View Full Version : John White “Old Glory” D Guard WIP
12-25-2011, 04:46 PM
As I started a very challenging new career just before Blade Show, 2011 has been my leanest year in acquiring
knives since I initially got the Custom Knife Bug about 10 years ago. So I’m extremely excited about my new
John White Creation.
John White is an extremely talented and dedicated ABS Mastersmith whose work I have followed and admired
since he started. John really hasn’t been making knives all that long, which is very surprising considering the
masterpieces he’s creating. However, perhaps not so surprising if you’ve seen the absolutely beautiful boats he
created in his previous career.
I’ve never had a “D” Guard Bowie so thought it a good choice for my first John White knife. I’m drawn towards modern
renditions of classic designs so wanted an “Americana” themed Bowie and the period “D” Guard Bowie seemed just right.
To carry out this idea, we decided to go with a Damascus blade that would have an “Old Glory” (American Flag) theme and
a classic stag handle. This is a new pattern for John so we are very excited about it. I happened to have a very nice old
amber stag carver squirreled away just waiting for the perfect project. I really looking forward to seeing this project un-fold
and I hope you will enjoy it as well. Let's start off with John's drawings.
John will be piercing the D-bow (a first for him) and Joe Mason will be applying his amazing skills in the form of gold inlay to this piece.
John presented two options for his new "Old Glory" "Stars & Stripes" damascus he created for this Bowie. We chose the six-bar. The blade will be around 12" in length.
I want to thank John for taking the extra time and effort in sharing the creation of this Bowie with us.
All comments and questions are welcomed.
12-25-2011, 06:37 PM
That looks like a great design.
One of the best things about getting a knife from John is receiving the work in progress photos from John as he does the work on the knife. It really seems to get the juices flowing to see the project completed.
I'm looking forward to seeing more photos.
12-26-2011, 03:02 AM
Here's a billet for the "stars" after the first weld, cut and stacked into 4
pieces, and two 13 layer billets tacked together for the first weld for the 13
"stripes." We'll have 13 stripes for Old Glory and the 13 colonies. I believe
we'll be able to count 'em on the blade,( if all goes well.)
A "stripes" billet in the forge just after the kerosene burned off. You can see
the carbon covering the billet, which protects the steel by oxidation-reduction
as it comes up to welding heat.
Welding the first 13 layer "stripes" billet under my little 25 lb hammer.
The billet for the "Stars" is welded a third time, giving 132 layers, and drawn
out to 9/16 x 9/16, cut into two 10 inch lengths, and welded to handles for
Each bar is twisted "9 to the inch" or 20-360 degree turns, all at a welding
heat, one right hand, one left hand.
Each bar is then re-squared.
The 13 layer "Stripes" bars are cut to size, 1/2 x 9/16 x 10, and lightly etched
to see the orientation, and to check that we'll be able to see the layers in
the" flag." They are laid in place with the twisted "Stars" bars, in the way they'll
eventually be welded.
12-26-2011, 07:25 PM
Not only does John build outstanding pieces but is very good at documenting the progress. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to more.
12-27-2011, 11:39 PM
Welded the bars into two half-billets, 3 & 3, two stripes and one star in each:
When cooled, cut half the tip curve in the end of each bar, and saved the
cut-offs to make sacrificial anvils for welding the blade billet:
Heated each half up, forged the tips down straight. Then cleaned the center,
mating edges, lightly etched to check pattern mating, and MIG'd the two bars
together to make an air-tight "box" for forge welding, and tacked the tip
cut-offs in place:
In one continuous operation, forge-welded the billet halves together, knocked
off the tip cut-offs, and forged the billet to profile.
The forged-to-profile blade billet cooling in still air after a 1600 F normalizing cycle.
This cycle resolves most of the residual stresses from the forging, evens out the grain
size, and begins to reduce grain size enlarged by the high heats of welding and subsequent forging
at a welding heat:
12-28-2011, 12:33 AM
Damascus blade billet in digital oven-1600F
Following the initial normalizing cycle are three more, at descending
temperatures; 1500F,1450F, and 1425F. These cycles will further reduce stress,
and bring the grain size well into the the desired ranges for strength after
Finally an hours' soak at 1200F, yields a semi-spheroidal, annealed state ready
for grinding and hardening.
One thing I forgot to show earlier was the 1/16 " steel pattern, made from our drawing, which I can lay against the billet as I forge, to get the profile just right, so I don't have to grind away the pattern later.
With the blade billet forged to profile, heat cycled, and annealed, I'll begin
by grinding the exact profile, using work rests , first on the wheel, then the
I want to have forged closely enough, using my pattern, so that only a bit less than 1/16, just the decarb, gets ground off.
You'll note that the billet was forged at a constant thickness of 9/16." The
pattern in the "Stars" twists is in the center third, and all that extra
damascus gets ground away! Oh for a EDM machine and a surface grinder:
12-28-2011, 12:58 AM
With the billet edge ground to exact profile, I can lay it on a granite plate,
and using a height carbide tipped height gage, scribe two parallel lines, 1/4
inch apart, centered on the edge of the blade billet, all the way around:
About 30 minutes, and two 50 grit belts later, here's a 1/4 inch thick blade
blank, ready for rough grinding to shape.
I'm always a bit bemused when I see long arguments on forging vs stock removal. Multi-bar damascus with the pattern in the center takes both forging and stock removal on a massive scale, and if I had a howitzer I'd probably use that, too:
In preparation for rough grinding, the height gage is again useful, to scribe
lines .026" apart on the cutting edge, and guide lines near the tip for
After "eyeball" grinding about half the distal taper into the blank, (the rest
will come automatically, due to the profile taper, as I grind the bevels) a
carbide faced shoulder filing clamp from Uncle Al is set where I want the grind lines.
I'll begin by grinding about a 45degree bevel on each side of the blade, down to the two scribed cutting edge lines:
12-28-2011, 01:34 AM
Grinding the 45 degree angles with a used belt removes the sharp corners from the cutting edge, and saves the grit of the brand- new belt that I'll use now to grind the bevels.
I'll begin grinding the bevels, working with a new 50 grit Norton ceramic belt.
I'll grind side to side, alternately, working the grind upwards toward the
At about this point, with the grind lines at the ricasso set evenly with the
shoulder-filing clamp, I remove the clamp, and finish the grind free-hand, only because the clamp feels a bit clumsy in my hand, and I think I can tweak things out a bit better without the clamp's weight.
After the 50 grit grind, I go over the blade with a new 120 grit, and another
new 220 grit, and clean the cutting edge and the spine with 220 grit, to remove any stress risers for hardening:
Tomorrow I'll thread the tang, stamp my mark on the ricasso, and it'll be ready to harden.
12-29-2011, 02:11 AM
John has developed a beautiful new damascus pattern for our Bowie, however he discovered a small defect in the weld near the ricasso and anyone who knows John or has examined his knives knows he strives for perfection. I really appriciate that as a collector.
In John's words:
Hardened and tempered the blade today. I then go back to the grinder bring the flats down a bit, first with the 50 grit, then 120 and 220. This gets rid of any surface de-carb, and thins the edge.
This is the 2nd point where I can really examine the damascus. Sometimes after the strain of hardening, something shows up that couldn't be seen before. There's an area up near the ricasso where the last weld between the triple bars is not as perfect as it could be.
That won't do. I started a new billet today.
These things are part of the game when welding up these large billets, and I
just have to be willing to trash a blade if it doesn't look right to me.
Here's a picture of the hardened blade with the quick etch. You can see what the pattern looks like clearly now.
This is, by the way, the area with the bad weld. You can't see it after the
etch, but I know it's there.
12-29-2011, 01:52 PM
THAT'S a heartbreaker; I don't care who you are……….. :(
For every beautiful blade that you see on a show table, there is a percentage of blades in the scrap heap. Happens to all of us.
Thanks for posting up John's WIP. This is going to be a magnificent piece!
Good luck on the next attempt John!!!
12-30-2011, 12:35 AM
Thanks Jim, Gary and Steve glad you are enjoying the thread!
I have an enormous amount of respect for makers who make that tough decision to discard the billet/blade that just doesn't quite meet their high standards, especially John. I mean John worked on that billet/blade for days, and creating a 12" multi-bar blade is hard, dirty and hot work.
01-03-2012, 12:29 AM
I agree Kevin . That IMO shows integrity & honesty on John's part as a maker and a person . No doubt you will end up with a excellent knife -
01-10-2012, 03:53 AM
Making Damascus for one of a kind, custom knives is not the most
scientific of endeavors. Instead of a series of test billets to isolate
whatever specific variable may be causing trouble, the press of
orders may lead to multiple changes in procedure to insure the next
blades pass muster.
Back in '04, my early "cut and hot-folded " billets, fluxed with
20 Mule-Team Borax, saw far too many blades discarded for
imperfections. A triple move, to "cold-cutting, grinding and stacking,"
the use of anhydrous borax, and thermocouple monitored forge
temperatures cut the failure rate dramatically.
Ron Newton's guidance in "kerosene welding" coupled with "Mig-up"
dry welds for the final assembly of my multi-bars has allowed me to
satisfy myself with billets and blades that I can examine under halogen
light, with a Opti-visor for the slightest flaw. Ahh, damascus happiness.
I'm still not absolutely sure what went wrong, but with a couple changes,
and a Voodoo doll, we're back on track.
Here's my "Fogg-type" heat-treating drum forge running at 1500
degrees, with a blade tack-welded to an eight inch flat-bar, so I can
clamp it in place for an 8 minute soak at temperature.
Here's our new "Old Glory" blade being quenched tip first in Parks 50.
Here it comes, out of the tank, 12 plus inches of smoking hard damascus steel.
After two, one hour sessions in the 420 degree tempering oven, this baby is
is ready for a full day hand sanding.
01-10-2012, 04:09 AM
Here's the blade hardened and tempered. The ricasso was sanded to
220 grit when name stamped, and the peaked spine rough cut on the
grinder platen, before hardening. the tang was also threaded while soft.
Prepping for sanding begins with re-sanding the ricasso and tang, so we
have bright metal.
Next, the tang is drawn with a torch down into the ricasso, three times with a
torch, sanding back to bright metal between each draw. This will bring the tang
and transition from ricasso to tang to a spring temper. Along with the radius
which will be filed into the shoulders, this will insure that the hidden tang
handle will be amply strong for all purposes.
Now that the blade is hardened, I'll take it back to the grinder, using the flat
platen, and re-grind with 50, 120, and 220 grit, then go to the 9 inch disc with
220 grit. The hardened blade is easier to flatten, and the re-grind will thin
the edge down from the .030 thickness for hardening, to a bit less than .020,
suitable for sharpening to a "Moran" edge for a big Bowie like this.
01-10-2012, 04:27 AM
Now that the blade flats are prepped for sanding, I'll use EDM stones,
in grits from 180 to 1000, to fully finish the peaked spine of the rear
half of the blade.
The ricasso sides are still at 220, and will be finished to 1000 g in sequence
with the blade flats, but the spine (and bottom of the ricasso) can be finished
now. EDM stones will cut and maintain the crisp peak in a way that sandpaper
just can't do.
With the blade set up at an angle, under two spot lights, one halogen lamp, two
fluorescent strips, and an incandescent, using an Opti-visor, I'll begin the
With spine finished, we're down through a fully flat, 220 hand sanded finish.
At this point, and through 1000 grit, before etching, there should be no
way to see, under the strongest light, that this is a damascus blade.
Now's when you can see if the welds were perfect
Next, before proceeding to the finer grits, I'll sharpen and cut some 2x4's
and hanging rope. I like to go to 220 grit before sharpening, to more easily
get the whole sides flat. The cutting isn't to test the heat-treatment. That's
controlled by the temperature and times, and quench procedures. The chopping
and cutting's to test the edge geometry that will be fully established with the
01-10-2012, 01:01 PM
Damn John - you are good enough to have been a "custom boat builder"! Can't wait to see the finished product!
01-10-2012, 11:56 PM
With the blade flat and at 220 grit, sharpening and testing the cut come next.
The edge is at .020, all right for a big Bowie or chopper to get a "Moran" edge.
It could go as low as .010, and still be strong, but the originals would have
been expected to encounter cartridge belts, musket slings and stocks. Lets see
how this works out.
I'll sharpen on the slack belt jig on my Bader, starting with a 60 Micron belt,
then 30, and 15, finishing with a buff on a cloth belt with pink "no scratch"
A quick and dirty temporary handle from a piece of wood inlet for the tang,
free-hand on the router, a nut for the threaded tang, stir stick, and electrical
tape. High tech!
Chop a hard pine 2x4 a couple times. You can see the buff marks on the blade
from laying it down on the higher grit belts for the "Moran" edge.
Cut a 1 inch, free-hanging rope.
Then, after the 2x4 and rope cuts, try the edge on a sheet of paper dropped in
the air, and free-floating.
Finally, check the area where all the chopping occurred.
We hear a lot about "super-steels," and even my favorite W-2 , strictly
speaking, should "Out-Perform" plain old 1084, but this 1084 &15n20 damascus,
(after all the welding probably closer to 1075 than 1084) ain't too shabby.
I mean, do we really have to hold out for Scarlett Johansson when that sweet
little girl down the street is so easy to get along with?
01-11-2012, 12:28 AM
After testing the edge geometry, I'll finish sand the blade through
1000 grit, wet-sanding alternate grits vertically, and at an angle
so I can see that all lower grit scratches are gone, with each
successive higher grit.
I use a simple leather covered wood support, and a c-clamp for
the tang. It's fast to clamp up, and with the tip resting on an 1/8 inch
raised end, protects me from stabbing myself, and supports the
With the vertically swiveling vise, I can angle the work so as to
put my back into it.
I work the flats with a piece of 3/8ths x 1 1/14x 8 inch Micarta,
cutting strips of sandpaper to fit.
And work the plunge line with a brass strip and the next higher
grit paper at each stage, so that by the time I've sanded the
flats with 1000G, the plunge lines are at 1200.
Finally, I'll "pull" the flats with sandpaper wrapped around a
rubber-backed brass strip, using Windex as a lubricant.
When the blades sanded, I'll mark out the clip with a long
French curve, and the carbide scribe,
Cover the rest of the blade with blue tape to protect the surface,
rough out the clip on the grinder, and start the draw-filing.
It's gotten dark and stormy outside, and I'll quit til tomorrow,
but here's the sanded blade with cilp in place.
01-11-2012, 10:37 AM
This is really fun to watch! Going to be be one great knife!
01-11-2012, 01:56 PM
This is a great WIP!!
Thanks to John for taking the time to photograph his work. And, congratulations for getting the blade welded!!
I look forward to seeing the finished knife!
01-12-2012, 12:07 AM
After the clip is sanded down, it's time to cut the shoulders. I'll clamp one of
John Perry's massive shoulder filing jigs onto the squarely marked shoulder,
and begin by filing the bottom corner flush. I'll start with a flat file, and when
it's close, finish with a mill file and an eighth inch chainsaw file, to radius
the tang into the ricasso. This radius, on the bottom and top of the tang,
spreads the working stress of chopping out enough to eliminate an abrupt
stress riser, and also avoids a right angle "notch failure" opportunity.
This will be a take-down, and I want the guard to fit snugly, but not have
to be pressed or knocked on and off. I also want the ricasso/ guard joint to fit
perfectly. I'll file an 8 thousandths channel down each side of the tang with
the edge of a mill file. Although this shoulder will technically be both a
stress riser and notch, the decrease in cross section is minimal, and there is
no working load sideways; unless, that is, someone plans to put the blade into
service as a heavy duty pry-bar.
To clean up the inside corner where the guard will meet the ricasso on the
sides of the tang, I'll take a hint from one of Kyle Royer's threads, and use a
"safed-edge" file. I set one file aside, and re-surface the edge for each new
I can then set the jig in the vise of my little Taig mini-mill, and mill the
front section of the tapered tang down to the 8 thousandths channel. It'll
come out about to where you see the Sharpie marks.
If I had me a Bridgeport, I could do all this shoulder work with an end mill in
a flash. The little mini-mill flexes just enough so it won't do the job.
I'll then put the blade in my Moran vise, and clean and sand the tang, right up
to the shoulders. That blue tape's on there so I don't faint away after sanding
into my carefully fashioned shoulder joint.
Here's the blade ready to etch. It's a finished 12 and 5/16th's inches from
shoulders to tip, 1 and 3/4's inch max width, and .230 at the ricasso, with a
nice distal taper. I've got 5 1/8 inches to the end of the threaded tang to
work with on the handle. Gonna be light and fast.
Had expected to etch this puppy today, but ran into some "Honey-do's" and out of
natural light. I'll etch first thing tomorrow, and set the blade aside for the
finish to cure. Photo for sure!
As it happens, i have a billet of S&S large enough to start forging the D-Guard
to profile. That'll be fun, and the subject of the next phase of this WIP.
01-12-2012, 11:57 PM
Etched the blade early this morning, and it's curing while I start the D-Guard.
Etching starts with a completely clean and dry blade. I clean with Formula 409
several times, dry quickly, and hold in front of a fan until all moisture is
gone. The blade is then suspended in a tube of Ferric Chloride etchant from
Radio Shack, cut 4:1 with water for five minutes. I neutralize with Windex, and
polish off the oxides with 2500 grit paper using Windex as a lubricant.
The blade is then re-washed, dried, re-etched, and polished again.
After a third etch, the blade is neutralized, rinsed in water, and immediately
sprayed with W-D 40. I then rub the W-D 40 covered blade quickly and firmly
with my finger, which sets the oxides (in a hurry) and flush the surface, first
with more W-D 40, and then with gun oil. The oxides are setting as I wipe,
and all this must be done quickly and evenly to avoid streaks.
This is what "Old Glory" looks like now. A couple days curing with a film of
Break-Free, and the finish will be durable.
01-13-2012, 02:22 AM
I had a 3-bar billet of "Stars and Stripes" made up, at 9/16 thick, and
about 1 3/8 wide.
To be able to forge the billet a little easier, and to be able to check the
pattern, I'll grind the edges of the billet, and mark two parallel lines 3/8th's
inch apart, centered on the billet.
I'll grind the billet to 3/8th's thick, and prepare a mild steel pattern of the
D-Guard, using my drawing.
Welding on a handle to the billet, I begin forging it to profile. I'll use the
power hammer for major squeezing, the press to keep the thickness precise, hand
hammer and anvil, and a fullering tool.
Here's the start.
Here's the finish of the first part of the forging.
01-13-2012, 02:31 AM
I'll cut the profiled billet off the forging handle, and also cut off the
extended tip, which will become a small 'Stars and Stripes" plaque for Kevin's
Here's the profiled billet and the pattern, which I'll use to mark out the
D-Guard for grinding to final shape.
The billet, plaque billet, and a twist piece for the collar, are then
normalized, and annealed.
The D-Guard billet is 3/8th's inch thick, but will be ground down to about .165
before shaping. Again, the pattern is in the center of the billet.
01-13-2012, 02:47 AM
I already have a couple forms for bending D-Guards, but one is for Dogbone
handles, and the other for an ivory frame handle. I'll need to take about an
hour to make a bending form for this stag handled D-Guard.
BTW, anyone thinking of making their first D-Guard Bowie really should get hold
of Harvey Dean's video. I did!
I'll start the form by using my drawing to mark and cut out two side plates from
1/8th inch mild steel, along with some 3/4 inch strips.
After beveling the edges on the strips for welding grooves, I'll tack-weld the
longer strips to the top and bottom of one side plate with the MIG welder.
Squaring up and aligning the second plate (correct side forward, this time) I'll
begin welding the dividing strips to the side plates, tapping the soft mild
steel down into the curve as I go.
With the box structure welded up, I'll grind the weld beads smooth and the form
square, first with 50 grit, then 120, and round the edges so they won't gouge
the guard when I bend it.
01-13-2012, 02:53 AM
At the Guard/Ricasso end I'll drill a 1/4 inch hole, in the middle of the area
where the tang slot will be in the D-Guard. At the back end, where the threaded
tang will go into the butt-cap, I'll drill and tap a 1/4-20 hole. I don't always
use the second hole, but it can be used to draw up the back end of the D-Guard
if neccessary. You'll see later.
When I've made the D-Guard and am bending it onto the form, I'll drop a 1/4-20
bolt, that I've ground flat on the sides, into the form, and stick it out the
front hole. I'll bolt the D-Guard between the form and this little curved top
block, that I can also use to bend the thumb-rest of the guard.
Now all I need to do is grind down that billet, shape the D-Guard, sand it down
to 1000 grit, pierce it, and I'll be ready to bend it on the form. Sounds like a
nice project for the week-end, and maybe more.
Manuel Quiroga Guiraldes
01-13-2012, 11:26 AM
Cool, really looking forward to seeing this D guard part...
01-14-2012, 03:34 AM
Friday's the day we "Re-Tired" folks beat the crowd, and do our shopping and
running around, but took a little while this morning to finish the prep on the
The last thing before annealing the billet was to fuller down above the ricasso
area, so I can carve a lion's paw. This is what the forged billet looks like at
3/8th's inch out of the oven.
The other pieces in the pic will become the collar, butt-cap, and plaque.
Again , the granite plate and height gage are used to mark out .170 in the
middle of the billet for grinding to rough thickness., after quickly cleaning
Did I say what a time-saver this inexpensive granite plate and height gage are?
With the billet rough ground down close to the finished thickness, I can refine
After marking with my pattern, and grinding as closely as I can, I will work
the symmetry exactly by drawing around the profile with a sharp pencil, and
flipping the billet to check.
The last touches are done by eye, after I can no longer see any difference in
the pencil lines.
The ricasso area is left square, so I can mark off for the tang slot, and grab
it in the mini-mill vise for slotting.
I'll carve the edge pattern after the slot is fitted to the tang.
Here's what the "Stars and Stripes" pattern will look like on the guard strap. (
Just a light etch here) The forging to profile makes only a slight difference in
the look over just squeezing to a constant width and cutting , but it only takes
a while; I can see the difference, and it'll look cooler in the end.
Over the week-end I'll be working on the guard, collar and butt cap all at once.
More pics later.
01-16-2012, 12:14 AM
With the D-guard profiled and brought to initial thickness, checking it against
the blade indicated that .170 was too thick visually and would be
un-neccessarily heavy. I took the guard down to .137, and began the finishing
process by sanding the flats down to 1000 grit. Although things will get
scratched up in the slotting and shaping to come, starting from a finished flat
saves time in the long run.
Carefully marking the still parallel sided ricasso area for center, I can use
the blade to mark out for the tang fit.
Measuring and marking the tang thickness and width just behind the ricasso
shoulders, I can clamp the guard in the mini-mill vise and mill out a slot 5
thousandths less than the tang measurements.
Taking the slot down to a fit that doesn't wiggle, but can still be inserted and
removed by hand is done by eye with safed- edge files and trial fits.
The fitted D-Guard held in place with a guard press, surrounded by the tools for
a final fit.
01-16-2012, 12:28 AM
With the guard slotted and fitted to the tang, I can shape the ricasso area.
I've already shaped the thumb tip that will be bent and carved, so I'll use one
of my guard half-patterns just to mark symmetrical curves each side of the
The curves are roughed out on the grinder , using a work platen and 50 grit, and
refined by hand-filing and checking with the same "draw and flip" method used
for the rest of the guard profile. Final touches are again a matter of eye-ball
and tiny alterations.
When the symmetry and shape is satisfactory, I'll use the dial calipers to draw
lines around the edges and in from the edge on the flats, .045 from the edge, or
1/3 the thickness. Going to the grinder, I'll knock off the corners all around
the guard at a 45 degree angle. With the guard in a soft jaw vise, I'll use a
chainsaw file to round over those 45's.
With the edges rounded over, I'm going to pierce the D-Guard bow area in a
pattern that will later be accented with gold wire inlay. I've done a drawing of
the piercing I want, and will just cut the drawing out, and super glue it to the
guard, aligning it carefully.
Using, get this folks, a titanium jewelers saw and number six blades, I'll saw
out the piercings, having threaded the blade through holes drilled in each
design. The spheroidal anneal really does the job. Six designs sawed out using
only 14 blades. Clean-up is done with itty bitty needle files.
01-16-2012, 12:37 AM
Now i'll sand this puppy til my fingers fall off. The flats are still in fairly
good shape, so the edges are attacked with sandpaper wrapped around one of my
favorite tools; a brass strip with a piece of rubber gasket material super glued on.
When the edges are down to around 400 grit, I'll cut a curve on the center area
of the bow that will be the outer side on the bottom. I'll start on the grinder
wheel with a dull 50 grit, and clean up with a mill file.
This will give the exposed bow a softer look than leaving a flat.
Now continue sanding. I'm at 400 grit in this photo, and will continue until the
whole guard, except for the butt area is at 1000 grit.
The next project will involve fitting collar and stag, roughing out an outer
butt- cap, and making the finial.
With those parts fitted, I can bend the D-Guard bow.
01-16-2012, 01:06 AM
Kevin, I would like to thank you for sharing this wip with all of us. It really give's us novice collectors a better look as to the great amount of work that it take's build a great knife. These makers have so many hours in these fantastic knives.
01-17-2012, 12:36 AM
We are glad to do it Barry. Pleased you are enjoying it!
01-17-2012, 12:37 AM
Making parts and fitting the stag.
With the D-Guard bow sanded to 1000 grit, it's time to make the remaining parts.
The twist I had planned to use for the collar wound up too narrow and thin for
what I want here.
I need some visual presence at the front end of this beautiful stag handle, so
I went to my stash of damascus pieces and selected a piece of multi-bar twist.
This will carry on the " stars" theme.
I cut it to size and slotted it to fit the tang in the same manner as I fitted
I want to grind this collar into an oval. Here's an old boatbuilder's trick, to
mark out an elliptical oval, the height and width of the collar billet, without
needing a hundred oval templates.
Note that the drawing is two squares, with sides the height and widths of the
collar. The center of each square is found by the diagonals, and the
half-diagonal length is swung up to the side of the squares.
Those lengths are marked on the respective sides of the collar:
And the corners ground off.
Knock the points off, grind to a perfect oval with 50 grit, then with 120 and
And, of course, hand sand to 1000.
Here's your collar.
01-17-2012, 12:47 AM
With the collar fitted, and two 1/16th inch holes drilled for assembly pins, the
collar can be used to mark for the tang fit to the stag.
The soft pith in the center of the stag must all be removed, and the tang cast
in epoxy, to support the stresses of use. The tang is wide enough, though, to be
mortised into the hard part, using another of my favorite tools, one of John
Perry's beautiful handle broaches.
With the tang broached to a fit in the stag, I can adjust the threaded tang end
to a 90 degree exit.
The ease of handle fitting depends on the accuracy of the initial knife drawing,
and forging and grinding to the patterns made from the drawing.
Two more pieces need to be made before the whole thing can begin to come
In this pic, you can see the roughed-in butt-cap made from the stacked and
welded pieces of the first, failed blade. You do remember that first, failed
blade? I do.
Asso here , just below the guard strip, is a piece of "stripes" 1/2x 1/2x
7/8ths. That's going to be the finial.
01-17-2012, 01:37 AM
I'm going to make the finial that will pull all these pieces together into a
sturdy fighting knife.
Any of you folks with a machining background better close your eyes, or take
some anti-acid. This is gonna make you shudder!
I drill and tap the block of "stripes" damascus for a 10-32 machine screw.
Then I'll screw a length of 10-32 into the block, and quickly grind the block
into a cylinder using the 45 degree/ corner trick again.
Look-out, see that battery drill?
I'll grab the drill in the big red vise, tie off the trigger, and with the 10-32
stem chucked up in the drill, use flat, mill, and round files to turn the
cylinder into a finial.
I'm not kidding, this goes fast.
And sand that baby to 1000 grit right in the drill.
The butt-cap is the only piece not at it's final shape and grit.
I'll fit it tomorrow, and then it's time to bend the bow and assemble this
01-17-2012, 03:22 PM
This is a great thread. It is a pleasure to see all of the work that John puts into making a knife. The end result will be spectacular.
01-18-2012, 04:08 AM
Only a couple hours of work on the knife today, but kinda critical.
Now that I'm able to test assemble the parts, and tweak the angles on the front
and rear of the stag,I can bring the butt-end of the D-guard bow
and the butt-cap almost to their final shape, and drill the finial hole in the
And drill a #47 hole in the finial for the take-down tool rod.
I've ground a piece of scrap to the exact thickness of the butt-end of the
d-guard bow, and drilled it, and can now put it in place where the guard bow
will hit the butt end of the handle.
Now I can put the butt-cap piece in place and use the finial to suck everything
into position, and tight, the way it'll fit when the bow is bent.
This allows me to spend a pleasant quarter-hour tweaking the front and rear
angles with file and pencil rubbings, until the assembly is light tight at
guard/collar/ stag, and stag/bow/butt-cap/finial.
Well, it's time to epoxy cast the tang in place. I want to do it before the bow
is bent, while I have access to the butt end of the stag. I need to clean out
around that threaded tang, don't want that epoxied in place.
I've scraped out the soft pith, wiped the inside of the stag with acetone, and
waxed everything in sight with Johnson's paste wax.
I'll mix up some West System epoxy, and fill it with colloidal silica. This will
make a stiff, non-runny, peanut butter like mix that'll cast to the tang and
give the handle the strength to chop.
I'll use a Zip-lock bag with a corner cut as an applicator.
And fill the front 3/4's of the handle, cleaning out around the threaded end of
the tang before screwing on the butt pieces with the finial.
Late tonight, after the epoxy's set up, I'll knock the handle off, and fill the
remaining space at the butt end solid with epoxy. Then tomorrow morning i can
back drill for the threaded tang and finial shank.
With the stag handle part a solid, tight fitting unit, I can bend the bow and do
the final tune-up and carving.
Not too long now, thank goodness.
01-19-2012, 12:05 AM
Tapped the handle off this morning, cleaned all the wax off everything, and then
re-sanded the tang, from 220 to 600 grit.
Between the thickness of the wax, and what is removed by the re-sanding, we'll
get a tight fit, but not one that will have to be tapped off.
The initial "cast" fit requires setting a block of wood against the front of the
guard and really hitting it hard with my bronze mallet, to break it loose, and
drive it off.
(The way it goes is, I hold the blade in my left hand, hold the block in place
with the little finger of my left hand, and hit my little finger really hard
with the mallet. No photo of this cool step.)
Now I'm ready to bend the bow. First comes bending the thumb rest. I have a
couple pieces of half inch steel, polished so they don't mark the guard, and
with a curve ground on one end.
I super-glue the larger to the front of the guard,with the curved top facing
away. I'm careful to have that flat polished area completely covering the part
of the guard that needs to stay flat. Then I super glue the other piece to the
back of the guard. By gluing the pieces on, I can get the alignment exactly
square, and not have it shift when I put the assembly in the vise. Any
mis-alignment will make the bend twisted.
Set this assembly in the vise,
Heat it with the acetylene torch, and tap it into a curve with a wooden mallet.
No hammer marks!
01-19-2012, 12:52 AM
Next comes bending the "D."
I bolt the guard in place at the front, using a 1/4-20 bolt that has the sides
of the threads flattened to fit through the guard slot. I'll use the polished
steel piece again to keep the front of the guard flat.
I've carefully measured the length of the guard by "rolling" it around the form
before I drilled that hole in the butt. This has to be very close, although
there is more adjustment possible after the bow is bent.
It is also important to align the strap carefully, so as not to bend a twist
The form is clamped securely in the vise, with the bow sticking up, ready to be
heated and bent. Here's where this one goes a bit south, due to a decision I
The form is clamped securely in the vise, with the bow sticking up, ready to be
heated and bent. Here's where this one goes a bit south, due to a decision I
On the first two D-guards I made, by heating the bow from the front " corner"
and coming back along the bow, while holding the butt, I was able to bend the
bow by hand almost all the way to the butt.
I only had to hammer the "Back corner" curve, and had very few hammer marks to
I made the decision to pierce before bending, although I was worried about the
bow taking a "set" at the pierced areas.
I knew it'd be easier to saw the flat strap, and thought a good deal of heat and
a bit of tapping would take care of the bend.
Well, it was one-armed paper hanger time. Bend before piercing is the motto! I
took the resulting flat out by pulling the hot bow off, and tapping it between
two of Don H's W-2 rounds,
And clamping it back in place with "C" clamps to hammer the tang end.
Again, BEND BEFORE PIERCING!
No pictures of the dog and pony show, but let's see what this thing looks like
on the knife.
I had to clean up more than a few hammer marks, but the fit is really close
already, and I got to make a few "air slashes" with the assembled knife!
I gave the bent bow another annealing cycle, so no hard spots will be left from
the heating and bending. We're thinking of gold wire inlay!
The next step is to shape the butt-cap, file the "lion's paw" on the thumb rest
and finial, re-sand the bow. There'll still be some hand tweaking of the bow,
and some slow "file and fit " on the stag, but the drama is over.
Here's what it looks like now.
01-20-2012, 01:09 AM
Got a bit of work done today, homing in on the final finish.
After the butt end of the bow was final fitted to the stag, I drilled assembly
pin holes to index the butt-cap to the bow.
I made a little plate of .032 scrap with finial and pin holes, super glued it
first to the bow, drilled, then to the butt-cap and drilled, using the finial to
align the plate.
I have a half-dozen of these laying around for different size jobs.
With the butt-cap pinned to the bow, I can mark, grind, and sand the bow and
butt-cap to a perfect match.
After grinding an oval on the bottom of the butt-cap to match the handle
cross-section, I'll scribe the cap around the finial, and scribe another line
around the rim .137 up from the seam edge.
Going to the grinder, I'll rough in concave dome between the two lines. Using a
flat-head machine screw and a nut, I can hold the cap in the vise, and use a
chain-saw file to shape the dome right up to the lines.
I'll then sand the dome out to 1000 grit, and use the calipers to scribe two
more lines around the rim, .060 from the edge, on rim and top.
Going to the grinder again. I'll grind a 45 on the rim up near the lines, then
return to the vise and file the 45 evenly to the lines with a mill file, then
file a groove into the 45 all way round with a chain-saw file.
Let's see how that looks on the handle.
01-20-2012, 01:31 AM
I'm thinking we may want a gold line around the base of the finial, but I want
to match the finial itself to the front of the bow. I'll carve a similar pattern
to the "lion's paw," just in the round.
First drill four tiny holes a little way into the top.
Then saw four lines from the rim to the holes.
And open up the cut and file on into each hole with a broken-off (for
stiffness) knife-edge needle file.
Out comes the chain-saw file again, and file two scallops from the rim up,
between each line.
Sand to 1000 grit.
And take another look.
Let's see, now I gotta sand out the bow again, lion's paw the thumb rest, and
dress the stag. Is that all?
01-20-2012, 11:58 AM
Just a fantastic project! Congratulations Kevin this will be one outstanding addition to your collection. John your knife making skills are to put it simply "outstanding"! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this great WIP.
01-21-2012, 02:03 AM
Friday chores day again, grocery shopping and latte duty, but sneaked into the
shop for a couple hours of some fun stuff.
Dressing the stag.
This beautiful popcorn stag handle needs three things. It has to be brought down
to the collar and butt-cap in a pleasing manner, it has to be made comfortable
in the hand, and it's amber highlights must be brought out.
The butt-cap and collar were shaped to the general outline of the stag at each
end, but there are natural irregularities.
Drawing a pencil line around the collar and butt-cap for guidance, a trip to the
grinder and a new 50 grit belt takes off the lumps, and roughs in a taper.
Grind just a tad, and look it over: repeat again and again. You can take off,
but you can't replace.
The popcorn has to feel good, and be comfortable even while chopping.
Grab it firmly, move your hand around. If you can torture prisoners this way,
take off the "hot spots" til it feels right. Carefully!
01-21-2012, 02:19 AM
Next comes the sanding.
There's some file-work to clean up the ends, but the general shape is set.
Now comes sanding, starting with 220 grit and ending with 6000 grit.
A word about sandpaper grits. 220 is still a shaping grit. It'll cut and remove
material. I'll use a brass strip, a rubber backed strip, and thick, stiff
leather as a backing, and finish out the shape.
320 cleans up the 220 marks , and still moves a bit of material, using the
400 and 600 clean up previous scratches, and at 800 I'll move out onto the
popcorn to begin highlighting.
1000, 1200, go quickly, and things begin to shine, 2000 and 2500 more so.
Then to the polishing papers, blue (roughly 2000 g) pink (4000) and green (6000)
These are the fun items. I wish you could see how the surface changes.
Sometimes folks are overly impressed with the work involved in going up to the
higher grits in finishing.
Really, the work is done below 600 grit. After that, things go very quickly, and
only a few minutes are taken at each higher grit.
I think it's hard to argue, though, that the extra time is wasted.
I'll finish cleaning up the bow, and do the nit-picking this week-end.
01-21-2012, 03:05 AM
This knife is looking great, can't hardly wait for more.
01-21-2012, 08:30 PM
Outstanding build John. It looks like another candidate for Best Bowie of 2012.
01-22-2012, 11:34 PM
Construction is completed on the knife with the carving of the guard thumb rest.
The bow is sanded to 1000 grit.
Tiny holes are drilled, and connected to the edge with the jewelry saw,
Opened with a knife-edge file,
And the "paw" carved with chain-saw files,
If we're going to call this a "lion's paw," let's grind out a couple reverse
"pads" with the dremel,
and sand them out with the corner of the rubber covered brass strip.
01-23-2012, 01:51 AM
Here are some photos of the knife, construction complete, but with the fittings
not yet etched. We'll be etching the fittings after the gold wire inlay is
completed by Joe Mason.
I'll have to make up a sheath stud for Paul, to match the
finial, and a take-down tool, also with carved damascus head.
01-24-2012, 01:50 AM
Here's the last two photos showing The sheath stud. (cool the way the strips carry through even this tiny piece of damascus).
And a full view of "Old Glory" before guard, collar, bow and butt-cap are etched and gold accents are added.
12-5/16" x 1-3/4" Blade of "Stars and Stripes" Damascus
D-Guard Bowie with Amber Stag handle and pierced guard bow.
There will be more photos after Joe, Paul and our professional photographer are finished.
01-24-2012, 02:56 AM
Fantastic project - can't wait to see the finished product! John - thanks for sharing the experience. Kevin, you are one lucky guy!
01-29-2012, 10:59 PM
Thank you Bruce, Barry and Preston.
John had this piece (unfinished) at San Antonio this weekend, so some of you you may have seen it. The plan is for John to deliver it completed to the
Arkansas Show in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to it.
02-03-2012, 12:45 AM
First of all, thanks again for all the comments and interest in following this thread.
The bow and fittings are with Joe Mason now for the gold inlays. I've always loved Joe's work so am very excited to receive my first work from him.
Thought you may like to see the Paul Long sheath. The inlay is Rattlesnake. Thanks Paul.
02-04-2012, 04:28 PM
I'm tickled to see folks talking about "Old Glory" and it's sheath, as well as the inlays.
The big photo over at CKCA really begins to show Paul's meticulous work. "Don't Tread on Me" is the theme of the sheath, to carry on the "Old Glory" flag scheme, and this Rattlesnake sheath does the job big-time.
Joe Mason is working on the gold this week-end. He's got his own take on the gold work, and I'm just hopping up and down to see how he adds to the knife.
As Kevin noted, lots of people, makers and collectors, got to handle this one at San Antonio. It ain't just a pretty face, though, of course, as the proud daddy, I appreciate the complements in that direction. "Light and fast" was almost always added by those who had it in hand.
We'll have more photos soon, and then get it the professional touch when all is done.
Meanwhile, thanks for following along here.
02-10-2012, 02:04 AM
I really like the way this turned out, Thanks John!
Thanks to Joe Mason for the beautiful inlay and of course to Paul Long for the fine sheath.
I will pick it up in Arkansas!
02-10-2012, 02:51 AM
The skill John demonstrated here in manipulating the steel/pattern is amazing IMO. Notice how the pattern lines up and
is perfectly centered on the bow/guard. The waves in the blade pattern simulates a flag blowing.
02-10-2012, 03:43 AM
Congratulations Kevin, on a terrific addition to your collection. John White, sir, you have done it again!
02-10-2012, 07:21 AM
Kevin it was awesome seeing the WIP and the knife is special! Congrats on this.
02-10-2012, 12:22 PM
John, Paul and Joe - what a fantastic project! Many of us feel like we have already lived with this knife because of John's detailed WIP. Kevin - congratulations on this beauty - I'm sure next Saturday can't get here quick enough.
02-10-2012, 02:01 PM
It looks great, just the right amount of engraving.
John, as usual super job!
02-21-2012, 12:29 AM
Kevin - how did it feel seeing & holding Old Glory for the first time -
02-23-2012, 03:11 AM
Thanks guys for all the positive comments.
Jerry, it was fantastic. It's a BIG Bowie at over 17" OAL and the considerable "D" guard but it's unbelievably light and fast.
Great Paul Long sheath, it great knife package.
02-24-2012, 05:06 AM
I finally got to see this Bowie in the flesh. It's everything I thought it was and more. Congrats John and Kevin. I really enjoyed the interesting work in progress here.
02-26-2012, 12:41 PM
I was fortunate enough to see this one both at the ABS show (almost completed) and again the completed piece at the Arkansas show. John simply makes some of the finest knives around and this is no exception. The steel is super cool, the accents highlighted by Joe Mason add just the right touch. This is another winning piece and I congratulate Kevin for adding a beautiful piece to his collection.
03-02-2012, 12:25 AM
Here's Chuck Ward's beautiful image of "Old Glory". Like to thank John, Joe, Paul and Chuck
for their great work on this project.
03-02-2012, 02:58 AM
Damn, that is one sweet knife!:D:rolleyes:
03-02-2012, 03:06 AM
Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to work with you on this one.
Thanks also to Joe Mason, Paul Long, and now Chuck Ward.
Thanks to all who've followed the task here.
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