Friday, February 25, 2011

Steel Ulu Reproduction

Steel ulu reproduction
This has to be one of my favourite reproductions of all time.  I just love the lines and the antiqued effect.  This steel, copper, antler and horn ulu is #12 of 17 in the Central Arctic artifact set.  Its based on an artifact in the Canadian Museum of Civilization's collection and you can see the original artifact in the online catalog here:

The reproduction measures 17cm wide by 13 cm tall

It sharpened mainly on one side
The reference artifact was made from a re-purposed carving knife and the original maker's mark is still visible on the blade; "E.R Joseph Rodgers & Sons, Cutlers to his Majesty."  That maker's mark will be laser inscribed by the client before this piece goes on display, but other than that this piece is as close to the original artifact as possible.

Its just begging to be used
This is one of the artifacts in the CMC's online collection where the measurements listed in the artifact description don't seem to match the object in the photo.  The object's length is given as 26 cm, which would make the blade close to the size of a football.  I relied more on the 5 cm photo scale to come up with the size of this reproduction, which measures 17 cm across the blade and 13 cm tall.

very low profile

I made the blade on a recycled steel knife blade, although I used a large cleaver blade.  I spent a lot of time looking for a suitable knife blank to rework and had considered purchasing an antique knife, but I couldn't find anything with the right dimensions, until I finally found the cleaver at an Asian market in St. John's.  I'll go into a little more detail on some of the steps that went into building this reproduction, but in the case of the blade, I feel that a lot of the success in matching the artifact was due to very good luck getting a nice rust pattern using muriatic acid.

I love how old all the metal looks
The ulu has a composite handle riveted in place with 5 copper rivets.  The stem part of the handle that attaches to the blade is made from caribou antler where a beam flattens out into a flat palm.  Its so perfectly suited to this style of ulu handle that its almost like the caribou grow the handles for you.  The grip is made from musk-ox horn.  A lot of other horn is a relatively thin keratin sheath around bony core, but a musk-ox horn is dense all the way through.  I used a narrow part of a small horn near the tip for the grip.

The musk-ox horn grip is held in place by friction and a bit of hide glue

I should have made a pair
All in all, I love how this piece turned out.  The minute it was done it looked 100 years old and even though I was there making it from start to finish I just can't believe that it hasn't been sitting in a museum case somewhere for the past century.  My only regret is that I didn't make a second one for myself.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Oh, and yes, you should have made another, you will LOVE using these knives, they are addictive! I made 2 steel ones so far, and bought one from Maynard Linder in Homer, AK,to use in the kitchen. I'm in the process of making one very similar to this one, a replica of another old one!

  2. Yeah, looking at the photos again really makes me wish I still had this for myself.


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