Shop Update - October 1, 2012

Scales are prepped for epoxy.

The santoku gets stonewashed and marked.  I find that etching the logo in this location is much easier to do before the scales are epoxied.

Epoxied and clamped.

After getting those clamped, I complete the pre-heat treat bevel work on my large chopper entry for the JerzeeDevil Halloween Build-Off.

I'll be grinding off the middle hump off the spine and adding a large swedge on the sheepsfoot tip when it returns from being hardened and differentially tempered by Lee Oates.

I finish the Plamann Santoku.  It's named in honor of the very patient gentleman who commissioned it.  Click the photo to see specs and additional photos.

I finish the EDC Wharncliffe.  I failed to get a good lamination between the green G10 and black canvas micarta, so I ended up grinding all of the green material off.  Click the photo to see more specs and additional photos.

I then resume working on the Halloween Chopper.  Serrations are ground.

Holes are then drilled and chamfered.

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!


Shop Update - October 2, 2012

Today I began working on finishing the two 3V prototypes from the last heat treat batch from Peters.

I already cleaned the heat treat scale from around the profile of the knives a few weeks ago, so today I jumped right to cleaning up the flats.

Since these are CPM3V, which is essentially the toughest steel mankind has ever made, I had ground these bevels to about 90% completion pre-HT.  The remaining 10% still took me a good while!

At this point a decision needed to be made.  I had been planning to grind swedges on these, but wasn't sure how to go about it.  I've used the platen in the past, both freehand and with a jig, with satisfactory results.  But that didn't seem like the right approach for these particular knives, primarily due to the shape of their spines.

So I decided to try something that caused more than a little apprehension - grind them freehand using the 10" contact wheel.  After nearly talking myself out of it, I turned my mind off and just let my hands do the work.  Empty mind:


I was happy with the first knife, so I went a big longer and deeper on the second:

I excitedly showed Eshi and Kanga my work, but they were less than impressed.  Kanga actually said she had seen blind monkeys grind cleaner swedges . . .


Shop Update - October 4, 2012

Before working on the scales for the 3V protos, I had to resurface my platen.  It has really taken a beating from all of the hardened steel that has been pushed against it.  

Here's a shot after about 15 minutes of instense hand-sanding against my granite countertop.  I've removed the grooves from the ends of the platen, but the center grooves still remain.  That's because my flat platen has actually become a concave platen due to the fact that I primarily grind against the middle portion.

Once I got that taken care of, I began sorting through my material stash to find what I wanted to use for scales.  Once I decided on materials and colors, I began measuring and cutting.

I get the scales fitted, roughed-up, cleaned, epoxied, and clamped.

After drying overnight and cleaned up a bit.

Holes are drilled.

Prepping for the bandsaw.  You can see I'm trying something new with the pins in the green/black scales.

After the bandsaw, I shape and finish the front of the scales.

The scales are dry-pinned to the knives and brought flush to the tang.



October 7, 2012

The 3V protos take a ride in the tumbler with some HatchBlossom laundry soap and pumice hand cleaner.

The protos are pulled from the tumbler after about 1.5 hours.

As you may have noticed, it doesn't look much different!!  3V heat treated to HRC 60 can handle most anything, including coarse ceramic media. I usually stonewash to achieve a non-reflective finish, but I'm not quite there yet.

So I begin experiementing with different approaches to get these protos finished how I want them.  One of them now has a nice, dark stonewashed finish and is ready for its scales.  The other proto has been a test bed for contrasting the bevels with the flats.  I'm also trying to achieve a "layered" stonewashed affect, but have only been semi-successful.  

While the protos are etching and/or being stonewashed, I turn my attention to the 4 foot X 6 inch bar of 5/16" 1075.  My little portabandsaw can only make 5" deep cuts, so I have to reach back to my redneck roots and improvise.  The 1075, even in this thick stock, drills very easily.

After a bit of time using the drill press and angle grinder, I have my pieces cut!  Somewhere hidden in those two peices are a kukri and a tomahawk.

A 1" hole is drilled.  This was requested by the kukri's future owner.

And then over to the bandsaw to cut off excess stock.  

This piece is perfect for a kiridashi . . .

Yes, a 5/16" kiridashi!! Laughing

The kukri and tomahawk start to take shape.  If you look closely, you can see the sparks following the belt around and back into my chest/head.

There's still a lot of metal to remove before they're fully profiled, but they're starting to take shape.




October 12, 2012

The 3V proto design has been officially dubbed the Magua Fighter.  Here they are prepped for epoxy.


After allowing the epoxy to cure for 24 hours, I remove the clamps and grind the pins flush with the scales.

Then the scales are sculpted with an Anso-inspired texture using the 1" small wheel on the KMG.  Any remaining sharp points are knocked off using a ScotchBrite wheel.  The fighters are then sharpened and marked.  Click either photo to see more photos/specs.

The tomahawk and Hayes Kukri are brought to their final shape.

The kukri is a monster.

To give you a size reference, here is the kukri adjacent to a WKH.

Speaking of WKH's, here's one that'll be headed to Howes Knife Shop very soon.

Here is the jig I'm now using to grind swedges on certain knives.  Using the jig results in much less stress and much more consistent results than grinding them freehand.  There's still plenty of opportunity to muck things up, though.

Result, taken to 65 microns.

I'm thinking this one will get OD green G10 scales with F22 carbon fiber bolsters and earth brown G10 liners/dividers.


October 23, 2012

I've been remiss about posting shop updates, but much progress has been made!

The sweged WKH is finished.  Click the photo to see more shots of it.

Some group shots of my most recently completed work.

Sheaths were made for the above knives.  A sheath cooling in the press.

Sheaths pressed, hole locations being marked.

Sheaths are completed.  All 4 of these have drainage holes to allow water to more easily escape.  Two of the sheaths also have adjustable retention, a first for me.

I ground the bevels on the insanely-thick kiridashi.  My first hollow grind since my second knife!

The big Halloween build-off chopper returned from being heat treated, albeit a bit warped.

It took a few tempering/straightening cycles and lots of clamping and shimming, but I was able to get it mostly straight.

Grinding off the HT scale and trying to grind out any remaining warp.

After the flats are addressed, the bevels are reground a bit higher.  It now sports a full flat grind, which was my original intention.

It's then time to grind the swedge.

Marking where I want to grind the forward choil.

While grinding the choil, I also clean up the spine again to correct a mishap from the previous day.

Forward choil completed.

Starting to take shape . . .

Balance point before scales.  It's much faster in the hand than I had anticipated.

The final profile compared to my original concept.

Chosen scale material - stabilized red logwood for scales, desert ironwood for bolsters, and black canvas micarta for liners/dividers.

The constituent materials are cut, flattened, fitted to one another, roughed up with sandpaper, then cleaned with acetone and isopropyl alcohol in preparation for expoxy.

Clamped up to dry overnight.



October 25, 2012

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.

During the etching cycles I worked on my sandpaper storage box. I had lots of scrap laminate flooring in the attic, so I thought I'd put it to good use! 

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 . . . I'm looking in your direction, Will.

On another note, I finished up my sandpaper organizer today. This should save me time in the long run because I won't have to dig through a stack of paper to find the right grit!!


October 31, 2012

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.


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