Friday, October 25, 2013

Making "Dakota"

I originally hale from South Dakota, and so do the last 8 generations of my family. My family is all still there along with many good friends. Every time I go home for a visit it takes me a couple days to get used to how nice people are and the sense of community that exists in their actions. A month ago a huge unseasonal storm hit and devastated the ranchers that eek out that tough living on the plains. One ranch that got hit hard is owned by a man I do a bit of business with and also share some mutual friends. In typical Dakota fashion he asked for a simple favor, he needed to know how much business he could count on before buying some needed equipment. No, not donations, or handouts, he asked for more work. That says a lot about the character of man and reminds me of my grandparents that survived those lean years of the dust bowl.

My idea was to give Jay of V Lazy J Custom Leather more work to do (he asked for it) by making him a knife and he could make the sheath and auction the rig off to raise some funds for his herd. I don't make tactical knives as that's not my world but wanted to give it a try with a heavy piece of 1075 I had in the shop. I had the supplies and just had to throw the effort in to get this rolling.

My inspiration was the Tom Brown Tracker, but with some modifications and personal preferences. Here is my initial sketch up pad where all my ideas start out. you can see the erased lines where I changed the design around. I then make a paper template and transfer it to the steel.  This piece of steel is 1075 HC that is 1/4" thick and 2" tall.

Here is the blank after it is flattened, cut out and cleaned up. I start with a portable bandsaw for the rough outline, then a big bench grinder to shape it more. I finish with a couple different belt and drum sanders to finalize the shape.

On the left you can see the outline for the grind lines and the finished product on the right. Again grinder, belt sander, then files and sand paper to get the grind bevel correct. 

 This beast was first normalized in my kiln to reduce the stress of grinding and shaping the steel. Then it got a light coat of clay to keep the de carbing in check and then a heavier layer. This is Japanese style differential heat treating. It allows the steel to cool at two different rates simultaneously. So the edge is hardened but the spine remains slightly softer to allow for some flexing and reduce the chance of a complete failure under stress.

Specs: 9.75" Long 4.5" cutting edge, 2" tall at the widest, 1/4" thick and weighs 13.2 oz
 I added some heavy texture to the micarta handles to aid in grip and three tubes to allow the owner to place a lanyard where needed. As this knife is a heavy work grade tool (matte etched finish) I wanted to make sure it worked before leaving the shop. My test was this, it had to shave then chop a 2x4 completely in half across the grain and still shave. Yup, it passed and I have the bald spot to prove it.

Here it is all cleaned up and ready to ship to South Dakota. Now for my selfish part, I haven't seen Jay make a sheath yet so now he has to and then I can bug him to make my clients really cool matching rigs.

Lacking much creativity this week I dubbed it the "Dakota". Not fancy but tough as nails and designed to get the job done with no excuses. Yup sounds about right. I might make a lighter version this spring if there is interest....

This will be up for auction through V Lazy J Custom--find them on Facebook.  Great leather work and world class customer service! He even makes old school rigs for wheel gunners like me.

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