Bronze dagger

To go with the sword I just posted:


Bronze sword WIP

Howdy all,
Well, it’s been a record setting January. We broke the previous records for lowest temps (-14 or -15) and most snow fall (around 28″). Since my knife making equipment doesn’t work real well in cold temps (my oven won’t even come on if it’s below zero) I haven’t gotten much knife making done.

So I took the opportunity to indulge in a fun project, namely, a bronze sword. I forged the blade on one of the warmer days a few weeks ago, and was able to do everything else in the comfort of the heated part of my shop.

Since bronze is not heat treatable, the oven was not needed.

So, without further ado, here are some pictures and descriptions of the process.

The alloy I used was aluminum bronze 954. It contains copper, aluminum, and iron. It’s a very durable material, as the bronzes go. It’s very easy to forge, grind, and polish, but very hard to machine.

I started with a 1-1/4″ round bar:

Heated it up in the forge:

and forged it into flat stock using the Bradley:

Then started forging in the point, and the shape and distal taper of the blade:

Then started forging the handle into shape:

The point:

Now it’s allowed to cool, (duh!) and the outline is traced on to a large piece of paper, and the centerline is drawn:

The it’s determined which half of the piece is smaller than the other, and the final shape is drawn, making sure that all the curves are pleasing to the eye.

Handle first:

Then the blade. After both are done, the shape is cut out to make a half-template:

Then the half-template is used to make a full template:

Which is then cut out.

Now the blade is ground clean on one side:

and the shape is drawn on using the full template:

Then everything outside the line is ground off, and the pre-bevels are ground in:

Now the bevels are ground down to the center line with a fresh belt:

Next all surfaces are ground to 240 grit, and the edges are sharpened with a slack belt:

Now it’s clamped to a sanding jig, and all the surfaces are sanded by hand to 400 grit, keeping my fingers away from the sharp edges!

I also beveled and sanded the corners of the handle, which makes it much more comfortable to hold.

Now it’s time to do the handle. Traditionally, bronze swords were cast, and often the handle was a separate piece, riveted to the blade. I’m putting a modern spin on things by using a full tang construction, so my options were to use scales and pin them on, or use some sort of handle wrap.

I wanted kind of a rustic look, so decided to go with a braided leather lace. I’ve never done any braiding, aside from a few Turk’s head knots, so this was rather challenging. In fact, the first attempt failed, because I had no idea how long to make the braided section. So the first one had 5 bights and 12 leads, with the lace going around 3 times. The second try had 5 bights and 24 leads, with the lace going around twice.

Since the first one was so short, I added on a Turks head knot to help fill in some, but it was still too short:

Here’s the second try, with a few in progress shots.

Here’s the sticks that I make the knots on before transferring them to the handle:

The knot with just one pass of the lace:

On the handle:

With another pass of lace and after tightening down:

The first attempt took about 4 hours, the second about half that.

And here are some completed pics:

Thanks for reading, and, as always, comments and questions are welcome.

Knives of 2013

Well folks, it’s time again to post my yearly review. So, here’s a picture each of all the knives I made this past year, in chronological order.



I have to post two pics of this one:






This one was just a rehandling and refinishing job. The blade was made by Randall:


This one is still for sale, btw:





Hmm. Looks like I didn’t finish any in December. I’ve got one that’s almost finished, so since most of the work was done last month, I’ll go ahead and count it for December and edit the picture in later.

Hope someone enjoys this post, and I hope my readers are blessed this year.


My two latest knives

Both bowies. A big one and a little one. 🙂

The big one:

Steel: W1 and 15n20 about 300 layers, in a ladder pattern

Blade length: 10-3/4″

Total length: 15-7/8″

Blade thickness: 1/4″

Handle material: desert ironwood

Fittings: stainless guard and pin, with stainless and brown micarta spacers

The clip is sharp. The flats of the guard are satin finished, the insides of the lugs are mirror polished.

The little one:

Steel: O1 and L6, turkish twist pattern

Blade length: 6″

Total length: about 11″

Blade thickness: about 3/16″

Handle material: desert ironwood

Fittings: stainless


Subhilt fighter

Hey all,

I just finished this one yesterday. This knife was based on Bob Loveless’ Big Bear design. The materials and construction are a bit unconventional though.

Steel: O1 and L6, twist pattern, about 150 layers

Blade length: about 8″

Blade thickness: just over 1/4″

Handle material: stabilized curly koa

Fittings: 416 stainless

Thanks for looking!

New knife, and new guitar.

Here’s a big custom knife I just finished. The blade is 12″ of D2, and the handle is black canvas micarta with stainless hardware.

And here’s that guitar I’d mentioned in a previous post. I spent a few hours this week finishing it up, so now it’s ready to rock and roll. 😉 I was hoping I could sell this one, but there are some flaws in the finish which prevent me from doing so. Although if someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I might be persuaded otherwise. 🙂 It’s a really nice guitar overall…

Have a good week,

A hunting knife for myself

Every year or two I like to make myself a knife to carry around and use to death. These are usually blades that I started to make for sale, but one way or another didn’t turn out good enough. (In other words, I screwed up somehow.)

This one has a pretty complex damascus pattern (Gordians Knot for the blades, opposing twist for the guard). It was disqualified because my makers mark was way off. Some of it is actually under the guard… The handle is african blackwood.

A bunch of recent knives

So, here’s the knife post I promised. These are all the knives I’ve made since I last posted one.

A big custom chopper:

A santoku:

A hunter:

Another custom chopper:

A custom hunter:

A knife for a sailor:

A damascus hunter:

And lastly a dagger/boot knife I made for myself:

Thanks for looking


Some recent wood working projects. (and other stuff)

Howdy, faithful (and deprived) readers!

It’s been quite a while since I posted (obviously) but I have been pretty busy. I’ve been working hard trying to nibble away at my knife backlog, looking forward to the day when I won’t have any waiting orders and will be able to devote more time to learning new techniques and skills. Making some progress, but it’s slow.

I’ve also (mostly) finished a new electric guitar. It needs a few more finishing touches before I post it, though.

I’ve made a couple Lazy Susans/turntables. I’ll have some pictures near the end of this post.

This week I made a 3 octave bowed psaltery, and took some photos with the idea of posting a tutorial here. It’s not real detailed, but if you have any woodworking skills, you should be able to figure out the missing stuff, or, ask. 🙂

So, here goes.

I used curly maple for the frame and pin block, and catalpa for the top and back. I’d never used catalpa for the plates of an instrument before (used it for a neck once) so I was curious as to how it would sound. I expected it to have the tap tone of wet cardboard, but it surprised me. It didn’t ring quite as well as spruce or mahogany, but it did ring.

So anyway, here’s the frame assembled sitting on top of one of the joined plates:

Here’s both plates joined, sanded to thickness, cut to thickness, and with the soundholes cut and the rosette installed on the top plate.

The frame has to be sanded straight and clean. Normally I’d run it through my planer, but I don’t have it right now, so I used the sanding board:

When that’s done, the first plate is glued on. Arbitrarily, I decided to glue the back on first.

The edges are trimmed flush with a chisel, then the top plate is glued on:

Now the edges are trimmed flush again, and the holes for the hitch pins are drilled, and pilot holes for the tuning pins. Abalone note markers are installed. C’s and F’s are marked.

A note on string spacing here. How well the stings vibrate when bowed is a function of the strings thickness and tautness. Which will also depend on the length of the string. Getting it to work can be a pain, especially for baritone psalteries. The way I layed it out for this one (and which seemed to work), is, the first pin is about 5.5″ from the bridge, then the next 5 pins are all 3/4″ from each other. After that, I added 3/64″ to each space.
The sharps and flats are of course, located in between the naturals, but on the other side of the instrument.

I also cut an angle across the lower corners.

Now the surfaces are all sanded smooth and clean, and the edges and corners are rounded off:

Now sanding sealer is applied:

Don’t worry, it dried clear. 😉

When dry, it’s sanded smooth again, since the sealer raised the grain, then several coats of lacquer is sprayed on:

After the finish is hard enough, the tuning pin holes are re-drilled with an appropriately sized drill, and the pins are hammered in:

The hitch pins are also hammered in, but deeper than the tuning pins:

Next, grooves are cut on the top of the hitch pins, to hold the strings. Sorry no pics. I used a flexible shaft grinder with a small cut-off wheel to make the grooves.

Then the strings are put on and the instrument is tuned repeatedly until it holds a tune.

I didn’t get any pics of making the bridge, but it’s real simple. It’s 7/16″ square, with a groove on top to hold a Delrin rod. The bridge should be wide enough to rest on the frame, so not all the string pressure is on the soundboard. The bridge is about 7/8″ from the front row of tuning pins.

Now, those lazy susans. The first one is mahogany, made out of scraps mostly. It was made by cutting 40 “pie” shaped pieces and gluing them together. Getting them all to fit was a nightmare, so I won’t dwell on it. But I think it turned out fairly well for a first attempt. It’s about 11 inches in diameter.

The second one is a bit bigger, and a bit fancier, though it was easier to make, since I used straight pieces instead of pie shaped ones… It’s made of curly maple and purpleheart. I also inlayed some purfling strips on the top. This one is 15″ in diameter.

This weekend, I also made a couple blade sanding jigs. These are a big improvement over my previous “jig”, which I didn’t get pictures of, which was basically a vise within a vise. It worked, but it was clumsy, didn’t have good clearance, and didn’t support the entire length of the blade. This type solves all those problems.

I made one for small blades:

and big ones:

Much thanks to knifemaker Nick Wheeler for the idea for these!

This post is getting awfully long, so I’ll have to do another soon of the knives I’ve finished recently.

Have a good week y’all, and, as always, questions and comments are welcome.

New ukulele

Finally got this one done, after letting it sit on the shelf for months half finished. At least, it might be done; I may add a logo inlay to the headstock, which would mean refinishing that area…

Anyway, the body and neck are mahogany, the top is claro walnut (gorgeous stuff!) and the other wood parts are all african blackwood.

It has a single humbucker, made by yours truly, wired for series/parallel. Sounds pretty good! I’ll try to record a sample, but my recording setup leaves something to be desired…

Of course this is pretty unconventional, and I may never sell it for that reason (though I’d like to), but I have a thing about weird instruments, and I just had to make it. Now I’m thinking about making a soprano size (this one is a tenor).

Thanks for looking, and as always, your comments or questions are welcome!