Monday, July 28, 2008

Now for the other part I promised, making & fitting

a guard made of antler.

Took a large-diameter piece of antler* and cut a cross-section a little over 1/4" thick, then sanded both sides flat & smooth, using 240-grit paper. Then draw a line marking the center, then lay the blade on it in the position I want it to fit, and trace the tang curves onto it.
I drilled it as noted in the previous post, then used a jewelers saw to connect the holes. This is like a coping saw, with thumbscrews to lock the ends of the blade in place. Lock one end, put the other through a hole and connect it, then cut down from the edge of one hole to the next,
flip the antler over and do the other side. That should give a slot a little smaller than needed, so you can do a bit of file work to fit it.
Just a few strokes at a time, a sharp file cuts this stuff fast.

When fitted here's the parts strung together:
Now cut a few notches in the corners of the tang, then it's time to glue.

Clean and roughen the sides, you don't want any oil or dirt in the way of the glue. Now mix up the epoxy**. First put a bit on the inside of the slot and fitted it to the blade; you want it to seal between antler and blade. Then pour more into the hole in the block, enough so that when you slide the tang in, it'll coat the back of the guard and a bit run over the sides; more is much better than not enough, you can wipe excess off, and you'll be sanding the grip down later anyway. Then I use a bar clamp to hold everything together while the epoxy sets.
These clamps are some of the handiest tools you can get hold of. These are a steel bar, and the clamp pieces are hard plastic. With steel clamps put a piece of plywood(as it won't split) between point and clamp. Just use enough tension to keep things locked in alignment until the epoxy sets.

I usually leave it in the clamp at least a couple of hours; you can speed it up if need by by putting it where it'll get hot. 'Hot' as in 'hot to the touch', not burning or something: epoxy that cures too fast will be weaker. When it's ready, take it out.

I took this to the belt sander and rough-shaped it as shown before, then hit it with 180, then 220-grit abrasive strip, which got it to here:
Now it'll need whatever finish you plan to use, and it'll be done.

*For something like this you're better off using something like Sambar stag if you can: it has little or no pithy core, solid virtually all the way through on big stuff, smaller pieces will be solid. If you do use antler with a core, you can soak epoxy into it before or after the cutting & fitting(I recommend before) to make the core harder and waterproof.

**You can get epoxy that sets in anything from 5 minutes to an hour or more. I use 30-minute for most things, as I like having enough time to get things adjusted. One store around here used to carry a 15-minute, which was great stuff, but I haven't found it in a while.

Some Scandinavian knives built up the hilt with a piece of antler, then a piece of wood, alternating to antler for the pommel; the end of the tang was shaped small & round, went through a washer and was then peened down to rivet things together. Looks very nice.


Thud said...

I watched the English tv survival expert Ray Mears have the Sami make him a knife rather like this...fascinating.

Firehand said...

Damn, wish I could see the show.