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I Forge Iron

Looking For Handle/Bolster Ideas With Simple Tools


LibrariaNPC

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My experience with making knives is nowhere near the levels of those here, so again, I'm turning to everyone for some input.

Just as the topic says, I'm looking for ideas on handles, guards, and bolsters. So far, I've only finished two knives with slab tangs and handles attached (drilled holes in the tang, epoxy and pin in shape), two cable damascus knives (no need for handles), two "blacksmith" knives, a knife with a thin handle (SCA eating knife?), and one sword with a stick tang (two pieces of wood, cut the tang shape into the wood, epoxy together, fit snugly between guard and pommel). 

My tool setup is pretty simple for the moment (Harbor Freight drill and rotary tool, Rigid angle grinder, hammers, and files), but I'm trying to expand my knowledge of making handles without breaking the bank (and filling what little space is left in the apartment) on tools. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

 

Here's what I've put together so far research-wise (I'm a librarian: I research things and then need to either test them without wasting money or ask for input from those who are more experienced):

1) Paracord. Still not 100% sure on this (still reading up on some knots), but it seems easy enough with time/practice. I am getting split reviews between drilling a pair of holes into the tang for them or leaving the tang solid and just tying tightly. I also am trying to grip how to make a guard/bolster from paracord as well (I've seen turks head knots here on the forum, and a Spanish ring knot elsewhere as a guard).

2) Wood: Outside of the approach of using thin boards and pins (lacking a saw so avoiding this one for now), I've heard about people just taking a block of wood, drilling a small hole through it, and burning a hole in the wood for a secure fit, and then peening the edge. Does this sound accurate, or am I missing something? 

3) Antler: A friend of mine may have some antlers to send my way, so I thought I should figure out the best ways to use them with my tool setup. I've been reading so much that I'm not sure WHAT to believe.
One approach I've read is to take a stick tang, drill a hole through the antler to the depth needed for the tang, and then epoxy the whole thing in place, which just sounds rather flimsy to me.
Another was to soak an antler tine in water for a month or so (or, for faster results, boil it) until the pithy substance in the middle gets soft, then just slide a stick tang into it and leave it to dry. While interesting, I can't tell if it's just hokum or if it's going to be flimsy.
The last one was to drill a hole in for the stick tang, drill a hole through the tang and antlers, and pin it all in place (with or without epoxy). This one sounds solid (and I think I read the approach in one of the bladesmithing books I have on hand), but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something.

4) Resin. One of the things I was told in a class was to line a small container with aluminium foil and fill it with clear epoxy resin, let it dry, and then remove it from the foil (as it won't stick). Afterward, cut it into blocks with a jeweler's saw and use that as a handle material. I was also told I can put anything in there, like popcorn, glitter, paper cuttings, etc, to give it a pattern. Haven't tried it yet (no luck finding clear epoxy in large quantities at local shops and don't have the scratch to invest into a respirator just to test it), but I was curious if anyone else gave it a whirl. 
If the idea is valid, how good of an idea is it to just encase the tang in the resin as it solidifies and then cut that to shape?

5) Pre-made scales: This seems like an easy approach, but it seems as though the sizes and shapes are already pre-determined at production. Granted, my only experience with looking them up is via Jantz Supply, so I don't know how valid the concern is (or how easy it is to tweak some of these materials without specialized tools). Any input?

6) Bolsters/Guards/Pommels: My only experience with making a guard or a pommel for a blade was when I made a sword. After forging the guard, we used a milling machine to get the general shape needed, then did a hot fit to secure it and used a pin punch (I think) to peen it over. The pommel was drilled with a larger bit on one side and a smaller bit on the other, and then hot fit to the tang (and peened the tang to secure it all). 
I'm thinking I can easily do the needed drilling with my hand drill and the milling portion with a good rotary tool (or just lots of time with a cheap one). Not sure if there are other alternatives for this, whether in approach or materials, so I am all ears for input and corrections!

 

Sorry for the long post. Just wanted to share what I'm looking at to avoid any arguments or discussing where I stand. Thanks in advance for any input!

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I'm not a knife maker.  I do know something about Epoxy resins.  One there is a large difference between casting resins and hardware store resins.  Two some people are allergic to epoxy's which is not generally a problem unless the materials are not mixed and used exactly according to manufacturer's instructions. Exactly in epoxy means mixed by weight. (built a boat using epoxy resins) Cured epoxy is generally safe for skin contact.  Mixing and handling is where the problems happen.   

You may find the casting resins at one of national hobby/craft chain big box stores.  There are limits to what you can mix with the resin but chemically compatible materials work well.  In emergencies I have mixed sawdust sweeping off the floor to create a large patch in combination with fiberglass mat.

 

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