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Shoulders vs. press fit?


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Hi all,

For hidden tang knives, do you grind shoulders for the guard to rest against, or do you press fit? I've been taught the shoulder method, but have heard that great results come from press fitting, and that it's easier to make a seamless joint. What say the cognoscenti?

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Shoulder fits work well, but without the right jigs it is hard to get all 4 shoulders lined up. The press fitting can make a good-looking joint. the main thing is, is having a tapered tang. Not only that, the thickest point of the knife should actually be a little bit forward from the shoulders, just barely. This is so you know for sure that the guard will always be pushing up on a thicker and thicker portion of the tang. This is also so you don't lose your mind, trying to make the shoulders the absolute thickest point, like a balancing act. 

For hidden tangs that I do, I usually just use my belt grinder and create the shoulders. I don't get a perfect 90 degree angle, and that isn't what I want anyways because sharp corners can be stress points, although that depends on how strong/thick the tang is. I hot punch and fit my fittings on most of my knives so the shoulders are deep inside the bolster/guard, I really like the look. Because the hot fitting process doesn't yield a perfect fit (and I need to grind the blade more anyways, which will further change the fit), I use a ball peen to close the gaps the rest of the way. The front of the guard is forge finished, so the peen texture blends in, and the face of the guard is past the shoulders so the peening doesn't bring the face of the guard behind the shoulders of the blade.

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I inset most of my blades into a guard or handle... any shoulders are within the material.

 

 

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On 3/3/2018 at 7:27 PM, jheinen said:

Hi all,

For hidden tang knives, do you grind shoulders for the guard to rest against, or do you press fit? I've been taught the shoulder method, but have heard that great results come from press fitting, and that it's easier to make a seamless joint. What say the cognoscenti?

Both.  I use a file guide to create the shoulders, so that they are precise, and then file out the slot in the guard until its close but not completely set on the knife, and then drive it on with a monkey tool until it is snug against the shoulders.  Mind you, you can only do this on materials that are softer than the knife blade.  

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On 3/3/2018 at 10:20 PM, Wesley Alberson said:

, I use a ball peen to close the gaps the rest of the way. The front of the guard is forge finished, so the peen texture blends in

Can you share a pic of this? Just the finished guard and fit. It sounds like a technique I will want to try

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2 hours ago, Alex Middleton said:

I have to ask Wes, wth is a monkey tool?  That's a new one to me.

It's a tube of metal, typically with a plate at one end that has a slot cut into it and then a solid metal cap.  They are used in blacksmithing for creating nice even shoulders for joinery, mortis and tenon style.  In our case, its pretty much the same looking thing, but knifemakers will use them to drive the guard on.

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9 hours ago, DavidF said:

Can you share a pic of this? Just the finished guard and fit. It sounds like a technique I will want to try

 

Sure, here are a couple of pictures. The butt plate fit isn't as precise as the guard fit because there needs to be some wiggle room, but I could probably get it closer. You'll notice that the inside edges of the guard kind of dip downwards from the peening. I need to use a smaller hammer towards the end in order to get in there. my fitting process goes as follows:

  1. punch the hole and drift with a tapered drift until it fits most of the way on the tang, making sure that the smaller opening is the face of the guard
  2. I used a squashed piece of pipe that goes over the tang to hammer the guard up to the shoulders of the blade , but not onto the shoulders yet.
  3. At the anvil I slide the guard up to the shoulders of the blade while holding the blade in my left hand. I then hammer the sides of the guard until there is no gap on the sides, alternating every couple of hammer blows. I try not to hammer the back of the guard closed, so I hold the blade at an angle and hammer at an angle so I'm mostly moving the face of the guard.
  4. Then I will hammer the guard onto the shoulders of the blade, making sure not to overheat the shoulders and deform them. There will always be a gap, there is no avoiding it. The gap will get slightly larger when I grind post HT, and then I hammer the hole closer with a ball peen hammer, adjusting the hole with a file and changing the taper of the tang if need be. 

 

6tUMWgb.jpgg0ULP8f.jpg

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12 hours ago, Wes Detrick said:

It's a tube of metal, typically with a plate at one end that has a slot cut into it and then a solid metal cap. 

Thanks Wes!  That will be really useful.  It'll definitely work better than hammering on the side of a crescent wrench.  I'll be honest, I was really afraid you were going to tell me it was just a hammer!:D

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I would like to point out that it is not an "either or" question. You can (and should) use shoulders of some sort at some point in the design. Guards are either "press fit" or soldered on.

This thread over at the ABS forum has two really good photo pictorials on hidden tang guard fitting.

http://www.americanbladesmith.com/ipboard/index.php?/topic/2554-fitting-a-guard-–-topic-for-september-2016/

 

Edited by Joshua States
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