Custom Set of 3

A customer wanted one of my big Bowies so we we started working on the design. After exchanging several emails and sketches, we arrived at this basic design.

This will be another big one at 20" long. I make my drawings full size so I can print them out to get a real idea of size and fit. Here, I printed one to get a better idea of size.

We did a little more refinement of the design and added a brass blade catcher to the top.

As we worked through the project he decided he wanted a set of 3 knives following a common theme and all with desert ironwood handles and brass fittings. The two larger knives will have about 1/4" of the tang exposed and beveled at the rear.

I get started by cutting the blanks from bar stock, profiling the shape and drilling the pin holes.

Now I start the rough grind with a 60 grit belt. This is to remove the bulk of the metal before heat treating while the steel is in it's relatively soft annealed state.

Rough ground and surface ground, we are ready to harden and temper the blades.

After heat treatment. There is some discoloration from being heated to 1450 degrees but we will clean that up with more grinding.

Now we go back to a lot more grinding. I do all of my grinding freehand without using any jigs or guides. My eyes and hands tell me when it is right.

Ground the second time to 120 grit.

I will go through several more grinds with successively finer grit belts, 220, 400, 600, 800, 1200. Then comes hours of hand sanding on the flats of the blades for a hand rubbed satin finish. Once the blades are finished, I will start on making the guards and handles.

I cut into a block of desert ironwood for the big Bowie handles. Cutting into a block of wood is like going on a blind date, you never know what to expect. This was one of the nice surprises. These look great even before sanding.

The smallest of the 3 knives: Here I have surface ground it and finished the second blade grind at 220 grit. I also cut the desert ironwood handle scales.

The middle knife surface ground and edge ground to 220 grit. I cut the desert ironwood scales that look fantastic but there are couple of checks in the wood that might be a problem so I might have to cut another set.

The bowie after the 220 grit grind.

Here I continue with the smallest of the 3 knives. I cut and square the brass bolsters and drill them to accept 1/8" brass pins.

Next I square up the ends of the desert ironwood slabs.

Now, using the holes I previously drilled in the knife handle as a guide, I drill the holes in the handle scales and insert brass pins.

Now I have the handles scales and the bolsters aligned and fitted for the brass pins and tube that will hold them in place. When permanently attached, I will trim them to match the contours of the handle. For now, I will remove them so I can finish grinding and sanding the blade.

The first one is finished.

#2 is coming along. I have the blade ground and sanded, the desert ironwood scales are cut and shaped, the brass bolsters are pinned in place, and the handle pins are cut and ready. The original set of ironwood scales had some cracks so I cut another set.

I do a test fit of the handles.

Now I glue up the handles and press this in my vise. I use pieces of steel that will put the pressure on the handle scales between the pins to insure that they are pressed tight against the handle tang.

After the epoxy has cured. Now I will peen the pins and then grind everything flush and then start shaping the handle.

After shaping and sanding with several finer grits of sandpaper, it's starting to look pretty good. This is some gorgeous desert ironwood.

We are almost ready to polish and finish this knife.

Number two of this three piece set is finished.

Now to finish that big Bowie knife. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to take pictures through the final steps of the Bowie. Basically, I did a lot more grinding on that big blade, going through successively finer grits down to 1000 grit. I then ground the brass guard to shape and then made the brass "blade catcher" strip. After some sanding and polishing of the desert ironwood handle, we are finished!

This was another big bowie measuring 19 inches in overall length.

Here is where we started, with a drawing.

And this is where we finished, with 3 custom knives.

This set is finished and delivered and we about to start on another set of 3. It is a great pleasure to work with a great customer and a new friend.

Thanks Mark.

Update: The customer that ordered these knives wanted to make his own sheaths. He sent me some pictures of his work and I think it is quite impressive. Mark employs a unique technique of lacing the sheaths with brass wire.


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