Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tip: Hot Forging Baton


This tool is very handy for bending, straightening and adjusting the profile of knife blades etc., without the risk of denting or dinging the piece as with a steel hammer. It is normally used in conjunction with a wooden anvil, but may also be used with a steel anvil in some instances. Some of the keys to a good shwocker are weight, length, balance, grip and a bit of give/recoil for a good solid dead blow, or “shwock“.

This example was turned from ½ of an ash baseball bat billet, which is just about perfect,… 18 inches long and about 2-¾ inches in diameter. The ash was ebonized just for looks, so that the char marks wouldn’t show as much.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How To: Silver Reticulation With A Weed Burner.


This is a great way to achieve natural spontaneous looking textures on silver. In this example, I’m using 22 gage, 80/20 “coin silver”, 1-1/2 by 4-1/2 inches. Sterling silver may also be used. However, coin silver has a lower melting point and lends itself better to the reticulation process. I’m also using a weed burner in this example. The weed burner has a large flame and it can be used to heat the whole piece more or less simultaneously, which helps prevent melting holes through the sheet and/or uneven or unattractive patterns, which is often the case when using a small pencil flame. The weed burner is especially helpful on relatively large pieces.

#1. The first step is called “depletion silvering”, which is the same process as depletion gilding only on silver instead of gold. The piece (or pieces) are heated with the torch until they oxidize and turn black. It is then quenched and pickled in a crock pot. The pickling solution (sodium bisulfate and water) removes the copper oxide from the surface of the silver.

#2. After this process of heating and pickling is repeated several times, the copper or cupric oxide begins to be leached away from the surface of the silver leaving a thin film or “skin” of pure silver on the surface.

#3. The process of heating and pickling is repeated until the surface no longer oxidizes and appears a “frosty white” color. For good measure repeat the depletion silvering process 2-3 more times. The total number of cycles is usually around 10-12 times. Since the pure silver skin melts at a higher temperature than the copper/silver alloy core, the sheet will “reticulate“ and buckle when heated to the melting point of the core alloy. Place the sheet on a fire brick or other suitable ceramic refractory surface. Heat the sheet with the weed burner until the reticulated texture develops.

#4.After this is accomplished, pickle and clean the surface of the piece with a wire brush and/or steel wool.

Detail of a reticulated silver and bronze knife handle.

Double (twice) reticulated silver cross pendant.

More on silver reticulation, CLICK HERE.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How To: Fabricating An End Cap For A Knife Handle.

The end cap, sometimes called a “butt cap”, serves to protect the end of the handle from impact and acts as a “ferrule” to help prevent the handle from ever splitting. In this scenario, it also serves to conceal a counter sunk nut on the end of a threaded tang.

In this example I’m using bronze.

#1. This is a two part fabrication, a brazed oval ring with a good friction fit to the end of the handle and a swedged plate, Approximately 1/8 inch thick, with a slight dome.

#2. Mark a line with a scribe around the inside of the hole and trim the swedged plate to the line at a slight angle with a grinder or a file. The taper will help achieve a snug fit and prevent the piece from slipping or sinking during silver brazing.

#3. Tap the piece into position with a hammer.

#4. Silver braze the piece in place.

#5. Pickle the end cap after brazing, clean up with files and sandpaper and check the fit.

At final assembly the end cap can be secured into place with a good high strength epoxy paste like J-B Weld. Since the end cap fits over the end of the handle mechanically with a nice tight friction fit, unlike a standard butt seam, it can’t be pulled, sheared or knocked off once the epoxy sets.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tip: Drilling A Straight Hole Without A Drill Press.


This is a "helpfull" technique for freehand drilling.

#1. Use an extra long bit. Any variance is exaggerated and easier to discern this way. It's easier to tell if it's straight.

#2. Drill vertically. This way you only have to concentrate on keeping the bit straight up and down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WIP: “Black Cat Bone”.

Here’s a couple pix of a mountain lion femur knife handle I'm working on,... going to cut a round hole and try silver brazing a cross guard to the end cap,… a slightly new construction. All the fittings on this one will be silver.

The cougar femur was dyed in two steps using a tannic solution from pecan shells in water and “vinegaroon”, a solution of steel wool dissolved in vinegar. The iron in the vinegar reacts with the tannin absorbed by the bone to create a permanent black dye.


This shows the sand cast guard blank. From here, the sprue will be cut off, surface planished with a hammer (to smooth it out a little) and the final shape of the guard will be achieved through stock reduction,… sawing, filing and sanding.

This picture also shows the wooden form used to create the depression in one side of the cope and drag flask, which is then removed to allow a space for the metal to flow into.


This is the guard piece, roughed out.

In this picture you can see how the transition from the natural “teardrop” cross section of the femur was made to a round cross section for the end cap/guard assembly with an internal coupling.

The plan is to add another matching round wire ring in front of the guard (prior to silver brazing the guard piece to the end cap), to tie it in with the “bezel” assembly which also acts as a ferrule around the end of the bone.


Here it is in a semi-finished state. The final patina, finish, assembly etc., will be done after the blade is made and fit to the “black cat bone”.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

WIP: “Gourdy”.


I never have seen one before, but have had the idea in the back of my mind for a while now, ever since I started gourd work as a hobby about a year and a half ago. I finally decided to give it a try.

I started by cutting off the end off this gourd, scraping out the inside and cleaning the outside. I filled the inside with “Apoxie Sculpt”, used a bent piece of ¼ inch round copper to form a curved pilot hole for the tang and a piece of brass tubing for the inside diameter at the open end.

...some JB Weld to secure the tubing in place. This will add some support to the open end of the gourd section and give a place for a decorative ferrule.

I used an intermediate piece of brass tubing on the inside of the copper ferrule to get a good snug fit.

Now for the other end.

I started with a decorative washer and a stem.

…silver brazed the two.

Then, made a hole at the back end of the gourd for the stem.

Lastly, trimmed the stem to fit.


I forged this little blade for “Gourdy ” this morning from 1/8 inch 1095 with a distal taper. Of course, the tang will have to get ground down to fit the handle, but it was left oversized during the forging process to make it easier to hold and to prevent it from bending back and forth.


The majority of stock reduction and fitting done prior to heat treating.


A stud with my maker’s mark was added... made for the underside (edge side) of the handle as the final part.

At this point, the blade requires further sanding before heat treating. After heat treating, clean up and final assembly will follow.


Here’s the set up used in this case, along with J-B Weld for final assembly. The rubber band keeps the whole knife under compression, nice and tight, while it sets up. The vice is padded with leather and tissue paper.

… Taken down to a black hard Arkansas stone, leather/cork/wood strop and a rouge cloth.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

How To: Making A Ring.

#1. Wrap the wire around an appropriate mandrel.

#2. Saw across the wrappings with a jewelers saw. The ring is supported by a piece of copper pipe with one end flattened so it can be held in a vice.

#3. Bend the ring so that the ends line up. Flux the joint with silver brazing flux. Use cross lock tweezers to insure that the seam doesn’t spring open.

#4. Position a granule of hard silver solder towards the inside of the seam. Heat the area with a torch until the solder flows into the seam by capillary action. Pickle and wire brush the ring after soldering.

#5. True it up over a ring mandrel if needed . Use a wooden hammer or mallet so as not to deform any detailing.

#6. Scrape and/or burnish the seam. If there is excessive solder, it may be cleaned up with needle files prior to burnishing.