Saturday, March 14, 2009

Das Messer-Projekt des Uber Jägers - Phase 1: Let's form a blade

(I have been looking at custom knives for a while now and honestly, I just can't stomach the price tag. I really like the look of them and by all indications, they are some of the best knives available and truly magnificent bits of craftsmanship. The other side of this though is that, at the end of the day, knives are just steel shaped with a specific set of criteria in mind, and treated via heating and cooling processes to produce a desired combination of hardness and flexibility. After reading a few good articles and watching a few videos on-line, I decided it was just time to make my own. What follows here are the results of the my first run at it. This post covers up through the steps required to get ready to heat treat and harden.)

I think I have said before that a loathe February and March. This year has been better in that I so busy at work I almost don't have time to use the bathroom while I am there and I am just whipped when I get home. For about 5 weeks, this was a good anesthetic for the boredom. Vegging out felt nice and I was happy to do it. Like always though, something sparks me up and I get moving on an idea. (OCD is a drag most days but has its perks now and then...) This time it started with a question to Phil in Alabama about a knife he has pictured in the hunting forum on rimfirecentral.com. It turns out it was made by a guy in Carolina named Russel Easler. Just a fantastic looking like instrument. Phil pointed me to a site called michigancustomknives.com . Just a fantastic selection of stuff there, including a few Easler knives. One thing you may notice looking around there is that these things are not cheap. Since I am (fundamentally cheap) this is a problem.

After poking around a bit more I found a post of RFC by a user named Sqwasach who, it seems, makes hellishly nice knives and is willing to tell everyone about how he does it. (Check it out here) The stuff I have done here is based in large part on what I have seen there.

First things first then... I needed to find some 01 tool steel at an affordable price and in usable form. It turns out, there is an antiques shop in PA (Sheakley's Antiques...... Check them out on eBay here...) that sells 9 to 12 inch pieces of several different types of steel, has remarkable seller ratings, and they take pay pal. It's like a match made in heaven. That bit of steel above here is 3/16 X 1 1/4 X 9 inches. $10 including shipping. Gotta like that price so far....

Next, I decided to sharpie my design on to the steel to see if I could draw it without the graph paper and to make sure it would fit. The notch drilled there is for reference and was cut with a 7/32 bit. I got so excited after I drew it out I just decided to press on.

This is the blade, pre-grinder after I drilled and then hack sawed a bunch of the steel out of the way. Note to self... buy an angle grinder before we do this again. Hack sawing 3/16 tool steel, sucks. (Maybe I am not so cheap as I thought.... or just lazy :-) The bottom of the grip there had a whole bunch of 7/32 holes drilled in it and I saw through those. That was not so bad as the tip of the blade.

Here's the blade after the first shaping grind. It actually looks like almost like the knife I have in mind. I am not happy with the lines at this point and I am going to drop the point some more and level the grip between the top of the reference notch and back end. You can see the original design on the graph paper below the blank here.
Here it is after the second grind and some polishing on the disk sander. One thing I did discover here that was more than a little surprising to me is that a disk sander with an 80 grit disk on it will contour the blade, including starting the bevel. ( this was unintentional and an oversight on my part but still, good to know.)
After that initial bit of shaping, the file work to contour the cutting edge was a good deal easier. The only really negative side effects I can see with doing it this way boil down to me not leaving enough width in the edge of the blade for when I polished out the file marks. In this picture the blade is, from the tip to the middle of the cutting edge, sharp enough to concern me about cracking during heating and hardening. We'll see I guess. Live and learn.

The 3 - 1/4 inch holes are to allow pining of the handle. I have ordered some desert iron wood in grade 1 to form them up and some black spacer material to set them off.
The last step before heating was to add a dozen or so holes in the handle to lighten things up and provide places for the epoxy to bind the grips to the shank. I am pretty pumped. Next step... heating. Stay tuned.

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