Jump to content

Getting Started With KITH

Recommended Posts

The past few months have been very busy, but now I finally have some time to get some work done on this project. The picture below shows the materials I decided to use.




The allan wrench and crowbar are both 3/4" hex and are what I intend to forge into the blade and guard. The allan wrench didn't have a price tag on it, so the store sold it to me for $1.50, which I'm pretty happy about, since this KITH definitely had the potential to be an expensive build. The pickaxe handle is what I intend to use for the handle (it was the prettiest piece of wood I could find there), but after seeing Dan Rice's plywood handled leuku, I may be tempted to try something like that. The brass rod is for a pin and the sheet is for spacers.


My current plan is to flatten out the allan wrench and see how much material there is to work with. If it's enough to make a bowie, I'll go ahead and use it. If not, I'll probably go for a san-mai construction using the two pieces of steel. I don't have a welder to tack billets together and the hammering will all be done by hand so, especially for a larger blade like this, high layer count pattern welding likely won't happen.


I'm excited to get started and to post some pictures along the way.


Aiden CC

Link to post
Share on other sites

I spent a few hours yesterday flattening out the allan wrench, and it looks like it will end up being enough for my blade on its own (since this is my first bowie and I have somewhat limited time, I'm aiming for the 8-9" range for the blade).


break test.jpg


After I got the whole bar to about 3/8" thick, I did a quick hardness test by thinning out and quenching one end in water. It passed a file test and a break test, so I know I'm not going to be wasting time on a piece of low carbon steel. I expected it to be tool steel, but its nice to be sure. I put some fractures in the very end by trying to hot cut it without annealing it enough, so I stopped hammering that part, thermal cycled it a few times, and its cooled off in the forge over night. I'm going to cut off the cracked section with an angle grinder and just to be sure, remember to make the tip from the other end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a pretty nice day to forge, but it was a bit brisk, as evidenced by the remainder of the tea I forgot out in the smithy.




I had to widen the bar a little to get the right width at the ricasso (it's still a little narrow, but thats about as wide as the stock would allow). Then I forged in the tip, the straight side is where the bevel will be.




Next I used a hot cut to lightly mark where I want the riscasso to end and started thinning out the bevels with a cross-peen hammer. After that I flattened them out and refined the dimensions a bit. I'll definitely need to clean up the plunges on the grinder.


bevels started.JPG


To start the tang I used this tool I made a while ago out of 3/8" mild steel for marking shoulders. It's not the prettiest thing I've made, but it works pretty well.


making shoulder.JPG


Finally, I forged the tang to about 6" to leave myself some extra material and some flexibility in the length and shape of the handle. This was a really fun project to forge. Bowies aren't my usual style, but there are details about them, like the transition from handle to guard to ricasso to blade, that I find very aesthetically appealing. I can see why so many people like to make them.


finished forging.JPG


Finally, I had just enough energy to flatten one end of a wrecking bar to about 5/16" thick to give myself a nice big piece of steel to cut the guard and butt-plate from. I'm considering heat treating the latter so it could be used for (mild) striking/to better protect the last layer of plywood in the handle.


guard stock.JPG


This is my first bowie, first time using mystery steel for anything serious, and even first time making a proper guard, so as always, any comments, critiques, or suggestions concerning my methods are more than welcome.


Aiden CC

Link to post
Share on other sites

If this is your first guard, a piece of process advice is in order.

Get the blade 100% finished before fitting anything (guard, spacers, handle materials, etc.) to the tang. You want a nice, tight fit and that won't happen if you fit the guard and then sand/grind the knife down. You will have to do a pretty good normalize and/or anneal to the crowbar so it drills and files easily for the guard slot.


I find the most difficult part of forging a Bowie (or any knife with a dropped choil) is getting the choil drop straight down from the ricasso.

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

One is to forge across the the bottom of the ricasso area at a 45* angle to the blade edge to pull more material out than is required and grind the unneeded material off later.


Here is another one by ABS MS Kevin Cashen: http://cashenblades.com/forging.html

Where he pinches a bit of material out and pushes the excess material back up to develop the choil.


BTW-That's a pretty nice anvil you've got there!

Edited by Joshua States
Link to post
Share on other sites

I decided to start the rough grind tonight so I can finish it tomorrow morning and afternoon to be ready for heat treat in the evening. My first step was to grind the profile using a contact wheel and tool rest on my Grizzly. Next used a disc sander to make the ricasso on each side flat. It ended up that the front is about 8 thousandths thinner in the front than the back, but I'm not doing any precision machining on this thing, so it'll be close enough.


ricasso ground.JPG


Next I rough ground the bevel to 36 grit. I think it looks pretty good so far. The choil isn't as square as I would like, but that's left over from forging and I couldn't fix it then, and I can't now either. Same thing with the width of the ricasso and blade being a bit on the narrow side. A lot of you know much more about bowie design/style than I do, so feel free to let me know if my profile is off.


36 grind.JPG


Joshua: thank you for the tip about going 45˚ to the edge to separate material for the choil, I'll definitely try that next time I make a blade like this. The article by Kevin Cashen was also interesting and helpful.


As for the guard, I have made made some metal bolsters, and slotting this will actually be more straightforward than something like a puukko with a rhombic cross section. I've just never shaped something with quillions before. I will definitely make sure everything is its final dimension before I fit the guard and handle.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished the heat treat this morning. It was a little tricky with my small-ish coke forge, but I got it eventually. I also trued and re-annealed the end of the wrecking bar, then ground it flat on both sides and cut it off from the rest.


Given the pieces I have to work with now, this is my plan for the guard and handle.


handle sketch.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a quick update on my progress: I did the finish grinding on the blade, sanded the ricasso out to 600 grit and the bevels up to 220 so far, and fit and rough shaped the guard. I'm going for a somewhat "minimalist" guard. Also, that isn't a hamon (as far as I can tell), it's just sanding chips on the blade that look a lot like one when I was wiping them off.


Blade and Gurad 220.JPG

Edited by Aiden CC
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

The past couple of months were a bit crazy, but now I finally have a lot of time to work on knives. Since the completion deadline is now rapidly approaching, I decided to give this one some attention.


hand sanded.JPG


I stopped about halfway through the hand sanding process, so I picked it up at 400 grit and finished the blade and top of the guard out to 600. I'm happy with how it looks with a satin finish so that's as high a grit as I'll take it to,


handle parts.JPG


The guard and butt plate are made out of a flattened wrecking bar. I'm holding off on making a hole in the butt plate until I have the rest of the handle assembled so I'll know exactly how big the hole needs to be. In the spirit of being from a hardware store, the handle will be mad from a stack of 8 pieces of 1/2" plywood. I drilled holes in each which I'll file larger if I need to.


I also made a screw press/clamp for knife handles and made it 15" long just for this knife.


Is a sheath required to go along with the knife? I don't have any experience making them for Bowies, but I'll probably have enough time to figure something out.


Aiden CC

Link to post
Share on other sites

I got just a little bit more done on the knife. Plywood is not exactly a pleasure to work with. When you are shaping it, you are basically always working into the end grain somewhere, and all sorts of void arise from splintering or were there all a long. It does have an interesting look though.


handle glued.jpg


I made the pieces 1.5 x 2.5" to leave myself some extra room. I was considering connecting the pieces with wood glue, but decided to use epoxy to give the handle some strength.


handle shaping 1.jpg


I used a coping saw to remove as much bulk as possible.


handle shaping 3.JPG


This is where the handle is now, after cleanup with the grinder, files, and a rasp.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 weeks later...

This last week I got my wisdom teeth out and finished my first real "custom" knife for a client, so I finally had some time clear up to work on my KITH bowie (and clean out the shop a little so I had something to concentrate on other than not accidentally ripping out my stitches). I think I ought to actually make the deadline with this thing!


bolster fit.JPG


Since the last update, I have the guard and the wooden grip shaped and polished to their final finish. Then I drilled and filed a slot in the remaining piece of flattened wrecking bar for the end of the tang. The fit is pretty tight and I'm planning on leaving the peened tang a little proud of the surface so it will cover any gaps.


bolster layout.JPG


Then I scribed the profile from the end of the handle onto the bolster so I can trim it later with an angle grinder and disk sander. Then I'm going to dome and polish the top of the cap before gluing and peening.



Link to post
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...