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WIP Integral fighter

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I thought it was about time that I offered something up for folks here. I have learned so much from this board that I feel compelled to return the favor. This is a WIP for a large intergral fighter. If you look close you will note that some of the pictures are not from the knife I am finishing. I included them because I forgot to take pictures at the time but they illustrate the process of how I go about building a knife.


I usually only have just a general idea of what I am going to make. I am not blacksmith and my forging skills leave a lot to be desired so I adjust what I am making every step along the way. I tend to stare at my blades in progress a lot deciding where to go with them.


This is a view of out my shop door on one of the few sunny days this winter. I figure I may as well start there.



Most of my integrals start as a piece of 1" diameter W-1. This is about 5" long. The two white soapstone marks are where to place the dies. I have since started grinding a line there as it is easier to see.




Then I use a press to squish the bolster in. This press is a little mini one I built and used for quite a while. It worked but some of the later pictures show my new 20 ton press. It squishes a lot more.






This is my new press. I thought the little mini-press squished a lot. To make the bolster radii it usually took two, sometimes three heats. The first time I tried it with "Big Blue" the dies cut the 1" bar right in half. I needed to use a little finesse. I use my power hammer to draw out the blade and the tang and hand forging to give it some shape.




Here is a video clip of "Big Blue" in action.


WIth the new press I built a die to center the blade and the tang and get them nice and straight. This really has sped up this process. Before this I would tweak and tweak with a oxy/acetylene torch until I got everything lined up. I take no credit for dreaming this jig up, Ray Kirk posted this video on the ABS Youtube site and it is great.




These are some close ups of the jig in action.








So when all is said and done it looks like this.






That's all for tonight. I hope you like it.


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Nice I'm liking it. Got some integrals in the works now and use a press (no power hammer). I like the jigs might have to look into that.

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Thanks for the show!

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Okay, so after I have it roughly forged out I attack it with some grinding. If I were better at forging I could get it closer to its final shape but I can rough grind it to shape a lot quicker than I can forge to shape. I probably should take a forging lessons but I haven't.


I am going after it with a big angle grinder with a big hunk of rock on it. It saves a lot of belts to get the scale off and grind out some the crud.




I am profiling it by eye as I go.






I have sketched the profile on it and some ideas for a fuller.




I use my 2" X 24" to refine the bolster and tang. This is a picture of using an aluminum wheel that is about 1 1/4" diameter for doing the integral curve. I also used the flat platen to put in distal taper and to bevel.







I just realized looking at this picture that I have since added an aluminum platen that the belt travels on.





I leave the blade about 20% heavier than it will be for heat treating. Doing it this way lets me cut the fuller in but not have to get it perfect. When I grind the blade closer to its final thickness it cleans up a nice crisp line for the fuller.

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Brian, I know what you mean. Before I saw the jigs from Ray Kirk I would put the tang in a vise, heat it up with a torch, twist and adjust it with a wrench and a hammer. Often this would take several times before I got it right. Now I don't even worry about it. It can be pretty messed up from forging and the jig gets it all aligned in a few seconds.

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After I have profiled and roughly ground it I use a technique I learned at a class I took from Tom Ferry. I use a height gauge and a flat steel plate to scribe a centerline around the blade. Since it is an integral I have a series of holes drilled and tapped into the plate so that I can use three of them to support and level the blade. I fuss with it enough to get the scribe centered all the way around the blade. Or at least as centered as possible.









When I do this I make sure the sanding scratches are going perpendicular to the blade so that the scribe line is more obvious if the bluing wears off. If you look close you can see the scribe line on the edge.






Now that there is a centerline I have something to guide my grinding to. So I use a 45 degree angle jig and grind on the sharp edge up until I am close to the centerline. It looks like a little highway with a stripe down the center.






Then I can start the flat grind and watch the 45 degree portion disappear symmetrically on both sides. On the spine I just eyeball the centerline and even it as I go along grinding in the distal taper.





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Great post.


I'm curious about the use of the height gauge for marking the center line. What are the advantages of doing it that way vs. a traditional edge scribe?


Good idea on the 45 degree angle block for doing a Moran edge grind. I'm gonna steal that one!





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Dave, thanks for your comments. I'm not sure what the edge scribe method is. At Tom Ferry's class we were scribing the edge on a flat forged blade not an integral. We had surface ground it, or at least the handle and ricasso before finding the center. He recommended the height gauge because it is easy to adjust the height of the scribe by measuring the surface ground thickness of the blade and dividing it in two. Then adjusting the height gauge accordingly from the ground and polished plate or granite.


Since I like integrals I obviously can't do it that way. So really I don't need the dial indicator part, I just fiddle with the three support screws until the scribe seems to be close enough to the center to have enough thickness where I need it. Like I mentioned, the hydraulic press jig to align the handle and blade has made this a lot easier. Before that I would get it close, check it with my set up with the height gauge and realize I had some subtle twist in it. The it was heat it up and tweak it and try again. And again and again.


Is the 45 degree method a Bill Moran idea? I learned it from Tom Ferry. I am pretty unschooled I have to admit.



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You know, you may want to just give one of these a try for scribing the center line: http://www.knifemaking.com/product-p/js305.htm


Just eyeball the center and run it down one side and then the other. The two lines will create an outline of the center. This is the edge scribe I was talking about.


Moran, as far as I understand it, was one of the first to recommend grinding a steep angle to the center line at the very edge of the blade and then using it as a gauge for the evenness of your primary bevels (the method you describe above). I just thought it was a neat idea to use your 45 degree jig, since it makes the steep angle very consistent.


Great work. This finished piece was very reminiscent of Gerhard Wieland's work (and, I hope you know his work enough to know I say that as a very sincere compliment!).





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I don't think it would work for the way I do integrals. If the blade is surface ground or one is using barstock I can see how that would work. But since I don't have a mill to surface the handle and blade into the same plane, the method I show ends up with a line that will eventually become the center after I have hand ground it on the belt sander.


Even with the forging jig there is enough variation in the alignment of the handle and blade that I don't think the scribe line would be in one plane from handle to blade if I were following the blade and handle itself. It does involve eyeballing it as I go along but it is pretty easy to get the spine symmetrical since I have a line to go by. On the edge with the 45 degree grind it is even easier. I hope what I am saying makes sense.


And yes I'm very aware of Weiland's work and to have any comparison of my work to his is a complement indeed.



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After I have profiled, rough ground and found the center line it's time for the fuller. First I sketch roughly what I am going to do. This often gets tweeked as I go along.




Then I use a variety of rotary grinders to do the rest. This is a RAM micro motor with a single thin Dremel wheel on it. I use it to essentially sketch a dashed line that I will turn into a single line that the rest of the grinding wheels can follow depending on the width of the fuller.


I use this micro motor the most. I also have a Foredom tool which is a more awkward but more powerful and I also use a air powered die grinder that has the most power but is also the most awkward. Somebody told me there are micro turbines that are a lot cheaper than the micromotor but I haven't found them.









This shows the dotted line.My camera doesn't get close enough but it is actually little dashes I suppose. Then I go back and connect the dashes. This allows me to adjust things as I go.





Then I switch to various stacks of grinding wheels depending on how wide the fuller is at any given point.



They do leave multiple lines down the fuller. To get these out I essentially slide the grinder at a slightly skewed angle which provides a wider grinding surface at the bottom of the fuller. I also use thicker wheels sometimes too, but the problem I have found with them is that they tend to wobble and are harder to control. In the end I switch around all the time using whatever works.


This is the Foredom with a thicker wheel..




This is the air powered die grinder.




WIth practice I have gotten where I can get the bottom of the fuller smooth and fair. Or fair enough. I sometimes use small round files to fair out the humps and bumps on the bottom. But when we were in Japan last summer I noticed that the bottoms of fullers in the sword collection at the national museum in Tokyo were not perfectly fair so I figure if it is good enough for those masterpieces who am I to argue.


I have tried scrapers but since my fullers change their dimensions all along them I have found abrasives faster.


I don't worry too much if I have gone out of the lines in places unless it is pretty deep because after heat treating and I start the final grind the edges of the fuller clean up nicely. I will often grind the flats to see how it is looking then work some more on the fuller.



Once I have it pretty much the way I like it I switch to these flexible grinding wheels to clean and polish the fuller. You can profile them to the shape you want on a piece of abrasive or a file, though they will cut the file.







That's all for now.

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As far as the handle, the sequence above is a little mixed up. As I said I fuss with things all the way along so I have made some mock up handles to try out things with the fuller. I decided to try something different this time. Getting the curves on the end of the handles to fit the scales has been slow and tedious process.


I teach a Materials Science class ,among others. We have a new, to us, centifugal casting machine and I need to learn how to do it so I can teach my kiddies how to do lost wax casting. Sometimes one is lucky to stay a day ahead of the students. So I decided to add cast bronze fittings (for lack of a better word) between the handle scales and the bolster. My thinking is that I could pour wax bwtween the two, cast it and there it would be a form fitted piece in a short time.


Well after about six or seven tries my learning curve if starting to level out and I got it pretty much done. This first one as certainly not saved any time but with further practice maybe it will. I do like the effect so I guess that's what counts.


So here are the steps in some semblance of order. Feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them.


I sand the scales to close to the curve of the bolster.




I drill two 1/16" indexing holes for dowel pins that go into the handle scales. THis allows me to always get the scales back where they belong as I fit things. These will be shown in later photos. Then I used aluminum speed tape. I put a layer on the curved part of the scale. This prevents the wood when it outgasses from making bubbles in the wax. Then I assemble the scales and clamp them. Then I form a mold for the wax out of speed tape and make it quite a bit bigger than the finished piece. It is easier to trim the wax later to get it close to the final shape.





If you just pour the wax in between the bolster and the scales the wood and metal will chill it and it won't flow into the tiny space where the two pieces meet. So after forming the aluminum tape I put the whole thing in the oven at 200 degrees until it is all the same temperature. You obviously need to use well seasoned wood.


Then I melt the wax and pour it between the two pieces.Don't get impatient and try to take it apart when it is still hot.

After the wax has cooled you can peel it off carefully. It picks up amazing detail.








Then the wax is entombed in investment and after burnout in a kiln I cast it.





This is the centrifugal caster. It is quite simple, you wind it up. Lock it, heat the metal with a torch, add a bit of flux and let it fly. Exciting too.




This is the casting while it is still in the investment. Drop it in water and the investment falls off.




This is the rough casting, there were some bubbles on the wax that explain the little knobs of bronze. They grind off easy and don's show.




Now you have to fit the bronze to the bolster because in the casting it has shrunk a bit. I use a dab of grease paint on the bolster and using little tiny burrs remove the spots of it on the bronze.











Now you can see the 1/16" indexing holes, but now there are four instead of two. Since the bronze shrinks a bit there was a gap between the scales and the bronze of a few thousands, so I slid the scales forward and drilled a new set. The bigger holes will be threaded and studs put in to hold the scales on without having them show.
This picture is a little out of sequence or more correctly shows how I jump around in the sequence. If you look close you can see that the fuller looks a little rough. But I haven't finished the final grind on the blade that cleans up the edges of the fuller.
Now I am doing some sculpting on the bronze.



That's all for now.



Edited by Todd Miller
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This is a great WIP.


Good work, and thanks for sharing.

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Now the rest is gravy. I use Saburr Tooth burrs for a lot of the roughing out of the handles. I get them at Cascade Carvers Supply. I have no affiliation with them but they answer the phone and know what they are talking about.
















The rest is fussing, sanding, scraping and so on. I am nearly ready to glue the handle up. I am always hesitant as anything I need to do later takes forever. I hope to do it this weekend. I will post some pictures of the finished knife. It is going with me to the Blade Show in Atlanta.





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I am flattered to have this pinned. Turns out I was gone all weekend so I didn't get a chance to glue it up. I am also not quite sure that I am done with the carving. I better make a decision and be done with it.



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I have to say, I am not convinced it is efficient yet. TIme will tell, when I don't have to redo it over and over. The actual fitting does go pretty quick, it is the casting I need to work on.


I see from your sword WIP that you are doing lost wax too. One thing I learned this weekend from a relative of my wife's who has cast a lot of art metals, he says one should use separate crucibles for different metals. He said there can be cross contamination that would explain one of my screw ups, where I got slightly different colors of bronze in the two fittings. I could try casting them in the same flask, but I am a beginner, so I was being what I thought was cautious. We had used this crucible for sterling, pewter and bronze. Live and learn, hopefully.



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I have to say, I am not convinced it is efficient yet. TIme will tell, when I don't have to redo it over and over. The actual fitting does go pretty quick, it is the casting I need to work on.


I see from your sword WIP that you are doing lost wax too. One thing I learned this weekend from a relative of my wife's who has cast a lot of art metals, he says one should use separate crucibles for different metals. He said there can be cross contamination that would explain one of my screw ups, where I got slightly different colors of bronze in the two fittings. I could try casting them in the same flask, but I am a beginner, so I was being what I thought was cautious. We had used this crucible for sterling, pewter and bronze. Live and learn, hopefully.



Thanks Todd, I can use all the help I can get.


I'm planning on doing at least two test casts on simple shapes to get the process down before I risk a 12+ hour carved wax element.


I didn't know about the cross-contamination bit. I'm only going to be casting silicon bronze, so at least that's not a concern.


Looking forward to the inevitable screw ups and lessons-learned!



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Dave, if you are getting into casting think about getting into making rubber molds, even if you only ever make one thing once, it only takes a few minutes to make a mold of it, then you can cast multiple waxes of your master, tweak and mess with them in different ways. Plus casting multiples raises your chances of getting a successful one if the bronze does not pour right.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally glued it up and took some pictures. I glued it last weekend on Sunday. Saturday was in the 80's which for Washington in May is unheard of. So I thought I would wait until cool of Sunday morning to glue it so I would have some time before the glue sets up. I don't know what I was thinking but I should have used regular epoxy not five minute epoxy. I am used to my shop being in the 50-60 degree range which stretches out the setting time. Even first thing in the morning it was probably 70 degrees because the five minutes went by really fast. It all worked out in the end with lots of acetone, some swearing and more sweating.


Here is a picture of the finished blade. Oh yeah, one more thing, I said at the beginning that it was W-1 and really it was 1084.





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