As I mentioned last week, I’ve worked on a project for an old student of mine as a wedding present. After the process of forging the blade, I had two important parts to finish, even if they weren’t very big: the guard and the handle.
The guard presented it’s own challenge for me. I’ve only had to make one guard to date, and that was for my sword which I made in class, which meant I was told what dimensions I was supposed to work with, and I was told the general shape (bar for the base). I’ve never made something like this before, and it was a design challenge, to be sure.
Realizing that my metal selected was either going to be too thick or too thin, I went for the larger set and started hammering to get the general shape. I realized, after the fact, that I had forged something that would have been brilliant if I were forging a sword, but sadly, it was much too large for the knife.
Thankfully, I had plenty of grinding wheels nearby, so I made notes with a marker and went to town. It took a while, but I was able to cut it into the right shape.
The next challenge was setting the initial holes. My plan was to drill a few holes into the guard, and then use the chainsaw files I had to expand the socket to set the guard onto the blade. I was also considering using the various tools from my rotary tool to help shape and expand holes as needed.
What I expected to be an easy process blew up in my face.
The first issue was setting those first few holes. Apparently, my drill press isn’t too keen on working with metal, or my drill bits are too weak; I snapped two bits, dulled one, and that was when I was actually able to get into the steel in the first place (due to the shape, it would bend).
At this point, I called in a friend of mine, and we got to work. We didn’t have access to his full shop and all of the tools thanks to the flooding in June, but he had a belt grinder on hand to flatten out an imperfection I missed (goal was to help with the drilling) and a bigger drill press to get things rolling.
It took us a few hours as we snapped another drill bit in the process and needed to pick up more bits and another tool to help with the process. In the end, we did get it drilled and discussed the best way to approach the next steps, and went on our respective ways.
Back at my shop, the next day, I was back at the forge heating this up. I had to expand the small hole we set with a drift before I could start fitting this thing to the blade, as milling can only do so much to open the gap, especially when we were lacking a proper milling machine.
Once the hole was drifted just enough, I began the tedious process of hot fitting. This process consists of heating the guard, placing it on the tang, and using a pipe or similar item to force it into place. In my case, I took a black iron pipe I had around, struck it slightly to make it more oval shaped for the tangs I would be working with now and in the future, and struck the end of that until I got the guard in place.
Now, because the blade was already tempered, and the guard would only hold heat for so long, I had to move quickly and deliberately to get this into place. I wrapped a wet cloth around the blade to help keep it from getting too hot, wrapped that in a glove to keep it from getting scratched, and secured it into the vice.
Sadly, with the shape of my vice and stand, I often ended up driving the point of the blade into the wood. Oops.
It took a few heats to get it to place, and another heat to tighten the fit onto the blade itself, but it seems to have worked!
Now that the knife had a guard, it was time for the next big step: working on the handle. You’ll see that next week, but let me tell you: it’s much harder than I expected it to be.