In the first installment of this series, I went through building the rough handle for a Barlow-style liner locking folding knife. The blade was cut out, fitted to the handle, ground, and heat treated in part two. This section will cover shaping the bolsters and handle scales and finishing the blade.
During handle construction, the bolsters were cut out, drilled and fitted onto the liners, but were left as rough blocks of copper. Now the handle scales must be added and both bolsters and scales shaped. I drilled the zebrawood to fit the liners and roughly cut it to size on the bandsaw. Then I sanded it to the exact profile on the belt grinder.
The next picture shows the bolster shaping started. I grind each edge down at an angle like this, then grind the next section up at a shallower angle, and finally round all the sharp edges out.
Wait, you say now – that’s not the same wood! So here is the explanation. Shaping the metal bolsters without the handle will result in bolsters that are slightly rounded downward at the rear. This creates an unsightly depression in the area where the bolsters and scales meet. But grinding on the bolsters with the scales attached can burn many handle materials. The risk is greatly increased with copper bolsters because the copper is a really good conductor of heat. In order to avoid this risk, I make sacrificial scales from scrap wood to use only when shaping the bolsters. Once the bolsters are ground to shape, I replace these scrap wood scales with the correct scales and then shape the wood.
Here is the result:
And here is the knife, both opened and closed, with the rough blade installed.
The next major step is finishing the blade. This is my setup for handsanding blades. I made a wooden bracket to mount the small vise on its side and hold a blade horizontally for sanding. The blade is always protected from scratching by the vise jaw by leather. The small board under the blade prevents the blade from flexing downward while I am sanding it so it won’t bend. The bench-mounted magnifying glass is vitally important for frequent inspection of the blade so I can ensure that all imperfections are removed.
Now a little philosophizing on hand-rubbed blade finishes. The next picture shows the blade for this knife with hand sanding finished up to 1500 grit and another blade that has been finished to 220 grit. Many people say that you can’t tell the difference as you continue to go to higher and higher grits and I agree that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference in a 600 grit finish and an 800 grit finish, but you can see from this comparison that the opposite ends of the spectrum are very easy to distinguish. Not only is the finer finish more aesthetically pleasing, it also leaves much less surface area for corrosion to form.
After sanding is complete, the blade is etched with my maker’s mark. The next picture shows the stencil for applying that mark. The black electrical tape serves three purposes: to hold the stencil in place on the blade, to the secure the blade while etching, and to protect the blade from stray marks.
The etcher uses DC current first to remove metal from the blade, etching the mark into the blade. Then it is switched to AC current to burn on the black finish in the etched lettering. Here is the finished blade with the mark applied.
The final installment will cover the finishing details to complete the knife.