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A Destruction Test Knife WIP

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I managed to get everything fit and nearly ready for final assembly.

I still need to check the joinery - yet again, cut the handle block more to shape, give the guard and spacer a final shaping, and give the blade final polish and cleaning. I might get it glued it up later tonight..... we'll see.

Anyway, this was my day:
Start with a reference line for the shoulders. I don't have a file guide so I do this by eye and feel.

Here's my mark:

Check for square:

I'm using a warn 120 grit:

Finished on the grinder:
Spine shoulder -

Lower shoulder -

Fitted with the guard. I needed to contour the lower shoulder to the slight curve of the guard.

NOW I can give the blade a good cleaning and wrap it with paper towels and tape:

To fit the spacer I need to extend the surface area just the bit. So I set up my Rube Goldbergian jig on the drill press with sanding wheels and remove fair in a longer flat.

Just a check to see where I'm grinding:

Tape up a piece of 220 and smooth things out a bit:

I accept this for now:

I redrew the tang and handle layout to the new profile and marked the drill holes:

Check for square:

Drilled out. I used dummy bits in the previous holes so the active bit didn't drift into the adjacent hole:

I made up a bunch of broaches to clean out handle slots. These are old T-shank jig saw blades that I soldered together and ground to shape. I have singles, doubles and one triple. I've used these for years and they work fairly well.

I use these two the most:

Drill holes connected:

I also midified this rasp to fit into the slot and clean up the sides. The flat-side teeth are left intact.

Cleaned up a bit:

To get rid of any slop from overzealous digging, I use two small strips of bloodwood vaneer.

These will be attached to the sides of the slot with quick setting epoxy using the tang to press then into place. The tang will be removed just as it tacks up.:


All contact surfaces have been cleaned up and the joints checked for fit.

This is where I stop for dinner:

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I managed to get the guard and handle glued up and curing for the night. I was hoping to get this done by 10:00am this morning, but.......... I "chose" to spend most of the day installing a new toilet and bathroom floor instead.

I spent about two hours this morning (pre-bathroom reno) fine tuning all joinery. Then, just for shits and giggles, I blued the guard with some Birchwood Casey Perma Blue that I was given by a hunting guide who lives up the road. I've never tried blueing and I like the look, so........the guard was sanded to 800 then given two successive coats of blueing, then polished to a nice luster.

I started the day with a young, but determined helper in the shop:

Shaping the spacer:

Its a bit more "oval" than I wanted, but there's plenty of contact there.

Cut away some stock:

Shape on the drill press:

Checking the fit.... yet again. Just a nice perspective to detect if everything's flush as it approached contact:


The tang was sanded clean with 180 grit, then textured with a file. Everything was then deburred and given a good cleaning with acetone to await assembly:

The blade was given a final polish at 1000, as well were the spine and ricasso. Then cleaned well and re-wrapped for gluing:

Here's what I use. I build and repair canoes, so I usually have System Three around the shop. Its a good epoxy and I'm used to working with it.

The tang is coated with epoxy steel and the guard lowered into place:

The same is done with the spacer, then the handle is fitted and press firmly in place. The handle is then clamped in place until the epoxy steel is set. After ten minutes, the handle block is removed and the faces cleaned well.

I let this set for 10 minutes then clean away the excess with a sharp copper wedge.

I'm looking for a nice smooth seam. I remove most of the bulk with the wedge, then use q-tips and acetone to clean it up. This side is almost there:

After I scuff up the inside of the tang slot with a broach and then clean it out, I pour in some epoxy, then mash it about with a stir stick to get it into cracks and such, then pour in more. I use a bamboo skewer to poke around and get out any bubbles. I'll let that settle for a minute or so before inserting the tang. I also give the block face a coating of epoxy.

The tang is slathered with epoxy being sure all the notches and crevices are filled in, leaving no air bubbles:

The tang is fully seated and the excess epoxy has been quickly wiped away. I don't mind leaving a small bead of epoxy around the handle/spacer seam. I just don't want any epoxy left to dry on the guard, so I go to lengths to get it right:

And, finally.... after everything has been checked and double checked for alignment.... its time for my gluing jig.
I'll leave as is it to cure overnight.

Have a great night,


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Hi Phil - Yes, I've used both brands quite a bit. Mostly for canoe building though. I happen to be working on a 17ft wood strip these days and this is what I'm using for the fiberglass layers. It also dries crystal clear which helps show off the nice cedar strip hulls of these canoes. System Three is what I had on hand for this knife. The West Systems line is high quality stuff as well and could easily do this job.

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I got some work done this morning and thought I would post some progress photos while I have some lunch.

First - I should introduce my most valuable, and likely the most accurate, jig my the shop. A collaborative, albeit unknowing, effort between K&G Stabilizing, Aldo Bruno, Sharpie, Scotch Tape and myself, this is a jig Nick Wheeler would truly be proud of.... indeed he was the inspiration for it. When I saw(read) Nick do this with decidedly nicer tools and immeasurably more skill, this become standard procedure to confirm everything is still in alignment. Someday I'll get some fancy stuff, but for now this works.

I have a bar of precision ground 1" square, O1 steel, and a 7/8" block of stabilized Box Elder burl atop a clean slab of polished granite. I tape the top of the steel bar to protect the blade, press the ricasso down firmly and proceed to run the pen from blade tip to the handle butt - on both sides. On knives with a significant taper, the pen tip doesn't make it all the way to the tip, but it will at least indicate any problem by about half blade. When I want to check the blade tip I tape a sewing needle or drill bit to the block and check by eye. If any of this showed something was drastically off, then I screwed up somewhere.... something's not flat or square. I was pretty confident in the alignment before I glued it up anyway, but its a great post glue-up check and a good way to extend layout lines onto the handle block.


The conflicting pencil lines seen on the block were drawn last night when I showed the process to a friend. At that time the ricasso was still well wrapped with paper towel and tape which translated to falsely drawn lines.

After layout I could give the blade a good cleaning and wrapping, and tape on two protective strips of wood to the sides of the blade. I'll also wrap the guard a bit later. Now I can drill the pin holes. Check for square:

Two 3/16" pin holes.

The holes are plugged with a wood dowel:

Trimmed and ready for handle shaping:

The block is sanded down to my layout lines and is now ready for shaping. I use a new 50 grit belt for this and go cautiously to prevent heat generation. I don't want to screw up my epoxy bond:

The template lines are re-drawn:

Stock is removed:

The shape is refined with a new 50 grit belt:

The curves are refined on my drill press with a variety of wheel sizes. I'll attend to the very front edge later on, but the handle is now shaped and ready for contouring.

That's all for now.

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The handle is roughed out.
I love working with cherry. I build and repair canoes and carve a lot of canoe paddles. Likely 80% of my paddles are cherry so I've become quite familiar with it. Although not from a paddle, this piece is an off-cut of 5/4's flat sawn that was destined for a mirror frame I built a while back. Nice solid stuff and I like the look.

I started by drawing some reference lines by eye:


I begin grinding in a depression on the middle line:

The belt sander wheel does a good job with this task:

This is feathered into a smooth U-shape:


I then take it to the vice(s) to remove the rest of the bulk with files and a Microplane 1/2-round rasp. I use this tool a lot when carving canoe paddles and it makes for quick going with remarkably fine control.

Done with the rasp:

I rough-shaped the butt end. Now I need to taper from the guard to the middle of the handle - creating the palm swell. So back to the belt sander for a bit of careful, tentative sanding:

I've spent an hour or so shaping this thing with large files. I still need to fine tune with smaller files and, of course, sand paper, especially around the guard.This is where I leave the handle to have some dinner. The next step is to get the copper pins in before I finish the handle.



.......back with more later..............

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Phil - My drawer of shame is deep and full.

The pins are in.

I have some copper wire that I thought was the right diameter, but turned out to be just over size. I had my hopes up for a moment.

I'm using 3'16th" stainless steel brick ties.

To prepare, I'm sanding on fresh 400 grit paper, a clean piece scrap cherry wood from the handle block. I'll mix this wood dust with the epoxy to use in the pin holes. As good as I am at drilling a nice clean hole.... I'm not very good at it and my drill press sucks, so it doesn't always happen. So, this blends any slop quite well, especially if very fine wood dust is used and a lot of it is used to make a thick paste.

The pins have been lightly sanded with 180 grit and cleaned with acetone. The pin holes in the block have been cleaned and run threw with an acetone-soaked Q-tip to raise the wood grain. I'm using standard 2-hr epoxy for this chore. Ready to put these in:

The pins went in nice and smooth with a light hammer tap. The holes were packed with epoxy and I'll let this cure over night. Tomorrow I'll saw off the extra length and file to flush. The pins on the other side are nearly flush.

Tomorrow I'll hopefully get this knife finished and put and edge on it.

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The handle has been sanded and oiled. I now have to leave it for the afternoon to dry. This evening I'll do some detail work on the guard, get the handle buffed and polished, and put a sharp edge on the blade.

To start, the pins are sawn off and filed flush:

Good enough for now:

Its time to fine tune around the guard and spacer:


Getting there:

I need to round off those flat surfaces on the handle:

Working with a file, the front is done and I'm starting the butt end:

An old 120 grit belt will help fair in the handle contours:

On to 220 grit:

Fine tune the curved butt:

The handle and copper spacer have been sanded with 400 grit. I'll give a final sanding with 800 using Watco Danish oil. I'm careful working around the steel pins so I don't work any black steel dust into the wood grain. This will then be wiped down very well and given a good, sloppy coat to soak in for an hour or so:

I'll leave this to dry before buffing. I still need to detail the guard and spacer and give the blade an edge


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Castglegardener -

I use the wood pins for several reasons. The wood pins won't generate heat the way metal pins will. With the amount of grinding I did, the metal pins would have gotten way to hot and ruined the epoxy bond. Also, I like to have something in the pin holes to help prevent chipping as I work on the handle.

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I didn't have a lot of time today as I had errands in town and a lawn in need of mowing. I also didn't take a lot of photos today. But, the knife is pretty much done. The handle has been buffed and the blade sharpened and this evening I'll peen on the copper tag which is all prepped and ready to go.

This is my buffer. I have several different wheels, but for this I'll a sewn and a loose cotton wheel.

I won't need the Tripoli for this. I'll just give a light buffing with White Diamond and then carnauba wax:

I beveled the edges of the copper tag:

Then polished to 1500 grit:

Time for sharpening.
I'll create an edge with a warn 320 grit belt then refine it with a 20 micron belt. Then its on to wet stones. Later I can polish the edge with a leather belt.

I hate putting in all the work to achieve a nice hand rubbed finish on the blade only to have it ruined with a halo of teeny scratches from sharpening on a belt sander. The blade is taped completely then trimmed carefully. I'll sharpen right through the tape to prevent those scratches:

This is my pre-sharpening edge:


More in a little while. When I come back maybe I'll explain this:

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The final steps......

I'll begin by backtracking and show my sharpening process.

This is directly off the grinder with the edge established using a warn 320 grit belt.

The 1" wide contact surface of my belt grinder is poor for maintaining a perfectly straight edge. So, I'll refine the edge on a fine wet stone( I can't remember what grit).

Working the edge:

Then its on to an 8000 grit wet stone to work up a consistent wire edge:

Finally I hone the edge on a strop filled with green compound. I'll do this for 100 or so strokes - slice into the wood table to remove the wire, then another 50 or so more strokes.

I'll continue checking the edge by shaving hair. My eyes are getting a bit worse these days so I have trouble see a REALLY fine wire edge. So I'm constantly scraping the edge over my fingernail feeling for that edge to "catch". When the entire length of the blade shaves hair and freely cuts paper....... I call it "good enough".

Good enough!
I removed the tape and gave the blade a thorough cleaning with acetone. Then I gave it a coat of Conservator's wax and buffed with an old tee-shirt:

Ready to peen on the copper tag. I gave the pins and tag a good cleaning with acetone. I also gave the underside of the tag a coating of Conservator's wax: (sorry for the crappy photo)

First pin cut and ready to peen:

Second pin ready to peen:


One is a bit sloppy, but that's only consistent with the rough-finish look of the whole knife:

The knife is done, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer to see what this is:

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First of all, a big thanks for putting this up. Your work seems to be at about my level, so this knife is truly inspirational.

Second,its nice to see your jigs, work progress, and attention to detail; gave me many new ideas to try.

Finally, the JS test is destructive...so why would you put this much work into something that will be 'destroyed'? It would make more sense to make a blade that passes the test with just a basic handle, and not as high a finish. Just read an article off of the ABS website about the JS test, a quote:
"The applicant’s test knife. No special handle or finish is required. This is a test of
performance, and the test knife will ultimately be destroyed during the testing process."

You put so much work into getting the fit and finish right, but it can't be used as one of the 5 blades for the Show Judging Panel, because of the rough surface on the spine.
"The by-word here is CLEAN! By that, I mean all of the lines should flow properly, blades should be straight, and your finishes should be as impeccable as you can make them. "

Also wonder why you chose a pinned blind tang. It obviously fits the style of handle, no question there; but if this blade undergoes the bend test I would be concerned about it. From a pdf Ed Caffrey wrote:
"Remember that you may use either a full or hidden tang blade for the
JS test, but for safety sake, I recommend forging a full tang unless you feel supremely confident that you can make a hidden tang that will pass the bend test."
"The test blade is not required to be a fully finished piece, and therefore guard and bolster are not necessary. A
couple of tips that will help with the bending test are...:
1. Choose some type of micarta or phenolic for the handle slabs. Both of these materials are very tough, and will lend support to the tang area during the bending phase of the test.
2. DO NOT use large handle bolts that force you to drill large holes in the tang! This will only serve to weaken the tang, and could cost you dearly during the test. I suggest holding the handle material in place with epoxy, and at the maximum, a couple of 1/8" pins. Maybe even just a couple of 1/8" brass pins that are piened to hold the handles."
(I realize its about a knife out of 5160, but given he's an MS, I'd apply this advice to every knife...)

I think your blade is great, I wish I had the time and patience to pay that much attention to detail, and would love to own it, this is just 'Food for Thought...'

(Oh and a quick way to re-size the rod: Just a steel plate with the correct size hole drilled in it, hammer the pin through, the sharp edges of the hole should scrape off the excess diameter)

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Cal-K - I suppose the short answer to all your questions is:

I'm not making a test knife - I'm making a knife that will be tested.

I can give you the long version if needed.

BTW - I am NOT taking the actual ABS JS test. This is being done purely out of curiosity and on my own terms.

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"I'm not making a test knife - I'm making a knife that will be tested"
I understood that you weren't actually going to take the test, but you are going to test it yourself (as the quote says).
That means it will very likely be damaged, perhaps to the point of making it 'useless'.
Personally, I wouldn't spend that much time and effort on a knife that I know is going to be destructively tested, especially since I know nobody else needs to look at the blade. If it's purely for testing forging and heat treatment skills, I'd only go to 400grit, and slab handles, anything else seems to be wasted effort.

I guess I'm trying to say: If you know you can make a great looking blade, why don't you save the extra time and effort spent on the test knife for another Knife that won't be tested?
I'd be interested in the long version, but only if you don't mind!

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Cal-K -
... and what about the integrity of the spacer? Or that of the pinned tag? Is this handle style strong enough and ergonomic enough for the task?

I'm testing a knife, the whole knife, made the way I make knives.

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