A Larry Davidson Hornet with Scrimshaw by Bob Hergert From the collection of Torstein Bo (a.ka. "IXpfah") of Norway You may click on any image in this exhibit to see a larger, high-resolution version. The larger images average about 230K. Each opens in a new window.
Larry Davidson of Cedar Hill, Texas is a well-known custom knife maker. He's been making balisongs seriously since 2001. He calls this model, "The Hornet."
The handle inserts on this Hornet are genuine fossil ivory either mastodon or wooly mammoth (The major distinction between the two is the shape of the uncut tusk so it's virtually impossible to now determine if these cut pieces are mastodon or mammoth.). That ivory has been further enhanced by noted scrimshander Bob Hergert of Port Orford, Oregon. A "scrimshander" is an artist who specializes in the art of scrimshaw. Mr. Hergert is one of the foremost scrimshanders of our day.
Scrimshaw is an ancient art. But the techniques used today date back to about the 17th century. The surface of the material is first polished. The polished surface won't readily absorb ink. The artist then scratches, incises, or engraves that polished surface. The incised piece is rubbed with heavy ink or paint. The excess ink is wiped off but some remains in the incised parts. When that ink or paint dries, the result is a design permanently marked on the piece. You can see step-by-step pictures of the whole process on this web page: http://www.marinearts.com/scrimshaw_technique.htm
There are a number of materials that lend themselves well to scrimshaw, but ivory remains a favorite of scrimshanders the world over.
President John F. Kennedy was a major collector of scrimshaw.
This piece is monochrome using the traditional black ink. But, modern scrimshanders, including Mr. Hergert, sometimes work with colored inks and paints to produce colorful images.
When you see a piece of scrimshaw, keep in mind that every mark and dot you see was placed and made by hand. This is not a photographic or a printing process. Each mark of each piece is done by hand. Each piece is a unique, hand-made work of art.
Mr. Hergert works under a microscope using special tools he makes himself. This enables his skilled hand to produce designs of incredible detail. He calls his technique "Micro-scrimshaw."
You can read more about scrimshaw, see pictures of more of his outstanding work, and even purchase an instructional video on Mr. Hergert's own website, http://www.scrimshander.com.
The front of this balisong is scrimshawed with a lone wolf on one handle and a lovely young lady on the other. I'm told that the lady is a friend of the knife's owner. I don't know about the wolf. The back is scrimshawed with two busy bees, presumably hornets.
Here is a special treat for those of you who have broadband Internet connections. Click HERE and HERE to see very high resolution versions of these pictures. (2.85 and 3.61MBytes. Open in new windows.)
The high-resolution files let you see the incredible detail in Mr. Hergert's "micro-scrimshaw" work. If you have a broadband internet connection, I urge you to download them.
When asked about this knife, Mr. Hergert commented,
"Torstein Bo commissioned me to work on this knife after seeing my website. Initially, he asked me to do the female figure. Capturing an expression on a face 1/4 inch wide presents plenty of challenge. There's no room for error. He then chose the howling wolf, and later the hornets. I decided to create the borders to tie the disparate subjects together. Most of the scrimshaw on this knife was done under a stereo microscope at about 7x power. All work was done by hand with a sharp scribe and black oil paint."
The scrimshaw is amazing. But the knife is great too. Mr. Davidson is a top-notch knife maker who has mastered the balisong form.
Everywhere you look on this knife, the design is great and the workmanship is excellent.
The latch is made of G10 fiberglass material.
G10 is a strong material, but light-weight. It makes this Hornet very quiet during manipulation. And the matte black is a great contrast with the polished stainless steel handles.
There's even some nice file work on the spine.
The Hornet is a "sandwich-style" balisong. Each handle consists of two "slabs" and a spacer held together with several screws.
The Hornet is a big balisong. It's about 9 1/2 inches overall open (that's 24.1cm) and almost 5 3/4 inches closed (that's about 14cm). Being stainless steel, it's also a heavy knife, 7 1/2 ounces (almost 213g). For comparison, a Benchmade model 42 with its skeletonized Titanium handles weights only 4 1/4 ounces (about 120g).
When questioned about the genesis of the Hornet, Mr. Davidson replied,
"The Hornet evolved from a folder design of mine. The Avenger. Mark Meyers (know online as "Balilover") asked if I would provide him with a Avenger blade so that he could have a set of Bali handles made for it. I wasn't keen on that idea. I offered to build him a balisong based on the Avenger design. We worked through the design, me submitting drawings for his review and he, offering advice on the design. After a few changes we had the basic Hornet design completed. I made two prototypes for evaluation, then built the first models. That was my first attempt at the balisong form and I soon found out that balisongs are a simple concept, but are far more complex than the sum of their parts, as I'm sure many other makers have discovered."
And when asked about this specific Hornet, he said,
"I hope Tor enjoys owning this piece as much as I enjoyed making it. After seeing Bobs work, I feel that his efforts really 'made' this Hornet. "
While this knife has two authors, personally-commissioned custom knives like this also involve their owner. Normally, balisong knives are illegal in Norway, but Mr. Bo has received a special official license and he's building an impressive collection. Here's what Mr. Bo has to say about this knife:
"I wasn't sure of what inserts to use in the beginning. I found a web site that sold some very nice exotic wood
slabs. I drooled over those for a long time. I also considered some synthetic pearl of some sort... However, somehow I started thinking of scrimshaw. I think what put it in my mind was an Erickson custom owned by another balisong collector. So I did some research and found Bob Hergert. It's incredibly hard to NOT like his work (haven't even tried), so I contacted him and we started this project.
The next tough decision I had to make was the themes for the ivory inserts. I decided on using the girl,a friend of mine, as a motif from day one. But I still had three more flats to decorate. After a lot of thinking and consulting with Bob and other friends, I decided on something wildlife, preferably something furry. And the wolf was born! However, I didn't have any pictures of a wolf that I liked, so I simply said "wolf" to Bob, and he did the rest. After a few days he showed me a sketch he made, and I loved it!
The "back" of the balisong was an unsure point for a long time. However, Larry suggested a hornet's nest. I forwarded that thought to Bob. He jumped on it instantly, dug out some pictures and sent me some sketches. It HAD to be hornets!
Lastly I'd like to brag of these two Gentlemen. They've been excellent to work with. They were both fast e-mail repliers (which counts quite a bit for me, living in Norway and all, telephoning is pretty much out of the question), and both polite and friendly. I think I had quite some shameful demands regarding the Hornet for Larry Davidson, like all the polishing and file work. He did an outstanding job. As for Bob Hergert, he is also talented to the max with his incredible Micro-scrimshaw. He had some wonderful ideas, like the border motifs. I can imagine that's a lot of work! He also brilliantly found pictures. I suspect the wolf coming from an earlier project or something, since he already had it so handy.
To sum up: It's been unbelievably nice working with these two. As I'm sure I leave out a lot of things that should have been said (not on purpose, of course), I'll just finish by saying the following: Recommended!!
I would also like to thank The Balisong Collector for taking the time to photograph this knife for me, and even make a gallery of it on his website."
Mr. Davidson is currently accepting orders for custom Hornets. The base price is about $400; with the custom inserts, file work, and polished finishes, this one was a little bit more. You can see more of Mr. Davidson's work and contact him at his website, http://davidsonknives.com. (Notice, no www on that URL.)
If you'd like to see more of Mr. Hergert's scrimshaw work, check out his website, http://www.scrimshander.com. He is currently accepting commissions for knives and other work. A project such as that shown here costs about $1000. You can contact him through his website to discuss the details of your project.
And finally, my thanks to my friend Torstein Bo for allowing me to photograph this great knife on its way to Norway.
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