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doing a fancy pipe hawk handle my way

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Well, since I have four requests so far, here's an illustrated tutorial on how I do pipe hawk handles like this one:




First, you need a handle. I get mine from Dunlap Woodcrafts of Vienna and Chantilly, Virginia, USA. They offer preturned handle blanks in many North American hardwoods, and most importantly for my purposes they offer predrilled curly maple handles in three different grades. This one is the middle grade, if you're wondering what the presentation grade may look like. :ph34r: Call Wayne Dunlap at 703-734-2748 or look 'em up online. They don't list the hawk handles online, but they have them.


I use these handles because they are made to fit the taper formed by the malleable iron hawk drift offered by Blacksmiths Depot, among others. The one that has "TD-1" cast into it. Saves a LOT of work, and by paying the extra $15 to let them drill it you'll save much frustration. I used to drill my own, and still do if I absolutely have to, but I have about a 50% success rate doing it. <_<


Anyway: You've got your handle and your hawk head, which you will have learned to forge by watching me demo at Batson's in two months. If it's a pipe hawk head, it helps to glue a thin scrap of leather into the back of the eye to act as a gasket in case your fit isn't perfect. You now need to fit the head to the handle. First, saw off about an eighth-inch of both ends to get rid of the lathe spur marks, then start your fitting. I do this by sliding the head on as far as it'll go, then use a soft mallet to tap the top of the handle until the head gouges or otherwise marks the wood to show you where you need to take a little off:




In this pic you can see the marks left by the head and the scraper I use to remove very fine shavings of wood. As you can see, this scraper shape can make flats and concavities, and is thus very useful. The bench is a Black and Decker Workmate 550, a wonderful invention for gunsmithing and hawk making. You can also see the thin leather gasket in the eye of the head, thinned down to nothing at the edges.


Keep scraping and fitting until the head is about 3/8 to 1/2 inch (about 1 cm) from the top of the handle. DO NOT drill the hole from the bowl to the smoke channel yet. The head will move up another little bit as you do the final finish sanding, which will destroy your hole alignment. That little hole is the very last thing you're gonna do.


Now that your head is fitted, lay out the lines for the pewter bands. I use a spring steel roll-up ruler to get the straight lines. I draw the lines about 1/4 inch apart, saw down about 3/16" (0.5 cm) all the way round, then use a 1/4" (0.6cm) chisel to remove the waste:








I use a coping saw to cut the lines, but any fine-tooth saw will work. Just be sure you go deep enough to hold the pewter, but not so deep you hit the smoke channel! :lol:


Next: Pewter work. Remember that lasagne box, it's important! ;)

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What's the box for, you ask? It's the form material for casting pewter, that's what. Cut a strip of thin cardboard from the box, then use masking tape to attach it to the handle over your grooves. The pics below show the amount of clearance I allow for the main band and the sprue, both made from one layer of cardboard secured by four or five layers of masking tape. Note: the blue painter's tape is not strong enough, and duct tape melts. Don't use them.


Be sure your cardboard form is not too tight! You want a little overflow to ensure you fill the grooves all the way. Clean up the edges of the grooves before you're ready to pour, any chips will fill with pewter and show up later. You can use this effect to make sawtooth edges on your bands.






I use lead-free plumbing solder for my pewter. You can buy lead-free casting grains too, but they don't sell those at the corner hardware. :lol: Be sure you've got enough melted before you pour, because it's a pain to remove if you screw up. My channels are as deep as this solder wire is thick, and twice as wide. I used four turns of wire around the handle to estimate enough to fill the grooves and the sprues. You need a large sprue to avoid shrinkage cavities on cooling. It also provides a reservoir to help deal with any mistakes. If you look at that second picture you can see a thin thread of pewter running out of the right-hand mold. :ph34r: Luckily it hardened before the whole thing was lost, with about 1/4" of pewter left in the sprue. The other one had a full two inches left.


After it cools for 15 minutes or so, unwrap it, saw off the sprues with a coping saw, and use a medium doublecut file you don't like to clean it up. I have an 8" half-round file that is only used for this job. A small wire brush and a toothpick are needed to clear the pewter from the teeth. An auto body float file would be nice if you can find a small one. They don't load up.








Use a small fine file to do the final cleanup, starting just before you really chew up the wood with the bigger file. Sand to 220 and you're ready to start the mouthpiece.




Be back sometime, gotta go for now. B)

Edited by Alan Longmire
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Hah! I'm back. Just in time to see I didn't mention how I melted the pewter/solder wire. :rolleyes:


I made a little ladle out of sheet steel with a long colonial-style handle, visible in the following out-of-focus picture:




I rub a tiny bit of beeswax into the ladle as flux, then add the rolled-up heavy wire solder and, later on, the sprues from earlier castings, then hold the whole thing over a standard plumber's propane torch until it melts. Don't get it so hot it turns gold-colored, that's some kind of oxide that has to be skimmed off.


BE CAREFUL with this stuff, it flows like water and will stick to your skin if it splashes. I have a nice scar on the back of my hand where I grabbed a handle before the mouthpiece pewter had solidified and some splashed out. It will bubble and spit when you pour it, so goggles and long handles on the ladle are important.


Jesus: I look forward to it. And yep, they're the handiest thing there is for expedient holding of long objects.

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Now it's time to do the mouthpiece. First, plug the hole with a little section of dowel. I've used tightly wadded aluminum foil, but it can leak and that's a mess you'll never, ever forget... <_<


Lay out your carving and proceed. I like to use this sort of flattened hunter's star motif. I'm the only person I've seen to use this in pewter, so if you see one it's probably mine. Lots of them in sheet silver, though.






I also like to pour the band through the inside of the mouthpiece. That means I drill little holes connecting the star tips with the band under the surface of the wood, avoiding the smoke hole. DEEP carving is essential here to make sure you get pewter to the tips of the pointy bits. If you screw that up, it can be fixed with a soldering iron and extra solder, but it'll be visible.


Edited to add: the pencil marks inside the carved areas are something Hershel House showed me. He says that for some reason pewter will flow better if you draw all over the cutouts with a soft pencil first. Maybe it's the lubricity of graphite, maybe it's magic, but I do it for intricate stuff and it doesn't seem to hurt anything.


Wrap the cardboard here loose, we want the pewter to overflow.




Clean up as before, but this time a bigger file can help. I use a Farrier's hoof rasp to really hog off the pewter.




File the mouthpiece to a shape you like, sand, and we're done.




NOTE TO ALL: If you do the band and star in one piece, be sure the holes are big enough and the pewter is HOT. This one cooled on the surface before all the bubbles were gone. Unfortunate but historically correct casting flaws are the result. :angry:




This happened despite agitation during the pour. Bummer.


More later...

Edited by Alan Longmire
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I keep forgetting to mention little details, like "after casting the mouthpiece but before shaping it, drill out the plug and through the pewter with a long 3/16" or 1/4" bit" or "for added hold, and especially if you don't do the band and the mouthpiece as a single casting, drive a drywall screw or two into the end of the wood and cut off the heads so the pewter will have something to stick to."




More later.

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Now, it's time to do the silver inlays.


First, draw your pattern, exact size. You can use a computer, but the results will look like you used a computer, so unless you like that look, don't do it. :lol:




Cut that out and either glue it to a sheet of silver or use carbon paper and trace it on. This is .024 inch thick quarter-hard sterling silver sheet, which costs about ten dollars more per 8x12 inch sheet than that vile substance known as nickel silver.


Cut out witha jewelers saw, clean up the edges, then use the first as a pattern to cut out the second one.






Next I start inletting the silver. The candle on the bench does add ambience :lol: , but it's really used to smoke the back side of the inlay so you can see where you need to remove wood. First bend the inlay to match the curve of the wood, then hold it in the candle flame until the back is coated in soot. Use pliers, silver conducts heat very well indeed!


Draw a centerline to line up the points of the star, then trace one long point with an exacto knife and dig that out to final depth. This serves as a register mark for the rest of the process, so be careful.








To use the soot marks, put the pre-inlet point of the star in its position, then gently rap the rest of the inlay with the butt of a chisel. this is what makes the soot marks on the wood that you then follow with exacto knife and chisels. Pay attention to the degree of curvature so you don't get high spots.


The soot will show the high spots that need to be removed for a full inlay.




Since I'm going to be engraving this inlay later, I'm doing it the easy way: get it to fit fairly well, epoxy and nail it in, then file it flush. One can inlay a pre-engraved piece if one is extremely anal-retentive, but I do not like to do that. ;)


Epoxied in, then filed flush and nailed with a brass escutcheon pin from the hardware store:






Next: engraving! It'll be tomorrow, don't get your hopes up just yet. :P

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YUP!! Thats what I was wanting to see. First rate teaching job.


Sho-nuff- appreciate the trouble you have gone to.


maybe I can return the favor someday. Don't know what on, but maybe.



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Okay, let's get this thing finished! :lol:


First, lay out the lines for engraving. I use a thin film of Chinese White watercolor paint to dull the silver and allow it to take a pencil mark. Then draw your lines with a very sharp pencil.




On this one I cut the main lines in with a homemade #6 square graver driven by a 1" chasing hammer. In other words, four inches of 1/8" music wire ground to a 90-degree V on one end and hardened. There's other places that tell how to make and sharpen gravers, so I won't go into that here.


The shading cuts were done with another square graver, hand pushed this time.




After all cuts are made, knock off any burrs with the side of a graver face, sand gently to 400, and polish with #0000 steel wool.

You can blacken the cuts if you want, but I like to leave them bright to tarnish naturally. They turn a bit yellow with the aquafortis treatment anyway, and then darken up nicely.



Edited by Alan Longmire
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Next, it's time to stain the handle. Sand the whole thing, inlays and all, to 400 or higher if you want, and burnish with #0000 steel wool. On porous woods like ash this can leave pewter and silver particles in the wood, making it kind of muddy-looking. You can fix that by using masking tape to pull the particles out of the grain. Good curly maple, from the species Acer saccharinum (sugar or rock maple) will not have this problem because it's a very hard, close-grained wood. Lesser maples like red maple (Acer rubrum) and particularly bigleaf (Acer macrophyllum) and silver maples can be problematic as they are much softer and more open in grain.


Raise the grain a few times during this process by lightly dampening the wood with water, then running a heat gun or propane torch over the surface until dry. This makes any fibers compacted by sanding to stand up, allowing them to be removed with steel wool.


After a few cycles of this the wood ought to be bright and shiny and smooth.


Stain with your favorite method. I like aquafortis/ferric nitrate, and have explained how I do that elsewhere.


I then finish with boiled linseed oil, rubbed in one thin coat every few days until it stays shiny, then after a month or so I sometimes add a coat of Rennaissance Wax. The pics below are the handle after the first coat of oil. I'd love some pics of the staining process, but I work alone and my process requires both hands and instant action, no time for pics. :(



Edited by Alan Longmire
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Now it's finally time to drill the hole that connects the pipe bowl with the smoke channel. Put the head back on and seat it firmly by whacking the head end of the handle with a soft-faced hammer a few times, then start drilling.


I drill the hole in the pipe bowl with a 1/8" bit, so we start with that. I use a hand drill for this because an electric drill can go too fast.




I use the 1/8" bit just until I've made a small pilot hole, but don't go all the way to the smoke channel. Then I remove the head by a few firm whacks on the mouthpiece end of the handle, taking care not the let the head scratch up the pewter bands up top.

Then, using a 3/16" bit in the hand drill, I slowly and carefully drill out the 1/8" hole down to the smoke channel, being sure to stop before drilling through the other side of that channel. The bigger hole in the wood than in the steel is to allow for movement of the head. For instance, if the handle shrinks and you have to tighten up the head with a few more hammer whacks, you can still smoke it without redrilling. It provides a little wiggle room in the fit, in other words. Clean out the smoke channel with a 1/4" bit (or whatever size it is), and you're done except for the cleanout plug.


I like a removable plug, but some folks like to drive a tapered dowel in flush. A big screw can work, or whatever floats your boat. I used the very tip of a small whitetail deer antler for the plug on this this one. I have done one with a pewter cap on the head end, plugged with a nice big low-dome screw that I heat-colored to a brilliant peacock blue. that one looked nice!


Anyway, however you do it, with the installation of the cleanout plug you are finished, and ready to smoke. Enjoy, and I hope this helps someone. I've never demonstrated how I do most of this stuff, but in the spirit of free exchange of basic knowledge here it is.




Thanks for letting me ramble. B)

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This is going on my list of things to try before I die. It might not get done, since it's on the list after "fight and win a battle against a bull shark using nothing but your sharp wit," but it's made the list nonetheless. :lol:

MacGyver is my patron saint.


"There's nothing in the universe cold steel won't cut." -Conan of Cimmeria-

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Excellent tutorial, Alan! Thanks so much - I was wondering how you made such nice looking inlays - now I know, and the little wheels are turning...


Of course, now I need a hawk drift, so more toys to get! My wife is going to stop letting me play with you guys...

Edited by tsterling
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ALAN--AMIGO MIO--Very muchly apprecitated. Will use all/some of it and think about you when I do.




chuck Bennett

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Thanks Alan. Even though I've seen you explain parts of this in person, it's really handy to have it available in a more permanent form as well.


If you happen to be making one some time, I'd love to see a tutorial on how to forge one of the tiny little double bladed belt hawks. For the kind you've shown here I understand the basic idea, but the little ones don't seem to be folded over and they appear to be too tall relative to their width to have the holes be drifted.



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  • 1 month later...

Some how, I did miss this! Thanks for sharing, I really like it ;)

Bob O


"When I raise my flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance upon mine enemies, and I will repay those who haze me. Oh, Lord, raise me to Thy right hand and count me among Thy saints."


My Website

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  • 3 months later...

GREAT tutorial, Thank you for taking the time to put that together.


oh, and as always beautiful work



Ben Potter Bladesmith



It's not that I would trade my lot

Or any other man's,

Nor that I will be ashamed

Of my work torn hands-


For I have chosen the path I tread

Knowing it would be steep,

And I will take the joys thereof

And the consequences reap.

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