Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Contemporary primal/tactical Bowie with Micarta

The new shop still has a lot of organization and moving around to go, but as of tonight I have everything wired up to allow me to run my power hammer, hydraulic forging press, and kiln, so I am back ready to forge ahead! A couple of weeks ago, enough temporary wiring was put in to allow me to string extension cords and use the lesser equipment, so I got to working on Kydex sheaths (which I'll show later) and stuff needing my grinder.

One of the things I've worked on was a knife that was commissioned by an airman a long time back. I was enthusiastic about the knife, but there were several new-to-me things that I was going to be trying that I found a bit daunting, and that combined with trying to sell enough knives to pay bills meant that this one got pushed onto the back burner far too long. He finally politely backed out on the knife with the intention of getting something else from me in the future (he already has one of my paracord-wrapped knives). I went ahead and finished up the knife, and another airman decided to buy it for himself, as well as a cord-wrapped warfighter knife for a retiring officer. Because of my experience on this knife, I will be changing up how I work somewhat to prevent long delays like that from happening, as well as continuing to experiment on similar knives in a different direction.

Here's the rough sketch I did to give him a general idea of what I was thinking. Double guard with a stout hidden tang, a forge finish, and olive drab Micarta handle.

I forged the blade from a 3/4" round bar of 5160, leaving plenty of steel in the tang to be nigh-on indestructible.

Less belly than the sketch, but the customer was happy with it. On to the stock removal.

Then heat treatment and fitting the mild steel guard.

Then the part that slowed me down: the handle. To be able to fit the guard on the tang the way I envisioned, I needed a hidden tang, but the olive drab Micarta I was able to find at the time was only 1/4" thick, and I needed a handle 3/4" thick. So I decided the best way to approach it would be to make a frame handle, something I had never attempted before. I mocked it up with poplar test handle slabs first. Which was good becuase I ended up shortening the handle down and narrowing the end of the tang to leave more of the Micarta in the frame.

On to using Micarta, olive drab canvas for the slabs and black paper for the frame, with stainless steel pins.

After that, time to clean up the blade and make everything permanent.

And then get it into its final shape.

And then came the part that caused me the most question and delay: we wanted it to have a black anti-glare protective coating. I went with Durabake, which was the first time I'd used it. I was concerned about the temperature that it needed to be baked at affecting the non-metallic parts of the blade, so I was very careful. It seemed to work ok, but I found that the heat had warped the Micarta and broken the epoxy seal. The customer was in town then on a trip and swung by. He was happy with the knife, but of course we didn't want to have that broken seal. So I knocked off the handle, got some more Micarta, and did it again.

Of course, reshaping the handle meant that I'd be grinding the Durabake back off the guard, which would mean going through the whole baking process again and having a good chance of ruining another handle. The customer said he'd be fine taking the Durabake off, but I wasn't able to get it cleared off the blade right in front of the guard, so it all needed Durabaking again. That combined with getting ready for the Blade Show and moving took the project from taking way too long to taking ludicrously too long. I am very appreciative of the customer being as patient with me as he was.

So I went ahead and finished the knife up. Here's what it ended up like:

The handle is a bit different in shape, but I think ended up more comfortable than the original. The original Micarta, though ordered from the same supplier, was more green at the end of the process, which I would have preferred for the second handle. Win some, lose some.

The new customer seemed happy to get it and I was happy to have it gone to a good home. :) I learned a lot and will be shifting directions on the next one.

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