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Frame Handles- How I do them


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In another thread I showed the beginning steps in creating a Damascus frame handle. I figured I would post the rest of it as I do it.

The first steps I showed in the other thread are to forge out a twisted bar of low layer (7-15) and flatten it to about 3/4" wide and at least 1/4" thick.

 

Frame bar (1)_V2.jpg

 

Now the reason most people use twist is to have the stars show on the outside of the frame. The stars are located in the center third of the bar. So the easiest way to get them outside is to split the bar lengthwise. If the bar is long enough to make the entire profile of the frame, use half the bar. If it's short, don't cut all the way through and  leave the two halves connected in what will become the handle heel.

 

Frame bar (2)_V2.jpg

 

Now open it up, or wrap one half around to put the center of the bar on the outside of the form.

Warning: Forging this piece can lead to delamination. Be prepared to weld things back together or crap it and start over.

 

Frame bar (3)_V2.jpg

Edited by Joshua States
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Posted (edited)

Most of you know that I work from templates a lot. This is no exception. Take your frame template and scribe the perimeter on the anvil face with a soapstone or white charcoal pencil.

1 Template (1).jpg

 

Now forge the twisted bar to match the drawing.

 

2 Forged frame.jpg

 

I have space in front of this for a spacer package in the knife design. Now lay the template over the forged form and make sure the form is at least a little bigger than the template, and all the pin holes will pass though the steel. You can see two small delams in this photo. I got lucky though. The upper one is not too deep and will grind out in the surface grinder. The lower one is mostly outside the template and will disappear.

 

3 Fit to template.jpg

 

Take it to a surface grinder or similar flattening method and surface both sides clean and flat.

Clamp the template to the frame and drill the pin holes. These locations were predetermined when I made the template. Drill a hole and insert a piece of pin stock to keep the template in place while you drill the next hole. Insert another pin, lather, rinse, repeat.

 

4 Drill Pins.jpg

 

I broke my last 1/16" carbide bit and will have to wait until the new ones arrive to finish drilling.

 

Edited by Joshua States
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Enjoying the tutorial. The fine carbide bits really are fragile but can do quite a few holes before they fall prey to their hardness. 

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Yes folks it happens. The first time you do this, you will try and pull it out with pliers or beat it out with a punch. Don't do that. Leave it in there as a holding pin and move on with a new bit and finish drilling the rest of the holes. Then take that template, turn it over and pin it to the other side. Now turn the speed down really slow and back drill the pin hole through the other side. Use a lubricant and the new drill bit will push that broken bit out.

 

Back drilling.jpg

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Posted (edited)

When I started this project, I had a handle in mind that I have used before. I also have a pair of really nice ivory scales I have been saving for 6 years or so, for a special project that would work wonderfully on this knife. This knife will also have a wrought iron guard and spacers. I thought abut making the frame from a billet of 13 layer wrought/HC I have, but I was planning that for another project and decided to just use that piece of HC twist I already had. I should have listened to myself. Trying to shape that piece to the template I really wanted to use was a bear and I couldn't make the tight corners. I ended up making a new template on the fly that is too big for the scales. Blah blah blah. This frame sucks and I'm ditching it. So I am going to use that wrought/HC twisted bar partly because it will be the better material for this knife, but mostly because there is no other choice.

I did make it through a few more steps before calling it quits. Here they are.

 

After getting the holes drilled, spray one side of the frame with layout fluid and pin the template to the frame. Scribe the profile.

 

5 Scribe template.jpg

 

Now remove the template and insert pins in the front holes. Lay a couple of gauged parallels against the front pins where you want the frame to end at the spacer package.

Scribe that line.

 

6 set Front line.jpg

 

Chuck that frame up into your carbide faced file jig (you do have one of these, yes?) set the carbide faces at the line and grind then down to 220 grit.

 

7 Scribed front line.jpg

Edited by Joshua States
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Now onto the fun.

I took that 13 layer bar, twisted the snot out of it and flattened it. Here is the glamor shot.

 

1 New bar glamor.jpg

 

I cut the untwisted ends off it. Welds look good.

 

2 New bar welds.jpg

 

This cut really easily on the bandsaw , so I split it down the middle.

 

3 New bar split.jpg

 

Now I thought about this for a minute or two and decided to try something new. (dangerous business when you have a time limitation). But the handle I want has some pretty tight corners. These tend to break when you bend the bar that way. So I decided to cut a notch in the bar to make the bend easier.

 

4 New bar notch.jpg

 

Now I put it in the post vice and grabbed the torch to apply a localized heat at the bend. tapping it with a small rounding hammer I closed the bend.

Then I checked it against the anvil drawing and marked the other notch.

 

5 New bar bend.jpg

 

After much fiddling and fruuging around, (I ended up tack welding the corners to keep them from coming apart) I managed to get the new frame shaped.

 

5 New bar shaped.jpg

 

It checks out against the template too.

 

New bar fit to 6 template.jpg

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I am watching your tile piece project because I recently tried a canoe with the cut offs from this blade and had less than spectacular results.

Hopefully, I will learn something and find a way to salvage the steel.

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And I'm pinning this, because it'll be very useful to anyone who wants to do a frame handle, even if it's just cut from sheet. 

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Posted (edited)

Now it is time to HT the frame, if you made it from hardenable steel. Do a fairly soft or spring temper. I hand sanded the flats to 220 grit on the granite slab.

What is important is that there is a continuous flat around the outside edge. This is what fill fit against the scales and you do not want any gaps.

 

8 Sanded frame.jpg

 

The ivory I have for this warped a bit in the last 6 years. I tried the mineral oil and clamp overnight. We will see how well it worked this morning.

 

9 Scales (1).jpg

 

I also etched the blade yesterday. I had already fit the guard and spacers to the unetched blade.

 

 

 

9 Guard & Spacer.jpg

 

After two 10-minute etches in an agitated bath of FeCl and some light sanding with 1000 grit paper.

 

Etched blade (1).jpg

Edited by Joshua States
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Now to fit the scales to the frame.

Frist step is drilling the holes. This is the same procedure as when I drilled the holes in the frame from the template, except I am using the frame to transfer the hole to the scales. I am NOT using the template. Drill the front two holes first. This pretty much stabilizes the frame location. Drill a hole, put a pin in, lather, rinse, repeat.

 

1 Drilling holes.jpg

 

Make sure you put the scales on opposite sides of the frame and do each scale for a specific side. This is really important when you have book matched scales and want to keep the grain oriented the right way. Once you have both scales drilled, pin the frame to one side and scribe the perimeter. Cut off the excess with a band saw.

 

2 Scribing profile.jpg

 

Attach a scale to the frame and using the file jig, flush the front to the front of the frame. Repeat for the other scale.

 

3 Trim front.jpg

 

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Posted (edited)

Now we fit the frame to the tang.

By this time I have the spacer package closely shaped and all alignment pins are drilled through the spacer package. They are not drilled in the scales yet. Insert a short pin in one hole. It should not protrude from either side.  Fit the guard and spacer package onto the knife and get a tight fit. Fit one scale to the frame and blacken the inside edge with a Sharpie pen. Slide the scale/frame under the tang and butt it tight to the spacer package. 

 

4 Mark tang.jpg

 

Scribe a line where you need to remove material from the frame, and mark where you need to trim the tang.

 

5 Mark tang 2.jpg

 

Test the fit after removing the excess frame and tang bits. The tang should be able to insert through the front and slide in to butt up against the spacer.

 

6 Tang fit.jpg

Edited by Joshua States
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Posted (edited)

To transfer the alignment pins to the scales, you need to ensure the frame is centered on the spine of the blade. Blacken the top of the spacer package and put it on the knife (no guard). It should fit snug and seat in it's final location. Take a straight edge and transfer the line of the blade spine onto the top of the spacer package. Do both sides.

 

7 Spine to spacer.jpg

 

Assemble both scales to the frame and put a small dab of superglue on the ends of the frame. Push it onto the tang and center the frame on the lines on the top of the spacer. hold it until the glue sets and slide the last spacer off attached to the frame. Drill the alignment holes in the scales using the last spacer as a guide. Don't try and drill too deep. 1/8" is plenty deep, less will work too. Attach the spacer with longer pins and trim so the front spacer is flush and the pins go full depth into the scale holes.

 

8 Spacer fit to handle.jpg

 

Test fit for tightness. There should be no gaps between the spacers. No gaps between the frame/scales and spacers. and no gaps between the spacers and guard.

 

10 Rough fit up.jpg

 

Transfer the flat area of the frame to the spacer package top and bottom.

 

9 Flat line.jpg

Edited by Joshua States
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Posted (edited)

Shaping the handle.

Symmetry is everything. Remove the spacer package and a scale. Lay the frame down on a flat smooth surface like a granite slab. Get a really sharp pencil and a set of different thickness blocks. Mark a series of graduated lines around the perimeter of the scales to use as a reference when shaping.

 

11 Symmetry lines (1).jpg

 

Do both scales the same way. Top, heel, and belly of the handle.

 

12 Symmetry lines (2).jpg

 

Shaping is done however you feel comfortable. I use a combination of the disc, a slack belt and lots of hand sanding in the tabletop Panavice.

You have to be able to hold the spacer package on the handle while you grind/sand. Sometimes, a little spray adhesive works well to aid you. Do NOT think it will keep that spacer package in place for you. You must keep it in your hand with a finger pushing it against the handle at all times. Decide if you want a museum fit or a flush fit. And shape until you are satisfied. This is done to 400 grit and I can now disassemble the handle and etch the frame.

 

13 Shaped.jpg

 

I already know I didn't twist the frame tight enough. There are very few stars on it, but that's what it is.

Edited by Joshua States
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So hivemind, what is the best way to bring out that wood grain texture in the wrought iron?

 

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Lots of long etches in ferric chloride is the safest.  The best is to leave it out in humid salt air for 50-100 years. ;)

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On 5/2/2021 at 7:49 AM, Joshua States said:

The ivory I have for this warped a bit in the last 6 years. I tried the mineral oil and clamp overnight.

So should we assume that this worked?

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8 hours ago, billyO said:

So should we assume that this worked?

Partially. It took some of the bend out. 

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That about wraps it up folks on the process.

There is still a bit of work to do to get this finished, but here is the frame between the scales.

Top side

 

Fit Frame Spine.jpg

 

Bottom side

 

Fit Frame belly.jpg

 

Heel

 

Fit Frame heel.jpg

 

Here is the knife as it sits tonight. I still have to mark the blade, decide if I want to blue it, and finish shaping and etching the guard.

 

V2 Assembly progress.jpg

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Really nice Joshua, a frame handle is on my to do list, and the twist damascus looks great.

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Added extra photos of the fittings and stuff. I finished shaping, etching and bluing the guard.

Front

 

Post Bluing (1).jpg

 

Back

 

Post Bluing (2).jpg

 

Even one of the sides has some nice grain

 

 

 

 

Post Bluing (3).jpg

And the maker's mark etched.

V2 Pre Bluing 1.jpg

 

And blued

 

V2 Post Bluing (2) (1).jpg

 

 

Shop Decor.JPG

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Okay, I’ll bite; what’s the last photo for?

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What do you use to polish off the high spots when you blue a blade? Just high grit sand paper or a buffing wheel?

BTW- that's a sharp looking sticker on your tool box ;)

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1000 grit sand paper is what I use to polish the shiny bits. There are suppliers who sell it online or you can usually find it (and finer grit) at auto parts stores.

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  • Joshua States changed the title to Frame Handles- How I do them

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