Monday, January 14, 2013

Bar stock to Blade part 3 of 3

Rough shaped handle scales dry fitted
In the last segment I covered grinding and heat treating of the blades, now we need handles, sheaths and a final edge. Not a lot of photos from these steps as I was rushing to meet my deadline and didn’t stop to take a lot of pictures. After heat treating the blades I clean them up starting at 220 grit and working up to 1000 grit. This is a tedious process and if you rush it, it shows. Once the blades were up to 1000 grit polish, they get a buffing on a sisal wheel with #2 polishing grit. I’m not going for mirror finish but wanted some shine.

Glue up of handles with epoxy
For handle material I chose G10 Canvas Micarta in Green/Black layers that produce a camo style pattern when the handles are shaped. Handle design are traced on the micarta, then tape the handle scales together with double sided tape and rough them out on the bandsaw. Then clean them up on the belt sander. Drill the holes for pins once this is complete and attach them to the blades using epoxy and ¼” stainless pins. Let the epoxy cure for at least 36 hours. Since these are going to be abused and used, the handle isn’t going to be pretty in the classical sense. The goal was to ensure a positive grip, even with cold wet hands or gloves. I like highly polished wood and bone handles, but not when I’m quartering a moose in the dark and it’s snowing.

The knife with the recurved tip is going to a war zone, and however unlikely it will be used in close quarters combat, it had to be considered. This is where the heavy choital and thumbrest come into play along with an aggressive grip.

Kydex initial sheath molding

Per customer request, the sheath was to be Kydex with a large molle lock. I used heavy .09” kydex and molded it in the press. Gunmetal eyelets secure the sheath together and allow the molle lock screws to act as tension control. A heat gun is used for final molding and making a thumb break that you push against to draw out the knife. The molle lock allows the sheath to be orientated any direction on a belt or molle type harness.

Finally I grind an initial edge on a slow speed wet stone, then hone it using a paper wheel and polishing compound. This one will shave a bit, but didn’t take it to razor edge as it would be hard to maintain in the field like that.
Final product with kydex sheath, on its way to war right now.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bar stock to blades part 2

Getting the rough shape finished is the easy part, it just takes time and wee bit of skill. But changing the rough bar stock to a blade is where the real patience and skill come into play. Again, I'm not a smith, just a patient hobbyist. I make most of my knives with a nearly flat grind that is slightly convex, sometimes referred to as a sabre grind that requires a slack belt to grind on. I add a secondary bevel at the last stage to ensure a shaving sharp edge that can be reproduced and touched up in the field.

During my last goat hunt, when my trophy had to be skinned and quartered on a 35 degree scree chute between ice and a cliff. To touch up my blade I just grabbed a rock by my feet that had a good course grit and touched up my edge so I could keep working safely. This is what a good field knife should be capable of. So that is the goal, how do we get there?

First I flatten the bar stock to a universal thickness, removing smelting and rolling issues from the foundry. Once it is flat, I find the middle 1/16" and outline my grind pattern. I grind to the these lines so I have matching angle on both sides. It is easy to see if one side is 1/32" off from my grind line and to bring it where it needs to be. Sometimes 1095 can decarbonize in the open air forge so you need enough stock available to remove if this occurs and not loose shape.
Outlining the grind layout.
Here the center 1/16" is outlined
Filing groves in the thumbrest
Drilling holes in steel to pin the handles through

This is the finished grind on the blade before it is sent to heat treating out in my shed, which is located well away from my house. This is where your turn soft annealed steel to hardened steel. It requires heating the blade blank then quenching it in oil.

This requires scientific knowledge and welding gloves. When high carbon steel reaches the correct temperature it becomes non-magnetic. I have a magnet on my forge station that I test with. Once it reaches non magnetic stage, I soak at that temperature in the forge to ensure proper heating. Then you take the red hot steel and instantly plunge it into the oil. At this point the oil catches fire and the blade is rapidly cooled and hardened to somewhere around rc70 and to brittle to use. Now comes the crucial temper process. 
To temper the steel you use the correct chart of time and temperature that will produce your preferred level of Rockwell Hardness (rc). This temper will turn your brittle steel into usable knife grade steel. Here are the two blanks that used to be shiny and have been oil quenched and now tempered to around 60rc.

Now comes the tough part in making a knife, finishing the grind, fitting the handle and polishing. Do you want a mirror finish or something for the field?

These knives have about 10hrs of labor invested so far and aren't quite halfway.

The one on the left will be a gift between warriors. My personal blade is on the right.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Frontline Order

Well day one of '13 and I'm already back at making knives. A couple major things happened to help trigger this:
1. Christmas is over and all my presents were made and delivered on time!
2. I finished my fireplace after nine months!
3. A Marine on the front lines put an order in.

#3 is where the motivation really came from to be honest. I apologize to all my other customers, but front line orders go to the front of the list AUTOMATICALLY. All other orders are put on hold. So if you really want a Knives of Malta original, just go to combat and place an order. I took this stance because this why I started making knives in the first place and Randall Knives has the same policy. I'm a hobbyist, but if you need a knife maker to idolize, you could do worse.

So I thought what a great opportunity to share with everyone the steps it takes to get a knife to a warrior ASAP. Luckily I still have a piece of 1095 HC CRA in the shop. Well if you are going to make one prototype, then you might as well make two. This order was my favorite type, "Need a Utility knife for Afghanistan, do your thing." Meaning I have free reign and alot riding on this.

First step is to sketch a design in my notebook, luckily I had a rough idea for an all around survival/utility already in the works. I make the sketch on .25" grid for sizing, then trace and cut a template.

 The page to the right has various sketches and the cutout paper templates at the bottom that I'll transfer to the bar stock.
I use a good 'ol fashion sharpie to trace the pattern onto the steel stock. I then rough cut them out to give me the basic shape. They then go to the grinder for final rough shaping. My cutting blade blew up and I only got two blanks cut today.

 Sidebar: You can see my big Porter Cable grinder on my bench in the background and the blanks on the bench. The tool in the foreground is a 1"x42" belt sander from @ 1980. It removes alot of stock quickly and will remove your fingerprints if you aren't careful. I cobbled together a dust shield today out of scrap kydex. This keeps the mettle from hitting me in the face, always a plus.
Here are the two blanks finished with rough grinding and leveled using 100 grit. The next step will be to begin the grind of the edge bevel followed by heat treating and handle fitting. My goal is to get them in the post within two weeks. Overall length is 8.5" with a 4" blade 1.5" tall for reference.