- Plan to make the bolster out of horn and the shaft out of birch or other softwood, separated by a spacer;
- Scribe a straight line across the blade shoulder and tang and carefully file the shoulder square to the line;
- Sand the bolster back and shaft front perfectly flat on a piece of 320-ish sandpaper stuck to a glass or other flat table;
- Mark off the position of the knife and tang on the side and top of the assembled, but as-yet-unglued, handle block;
- Over-bore the tang hole in the shaft so that the tang just fits in the round hole;
- Carefully slot the bolster as above but, because it's only an inch thick you can easily use a square needle file (specially buy a coarse and a fine one with a good handle) and/or 3 jnr. hacksaw blades taped or soldered together;
- Don't bother to inset the shoulder (or if you do, it'll be a lot easier having squared it);
- Slide the bolster on the tang as a guide and glue the shaft to the back of the spacer, then remove the blade;
- Preheat the oven to 50~70 Celcius;
- Pour slow set (1 hr minimum!) epoxy in the handle shaft. I like to use a syringe and needle and fill from as close to the bottom as possible;
- Insert the tang into the handle assembly, knife should point upwards;
- Excess epoxy should ooze out, roughly wipe the blade and then handle;
- Place tip up in oven over a tinfoil sheet. Allow glue to set in oven for 20min then allow to cool;
- Use sander (or file) to remove a little excess wood, bolster and spacer;
- With a coping saw, cut the outline, leaving some spare;
- With a hand file finish the shape;
- Sand and sand and sand till you have a perfectly smooth finish;
- Buff on a rag wheel with buffing compound.Here is my design process:
The production process:
All seems to fit. I'll have to trim the tang though.
Note I decided to swap the moose horn with a piece or reindeer horn, becaus eit was smaller and had a smaller pith area.
Tang trimmed and back of the blade ground to shape. Note the slant.
Make sure you wrap the blade to protect you from the edge and point and to protect the finish from your tools and clamp.
I had to use the old drill stand because the drill press doesn't have enough travel.
Ugh. I messed up the alignment. It's OK, all I have to do is reposition the stuck on picture.
I grind the handle shaft face and back of the bolster perfectly flat on the sander. I follow up with sanding on wet-or-dry paper stock to a flat surface. This step is essential to get a good fit between the bolster and handle.
I slotted the bolster by drilling 4 undersized holes in a precise line, then chiseling out the sides using a needle file with a sharpened end, then two wood jigsaw blades side-by-side, then a proper wood-detailing chisel, then the side of a needle file. I got a tight fit with no gaps around the blade or between the back of the blade and the front of the bolster.
Here I trimmed the excess wood. Note the proper wood-type blade and good rigid hacksaw. This is much faster than a coping saw. Also note I left the base flat so the knife can stand unsupported.
Having test-fit the bolster and shaft, scribe/draw a line on the bolster and align with the wood block. Matching the centerline of the drill is essential. The bolster and wood must fit precisely. Do you notice that the sides of the antler have been ground off? Try clamping a round antler!
There's a trick here. Because shaft hole is overbored and the tang is a little loose, I stuffed a pea-sized ball of milliput (epoxy putty) down the end of the hole to hold the tang exactly in position while the epoxy cured. This ensures the alignment remains perfect. I over-filled the assembly with Pioneer Durasteel epoxy. It's expensive but viscous and bonds well. To ensure a good watertight fit I smeared epoxy on the back of the blade, on the tang, slid on the bolster, smeared epoxy on the back of the bolster and on the tang again. The whole thing was slightly over-filled and was assembled with force. I clamped the blade tip-down in the vice and used a rubber hammer to force the assembly together tightly. The force-fit is partly to do with the epoxy putty.
Here it is in the oven. The temperature is cool enough to handle without gloves. If it's too hot, you can damage the epoxy.
After 10 mins, when the epoxy is rubbery, I scrape the excess off the blade joint, taking care not to accidentally take too much out of the blade-bolster gap. I have to be very careful, because I'm using a hardened steel chisel point. I should really have a brass, bone or plastic knife.
I stuck the assembly back in the oven and after about another 15 mins, it was done.
Total production time up to this point was under 2 hours. The design work took another hour and a half.
File carving and finishing and buffing took another 4 hours. (Actually more, because I had to fill small a natural knot in the wood.)
This is how it should turn out
I have followed the lines as per the design. Note the fish's body shape.
Symmetrical shape for ambidextrous use and for visual balance.
The handle is narrower before the end. This is to fit the meaty bits of the hand.
The flaring makes for a secure grip when drawn. I didn't put a lanyard on because the knife handle had to be small (OAL18.5cm) to balance the blade and there's no part of the handle protruding far enough to string a lanyard through. Any outdoor knife should really have one.
See the pores of the antler marrow? I had to seal those with superglue to prevent water getting in.