Jump to content

"Knapped Steel" Neck Knife


Recommended Posts

Just finished this little fella, a "Knapped Steel" 1080 steel neck knife, with a rawhide neck sheath, handmade antiqued copper chain, hand forged hardware, and a little hand forged copper snake fetish, topped by an engraved copper buttcap. The entire knife is a whopping 3 3/8 inches long (8.6 cms). Something of a fantasy work, since it doesn't really match any particular era or genre, sort of a "fusion of cultures."


I've been taking pictures of my work as it progresses, sending my somewhat shut-in Dad a semi-daily email for his amusement. Thought this might amuse some of you as well.rolleyes.gif






Cutting out the rough blank from a piece of 1/8" thick Admiral Steel 1075/1080 simple carbon steel



Here's the blank blade and the piece of deer antler I've chosen for the handle. I'll use the thick end of the antler for the handle.



Drilling the antler for the tang of the blade. Holding little bits of strange shaped deer antler for drilling is always a problem, as well as getting things lined up. I like to use a woodworking clamp, and sometimes have to get a little creative with shims and odd shaped pieces of wood to prop things up at odd angles. Little bits of leather can help, too. Whatever ends up working - flexibility is the key to tactical airpower...cool.gif



Above is the blade blank and the antler stub. I tend to redesign the blade as I go (drawn in red) since it's so difficult to visualize things when the antler and blade aren't together.



Further refinement as I begin fitting the blade to the handle. I can begin to see how things are going to work together. Also, a very lovely smell of scorched antler as I burn the tang into place - not my favorite part of the process.ohmy.gif



It's time to begin shaping the blade for the "knapped steel" part, so I draw a "center" line. I need to shape the blade into a lens shaped cross section, in this case a longer taped on the bottom half, and shorter on the top.



Clamped in the leg vise, I'll be using an angle grinder for rough shaping the lens-shaped cross section.



Above is the right side ground to shape.



Here's the blade properly shaped, ready to begin cutting the flake scars as if I'd knapped a stone blade.



I'll carve the flake scars with a Foredom flex shaft grinder and a long drum sander. The drum sander is about a half inch in diameter, since I'm trying to simulate a small pressure flaked blade. I use larger sanding drums for bigger blades and simulating percussion knapping.



I like the sand paper tube to extend slightly past the tip of the fixture, since I use the top edge a lot to refine the flake scars. I find I can get one side of the blade done with the top half of the sand paper tube, so when I begin carving the other side, I reverse the tube on the fixture.



Above is the first flake carved in (also outlined in red for additional clarity). I like to extend the flake past the "center" line, and meet it with the opposing flake, alternating this as I carve opposing flakes down the blade.



The first flake from another angle. I'm careful to bring the cutting edge just slightly past halfway down the thickness of the blade. When I carve a matching flake on the other (left) side of the blade, the cutting edge will end up meeting in the center, and slightly indented, creating a serrated steak knife kind of edge.



Above is the opposing "short side" flake. Making these two meet without flat spots is where the end of the sandpaper tube comes in really handy, reaching all the little corners.



Now I screw around with the very end of the blade - this will end up buried in the handle, but things will look and fit better with the blade tapering into the bolster area, rather than having a flat/square look, and ruining the illusion.



Above, I've made it about halfway down the right side of the blade. Note how the matching flake scars meet, alternating past the "center" line. Real knapped blades seldom have flake scars meeting at the exact center, although I have seen knappers skilled enough to do that. All the flakes meeting neatly in the center makes for a very unnatural blade appearance, however.



Here's the right side of the blade with all the flake scars carved in.




Above are both sides of the blade finished. I've used gun blue to darken the steel, and rubbed it with fine steel wool, just to see how it will look when finished.



Above are all of the components of the knife. I've done the final fitting of the blade into the handle, carved the handle to almost final shape, and rough shaped the copper buttcap. I turned a short tenon on the buttcap, and drilled the handle for it. I use tenons or screw pins so the buttcap is more secure on the handle when epoxied into place. With some sort of mechanical holding, I feel a bit more secure. Belt and suspenders, so to speak!



The knife components from another angle.




The handle components being epoxied together. Another place where a woodworking clamp is handy.



After the epoxy cured, I shaped and engraved the copper buttcap. This knife is small enough that I could do the engraving with the buttcap on the knife. With longer knives, I have to shape and engrave the caps before they are installed on the knife, because the longer knives are more difficult to hold in my engraving vise.


I do have to admit that I had to epoxy the buttcap on twice - I forgot that copper heats up so quickly and distributes heat so well that I melted the epoxy while shaping it...oops!ohmy.gif




Above, I'm working on the sheath. I've used regular veg-tanned leather to make the liner, glued up with contact cement. I drilled the holes in the drill press with a sharpened finishing nail as an awl. You can see the little piece of goat rawhide I'll use for the covering, and the copper rings for attaching the chain.



Above is the finished knife, both sides.



Well that's it for the photos. I forged a small snake for decorating the front of the sheath from a piece of thick copper ground wire. I used my blade forging hammers, which were a little large for that task. I need a nice small cross peen hammer for this kind of work, I'm thinking about changing a small ball peen into a tiny cross peen.


I did use a trick to make the snake head. I intended to forge the front taper and leave an unforged blob for the head, but my hammers and not-so-sharp anvil edge weren't up to the task (it couldn't have been me, could it?sad.gif). Instead, I forged an extra long taper and melted the tip into a blob for the head. I cheated, mea culpa............


Thanks for looking!

Edited by tsterling
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great work as always Tom, I was wondering if sometime soon I could arrange a hands on knapping class from you...Ill supply the steel :D And bring you some extra as an offering..




just use common sense.......dude your boned

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pin it Alan!


Very good timing on this, as I've been toying with the idea of doing a 'knapped' steel blade recently.... you are a bad influence.... :D

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."

view some of my work

RelicForge on facebook
Link to comment
Share on other sites



I bet your father enjoys this as much as we... in some ways much more I'm sure...


Nice tutorial... thanks


and for all you guys that think that "knapping" a steel blade may be quicker than welding up some damascus and then making a blade, be warned.. it takes much more time


than you think it will... and sharpening one of these takes lots of patience.wacko.gif on the other hand as you can see it is worth it when you get finished...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Owen and Dick, for the kind words.


And as far as the time involved, Dick, you're correct. Then, of course, there's the rawhide sheath and the handmade chain and the clasp hardware - another couple of days.ohmy.gif But if it was easy and quick, everyone would be doing it.... rather than just a bunch of crazy bladesmithsbiggrin.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Great tutorial! Now I have something to mess around with this weekend.


This is a knapped look obsidian blade I made with a tungsten carbide bit and a Dremel tool. I wanted a neolithic looking blade but I can't knap to save my life.


I thought it was fitting to photograph it on one of two large rocks on my place with glacial scrape marks. It's mounted on my wall next to a chunk of mammoth tusk and a fur sample. The handle is stained deer bone and rawhide wrapping.



Edited by B Finnigan

Everything I need to know I learned from the people trapped in my basement.



I'm out of my mind but feel free to leave a message.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the kind words, Josh. Glad you like it.


B Finnigan, nice obsidian look. I find this style of grind habit forming, especially on art pieces. Have fun! Be sure to wear eye and substantial breathing protection gear - you'll find your eyes and nose get pretty close!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will probably use my 1/2" round files and if I don't like the look then switch over to the Dremel.

Everything I need to know I learned from the people trapped in my basement.



I'm out of my mind but feel free to leave a message.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

thanks a ton for showing that process. Lot of tricks we can adapt to other things besides copying a knapped blade. I love to see how someone who is competent goes about their task (and how another competent person may do it differently and still succeed.).


great work and thanks again,


please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/


“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 years later...
On 5/15/2020 at 7:29 AM, steven smith said:

i like how you made the blades cross section a lens like a real stone point, do you do any knapping yourself? the whole piece is great.

Hi Steven,


Yes, I’m a knapper (or at least I play at it). That’s how I came up with this idea in the first place, so I knew how to arrange the “flake scars” in a semblance of an actual knapped blade. Not understanding how actual stone flaking works is where most attempts at “knapped steel” runs off the tracks. And I tend to use “pressure flaking” or “percussion flakingl” based on the size of the blade, just like the real world.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...