I have simplified the blade's geometry when it comes to the hollow grind near the guard and below the texture. I don't need it. I think the simpler, the better. The handle wood, as long as it has the same color of the original, it is up to Paolo.
Well, this is going to be fun as I start receiving his photos. It is always super to have a tutorial from the forge onwards.

 THE MAKING

 

Paolo Abrera started sending me amazing photographs. Amazing because he uses more traditional implements. The charcoal and the forge attracts me so much more than the modern gas forges because it is closer to the origins of smithing. It is not a reenaction, it is geniune and somehow becomes historical in this sense.

The charcoal and its chopper. Then the 1060 steel bar. Then the 1060 bar being heated in the coal's hot fire.

Now the tip is shaped on the anvil. Paolo procceeds in tappering and pre-curving. About the same time he takes some of the steel and shapes the bowie's guard.
Then, through fire and hammering, the tang is extended. Next, the lenghty work of refining the profile followed by immersing the blade into fire for thermal cycling to refine the steel.
Now the blade is slowly cooling from normalization and the next picture shows all the scales from it.
The shape is awesome in the size and the width of the blade. Then we can see the blade after being draw filed along with the guard.
Paolo now has just finished texturing the blade in his own way and again it is immersed in his amazing forge. Look at the beauty of it. I'm sure it is refractory material and I cannot see any belows but it has such a noble aspect as it heat threats the steel.
   

Now the steel emerges again from the fire. Paolo has heath treated and tempered the blade and its edge.

Here we can see the rough edged/polished blade. Paolo is letting a controled rusting happen at the textured area. As the polish progresses he will patinate it to a hard dark/black oxide layer that will inhibit heavy rusting.
Then we have another angle of what Paolo calls rough polish. The last picture shows
some very old "molave" wood for the handle.

The tedious business of filing the guard slot, followed by roughing out the spacer slot, and finally forging the guard to tje required curved shape.

Here Paolo shows the moderate niku on the blade that I requested but with enough meat for support. I can see it is getting really sharp. Notice the nicely defined section of the blade. The next picture with the blade, the guard and spacer and the "molave" wood cut in rough shape announces the near completion of the project. Finally, the "molave" wood is carved in its rough shape.

Paolo alternates between a rasp, spokeshave and file. This molave is old and has many grain reversals so it doesnt finish all that well with a spokeshave alone.

The first picture now shows the handle being fit. Then Paolo surprised me by making a beautiful wooden sheath that can be seen in different stages. While this all was happening, Paolo had to go on a working trip, had to work round the clock on his main profession, yet he went to the length of kindly making a scabbard that was a great surprise.

And finally, using the traditional weaved way to reinforce the scabbard, Paolo finished the work, always saying how unsatisfied he was with the work.

When one reads the interview that I had the pleasure to conduct, which can also accessed at the bottom of the page, one can fully perceive how much of a bowie this is and how much of a daily implement it can be.

All in all the bowie is not a bowie, but a machete or a bolo, if you like. Just look at the kind and generous surroundings of bamboo, wood, fresh banana trees and leaves. This is pure hybridation in its most genuine sense, that is, interpreting a knife of another culture and adapting it to one's own culture and references.

The fact is that I had once more seen how talented and versatile most Philippinos are with the implements used, and how brilliant was the conversation we had that I fully reccomend be read right below.

 
   TO INTERVIEW WITH PAOLO ABRERA

by Antonio Cejunior - BLADESIGN 2005