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Mat Gleeson

First knife, big mistake. Can this be fixed?

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Hi all, first post. I've made a mistake drilling the pin holes and I'm looking for some advice on what to do next.

I'm making my first knife, a drop point hunter in 3/16 O-1. I got some red oak from a friend who makes furniture for the handle and I plan on doing a brass bolster and pins. I just drilled the pin holes(1/4") and they look too low in the handle. When I was laying them out in marker I thought I'd measured them right in the middle but it looks like I was about a tenth of an inch off and it looks kind of like crap. I'm really hoping that there's something I can do to fix this. My first thoughts were to either to file holes up a tenth of an inch and rely on epoxy to hold the pins where I want them or to get smaller pin material and position 4 pins in the corners(not sure how this will look with a bolster I could also do 6 pins with just the red oak and no bolster). I know sacrificing the mechanical hold for the sake of the look of the knife isn't good but it's my first knife and I don't expect it to be a masterpiece. Either way, I've learned a lot from the mistakes I've made on this knife and want to finish the process to learn all I can before I start the next one. 

Any feedback or advice at all is appreciated. If you're curious about the tools I have available, just a cordless drill, files, hacksaw and Dremel. 20180627_152936.jpg

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This is an easy fix, you've already thought of many of them.   First, 1/4" pins are overkill for a blade like this, I'd go with 1/8".  The great big pins you often see in knife handles are cutlers rivets, they have a big flat head and 1/8 " shanks.  The corner pin idea is a good one,  I also like to pin and peen my bolsters, so a couple of 1/8 " holes for the bolster are good.  Or you could go with 2 1/8" holes along the centerline, draw a line that looks good to you and space them wherever they fit nicely.  The holes you've already drilled will act as epoxy "rivets", take a round end dremel bit and relieve the tang between the holes just a bit and do the same to your slabs.  Epoxy holds better if it has a little mass to it, so taking a bit of material out of the center will give it someplace to go.

 

I don't do a lot of full tang blades, but that is just me.  When I do, I generally remove material from the center of the tang by drilling big holes, or by milling a slot.  It makes the weight and balance better, IMHO, and doesn't compromise the handle at all.

Let us know how it turns out

 

Geoff

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I'm with Geoff about the size of the pins. Huge for the size of the knife.

His suggestions are good and there are other ways to skin the cat. You could go with the bolsters and 5 pins played out like the 5 fit a on dice. My first reaction was, if you only have that size pin, since it is a pretty stocky knife for its length, you could grind down the spine of the tang and the blade to bring the holes back to center. But, if you can, I'd suggest just using smaller pins and avoiding those holes with patterning. The existing holes, like Geoff said, will just be good points for epoxy bonding between the scales. I hope you have 1/8" pinstock since 1/4 " is way too big for the bolsters IMO. I like to use two pins on bolsters to discourage pivoting so I like them to be even smaller than my handle pins.

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I think Geoff covered most of it. Your life will change when you get a drill press by the way, even just a cheap one is life changing. 

You'd be surprised that a good number of professional knifemakers don't drill holes the exact diameter of the pins; rather they'll just drill a bunch of have the waterjetted blanks cut out large cavities inside. Of course, this means you can't cut corners on epoxy application; the surfaces of both tang and scales have to be chemically clean before applying the right epoxy. Good epoxy and good application is shockingly effective and if it's done right will outlast the scales. The pins in this case serve as a method to hold the scales to each other so that ripping out the bottom surface of the scales is no longer possible (it's like gluing something to the wall; the paint will rip off the wall, not the glue off the paint). 

Keep in mind also that there are a lot of strength issues that need to be kept in perspective; for example the old full vs hidden tang debate. Newbie fanatics will take only full tang knives "because they're stronger". Which, as a concept and all else equal, they really are (there's more mass of steel). The clinch though is that assuming the stick tang is well constructed, by the time you apply enough stress to actually destroy the handle, you're A: using the knife wrong (tip; it's not a prybar that you can hook up to a hydraulic press) and B, something else has already failed (wood scales, tip, edge, etc.).

Being that smaller pins are (generally) sexier, you can probably just stick smaller pins in the holes you already have, drill out the scales to the new pin size, and center them because you have wiggle room inside that larger hole. Or you can just drill new holes; use a center punch to mark a divet in the correct spot so the drill doesn't roll away, and start with a smaller drill bit than intended so you're less likely to roll out of alignment. 

 

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Thanks guys, that really helps. Luckily, there's a place nearby where I can get brass round pretty cheap. I think I'll probably stick with the original 2 pin and bolster plan but with 1/8". It'll probably be a while because I only have time to work on it a couple hours a day but I'll post a pic here when it's done. 

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