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Time to learn something new. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif (I blame Woody for this)
I am going to build a custom knife... and hopefully many more after I get skilled enough.
I've learned a lot through the internet and am ready to get started, I'll post my progress. Hopefully I won't screw it up too bad. blush.gif

So far....

I bought a fixed-handle knife blank. The overall length is 7" and the blade length is 3-1/4". It is 1/8" thick.
Good steel - 440c with a hardness of 56-58 RC so it should hold an edge really well. happy088.gif
This blade style is called "Western Skinner" and will make for a nice fish & bird knife when completed.

While I'm waiting for parts... I decided to practice some decorative file-work today. I plan to incorporate something like this on the Skinner.
This is a vine pattern that I practiced today on a piece of leaf-spring metal that Woody gave me (also 1/8" thick). I used several different needle-files to do this work. I'm ready to try it on the real thing.

Chriss everything you touch seems to turn to gold, great job.

I'm going to have to give you my next girlfriend and see what you can do with her. lol. If you need some more material let me know. I'll bring some with me next time I come up. Woody.
worthy.gif Your talents never cease to amaze me Chris!! The design is amazing and looks fantastic, great job!!

I am so picturing that knife with Unakite from your claim! I have no doubt that you could add that to your many tallents but even a wooden handle will look awesome. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

Thanks yous guys!
.... and don't I wish that things I touch turn to Gold, LOL.... more like 2c.gif in this economy. tomatoes.gif
It's gonna be practical handles like wood for a while, until I learn more. I also think that I'll have to eventually step up to a lapidary bandsaw (diamond) for the handle process if working with stone. It would be more efficient for that type work. Inland sells one for under $300 I think, so maybe sometime down the road. It would be good for shaping slabbed material for handles.
Another thing to consider... I've been seeing some incredible examples of fine knife makers who incorporate very ornate Gold inlays into metal scribes of knives and handles. That has given me some good ideas too. I think they buy wire gold (24k)... then melt it to fill the fancy engravings. These guys are metal smiths who forge their own blades so who knows. I haven't studied that process yet... but Gold is something else that is available to me from my soil.
This is my handle-making material.
It's "Malee Burl"... which is a type of Eucalyptus tree. I picked up these matching slabs for about $10 on eBay.
They are 3/8" thick so I'm going to have to plane them down a bit.

Now I'm working on the steel. Handle will come later.

I wasn't happy with the shape of the handle tang on the blank so I'm modifying it here on my bench grinder...

I have the shape I want.
Now for the fun part! I've started to create a vine pattern which will be on the exposed portion of steel that runs through the handle (top of the tang).
I'm using a few different needle-files to do this. Starting with small diameter and working my way up. I will add the thorns later with a half-moon shaped needle-file.
This is the start of the vine pattern.
Well.... this is as far as I got with the vine before my file finally gave up the ghost. sad.gif
Hopefully the hardware store has another needle-file of this shape and size or I'll have to buy another needle-file kit... fortunately the kits are inexpensive.

moving right along......

almost done with the vine pattern, a little more fine-tuning.... errr, I mean "vine" tuning. tongue.gif tomatoes.gif
now working on handle design and making a template

Tracing template to the handle slabs

Then the wood is trimmed down with a coping saw and stationary belt sander. These will be slightly oversized when I install them to the knife... then sanded down to the precise fit. I still need to do a little Dremel work near front of the handles (ricasso area) before installing the wood. That area is nearly impossible to sand once on the knife.
It's looking great Chris, sweet wood you chose to use also! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

Love the updates!!

I have shaped the ricasso area on both handle sides, they match perfectly now. I used a Dremel Flex with a barrel-shaped diamond bit. Worked it light and slow with a steady hand. I will bevel the ricasso areas freehand next using the same tools.
looks really nice!
Thanks russ!

I have epoxied one handle side to the tang. Once the epoxy cures, I will drill those holes through.
Kinda get a good side view of my file-work which created the vine pattern in this pic.
that will end up being a very cherished item to pass on to the kids/grandkids some years in the future! your makeing me do some thinking! thanks for the pics and words!
Are you planning on doing leather or Kydex for the sheath? I have had success using both for shaped gun holsters I have made in the past.
Kydex wouldn't look right with this knife... definitely leather. I am not fabricating my own sheaths yet but certainly will be in the future. It's a different artform... not quite ready to dip in yet. I have purchased a leather sheath for this one.
I like the look and functionality of Kydex but more for tactical items. I may try to fabricate a Kydex leg holster for my Glock. happy088.gif char092.gif
ok... the epoxy has cured and I've drilled through the two smaller holes (and through the wood handle side) - these will be for the brass rods which will be epoxied and ball-peined into place after the other half of the handle is installed. The third hole is for a lanyard if I chose to include it. I've decided not to include a lanyard on this knife, so that hole won't be drilled. Considering the blade style, I think it will look better/cleaner without.... and I don't really use them.
Next I will epoxy the other handle side. When it sets I will drill through it using the holes I just made as my guide.
Anyone notice that the blade-edge and point have been concealed with Gorilla Tape through this entire process? There's a good reason for that. spock.gif
oops... I accidentally double-posted. blush.gif
Burl figures.... unfortunately this side will be epoxied down and not seen again. Before installing I noticed this burl impression of what looks like a critter head (manbearpig, haha). Can also make out what looks like a deer with antlers immediately below the critter head. Now I'm wishin' this was the exposed side of the handle, oh well...
QUOTE (swizz @ Jul 5 2012, 05:27 PM) *
Anyone notice that the blade-edge and point have been concealed with Gorilla Tape through this entire process? There's a good reason for that. spock.gif

I noticed that, just thought it was to keep you from slicing yourself while working on it.... Especially if you are clutsy as I am.
Ha! That pattern definately looks like a startled pig! laugh.gif Some days it will take me several hours just placing a pattern on a rock I want to cut. Too many good choices to choose from. That's going to be one sweet knife Chris! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
QUOTE (Mrs.CP @ Jul 6 2012, 10:18 AM) *
I noticed that, just thought it was to keep you from slicing yourself while working on it....

YES, that is totally why. One slip with the bench grinder or drill and a person could lose or severely damage a finger or two in a heartbeat.
That looks very nice! I'm anxious to know / see what method you're going to use to finish the wood.
QUOTE (OklaPony @ Jul 7 2012, 07:27 AM) *
That looks very nice! I'm anxious to know / see what method you're going to use to finish the wood.

Hi pony!
I will be finishing this wood in the same manner that rifle stocks are finished.
I'll sand it down to 600 grit (or finer) first. This burl is very closed-grained so it takes a sanding well. I will moisten the wood between sanding grits to raise the grain.... knocking it back down with each finer grit.
Prep coats will include one coat Minwax Pre-Stain treatment. Next one coat of Minwax (natural color) Stain. This will bring depth and richness to the grain without changing the color. Next I will apply numerous coats of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil.... then followed by several buff coats of Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Wax for protection and luster. Maintenance will be the same as gun stock maintenance.... just re-apply Gun Stock wax and buff occasionally, depending on use and abuse.
The handle sides are both in place and I've cut brass rods for the rivets.
They are about 1/8" longer on each side so that I can peen them tight on both sides. I will lightly coat the brass rods with wet epoxy before the peening.
The handle is not shaped and sanded to the tang yet, so it's still crude. I will do this after peening... sanding down the rods flat to the handle in the process.
Peening expands the brass rods for a super tight fit. I used the flat-head side of the hammer for this since I'm not trying to 'round' the brass ends... they will be ground/sanded flat to the handle.
In the first pic you can see the expansion of the brass.

Denise,take a close look at this pic. It is the flip-side of the "scared pig" burl. I'm starting to see... well, I'll let you decide. chin.gif It should be interesting once I sand it a bit.

I have the knife back in the table vise for some sanding. Here I'm using a Flex Dremel with a barrel-sanding bit to get the wood flush with the tang. I don't want to sand my brass or sides until that epoxy has fully cured.
There are many different tools or sanders you can use to work the handle.... files, Dremel, sanding blocks, handheld electric sanders, etc., it's basic woodwork. I'm just using what I have in my arsenal.
I'm getting close to the tang now so I've switched to an orbital finishing sander as the Dremel is too abrasive and scarring. Eventually it will come down to hand-sanding for the final finish.

That's turning out great! Your updates of tips, pictures and techniques are awesome Chris. I'm sure there are several other talented people in the forum here scratching their heads thinking........ chin.gif I bet I could do that! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

The startled pig must have seen his evil wild boar cousin on the other side. laugh.gif

You are a very talented inspiration Chris! Thanks for sharing your work with us!!
Thanks! I'm hoping that maybe some other folk here might want to try it. Many of us are very outdoorsy and crafty and I think it fits well. You and Dan would be naturals at it, try! It's not really hard to make a basic functional knife and it's a lot of fun. Don't "need" a bunch of tools or money either... heck, the early settlers and cowpoke made some excellent knives back in the day without a fraction of the tool resources or electricity that we now have. The build I'm working on here is going to end up costing me less than $30 total.. and that's only because I had to buy the steel and wood.... and added the vine-pattern which will require purchasing epoxy pigment. I won the "Western Skinner" knife blank on eBay for $6.51 (such a deal for heat-treated 440C!!!), and (also on eBay) purchased the handle slabs (scales) for about $10. I spent a couple of bucks on the right sized brass rods for the handle scales... which I can also use on future builds. I'd like to make some nice kitchen knives at some point too.

For now, I won't be able to update progress much until later in the week. I may add another (smaller) brass rivet to the handle near the ricasso area for more durability and I'll post that if I do it. I have to order some black pigment that is compatible with the filler I will be using for the vine-pattern (which I hand-filed into the top of the tang). This will be one of the final steps of my knife before finishing but I have to wait for the pigment to get here.
QUOTE (swizz @ Jul 8 2012, 08:54 AM) *
I may add another (smaller) brass rivet to the handle near the ricasso area for more durability and I'll post that if I do it.

Drilling to add another rivet to this part of the handle.

I done broke the wood! On both sides of the knife.
Not to worry... this was a weak point in my handle design and needed to be addressed. My solution was to put a small peened rivet there. I'm glad I finally screwed something up with this build, it was going waaaay too smooth. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
Can't say I didn't see this coming. I have a plan. happy088.gif
QUOTE (swizz @ Jul 8 2012, 02:18 PM) *
I have a plan. happy088.gif

The plan didn't work out so I removed the handle and will make a new one. No biggie, I like the practice!
This time I'm not going to buy exotic wood. That stuff was strange to work with. It was hard, but kind of brittle. Not pleasant to breathe when sanding it either.
I'm going to use my own wood this time, which the knife is sitting on here.... good ol Maple and it won't cost me a dime. happy088.gif
Ok... back on track. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
I've traced my new handle design and am about to cut them out with a scroll saw. You can use any saw, I used a hand coping saw last time.
nice grain pattern of that maple! it ought to look equally nice!
Dang it, that stinks about the other wood but I have to agree with Russ. The patterns in the Maple are going to look great for the handle! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
Back in business... I've epoxied the first handle scale and will leave it clamped overnight.

oops again..... this time I was overly ambitious peening. Still learnin'
OK... I jumped right back up on that hoss! chores041.gif

Handle attempt #3 biggrin.gif

frustrating for sure!
QUOTE (russau @ Jul 11 2012, 06:30 AM) *
frustrating for sure!

Not at all. This is new to me and I expected (actually hoped) to make some errors in construction. The materials I'm using for this first build are really inexpensive (under $20 invested) so I don't mind donating them to the learning curve if need be.
If I'm not making mistakes.... I'm not learning. I should have most of the bugs in the process worked out by the time I'm ready to produce quality pieces.... that's the goal anyway. Hopefully anyone who's following this thread and thinking about trying it can learn from a few of my mistakes along the way.
Definitely not frustrating though, just part of the learning process.
Alrighty then... I'm at the peening stage again. It's best to leave about 1/8" of extra brass rod on each side of the handle to peen down. You don't have to peen the entire 1/8" down to the handle. The idea is to keep tapping it on both sides until the brass rod expands inside the holes. This holds the handle scales to the tang TIGHT. I'll then sand down the excess until it is flush with the handle.... then I'll sand the rest of the wood down to the tang.
This project has been fun to follow. I can see why you'd definately want to start off with something cheaper for the learning curve.
I'm wondering if maybe a very slight taper on the handle holes would help allow a tad bit more room for the peening process to help lock and hold the handle in place. Possibly even doing the first peening stage during the gluing but that would require both be done at the same time. Would maybe lessen the chances of handle bust outs?
Look forward to seeing the end results of this one and the ones that are sure to follow.

My grandad hand made a knife from an old file and added a antler handle in his younger days......when I find it in the storage boxes I'll post up a pic.
Knife making looks like it could be really fun and creative for sure.

Thanks for including us all on this one Swizz.

QUOTE (ColoradoProspector @ Jul 14 2012, 02:35 PM) *
I can see why you'd definately want to start off with something cheaper for the learning curve.

Yup, that knife is toast. After being careful peening again.... I broke yet another handle. I'm no rookie to peeing either, the machete peened out well with no problems.
So I got to thinkin'... then I put a straight-edge to that knife blank. Slightly crooked, like a snake! It was enough bad tolerance to create this havoc. All I can figure is it happened during the annealing process at the factory. It's 440C heat-treated to 56-58 RC hardness so there's no way I can straighten it.
Still... really no big deal. I'm sure you guys know very well how it goes with stuff like that since you are lap doggs and bust projects that you've invested hours into occasionally. It pisses ya off, but ya move on quickly and put it behind. I still learned valuable lessons on this first attempt, and I learned detail file work. happy088.gif
Lesson: Don't buy knife blanks from eBay. Buy them at Very reputable and everything ya need. The knife below came with two pre-drilled bolsters and three stainless pins to peen them onto the blade. It cost $26.95.
I'm not doing fancy file work this time. I just want to complete a quality knife.
This blade is made from AUS8 steel (good stuff). I've attached the bolsters today. So far, success! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
I peened 3 stainless pins through it, then ground them down and smoothed the bolsters until the pins disappear. It will be buffed after handle installation.
You can read the instructions pictured below to know how this is done.

"Necessity is the mother of invention".
I've rigged my belt sander to work as a vertical stationary sander. I clamped it into my portable table vise and mounted a feeder block perpendicular.
Makes life much easier. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

this has been a very interesting thread on makeing a knife!
Doh!! A crooked knife blank would sure do it!
Glad you've got a better blank to use now. We've definately had the same problem with projects in lapidary having poor surfaces that had to be fixed and or accounted for. Like you said though, just gotta move on and keep trying.

Looks like the sander mount should help out a bunch too. We'll all be looking forward to the finish on the new knife blank.
Going well so far...

I've removed most of the rough from the handle scales with the vertical belt sander that I rigged (pictured earlier).... it worked great for shaping the handle.
Now I'm getting those tricky areas with a rotary barrel sander bit mounted to a drill press. happy088.gif
The same could be accomplished with a hand drill or even Dremel... the barrel sander bit was less than $5 at Ace. I'm on a shoestring budget, so just working with the tools I have.
I will Dremel and hand-sand to fine finish this area later.

Back to the belt sander.
I'm currently sanding the bolsters and handle scales flush. Not being shy... using #80 grit.
Now smoothing the tricky area near the bolster where it's rounded for a finger grip.
I'm using a Dremel but a word of caution. This tool can muss things up FAST... it can gouge and scar the metal and wood in a heartbeat. I'm taking it very slow and light and using a medium/fine barrel sanding bit. So far, so good. This will be hand-finished later.

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