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joe pierre

Antler handle hidden tang -- how?

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Working on a bowie knife with a hidden tang and a classic antler handle.  I haven't done this before, so I'm looking for a few tips:

1. Can I burn the tang into the antler like I do with wood, or is the preferred method to soak in hot water or boil until the tang can be jammed into the pith?

2. What is the typically way to fix the tang into the handle?  It's a large bowie, so I don't think epoxy alone will cut it.  I'm guessing I could peen the end of the tang by having the tang come to a point and them hammering it against a butt cap.  I don't think I'm set up to attempt to thread the tang so that it could screw into a nut/pommel, but I could try.

If anyone knows of a tutorial, please let me know.

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I would advise against burning into antler, i cannot remember the exact chemical composition of the gases created while doing it, but i know they are very very bad for you. If you do go that route, just make sure youre in a well ventilated space. Im not sure about the hot water trick, never tried it myself. 

Why not just cut a path into the antler like with a typical hidden tang, drill a hole for a single pin, then epoxy, assemble, and rivet?

Or if you want to do a through tang, forge the very end round and cut threads. Screw a butt cap on like you said. The hardest part of this process is forging the end as perfectly round as you can physically get it, then grinding it even more perfectly. Digital calipers help here. Try to keep the whole length to be threaded +/-  0.005 inches (0.127 mm) from the mean of the O.D. of the thread your cutting. So, for instance, if youre cutting a 6-32 thread, the mean O.D. is 0.135 inches (3.429 mm.) When grinding or filing the rounded section, try to keep it between 0.130 - 0.140 inches (3.302 - 3.556 mm.) 

Or you could cut a piece of threaded rod and braze it on the end. Some people like this method, ive never been a fan. 

Hope that helps. 

Edited by Will W.
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Generally, I think most folks remove all the pith, then fill the void with epoxy.  You can coat the tang in a lubricant (e.g. Vaseline) and/or Teflon tape/plastic wrap to use the actual tang for a form.  Then you can pull the tang out after the epoxy has cured, clean things up, and finally glue that bad boy in place when you're ready.  If you use good epoxy (possibly even dollar-store level epoxy) you certainly will not need pins or a peened tang.  Assuming you have good epoxy technique (clean surfaces, preferably with mechanical locking geometry - notches), your antler will be destroyed before breaking the epoxy.  

Check out this thread.  

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yeah, I considered the forge and thread method, but am not confident about my ability to forge and grind to a perfect, or close to perfect, size and round.

I started using the plumbers epoxy method a while back, but I didn't like the long-term durability of that product.

but I agree that a fully hidden tang with a high-quality epoxy and "barbs" cut into the tang will probably be stronger than the antler itself.  that's certainly the easiest approach, so maybe I'll give that a try.

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Easiest way i have found to cut barbs is to take a triangular file and angle it backwards toward the end of the tang, so the barb points are facing the tip of the blade. They go in easy, and refuse to come out once epoxied. 

Good luck with it. 

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I'm planning a slightly curved piece of antler and was thinking about putting the tang into it likewise curved.  thought it might help with retention.  this is why I was thinking about burning it in.



 

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8 hours ago, joe pierre said:

I'm planning a slightly curved piece of antler and was thinking about putting the tang into it likewise curved.  thought it might help with retention.  this is why I was thinking about burning it in.

That would make it more difficult to burn in than if it were straight. It will also leave a void in the center. Truthfully, you want to clean all the pith out and replace it as Jerrod suggested. The pith is very friable and unstable. This will likely fail under pressure and torque in heavy use. The process Jerrod suggested is called "bedding" and most guys use this method. I would not try to use liquid epoxy to fill around the tang though, too messy and difficult to stop it from leaking out. I would use a 2-part putty like Kwikwood. I did this on a smaller scale with an antler spacer in this thread. For the curved tang and antler, I would suggest packing the front half of the antler first, sliding the tang through it and them backfilling the rest. You can pack the putty in with a popsicle stick or a wooden dowel.

As for how to accomplish the full tang with either a peened end or a threaded finial, type this text into the Google search bar: site: bladesmithsforum.com "through tang" and start reading.

Edited by Joshua States
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The pith, as others have said, is porous and weak.  However, you can use this to your advantage.  Soak the pith with superglue, a little at a time (it gets quite hot as it fires off and heat is an enemy of antler).  Once the pith is pretty well bonded together, drill an oversized hole and bed the tang as Jerrod suggested.  

If you are going to thread the tang, which is my favorite construction, you don't need to have the threaded part exactly round, it can be pretty crude and still thread just fine.  If you hit a thick spot, rather than force the die and break something, back off and file the spot down a bit.  Once you can get a nut on, over a washer then you can attach the butt cap any way you like.  I often turn a nut with a shank that goes through the cap, like this one.

7b2VU0om.jpg

Geoff

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14 hours ago, Joshua States said:

I would not try to use liquid epoxy to fill around the tang though, too messy and difficult to stop it from leaking out. I would use a 2-part putty like Kwikwood.

Great point; sorry I missed having that in my initial post!

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JB Weld, PC-7, whatever.  I like Accraglas, but it's a pain to deal with.  Indestructable once it sets, though!

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If you're going to drill all the way through, you can just put a piece of tape over one end, or build a cork for the end.  A little dab of Vaseline on the end of the cork keeps it from being a permanent part of the handle.  I don't like JB weld because anywhere it shows, it's really obvious.  I use West Systems GFlex and like Accraglas, it takes dynamite to get a handle off.

Geoff

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Mind you, proper bedding of the tang does not require any additional epoxy to keep the knife together. Properly bedded, there is no movement of the tang inside the handle material.

The mechanical connection at the butt cap, be it a finial or a peen block, should be enough. At most a light glaze of epoxy to take up what little space there is because of the Vaseline and Teflon tape and hold the notches, should be fine. Any decent epoxy will bond to another decent putty epoxy like JB Weld Steel Stik (another one of my faves). Also you can epoxy and pin the butt cap onto the heel as the final attachment. Just leave the tang short of the end of the handle, and leave a space (like 1/4" deep) at the handle heel to embed the but cap pin or pins.

This knife, has a pinned on butt cap to an elk antler handle, using a single center mosaic pin and two blind alignment pins. This has been in use for about 10 years with no issues.

Edited by Joshua States

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