The Maker’s Hamlet Doubt

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the Hamlet doubt of the makerThe hamlet doubt par excellence of the makers.

CNC yes or CNC no? That’s the problem!

The knife is custom even if it is made with the CNC or only if it is made with the sander?

Now it’s clearly a pun to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet but this question is part of one of the many controversies/debates/other kind of mental saws that are made on the net on social media between makers.

Now I tell you how I feel!

This razor is handmade, with a sander or with the CNC, don’t you care much?

But it’s the hand that uses it that makes the difference!

You don’t decide that you do what’s best, that’s your choice!

He is the end user who takes importance to the different technological way of realization because he/she wants a knife that expresses his desire, his need.

Now based on what he wants he will look for the knife for him,which can be:

  • the standard “piece” (a nice knife sure but hundreds all equal or
  • the custom“piece”, unique, rare, maybe made just tailored for him or by that maker who follows so much on social media or for the knife that he saw to a friend and wants a unique piece too.

Art in a maker to simplify it you can divide it into 2:

  • The design of the knife (drawing, materials, combinations, technical choices, etc.)
  • The executive ability to make it (ability to make it by hand, sander, machine tools, CNC, etc.)

The drawing of the knife

Personally, I believe that the real art is in the design and technical choice of materials and combinations of materials, construction techniques, fixing systemsor, mechanisms in closeables, etc.

The executive ability to achieve it

Here we enter into the theme of the Hamlet doubt of many makers.the Hamlet doubt of the maker

Let’s start thinking about some of the main operations of the construction of the knife.


The discounting that I personally do with the tape sander on the sander plate could be done (after cutting the bar with the hose to avoid wasting the tapes) with the file by hand or with the sander.

You could do the same thing with laser cutting or waterjet, etc.

What’s better?

  • Hand with the file is a great ass! — investment some files
  • With the sander it’s good to make small productions — I invest the sander and the tapes
  • With laser cutting or waterjet to make big equal sets — high investments

Now as you can understand it is not that there is a better or worse method but according to your production you have to make the choice because investments change.

If you have to make a knife is fine the file, if you are a custom maker is fine the sander, if you produce knives you have to use production technologies.



The punctures are done with a column drill and here there is no controversy I think, and if you want to do them already with the laser is fine because it has little impact on the cutting price.

Clearly the column drill if quality is better, must have adjustable speed and become essential if you make lockable knives where the accuracy of the punctures is crucial.

The bisellatura

I think it’s the most indicted part of the Hamlet doubt.

It is also among the most complex operations in the construction of the knife to obtain a shreo and its departures, counterphiles, etc. perfectly clean and symmetrical.

Those who use the CNC do it by machine, which leaves a surface at the end of the steps and a support to be finished with tape that “simplifies” the work but still requires knowledge to accurately use a CNC machine.

It’s okay if you make productions but to make a knife or a few specimens it makes sense to spend to have a CNC for metal or is it better to spend on a good sander and learn the manual art of the knife maker?

The end result is always a knife!

But it doesn’t make sense for small productions or to really be a custom maker but if you find yourself in the house a CNC and you know how to use it there is nothing wrong to use it and experiment.

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Ps. Beware that it is not so simple and trivial to use a CNC, it requires skills and knowledge.

The important thing is always the intellectual honesty of not saying that it is done with the sander if you used a CNC!

It also makes no sense to use a CNC to do bisellatures if you don’t have to do some different sets but some different custom knives.

Would it be an absurd technical job of preparation to do bisellatures?

Really in that case it’s normal for someone to tell you but what’s the point, learn how to do them by hand.

Then it’s a choice, expensive if you don’t find yourself a CNC and want to make knives.

The best makers in the world work with sander and freewheeling (without support), is it a coincidence?

No, it’s not!

  • Are you knife artists, have you ever seen a painter painting with the arm of a Robot?
  • Of course it can be done, but does it make sense?

The maker looks for the unique piece, the originality, otherwise it is an industrial knife and it is right that it is made with industrial systems because if I want 100, I want 100 equal while from a maker I want my unique and original piece.

I want my knife, not what everyone can have.

the Hamlet doubt of the maker

Excuse the outburst! But that’s also why I pay for it, for its intrinsic value!


The finish that you do by hand, with the sander or CNC is to be done by hand.

This is because surface finishes are manual operations although probably at the industrial level they use macchianari for satiators and polishes but it is not the case of a maker who makes a number of pieces per year.

Are you a knife industry?


Again, depending on your lens, change the instrumentation to sharpen the knife.

As you know there are many methods of sharpening but if you have to sharpen one that you have done you adapt with what you have, if you do custom knives you have the sander with the appropriate tapes (grain 400 can fit), stones, Lansky, etc. until you get to tools like the Tormek Mole.

Clearly if you have cheap availability or want to achieve certain qualities you can also take more “sophisticated” sharpening systems or stones of different grains of quality but if you make a few knives you have to evaluate whether it is worth investing this money in tools more than quality for sharpening.


Now this post has no polemical intent but is to offer a reasoned overview of personal needs and goals.

That’s why there’s no answer that solves the problem because it’s actually based on the needs and context that the construction methodologies change.

That’s why I think it’s in the design and the choice of materials the real art but at the same time I consider fundamental the ability to realize it but change according to the context.

Even if you use the most technologically advanced machines like CNCs you are still forced to finish them by hand and if you want to do for example the Loveless curve you are forced to have (even if you already have a “support” or “guide”) important manual skills.

Some curves and bisellatures you have to do them anyway by hand.

The same goes for the superficial finishes of the knife.

Clearly if you have done a few knives you know that certain types of work need the “hand” of man.

As everything the series is the cust is not the same thing even if in the end it is a knife but it is the value of uniqueness, customization, the warmth of a shaking hand and not the cold heat of a machine.

Are you experience!


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