This is a WIP of the largest knife I've attempted to date. This knife is my entry for the 2012 JerzeeDevil Halloween Build-Off
I have some .23" thick 4x18" sheets of O1, so with that in mind, I began drawing some designs. So far, this is my favorite:
The graph paper is the same size as the steel (4x18), to give you a sense of size. This is by far the largest knife I've ever attempted. I'm planning to go for a full flat grind.
The template is glued to the O1 steel. The top knife is a variant that will be made at a later time.
A bit of time on the bandsaw and a lot more time on the KMG and it is rough profiled.
I draw where the front choil will be and use the edge of the platen to grind a relief near the center of the choil. This will give me a good index point for the plunge when I begin grinding the bevels. My intention is for the plunge to more or less bisect the choil.
Next, I blacken the edge with a sharpie and scribe my center marks. My approach to this is admittedly low-tech, using an appropriately sized drill bit and a piece of scrape granite.
I then break the 90 of the edge with an old belt. I did this with a batch of other knives in progress.
And then I start grinding the bevels. As you can see, my grinding magnet came in quite handy!
This is my first big chopper and it pushed my freehand grinding ability to its limits. Fortunately, I have the time-tested method of draw-filing to help straighten and flatten my wayward grinds.
Draw-filing isn't quite as fast as grinding, but the more time I spend on a knife, the more spirit I impart to it (this has been scientifically proven by an impartial and reputable organization). Another benefit of draw-filing is that it gives you forearms that drive women wild.
Here's the chopper after a few cycles of grind/file. I'm planning to space this one out over a few days!
I'm not sure how high I'm going to take the bevels. I had planned to do a full flat grind, but I'm now starting to think that would remove too much stock. So I may shoot for a 3/4 grind instead.
Once I get the bevels done, I'll add the serrations/jimping, drill the epoxy holes, and ship it over to Lee Oates for his differential heat treat!
The pre-HT bevel work is finished up. To speed up the bevel grinding, I fabricate a fixture/jig using some angle aluminum. I end up with a nice, tall flat grind and an edge thickness of about .035". That should make for a very durable edge that'll hold up just fine to some heavy chopping action!
I still have a bit of work to do before it gets sent off for heat treat. I need to grind the forward choil, grind off the middle "hump" in the spine (I think it'll look cleaner without it), grind a big swedge on the sheepsfoot tip, and drill some epoxy flow holes in the tang.
I'm still undecided about the finish and scales.
I grind serrations into the thumb ramp and forward thumb rest using the 1/4" small wheel.
Then I drill and chamfer the epoxy flow holes and the lanyard hole.
I've decided to hold off on grinding the swedge, forward choil, and regrinding the spine until after heat treat. I think leaving that extra material will help reduce warpage.
It's now en route to Lee Oates for his differential tempering. Depending on the finish, there may be a nice visible temper line.
I always trace the outline of every knife I make onto some paper before sending it off for HT. Because I profile everything by hand, each knife can differ markedly from the next. Even the same pattern knife using the same steel in the same batch can vary from one another a great deal. It's fun to see how close the final profile is to the original idea in my head.
Here is the original design on the left and the current shape on the right. Pretty damned close, but that'll change when I reshape the spine!
The chopper came back from heat treat warped a bit, which wasn't entirely unexpected.
Here's my straightening setup. A couple pieces of thick O1, a c-clamp, and two quarters. Using a piece of granite as a flat surface, the apex of the warp is found and marked, as well as the areas where shims may be necessary.
Before using any shims, I first just clamp the blade flat against the O1 and run it for a tempering cycle in the oven at 400 for 1 hour. Sometimes (albeit rarely) that's enough to get the blade straight.
Alas, this one is warped too much, so shims have to be utilized. In this shot, there is a quarter under each "s" marked on the blade and the clamps are tightened until the center of the blade is touching the O1, essentially reversing the warp for another tempering cycle.
The second straightening cycle still isn't enough, but after moving the shims/clamps around and a couple more cycles, I get the blade pretty damn close to straight!
I then start cleaning up the HT scale and try to grind out any remaining warp from the tang/ricasso/spine.
I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with the spine, the finish, and the scales. I had planned on reshaping the spine, but since it's differentially tempered, I don't want to grind away too much of the soft and tough spine.
So I'm just flying by the seat of my pants with this one. My current plan is to clean the bevels up, and when doing so I may move the grind line up a bit. Then I'll grind the swedge and when the grinds are complete I think I'll have a better idea of which finish would be ideal. Then I can choose my scale material/color based on the finish!
Here's a shot as it hangs right now with a couple of other big guys I recently started.
Working on the flats.
Heat treat scale is removed and the bevels brought to a full flat grind, as I had originally planned. It isn't really visible in the photo, but the temper line is faintly present.
Still have quite a bit of work to do. I need to grind the swedge, grind the forward choil, fabricate and shape scales. Then I can etch the blade and hopefully things will start to come together.
Swedge/top grind is finished. I'm also beginning to form an idea for the scales.
Time to grind the forward choil.
While grinding the choil, I also clean up the spine again. Why? Because yesterday while grinding the swedge, I decided it would be really cool to jam the spine of the knife into the 60-grit belt running at a bazillion SFPM.
Forward choil completed.
Balance point before scales. It actually feels much faster in the hand than I had expected . . .
Chosen scale materials. Stabilized red logwood for scales, desert ironwood for bolsters, and black canvas micarta for liners/dividers.
Deciding the layout of the scales.
Before I can fit the scales to the bolsters, I have to get them flat. A few minutes with a 60-grit belt on the KMG flat platen gets them where I need them.
The Knifemaking Gods must have taken mercy upon me because I was able to get the scale and bolsters fitted to one another in just a few minutes.
Here's the blade compared to my original concept drawing.
In this shot you can just barely see the temper line coming out of the forward choil.
Well, I guess it wouldn't be an exciting WIP without the ever-present threat of failure looming large . . .
Here you can see the constituent parts of the scales are roughed up with sandpaper and cleaned with acetone before finally being cleaned with isopropyl alcohol in preparation for epoxy/clamping.
This is where the real fun begins. I get one scale epoxied and clamped just how I want it. About halfway through the second scale I glance over and notice that I have epoxied the first scale's bolster oriented the wrong way! By this time the epoxy has started to firm up, so I quickly unclamp and reorient the first bolster.
I was able to get both scales clamped up the way I wanted them, but because of the above SNAFU, there is a very real possibility that they don't set-up cleanly. And I won't know if they're up to par until tomorrow when I can grind them flat and begin shaping them.
I actually used an oddly shaped piece of scrap carbon fiber as an angled shim to get the clamps to exert force in a manner that wouldn't push the scale and bolster apart . . .
If I'm not happy with how they set-up, I may just set them aside and begin making new scales for this project. It wouldn't be a huge deal to grind off the micarta liner, break the bond between the scale/bolster, and re-fabricate them. But I have found that after experincing a set-back, it's often better to work on something fresh and return to the offending piece after the frustration has dissipated a bit.
The Knifemaking Gods have been in my corner throughout this build, so let's hope they don't abandon me now!!
I was worried the scales wouldn't turn out well because of some difficulty I had in getting them set-up. But to my relief, the scales set-up just fine. Here they are after grinding them flat.
I decide how I want to orient them, clamp them to the tang, and begin drilling the requisite holes.
Then both scales are clamped together so the drilled scale can be used as a template for drilling the second scale. It's important that I take my time here, to ensure the bolsters are lined up evenly on the finished handle.
The clamp is removed, but the scales stay pinned together. The tang is placed over the pins and its profile is traced onto the scales.
If everything goes as planned, we should end up with scales that look like this.
The bandsaw is used to remove excess material.
The front of the scales are shaped and finished to 1200 grit (which I failed to get good photos of). The scales are then dry pinned to the tang of the knife and the flat platen is used to bring the scales closer to the tang.
I grind the scales close to their final shape, but stop just before the 60-grit belt makes contact with the tang.
I switch to a 1" small wheel and a 120-grit belt to bring the scales flush with the tang. When using a small wheel like this, it's very important to keep the work moving at a steady speed with steady pressure, otherwise you risk grinding shallow (or deep!) divots in the material.
Shop help slacking off, as usual. Lazy bums.
I use the grinder to take the tang/scales up to 400 grit.
The scales and tang are then hand-sanded to 1200 grit and lightly buffed with Renaissance Wax. Much of this material will be ground off when shaping the scales.
At this point I remove the scales so I can etch the steel.
I start working on the finish by cleaning up the flats and the bevels on the flat platen. The knife has gotten some scratches here and there, and sometimes the blue tape likes to leave little marks etched into carbon steel. I start with 3M's excellent Trizact "gator" belts - A65, then A45, and finally A30 (the numbers are the "grit" in microns).
After that I clean with acetone and scrub with dish soap to remove any oils or dirt that may impede etching. The blade is placed, still wet, into my etching tube with muriatic acid. This is actually diluted hydrochloric acid, so it's nasty stuff. I took a cue from Mick and cemented the PVC tube in a 5-gallon bucket so it can be moved outside when in use. I use stainless steel wire to suspend the knife in the tube (regular wire will corrode and leave marks all over the blade!).
After about 30 minutes, I pull the knife, spray with a baking soda solution to stop the etching and then rinse it off thoroughly with the garden hose. I take the knife into the shop and scrub it with 000 steel wool and polishing compound.
I then wash the knife thoroughly again, and start the process over.
After 3 or 4 cycles of etch and polish, I have a nice satin silver/grey finish. The temper line isn't defined, but the difference in hardness is visible.
I wasn't sure how I felt about this finish, so instead of epoxying the scales on, I shifted focus to others things for an hour or so.
A short time later, I struck upon an idea. I usually get a nice dark stonewashed look on carbon steels using my tumbler and a rust preventive product called "Must for Rust". This knife, however, was way too big for my humble tumbler. But I really wanted that look on this knife.
So I took my vinegar/lemon juice etching tube and poured the contents out. I then scooped most of my ceramic media out of the tumbler and into the tube. Tossed in the knife and a healthy dose of Must of Rust and I was in business. The cool thing is I was able to rest the tube on the tumbler and it had perfect agitation. I even found that if the tube was placed just right, it actually turned while it agitated!! Score!
It only took a few minutes to get the desired result. I'm quite happy with it. I had a hard time getting good photos with the shop camera, so I broke out the big Canon SLR.
Now it's time to get the scales attached.
Using the tang of the knife as a template, the location of the epoxy holes are marked on the scales using a sharpie. I usually use a silver sharpie for this when marking dark material, but I just used up my last one!
Shallow 5/16" pockets are drilled in the scales to line up with the epoxy holes. This will help with the epoxy bond and also form epoxy "pins" that will hopefully aid in impact resistance.
After the pockets are drilled, the 1/4" carbon fiber rod is cut to length for the pins and all contact surfaces are roughed-up with sandpaper to increase the surface area of the epoxy bond. Then everything is cleaned, first with acetone and then with isopropyl alcohol.
The epoxy is thoroughly mixed and liberaly applied.
All clamped up. Some paper towel remnants are stuffed into the carbon fiber lanyard tube to keep the epoxy out.
The excess epoxy is wiped off. This has to be done several times over the next 10-15 minutes as the pressure of the clamps will squeeze out more epoxy. The knife will remain clamped up for a full 24 hours.
I'm planning to shape the handle in the classic Barker style with a palm swell. I haven't used this method for quite some time, but I think it'll be perfect for this knife. I'm still not quite sure how I'm going to grind the final edge cleanly . . .
Time to shape the handle.
Before I begin shaping the handle I wipe down the blade with Birchwood Casey Sheath. I started using this stuff back in my 1911 days and it's a great rust preventive for carbon steels. Next, the blade is wrapped with paper towels and taped up to protect the finish while the handle is being shaped.
I start with a big, gnarly 36-grit AO belt on the 10" wheel. When shaping wood, I like to use sharp low-grit belts at slow to moderate speed. The lower grit belts resist loading; sharp belts and low speed help prevent heat build-up. Before shaping the handles, I grind down the pins and lanyard tube. Check out these carbon eyelashes!
This is what's left when I'm finished with the 10" wheel.
Next, I switch from the 10" wheel to the 1" wheel, still using the 36-grit belt. The 1" wheel allows me to get into the tighter areas, get my hollows and swells more defined, and start blending everything together.
This is what's left when I'm finished with the 1" wheel.
From here on out, everything is done by hand. The blade is clamped to a 2x4, which is held in the vice. This puts the handle at the perfect height for me work with minimal discomfort. Hand sanding may not seem very physically demanding, but it will wreak havoc on your body if you don't take precautions.
I begin the hand shaping with 60-grit paper. This is the grit that I will spend the most time using because I have to accomplish two things: 1) achieve the final desired handle shape and 2) remove the 36-grit scratches.
I've learned to take my time doing this and I now really enjoy the process of shaping material by hand. When I first started making knives, I lacked patience with hand sanding. I rushed through the grits too quickly and sanded too forcefully. The result was a poor finish and achy hands. I slowly began to recognize the meditative quality of creating something with your hands. Being cognizant of that has helped me to slow down, and keep my hands somewhat relaxed and loose, which greatly reduces fatigue.
While working with the 60-grit paper I flip the knife frequently, keeping an eye on symmetry and holding the knife different ways to feel where material should be removed and where it should be left.
This is what's left when I'm finished with the 60-grit hand shaping.
Next I take the handle through a progresson of paper: 120, 220, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and finally, 1200 grit. After 1200, I wipe on a thin coating of Renaissance Wax, let it dry for a few minutes, and buff it off by hand with a soft cotton cloth. Result:
Now it's time to grind the final edge. I wrap the handle with a rag and blue tape and run blue tape down either side of the blade to protect it from the inevitable marks and scratches that will happen when I'm working near the grinder.
Next I had to determine how I wanted to grind the final edge. I was hoping to use my grinding fixture and work rest because of the long length of the edge, but I couldn't figure out a suitable method. After a bit of thought, I decided to use my handy magnet level. I've used this level to sharpen my American-tanto tips in the past and it's worked quite well for that. For this application, I just stuck it to the side of the blade, which is nice because it also gave me a convenient hand hold.
I adjust the platen to 20 degrees off vertical and start grinding with an 80-grit ceramic 3M 977. I usually start grinding my edges with a 120-grit, but this edge was intentionally left a bit thicker than normal. I make 2 or 3 passes before switching to the other side for 2 or 3 passes. I do this until the edge is almost formed, then switch to a 120-grit 977 to bring up the burr. I stay with the 120 until I have the burr running the entire length of the edge.
Here you can see the burr along the edge.
By this point, the hard work is done. Now it's time to refine the edge. I do this with a progression of 3M Trizact CF belts: A100, A65, A45, A30.
Once that's done, I etch my maker's mark and the steel type on the tang, and give it a final going-over to address any loose ends before finally buffing the burr off the edge. I was so excited about finishing the knife that I failed to take any photos of this!!
Then a few hours of taking photos, downloading photos, sorting photos, editing photos, uploading photos, and now . . . posting photos!!
Osi-kitty was very helpful during the photo shoot.