Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shop upgrade helps with big Kydex

I daily peruse knife forums and YouTube looking for techniques and tooling that I can integrate into my own methods, as well as inspiration from all the amazing blade makers out there.  I came across a video on YouTube a few months ago showing a T-shirt press being used to heat Kydex prior to molding.  After a bit more research, I added it to my list of future shop upgrades.  I've been using a toaster oven for small Kydex and an electric griddle for long Kydex.  Both of them would end up with a usable sheath, but they were inconsistent in heating and I ruined more Kydex than I was happy with through scorching or melting since the toaster oven would fluctuate and the griddle would overheat in the middle.

A few weeks ago, a customer agreed to pay me for his bush sword and sheath before I started on the sheath (I usually only charge when everything is ready to ship) so that I could afford to buy my T-shirt press and use it to make his sheath.

Boy howdy, am I happy with the results!  Much more even heating, and I can set the temperature higher without worrying about it melting from temperature fluctuations, so the Kydex molds better. 
And since I got the press with a 16" x 24" clamshell surface, I can very easily heat big pieces for making bush sword sheaths.  Once the press is up to temp, it takes literally a minute to have the Kydex nice and noodley and ready to mold.

Here's the press.  You can see the griddle sitting on the bottom shelf of the rolly cart.

So, the various blades that came back with me from the Gathering have all gotten sheaths since then and most have gone on to customers.

Here's the one that paid for the press, with a retention strap and shoulder sling.  That's an 18" blade.

Another 18" blade.

Blades that widen toward the tip are particularly tricky to make sheaths for that have decent retention yet can still be easily withdrawn.  I made these two for cleaver-type blades with open backs and retention straps.

Works great for small sheaths too.

So, definitely worth the money for the increased control and ease of working long pieces.  I'm happy.  :)

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