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I've done a few projects with found steel and wood, so I figured I would do it for the KITH this year. In addition, I am finally taking the advice I got from a Design and Critique thread from a while ago and will be adding a few more "rules" to try and get a finished knife that captures the spirit of older pieces. All of the materials for the knife and sheath were found or harvested by me. That includes the glue and finish, which will be pine pitch and birch tar respectively. In addition, I won't be using any power tools or sandpaper for the shaping. I was thinking about making a few scrapers, but I'll start with just files and stones. Since I'm starting with scrap, I decided to do the volume by weight. I've analyzed pieces of this steel, and it's pretty much 5160, so I used that as the density:


Shooting for a 128-129 g black will mean that I have 1 in^3 of steel without having to start with a well shaped piece of starting material.



The blade is coming from this ~60 year old leaf spring. I would normally use an angle grinder for this, but for this project I used a hot cut and a chisel.



I would say that's pretty much on the money weight wise. The blade is inspired by some styles from Siberia, and the sheath will be as well. More on that as I get more done on this project.



My plan for the sheath will require some pieces of sheet metal. Enter the old alternator. Brass would be the right metal, but the casting on this one was aluminum, so I made some aluminum bronze.



Pouring into ingot molds never seems to go quite right for me, but these should be serviceable. The left is aluminum bronze and the right is a pure copper backup. These are going to have to get hammered out pretty thin, which I am probably going to start hot. The bronze is very hard, so I'm hoping forging at a low heat works for it.


That's all for now, thanks for looking!

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Thanks guys! This is a project I've wanted to do for a while.



I wasn't quite happy with the forging. This is the first case of doing things differently than I normally would; the end of the tang wasn't pointy enough, which would have been a pain to fix with a file. A little hammering and now there is less tang and more blade which is also somewhat narrower. This is going to be a hidden tang with homemade glue, so I wanted it to have a good taper to develop some holding force when I pound it in. I may do some filing tonight when it's not 100+ degrees in the shop.



I had a little trouble with the bronze. This stuff is actually stronger than some steels apparently (well, higher ultimate, similar yield and lower modulus), and it felt more or less like mild under the hammer. I forged part of the ingot too hot and too hard and got some cracks, but the rest was reasonably easy to draw down to ~0.02". I have to change my plan a bit to use less bronze, and now I will be using some birch bark in the sheath after all. That type of sheath will need some tiny rivets, so I used some of the copper to forge out some pin stock. A draw plate would have been helpful there, but I got something serviceable.


That's all for now, I'm having fun with this one!

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Starting to get there with the blade. 



Roughed everything in with a course file, then used a smooth second cut fill to draw file it all flat. 


Perhaps a bit thin, but it should lose too much more thickness. Spine is nice and rounded after draw filing. 


I will often use the bend-and-file trick, but this time it’s all the “angry duck” for the fuller. 


Using a guide, this didn’t actually take that long. My scraper has some chatter probably because of the wooden body, so some cleanup with a riffler file fixed it up. From what I can tell, some Sakha smiths from the 19-20th centuries would use shop-made files to finish out these grooves in some cases, but that’s a project for another day. 


After heat treat. I decided my toaster oven is a “power tool” so I used the water drop method to temper this. I slowly heated in my forge until water droplets danced off the surface instead of sticking and boiling, which happens to be about the right temperature for tempering. I’m Donna take a break from this since I believe now it is time to bust out the stones. 


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Thanks Alex! Though today that may not be the case because it’s polishing time! 


This is the blade after about an hour on a 120 grit Sun Tiger stone. I’m hoping this was the longest stage of polishing because I had to even out the dips from filing and warps from hardening as well as thin down the edge. Not sure exactly how high I’ll take this on stones, but I have plans for the final polishing step. Next up is 220, then starting the handle!

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Nice creative ideas coming to life here.   Inspired me to make a little more progress on the ball bearing project 

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Another good while of polishing and the blade is up to 220 grit, ready for handle work to start.



This is where the handle started: a grey birch stump I pulled out of the freezing mud late in the fall of 2018. Pretty sure it was blown down the preceding spring/winter because there was a decent amount of spalting and insect damage, the latter of which was tragic because it had some really gorgeous wood in it.



Here is the piece I chose, it's a little grimy from storage and you can see some of the holes from grubs. I also boiled this before drying it which darkens this wood somewhat. There is some decent figure and a touch of spalting in this piece, I think it should make a decent handle.



Here's the handle blank, cleaned up with a rasp to show the figure. I'll see how well carving and scraping work for the actual shaping. I think a rasp is not going to set me up for success when I'm not allowed to use sand paper to go over the surface after. I think this piece will do nicely. There is a worm hole (left picture on the edge) but I think it goes in and back out of the block pretty shallow (I've been wrong about that before though!).



Long tang = deep pre-drill, about 1/2" shy of the chuck in the second picture. This wasn't actually that bad though, other than the usual challenges of holes with this kind of aspect ratio; wandering, chip clearance, etc.



All fit up! I did a burn in for this. Having that long drill to set up helped a lot. For anyone who does a lot of partial hidden tangs, I would highly recommend getting a few long drills like this. I got a few almost five years ago for making seaxes and have used them for tons of stuff like this. Next it's time for more polishing! Then finishing the handle and working on the sheath.

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If you ever want to appreciate sand paper, I highly recommend doing a burl handle without it. This was fun, but definitely a challenge.



Here are the tools I used for handle shaping. The knife is has an asymmetric grind and is long enough to hold with two hands, so I used it like a drawknife for a good bit of the shaping. In the middle is my scraper/burnisher for kinko work, which proved useful for sand paperless finish.



I wrapped up the stone finishing with 300 then 800 grit water stones going lengthwise. I then switched to my oilstones to add the secondary bevel. I would have preferred the edge to be a bit thinned behind the bevel, but thinning this thing with stones was a tall order. I think the stone work has taken roughly half of all the time involved in making this knife. The bevel is only on the left side, the only sharpening on the right is removing the burr.



Soft water stones leave a somewhat "open" finish, which rusts in a heartbeat. I decided to try out doing the final polish with a pumice slurry and a wooden polishing stick. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!



I used home made white pine pitch for the glue up. It smells a lot nicer than epoxy! There was one beetle hole I couldn't completely get rid of so I did a bit of "stabilization" with a bit of the pitch.



Not too bad if I do say so myself!



My birch oil was a bit too pasty to spread on this, so I used a dab of white pine tar. I have about 10 lbs of red pine fatwood I should render at some point, but this should be ok. In my experience it's a bit sticky, I may try some careful heating to drive off some of that, as well as a coating of beeswax. Next the sheath!

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What a cool build, I love this style of knife.


I like the traditional process, it really looks like a lot of fun.

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I always watch your work and it always impressed me! thumb up.jpg

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This project has been a ton of fun, I'm glad some other people find it interesting as well! I will be away from the shop for three weeks starting tomorrow, but I got in one last bit of work on this. There's some left to do, but I ought to be able to wrap it up before the deadline.



The sheath insert will be made from a piece of grey birch knocked down this spring by snow and wind. This hatchet I made a a while ago ended up a little thin in the bit, but it works pretty well for carving! 



The insert is made without a split using a knife and rip saw. @jake pogrebinsky made a great WIP about making sheaths like this last year, it's a pretty neat construction and can essentially be done using only a saw and a knife. Conveniently, this also removes the heart of this relatively small diameter piece of wood. A piece 0.25" wider would have been nice, but this is the blank I split back in April for this knife, so it's what I get to work with. For future knives I will definitely try out the "split and mortise" approach, but without any kind of thin glue, this one needs to be one piece.



My hatchet carving ability is not amazing, but I got there eventually. This wood was also supposed to be green for this, but I guess that's what I get for putting this off for three months :unsure:. The second picture is after some whittling and then scraping everything smooth with the edge of the knife.



Next comes the bark. I had hoped to remove the outer layer, but this grey birch bark is thin and obstinate so I decided not to risk it. I guess it will have that "of the forest" look. The bark is from a dead tree and very dry, so some steam to heat and moisturize it made working much easier. This will have glue and a mechanical connection in the form of bronze sheet metal and rivets, but I would love to have the bark itself on my side as well.



The steam seems to have done the trick! I wish I had some other kind of glue for this, but pitch is all I've got. Something thinner would have probably made a much better bond for this big on an area, but the point of this is mostly to tack the bark in place while make the metal fittings to provide the actual strength in the sheath. The only alternative I can think of would be something like fish glue, but unfortunately I haven't made it out fishing for almost a year. 



Where it stands now. Definitely rustic! I think the bronze should dress it up a bit, as well as some more scraping of the bark to get beige instead of white.


I've learned a ton by making this knife this way. I will definitely bring the lessons from this experience into future work, though not necessarily all at once! I like the profile of the blade much more than any in this style I've made on the grinder, and I hope to make more knives with that "softness" that comes from the forged shape. Using materials I've collected myself is something I've done a fair bit, but this is definitely the furthest I've taken it as far as complexity of construction. I think making my own soft-metal alloys could be a fruitful option for future knife making projects (I've made a lot of shibuichi and a bit of shakudo for jewelry already with decent results). Finish wise, using stones for all the shaping takes a lot of time, but ending with the stone/pumice finish could be a decent way to get the same look and save some time. Adding in some shop-made hearth steel could be a way to get some more interesting metal. I have to get enough high carbon stuff consolidated first though!


Thank you everyone for following along and I hope to wrap this up towards the end of August!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Excellent work,Aiden.

I think your intuition is taking you in a great direction,exploration into those non-machined forms/finishes will reward you richly,i believe.

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I think this is a beautiful sheath in the present form. I really like that bark exterior. This thing just screams "Druid knife" at me. 

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  • 1 month later...

Quite a delay, but with the deadline here I got things wrapped up. Not shown is a lot of struggling in vain with the bronze sheet. 


On 8/18/2021 at 7:33 PM, Joshua States said:

I think this is a beautiful sheath in the present form. I really like that bark exterior. This thing just screams "Druid knife" at me. 

The original plan was a somewhat cleaner look, but the “Druid” aesthetic has grown on me! Maybe it’s all the wandering in the woods year and a half without a hair cut…


Having given up on the metal, I finished off the sheath with some bark to reinforce it and add a belt loop. The strips are cut in a spiral from a fallen trunk since all the birch I had access to were tiny. 


And here it is! Thank you everyone for following along on this project, it was a blast and very fulfilling to bring all of this together. 


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I've been "away" from the forum for some time and missed this project.  It's an amazing piece Aiden.  :o  I truly admire your creativity.  Don't know if I'd been willing to "step back in time" and try and create a knife and sheath in that fashion.  I'm too attached to my modern tools...............and still complain because I don't have all the tools I'd like to have. :rolleyes:  You, sir, are an inspiration.

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