Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Handmade Sgain Dubh

File worked spine starting to take shape.
 Knives that carry a history with them are my favorite type of blade and one would be hard pressed to find a better history than the Sgain Dubh from Scotland. My limited research and knowledge is that these knives translate to "black knife" and were worn inside the knee socks of highlanders. The "black" signified the dark handles that just poked out of the sock and blended in with the dark wool. This allowed a highlander to remain armed while being cordial and leaving his longer edged weapons from social gatherings.

Sgain Dubhs had a resurgence in the mid 19th century Victorian era when they became fashionable and quickly went from useful to ornate. I wanted to make a pair of Sgain Dubhs that stayed true to the original purpose of a deadly last ditch knife but look handsome as life is to short to own ugly knives.

Both blades file worked
Duality, one piece of steel, one piece of wood. 2 knives.

Heat Treating in forge
 I had just enough 1095 steel for one big knife or two small knives, so I decided to double my work load and make two matching Sgain Dubhs out of the same piece of steel. They bear different file patterns on the spine to distinguish them apart. Both were made from stock removal process and then triple heat treated in my mini forge and hot oil quenched to ensure proper strength. 

Heat treated, fitting blocks for handles
Blades polished, handles roughed out

 After triple heat treating and oil quench the blades are double tempered at 400 degrees F for 2 hours at a time, resulting in a Rockwell Hardness near 60. These aren't every day use knives, but need a hard edge when called upon. I polished the blades to 1000 grit and then fit the Honduran Rosewood handles and nickel guards to each blade. These handles are extremely difficult to makes and keep symmetrical. After completing them I had a wee dram to celebrate.

These little knives were much more difficult than I thought and doubt I'll turn them into a regular production item as they are mainly for show and not much usage. I prefer to make knives that take a daily beating. But, true to form they are gorgeous and I will have a hard time parting with them as they were spoken for before they left the drawing table.

Finally I made simple heavy leather blade guards for each knife so that you can place the whole thing in your sock with only the top of the handle sticking out. Just grab the handle and the guard stays in place when you draw it out. Not the easiest thing to re-sheath but last ditch weapons are more about surprise than putting away. They will both shave if ever called upon to do so.

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