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Hello All,

I have been making a series of relatively straight-forward, functional knives. I wanted to take this chance to document the process in some detail. My thinking is that seeing how I go about making these relatively non-challenging knives may provide some useful information to the newbs out there.


This isn't really a How To, because there are so many different ways. But, I am hoping that people can see how I accomplish things, and use that as a jumping-off point for working with their own tools and techniques.


Anyway, I hope this is interesting and maybe helpful to someone.




Start with a rough idea of what I want to make. The handle is not exact, I had trouble drawing with the chalk. But, it is enough so I can get the blade and tang right. The tang is definitely the most important part.




Heat up the forge.



setting distal taper with drawing dies on hydraulic press. I didn't taper enough. That will come back and cause problems (i.e., more grinding) later. I am using 1/4" 80Crv2. I tapered it as I would 3/16".


I am making these knives (I am doing a set of 9, with 3 in this particular run) in the manner that is most expedient for me. If I was commissioned to make a top-shelf knife, one of a kind, then I would use different techniques. I would forge almost to shape. In this case, I am setting the tapers and forging the tang out, and leaving everything else for saw, grinders, and files. I find this to be the simplest way.



Checking the tang for length and shape. Basically, I am making sure that the design for the knife will fit inside the piece of steel, and that the tapers for the blade and tang are close to done.




These three done. 3 blanks, with tapers, ready for stock removal.



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For me, the various layout steps are the most important. I am flexible, and modify as I go along. However, I have found that taking time to draw the layout at each step really helps. This is a better drawing of the planned outcome. I use a drawing for the first one, and after that, I use the first one as a template for the next two.



Bandsaw. I did a furnace anneal on this after forging. I often use my vertical kiln to do true spheroidal annealing, but I just blocked off the forged with firebrick for this one.




Profile grinding with 36 grit cubitron on the variable KMG. I like the work rest for grinding around the profile, and then I grind the bevels free-hand.




I have a grinding magnet that I use to hold the blade vertically, against the platen. I use this to clean up any wobbles from forging, and refine the distal taper.


Now, I need to mention, this customer wanted a blade with forged finish. However, he also wants 9 inexpensive (for custom knives) blade, in a short time. So, I am doing this the fast and inexpensive way. This means that I did not forge to shape, and I did not spend a lot of time futzing around with the outline and profile with a hammer, when there is a perfectly good KMG available.


The forged finish will be added back in before, and during, heat treatment.




Refining the taper on the tang.




Distal tapers shown here. This design is thicker than I normally would make a knife. The customer wants durability to be the foremost design consideration, so the blade is thick (".2 at the ricasso). There is a significant taper, though, because I want this blade to cut pretty well.




Here is more layout. These guidelines are approximate.


I grind differently than some. I do not have the profile completed finished, yet I am about to begin the bevels. Madness? maybe.


I grind the bevels, but don't try to match the plunge cuts too closely yet. That comes later, with files and flexible belts. You can see where the choil of the blade with be, as well as the shoulders for the guard.


I rough the bevels in, then finish the profile to fit against them in the way that I want. This way, I can always get the plunges to match and then put the choil just behind them (or under them, for other designs. This gives some freedom). Those of you who are new may like this approach. It is a little different. Most seem to do the entire profile first. This may help someone.




J-flex 80 grit to refine the bevels. flexible belts are a must for refining after rough grinding. They can roll and get into the plunges, and are far better than the other belts for this.

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Here is how mismatched the plunge cuts were coming off of the 36 grit belt.




I used this little Bahco file for refining plunges. This file has round edges (it calls itself Safe Edge, but it isn't). It is a single-cut.



Push-file then drawfile the spine. The same goes for every part that I refine with files.




200 grit paper (rhynowet) backed with smooth-ground file.


This 80CrV2 is pretty abrasion resistant. It is much better to do as much refining and polishing as possible before heat treatment. Besides, it is important to get all of the grinder and file scratches off now. Heat treatment will put a nice layer of scale/decarb on, and then you will see later how I deal with that to leave a really attractive finish on the steel.




Here is the layout for the choil, sharpening notch, and blade shoulders.




filing in the choil. I rough it in with a aggressive but too-big file, and finish with a smoother and smaller one to get a better radius and finish.


My advice to new people - learn to use files to the best of your (and their) ability. They are amazing tools.



Smaller file with shop-made handle to finish the choil area.




This is what I get from the two round files (one is really a rasp). Then, I finish off with a trip to the grinder, or with a magicut flat file.




Here you can see that I still need to remove the flat area behind the choil, and also the shoulders for the guard.

Guess how I am going to do those?




Yep, magicut (or multicut, or versicut, or bahco oberg cut... there are several of these rapid cutting files with chip breakers, and they all work about the same).




I finish the filing for the shoulders using a cheap file that is very rigid. I don't care if I beat it up on the file guide. By the way, file guides are very useful, and I suggest buying or making them. They are not that hard to make. A couple of pieces of very hard O1 or D2 work if you don't want to buy one.


I bought mine. I have one from Bruce Bump, and one from Uncle Al. I made a third from two pieces of O1 with a 1/4" thick spacer forge-welded between them. Harden everything, temper it. Then, draw the area of the end with the spacer in it back to soft so it can flex. It works like a set of tweezers, only you squeeze it in the vise. As long as your blades are, at the area you want to file, between 1/8" and 3/8", the simple tweezer method works. Don't clamp so that you put too much bending force on the harder portion of the guide (temper to straw yellow), or it can break. The tweezer approach isn't as good as screws and dowels, but it is a simple way to move forward.




After much filing and grinding.





I have also filed the ricassos with a magicut, then a smooth cut, and then either a needle file or 200 grit rhynowet.


Next up, stamping the maker's mark, and then heat treatment. Stay tuned.


I hope this information is useful to some of the new folks. There isn't really a comprehensive How To here. I am doing my best to fix it.


take care, and see y'all soon.


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Hello Again,

Here is my progress for today.




Stamped, and cleaned up the ricasso and transition area of the spine with files and then 220 grit rhynowet.




Here you see me texturing the ricasso and spine with my hammer from Sam Salvati. The hammer blows, plus the anvil (and some strategically-placed blows with the hammer tilted) lead to a matte finish on the steel and a forged look.




Here is the matte finish. It looks attractive to me.




The next step is to cover the areas of the blade that will be polished later with antiscale compound. However, I must warn you that this stuff does not prevent DECARB. Just scale.




Here is one of the 3 blades I am working on, with the anti-scale melted onto it.


The combination of the heat and oxidation from my electric kiln will make the areas that are left exposed have a beautiful orange-peel-like texture. I find this look to be quite attractive.




Into the kiln. I hand my blades by wires inside the kiln. There is a big cast-iron pipe inside to help even the heat out. The blades go inside the pipe.


Heat Treatment:





This steel is 80CrV2

Here is the chemistry, as reported by Aldo (y'all should buy your steel from him)!


Carbon 0.807 Silicon 0.32 Manganese 0.54 Phosphorus 0.010 Sulfur 0.003 Chromium 0.503 Vanadium 0.153


In this case, I am trying to make a blade that is wicked, crazy tough, and holds and edge as best as possible after first making it hard to break.


Fist thermal cycling - 1650F for 10 minutes

Second - 1530 F for 5 minutes

Third - 1430 for 5 minutes


Austenize - 1480F for 10 minutes

Quench in Canola Oil


Temper 3x for 45 minutes each.

380, 400, and 415F. If I was making a filet knife or even a skinner, I would temper lower. This should give me RC 59, which is just an itty bitty bit lower than I usually go for knives, But, heat treating is always a balance, and just this once, I have to sacrifice a little edge holding for some toughness.





Here they are after heat treatment. A lot of the anti-scale compound came off in the quench. Notice, clean steel, but there is some decarb.




Here they are cleaned up and finish ground. I dunk them often, and grind with an 80 Grit j-flex. I then cleaned that up with 400 grit j-flex.




The ultra-supercool finish relies upon one of these.




use it to take the scale off of the ricasso and down the spine. This will leave a beautiful orange peel effect.


It is a lovely texture. Goes well with a hamon, too.




See, told ya'.




Here are our 3 little blades at the end of the day. Heat treated, and textured, with a forged finish. Next step, hand sanding (even on these simple knives, hand sanding is very important.

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thanks Russ.

You can see the different sizes on the ricassos. The size is determined largely by my whim at the time, and somewhat by the fact that I need the tang to exit the handle at a precise spot. So, I can manipulate this by changing the size of the ricasso, and of course by heating and bending the tang, and by somewhat changing the shape of the handle. These are the three things you can balance to get a final product that looks good. Actually, you can also change the size of the tang button where it exits the butt cap to shift things a bit. The idea is to have the same amount of butt cap on top and bottom, and also the same amount on either side (but not necessarily the same as from top-to-bottom, since the pommel end is a teardrop and not a circle). See the attached picture from Karl Andersen. This knife is just about as good as it can get (if you want a goal... this is a good one. Of course, I haven't reached it yet, either).




More to come...


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Hello All,

Today was Hand Sanding day.

This is the most tedious part of making knives (wait till you make a 30" sword with a hamon or shuangxue... then it really gets difficult).




Here is some of the necessary equipment. If you are my age you need magnivisors to get everything right. Latex gloves are good to keep all of the grit and swarf from getting ground into your skin and under your nails. It's gloves, or stained fingers from colored abrasive. The file you see has been ground smooth on all sides. I use it to back the sandpaper. It is critical that you back the sandpaper with something hard. Wood is only hard enough in a pinch. Use micarta, corian, brass, or steel. The paper cuts better, and you can vary the effects by changing how many wraps of paper there are around the file blank. More on this later. Finally, I suggest rhynowet paper. It is great stuff.




Setup. This is a toolmaker's vise inside a machinist's vise. I have already show the Wilton Bullet Vise that I use. Get a good vise, as soon as you are able. The are very important.


Don Fogg's old site (which can still be accessed through the Wayback Machine of internet archives, and had an amazing amount of stuff to see) referred to a vise-in-a-vise as, "vise versa."


The mild steel bar provides rigidity to the paint stick. The paint stick is for the blade to rest on. Notice how I have things arranged - the wood protects the point so I can't hit it, and the steel is extending out beyond the blade. I would have to work deliberately to cut myself. I hope. You can (and often will) cut yourself when polishing blades. It isn't completely sharpened yet. But, it will cut you.


This arrangement allows access to the blade of the knife easily with the abrasives, and still provides some protection. Those are the goals.



This shows how I use the file and paper. You can control how it cuts by wrapping more or less paper around it. If you want things to be crisp and flat, use only one wrap of paper (one layer of paper backed by steel). If you want to round things, smooth transitions, etc. use more paper.


You can see the scratches from the grinder. The first pass for sanding, I like to go at a 45 degree up and to the right (or towards the point of the blade, actually). The machine finish is 400 grit j-flex. I drop back to 220 grit for hand sanding.


The next pass will be with 400 grit, and lengthwise. It is vital that you always cross your previous scratches when polishing, or you will miss a lot of scratches.




One important part of the first polishing grit is to smooth out and fix anything small that needs it. This included getting ridges and transitions, "just right." In this pic, you can see a glitch at the base of the the plunge cut, and a small dip from grinding just to the right of it. I fixed these with the file/paper combo I already showed. The better you get with the grinder and files, the fewer of these things there are to fix. This is what takes the longest time in polishing - fixing grinding and filing mistakes.





Sometimes it is easiest to get into the plunge with something that comes to a flat point, if that makes sense. See how the tapered part of the wedge, with paper wrapped over it, is a good tool to get inside the plunge. This is a good trick. Some go so far as to make sanding tools with curves on the top side and a flat plane on the bottom.




Here you can see the scratches for 220 grit. Notice the plunge cut is now smooth.




400 grit, all the scratches running lengthwise. This is done. The stuff you see on the blade is a little Cool Tool.


I suggest using this, or actually even better, Windex cut 2:1 with water. These both help prevent rusting while you polish and make your paper cut better, but the windex is not nearly as messy (and it has a ton of other uses, like neutralizing acidic etchants).




Here is one of my favorite things. After I get each side polished, I cover with a couple of coats of Ren Wax. I tape the first side and flip. After the second side is done, I wax it, too. Then I put the knife-to-be in a protective wrap.




wrap with paper towel.




Here it is, all done and wrapped up for the night. It's happy. I can tell.





Remember earlier, I said that the tang was the most important part? This is what all 3 knives look like when stacked on each other. The tangs are very similar, since I want the handles to be very similar.




Ok, here is my progress for the day. Three knives, all the way sanded and polished.

Hand sanding seems like it takes forever when you first start. But, you get faster at it, and you begin to appreciate progress that you did not see before. Still, having the right equipment and setup helps a great deal. I hope this can help others. I promise, I tried all sorts of tricks, and in the end, went with what people had been trying to show me all along. Funny how many times that has happened to me.

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Thanks Alan. I bet everyone does things a little differently.


In a little while I will post guard fitting. I am taking a break before more shop time. Thanks for the pin.


John - check out Don's old site through the internet archive machine. It is wonderful.


More to come later.


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Today is Fitting the Guard (or guards).


This is one of the most challenging aspects of making a simple through-tang knife (or hidden tang). Like everything, as Alan pointed out, there are several ways to achieve each task. I will show the way I have developed over the years, and also describe at least one other way to accomplish most steps. There is a lot of variety in approach as a result of different tools and ability.




First, here is the stock for the guards. It is 1.5" wide, and .25" thick. Just over, actually. I am splitting it in half to get two guard sections out of each length.




These knives will have a double guard with a short top quillon, and a longer bottom quillon.

Lay the knife so that there is plenty of stock above and below, and scribe a line for cutting. I also cut down to this same line from the end of the bar, to give two guard blanks of the same length.




Here is one of the guard blanks in the vise, with dykem on it.




This time I actually mark the edges of the tang on a line going down the middle of the guard blank.




This shows the thinnest part of the ricasso. It is a little thicker at the junction with the tang. I have already measured and done a little filing to make certain that the junction of the tang and the ricasso is thicker than any other part of the tang. The ricasso on these knives tapers from spine side to edge side. They go from about .23 to .16. I don't leave the ricasso a perfect rectangle on my knives, since I think it is just extra weight you don't need. Others disagree, and like the really deep plunge cuts that you get when the ricasso is thicker on the blade side (i.e., it is the same thickness throughout). That is just not my thing. Looks cool, but it is extra weight and doesn't really matter for strength (I don't think.).





I had to put 3 wooden legs and two cast iron pipes under my worktable, to make a hardpoint, to mount that big sucker. I love it!


Oh yeah, if you look on the tool rack on the wall, behind the mill, you will see a metal and a wood icon of St. Joseph, as well as his prayer. Japanese sword makers create a Shinto shrine in the shop, and we all know about Hephaestus, Vulcan, Atar, Brokkr, and Weiland (or is it Wayland?). Well, Joseph is the saint of craftsmen. There was another reported to work in metal in the bible, Tubal-Cain, but he never made sainthood (too early). These sort of things make the shop a more pleasant place (as if it wasn't already pleasant and grounding).




Now, put a 3/16" end mill in your 800lb, 3HP, "benchtop," mill. Set your stops, and mill the slot.


Oh, if you don't have a mill, then drill a line of holes. Put a deep scribe line down the middle of the stock, use the line to rest a center punch in, punch a line of holes. Drill them with 1/8" and then drill them with 5/32" if you have it. File out the webs in between. Or, drill each end of the slot, and cut out with jeweler's saw, but that is pretty serious sawing for steel this thick.





These are the tools for the next big adventure. File with 4 sides, slotted guard stock, hammer, and a shop-made tool for sliding guards on and off. It is a great thing to have, just put a long V in some very hard wood.


This part, the fitting of the guard, is very important. I suggest just relaxing, and recognizing that you will have to work as long as it takes. Don't hurry. Just work smart.


When I milled the slot, I actually milled all of the way through with a 1/8" end mill, and then went back and opened that slot to 3/16th for 2/3 of the depth of the guard. The thinner web is toward the front face. This means that I don't have to file as much to get a tight fit.


I could have used a 3/16" mill for the entire slot, but that would have led to more peening to get the slot closed later.




First test fit. Everything is done deliberately-undersized in the beginning. After driving this up, and taking it off, there will be marks on the inside where the tang rubs. You want to use the magnavisors, and remove all of the material from these spots (where you can see the tang was rubbing inside the guard).






When you get about this close, or just a little closer, swage the guard all the way up. This means keep hitting the piece of wood that is driving the guard on (both top and bottom). Slow and steady, the steel will stretch some. Be careful with wrought iron if you do this. You will eventually get it to fit.




Forcing the guard off. Hold the tool to the bench and whack the end of the tang with a bat. Brass hammer works, too. Let fall info garbage can. If I miss, I still hit a floor pad. You can also use the thicker end of this tool as a mallet to drive the guard off.







But, it won't fit perfectly at the shoulders. You need to look to see the indentations made by the shoulders of the blade. When you see the outline of the blade from these, and where the ricasso is touching the face of the guard stock, take a small file with 4 corners, and file a bevel from the end of the slot, and file away all of the material that has been dented by the ricasso. You want to file a little ramp at each end of the guard slot, so that the shoulders of the ricasso are actually inlet into the face of the guard just a bit. Only the very end of the shoulders is touching the face of the guard, all of the rest of each shoulder is down below the face of the guard. This is a good fit, and it is insurance against a guard that wiggles.






Here you can see the bevels at the ends, to inlet the ricasso into the face of the guard. I started doing this when I started making Swedish-style knives. Kevin Cashen suggested this (along with Tim Zowada) at Ashokan. Only, they suggested gravers. I just like files.


If you make the shoulders of your ricasso just a little rounded , with just the very tips flattened, this works best.





In the Swedish style, the guard face is quite curved, and the shoulders and a significant portion of the ricasso sit down, inside the curve of the guard. It is a challenge to inlet the blade this much (especially on blades without a ricasso, that are just flattened diamonds). The above is what I mean.



You will have noticed by now, I have the most control with rasps and files. So, I approach final dimensions with power tools, but I always do the last little bit with files when I can. That gives me the best results.

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Here is the fit at this point. See that big gap on the side? Not to worry. Those sorts of gaps are always there, for me. They are easy to fix. I learned this at Ashokan, too. Learned it from Jerry Rados.


Take a flat punch, or just a ball peen hammer, and peen the hell out of the face where you want it to expand. Since I am texturing the fittings for this knife (to make scratches less of a big deal) the peening option seems best.




Like this...




BUT WAIT! Before peening, you must hand sand front face.



Now peen.





After all of the peening, and the driving the guard onto the tang, the stock is not flat anymore. Flatten the back with face mill.




different guard. I had to flatten the front and back on it with the facemill. (this is a different blank, being flattened before, but you get the idea).



You can also flatten with a file. Put layout blue on the guard (or marker).




Drawfile until you get this look. Then switch to push filing from one end of the other. Do the whole thing in long strokes.




You can see here, drawfiling was a good start, but the file followed some of the curve in the guard blank. Going from end to end works better. However, you have to be careful not to roll the very ends. in this case, it doesn't matter, since both ends of the guard will be tapered away from the face that is up now. You can see that the middle is low, and both ends are high.




I decided to quit here. That little dimple isn't going to matter, and I don't want to remove the rest of the material.




Next operation, blueing. You can do this cold or hot. I like both, just depends. I don't have bluing salts, though. So, hot blued for me just means with a torch.




Cold blued and waxed. Wear gloves, the blueing agent has selenium in it, and it is highly toxic!




Hot blueing is a lot more fun. Plus, you can melt the wax on.




Pretty, too!


OK, 3 guard blanks slotted, polished, textured, and blued. That is a good day. Take care until tomorrow.


Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Today it is time to mortise the handle blocks.


The tools will be the mill, shown previously, and a collection of hand tools. You can do all of this with handtools, but if you have the mill, why would you?


Actually, you can get better tolerances with hand tools. Like most things, I really prefer a combination. I use the mill and grinder to approach the final shape, but do the last round of refinements with hand tools.




These are the ones for measuring and marking




Here are the shaping hand tools. The primary ones are the flat/half round German rasp, and the shop-made saya nomi. I suggest that people who are really new should make themselves a couple of chisels for use in their shop before they make knives. This takes much less time than a knife, and it gives you experience with grinding, filing, heat treating, and if they are wood chisels, sharpening.






The other tools are rasps and files. The black oxide file without a handle is a smooth cut. You can get a nice finish on wood with a smooth cut file. It is actually about the same as 320 grit paper, but removes material faster, and leaves the wood burnished. You can refine wood quite well with a file, and leave clean lines.


The order of work, like with the metal components: 1. machines (first belt, then disc), 2. rasps/files, 3. abrasive paper by hand





Here is a side view of my saya nomi. It is made from an old Disston file, back when they had high carbon and vanadium in their own crucible recipe. It has been a good tool for me for years. It is ugly, but it works well. Like a lot of us.


Seeing it in this pic makes me think that I should flatten the tip a little more. Pictures are great for getting perspective. Things you don't see in the shop will often jump right out at you on a pic. I can explain it psychologically, but the most important this is to realize taking pics and viewing on the computer will help you see things you would otherwise miss.


Related, when you make a post for the forum, save it and look at it before you submit.




Other end is even uglier. It gave me a chance to practice brazing, too. The caps are so I can drive it with a mallet if I want. The absolute lack of attention to finish is because this was just for me. Quite some time ago. The curve, and the handle that can take being driven, are both quite practical. You can use this to do all of the mortising for the tang, but I like to use it to clean up after the mill.




Measure and mark to cut the board into pieces for sides of handle blanks.



flatten the ends of the pieces for each blank.




Make sure the faces of the blanks are flat, and also square to the end.




It is possible to flatten wood with a rasp just as one would flatten metal with a file. Be aware that you will tend to wear the ends away more than the center. Change directions a lot, watch the scratches, and just expect that there will be a little roll-over at each end. You can easily take care of this later. In most cases, I just leave extra on each end and cut it off when I am done. In this way, you are basically using the ends of the piece as a guide to help rasp the middle.




If you do not rasp or face mill the wood, then you need to at least go over it with some 220 grit to clean any wax and oils off, as well as dirt.

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Still getting handle blocks together. This is a simple task, but it is something that you have to do just right.




Make sure everything is square.




Check the guard again. You can see here that I left a little gap that I knew I would fix at this point. You want to get any gaps that you left when you finally became impatient last time you worked with the guard. Fix any gaps. Also, make absolutely certain that the guard sits perpendicular to the knife blade. This one was angled just a bit. Take the time to fix all of this. You can tell you are done when the guard fits flush up to the end of the blank.




Put the guard blank flat against the front end of the wood for the handle. Be very careful here. Take all the time you need.

Mark where the tang goes. On this one, I wasn't sure if I had enough wood, so I drew a simple mock-up. You can always heat the tang and bend it a little if necessary (I did this one, just a tad).






Mark the second to match the first.




Use the chisel you made to clean up after the mill. If the wood is likely to chip, cut down through the grain first, and then chisel it out.




Notice, the tang is in, and guard is flush with the piece of wood. Work with the channel, and also straightening the tang if need be, to get this effect.




Both blocks together, and the guard fits flush. When you have it like this, you can get ready to glue it.




Stuff for gluing. Not shown, one popsicle stick.




There it is. Glued and clamped. I leave the knife sitting inside the block while it dries. This is mostly just so I don't get them separated and lost or something. They are also labelled by numbers.


The tang is just slipped into the slot, and it will come out again.


I did two more, but you don't need to see those pics.


I realize this is a simple task, but it is really important to do it just right. Otherwise, the handle will never fit right.


Next installment - handle shaping. I find this, especially the hand tool part, to be some of the most rewarding work.


take care,



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Hello Again,

this time, we will do some of the shaping of the handle blocks, and then epoxy the knives into their respective blocks.


First, it is not possible to have too many clamps. Here is my collection, hanging from a wire under my work table.



Good way to store clamps, by hanging them from a wire. The scroll saw never gets any use, but when I make more full tangs I suspect it will.




Here are the 3 handle blocks. They need some preliminary shaping and other prep before epoxying them.




First, make sure nothing moved in the clamps while the glue was drying. This front face needs to be flattened again. I did it with some careful passes of the rasp.



Mark an oversized area where the channel for the tang runs on the outside of the blocks. Then, you can draw a rough shape for the handle.

This will allow for cutting a lot of extra wood off with the bandsaw.


Order of work: bandsaw, belt grinder, disk grinder, rasps and files, paper.



using angle block to mark angle for the back. This is a deliberate choice, because I will use that same angle block later when milling the pommel end of the knife flat, after sawing.




see how the guard is not flush. In these cases, when there is just a little room needed, if you know what area of the tang is binding (the face is flat, I flattened it), you can heat the tang and burn it in a little.




Now it fits. Burning a tang into a pilot hole is a great trick for handling your files, rasps, chisels, etc. It is also good for knives and swords, if you are careful not to overheat material or adhesives.

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Cleaning up with mill after sawing the 15 degree angle on the end.


You can also get something very flat and put sandpaper on it, and drag the handle block carefully across the paper to flatten. Or, a disc sander, especially if it is variable speed. Belt grinders aren't as good at getting things really flat.




notice this is a different bandsaw. This is a benchtop, wood cutting bandsaw. I use this when I cut really hard wood like this rock maple, especially when cutting curves. The metal cutting bandsaw can handle straight lines on soft wood.


These benchtop models are not too expensive. This is the Central Machinery version. It works fine, had it for 3 years.




This is all that I trim before epoxy. It is a lot easier to remove with the saw, but I am not going to try and get the final shape until everything is joined into one piece. This is easier for me with the simple knives. On complex things (like swords) I usually shape everything almost completely before I join them.

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I also reduce the thickness a lot with the bandsaw. This can be done pretty quickly with a rasp or a disc or belt grinder. I used rasps exclusively for a couple of years, until I got confident with the power tools.


If I am going to ruin a knife, it will be when using a belt sander on the handle.




You wouldn't believe there is a knife handle hiding inside that block, but there is. This is all I do before epoxy. It is closer to final shape than you probably can tell from this picture.


By the way, if you are going to try and shape everything almost completely, or completely, before expoy, I suggest you hide a couple of alignment pins in the handle to hold it exactly to the guard, and also to the butt cap. That way, you will not have any nasty surprises with things slipping as epoxy cured.


Most important part - the guard sits flush against the handle block, and I can draw an outline of the handle I plan to make on the block, and the pommel area is the same (flat and clean and ready).




These are most of the tools and materials needed for epoxy. Not show is a little bit of paper towel and super glue.




This is the clamp for epoxy. It has a slot for the blade to pass through, so it can snug up to the guard. There is a hole in the other piece of wood for the tang to slide into.




Now, look at that tang. It is covered with dirt, oil from the quench, oxides, and just junk. One of the most important things about an epoxy bond is surface preparation. This means that I have to clean the tang. I take a very coarse file (or 100 grit paper) and go over it until it is clean and shiny. I tip the file some to get the corner/edge to dig in and leave deep scratches. Lots of scratches in clean metal means a lot more surface area for the epoxy to bond to.


The best surface prep is probably sand blasting, but I don't sand blast. I just file.




Clean and all scratched up! I go over this with clean paper towels soaked with acetone, just to make sure.


Next thing to do - make sure the guard is properly seated on the knife. If you epoxy it, and the guard is wrong, the only way to fix it is to destroy the handle. I know, I have done it.




Epoxy colored with concrete pigment. Having color in the epoxy is a good idea, because that way you will any cracks, checks, voids, or misalignments with a tough substance that looks just like the wood. That color will be a good match to the maple after it has been died with aqua fortis.




See how much color you get from a small amount of pigment.




This is a good trick. The epoxy will run out the hole for the tang. But, if you put the knife in the handle, and then carefully stuff the hole around the protruding tang with paper towel, and then put a couple of drops of super glue on the paper towel, you have created a form-fitting damn that stops the epoxy. There won't be anything but a minor drip or two once you get the knife seated into the handle again. There will be whatever epoxy gets pushed through the hole as the knife blade is finding its final location, but once the tang is through the hole, the combination of the glued paper and the tang will stop the rest.




Epoxied! That's it for today. Tomorrow, I will work on this handle while I epoxy another.

Thanks for looking,


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I like that homemade clamp with the wingnuts! What a clever idea. I just use a really long easy clamp, but this might be better...

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More today. Shaping the handle (some of the most fun work of the whole process).



Here it is with the epoxy dry.




If in doubt, use the KMG




I frequently put the knife in front of the fan, to keep the guard material from getting too hot. If it does, it will damage the wood and weaken the adhesives. Especially the wood glue, which can only handle 150




Here is a trick that will make watching all of this thread worth the effort.

After the belt sander, I like to use a disk grinder. The problem with the standard ones is that the cloth-backed discs are too difficult to change. This usually means you leave one old disc on forever.


Take the disc, and cover over the PSA on the back with printer paper. Trim to fit. Then, put 3M feathering adhesive on the outside of the paper and the platen of the disc grinder. Now, you can peel the different discs off any time you like. In fact, they often fall off when not in use because they warp. But, now you know how to use the disc grinder easily for shaping and then for sanding.


By the way, this disc grinder I have is a Harbor Freight. I have used it for a couple of years. It is one of their better tools. I need to put a VFD on it to get the most out of it. It saves a ton of time hand sanding and cleanup up with files.



Rough and uneven coming off of the belt.IMG_1235.jpg

Nice and smooth, and flat, coming off of the disc.



shape the quillons with the platen and slack belt on the belt grinder.

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Still going...



Peel off the 50 grit, and put on the 150 grit





Now the sides of the handle and the guard are flat and 150 grit.




Time to shape the top and bottom of the handle.











The edge of the platen works well to get close to the lines of non-concave shapes.




Bring the transition from the guard to the handle down with round file. I will do the same thing on the bottom in a bit. File into the guard material at least over half of the thickness of the file, and then file down into the guard material until the transition is even with the spine of the blade. Do the same on the bottom, only make it even with the bottom of the ricasso.





Clean up transition with needle file, and shape rest of quillon more with slack belt and file.





Same thing done on the bottom. In first, then down. You can see where I need to thin and taper the quillon with files and grinder.




Rasp time, to bring the line down to match the transition. Remember, you are as far down as your deepest scratch or dip. Take your time, and sort of sneak up on the final dimension. You want to leave room for filing and then abrasive paper (200 grit, 400 grit).


Don't rasp all the way to the final line, or you will have gone too far by the time it is clean.







This is one of the best parts. Up until now, the rear of the guard has been rectangular. Now, it is time to round the corners and get a more pleasing shape. The shape you put here will determine a great deal about the shape of your handle. Roll these edged carefully. Make sure, again, that the file is more than half way into the metal, so that you are not cutting the wood more deeply than you are the steel. You will have enough problems with that later.




Rolling the edge makes a transition line where the guard meets the side and also the top of the handle. Now, you need to make the handle fit the shape of the guard.






I draw a line along the handle that meets the swoop of the guard, and another on the top of the handle that meets the swoop up there. Then, I rasp between the two lines to make the handle more rounded.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Almost done for today (and pretty near to done with the knife, too!).




I clean up behind the rasp with a file. Here, you can see me doing this to the top of the knife. I drew the lines and then rasped just as I did on the bottom. You can leave these lines to make an angular handle (like an octagon if you want - this basic technique can be used to make some cool shapes).




Here is a good picture of what it looks like when you first roll the edged of the guard. The two spots where the curve ends and the planes meet will be the beginning of the line on the handle where the transitions meet.




Here is a better picture of the lines drawn in, prior to rasping between them. Turning a corner into a curve, and leaving a sharp transition where the curve meets the other planes.




Material rasped away.




Everything cleaned up with smooth cut file




Just as with the blade, the first grit of sandpaper (220) is used to shape and fix things. Here, I use the shoe-shine technique to round the corners some more.


I also use the thick wrap of paper around the smoothly-ground old file when sanding to blur the transitions. I don't want the sharp lines on this knife.




transitions smoothed, and everything at 220 grit. That is enough for one day.


thanks for looking.


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Getting close. It is time to start on the butt cap.



First, I am pinning these, to support the handle and give a mechanical bond, although the wood glue and epoxy should be plenty.


I drill these with straight-fluted carbide drills. This way, if I hit a pocket of carbides from the vanadium in the steel, or the chromium, it won't matter. I have gotten to the point that I use these on anything I don't do a spheroidal anneal with (if it has carbide formers or more than 80pts of carbon).




countersinking for the rivet. I have a certain way I do rivets, and the countersinking is really important to this method.




Equipment for pinning the handle. These copper nails are great. You can get them that say they are 1/8", but they must have been made with a 1/8" die. In fact, they are about 2-3 thousandths under 1/8". So, if you drill a 1/8" hole, you can be almost certain of a press fit. If you drill undersized and ream to get exact dimension, these things are even better. Plus, they rivet so well.

Not shown - more epoxy.




Pinning with rivets is a wonderful thing. Versatile, easy, and attractive. Clip the head off, file it smooth and flat (smooth file), and then swage a head onto it with a polished ballpein hammer.



smear epoxy on the pin, make sure to get plenty of epoxy in each end of the hole, so the pin is epoxied to both halves of the handle. Push it through, and seat the head in the countersink. Then, clean up any excess (there should be some) epoxy with alcohol or acetone.


IMG_1279.jpgyou see

Clip the other side, and file it to the height that you see here. I have this sitting on a non-marring, improvised stake anvil. Otherwise known as a ballpein hammer with tape on it, in a vise.



Here it is peened out to fill the countersink, and down tight. Don't worry about the mess, we will clean it off with 150 grit paper on the disc sander.

That is why the countersink is so important.

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