Donnerstag, 13. September 2018

New sheath for a knife I made earlier this year

It has been a while coming, and it drove me mad somehow. That knife was sitting on the bench and I just could not make up my mind how to complete it. That handle is made of a special reindeer antler from a very special place. The blade is, compared to other knives I have made, not so special. I took a Roselli Wootz UHC blade with a claimed carbon content of 1,8% or so and a claimed Rockwell hardness of 64-66 HRC (which is a more realistic and absolutely great 62HRC in fact). It´s an industrial made blade that comes in relatively cheap. You do not get Wootz blades for 70 €, period. It has a  short tang (about 85mm long), that, when processed in the right way ist way strong enough. I polished the blade a bit and etched it as I do with my damascus blades, and a beautiful pattern showed. To you owners of Roselli knives and blades, this might be a hack you might want to try... for that knife is way better than it looks. I am not one for lookers alone, but hey, no harm done, innit? :-)

When you put a blade with a short tang into a handle, I found several things to be crucial and always try to act accordingly. First you have to keep in mind what makes a short-tang knife fail in hard use. The tang is a kind of lever. If you e.g. baton the knife through hard knotted wood, you put a great force onto the other side of that lever. To prolong the crucuial end of this lever, you have several options. First, there should be a coherent flow of force vectors. This can be achieved by choosing a material that is dense and non-porous. For instance, if you want a stag antler handle, you wat to be very sure that there is little to no marrow in the middle to give that lever (the tang) a firm base to "move" against. If the material at hand is porous, you have to drill that away, fill the "tube" you have made that way with a strong epoxy (look on the package) or liquid metal, let it dry, and drill the hole for the tang with as little tolerances as possible. You might even want to add some reinforcements, such as glass strands or even carbonfibre or metal strands into the hole along the direction of stress. Another method would be to add a bolster cup made from copper or bronze (you can get those from your local plumber´s shop). You could also make a mock full tang out of aluminium or steel and fit the short tang into that, rivet it into the aluminium tang and fit scales to that mock tang. Or you could just use a decent material in the first... :-), that said, this piece of reindeer antler had no marrow whatsoever, and I carefully filed out the tang hole to fit the tang really closely. In fact, since the antler tends always to compress a little, I filed it out somewhat smaller than needed and then softened the antler a bit internally by rinsing with a bit of water, then tapping on the butt of the handle with light blows of a peen hammer. Then I let the handle dry out completely separately from the blade and glued it on with a strong dual component glue. The bolster I made from bronze sheet.

Of course you have to keep in mind that a knife can be but a very poor excuse for a prybar and might snap in abuse. I am pretty confident with my one-of-a-kind-knives, which I can test very thoroughly, but industrial making is a whole different matter.

That said, the knife lay on the bench, and I tested it from time to time and found it a real good cutter and a nice carry. The blade, measuring in at a really agreeable and dexterous length of 85 mm bites like your little sister and keeps an edge exrtraordinarily well, and I really love it, of course. Now the knife should be used in reenactment and bushcraft, and be suitable for a variety of time epoch enactments, so choosing a motif for a carving is not at all easy, and so until now it has none. Maybe I get off my rocker and simply carve a knotwork into it or some zoomorphic ornament, who knows... I will also fit in a piece of agate or amber into the butt end, just because I like the idea.

Now those were the contemplations I subjected to, and one of the reasons it was sitting there idly.

The sheath should also be a versatile design, and I have taken to wear really loose clothing in the woods with no belt, for better flexibility and the ability to do some movements not many people do. So it needed a solution to keep it on my sorry bum without moving about too much. That was the simple part... just a leather thong did the job exceedingly well, and the knife is still light enough to be worn around the neck.

The leather I used also was a novelty for me. Normally I use uncoloured veg tan leather. This one I got cheap from a good and very old friend and fellow writer and medieval craftsman reenactor, Christian from It is absolutely top-quality. I was not quite sure whether it would take a decent snap when hardening it, but, soaking it in a solution of soda and spirit, took a really enjoyable hardness to it. Hot - waxing it with a mixture of fir resin, beeswax, birch tar, linseed oil and spirit finished it off so that the "snap" actually is just a tiny bit softer than that of a Kydex sheath. So, job done... ;-)  

It has quickly become one of my favourite knives for the woods. There are better knives for batoning, but I can take one extra for that task in my backpack. Where it excels, however, are precise cutting jobs. Processing food, snacking, whittling, harvesting plants and mushrooms, you name it. It does not weigh me down and does most of the jobs I need a knife for very well.

That blade is a really good performer for the woods. I am not so pleased with Roselli´s marketing policy, though. I strongly suppose that the advertised hardness refers to the hardness before tempering, and I fail to see the point why one would want to claim an absurd hardness in marketing. For 66 HRC would be extremely hard to sharpen in the field. To make that comparable: A good file comes at that hardness, and with 67HRC you can scratch glass. 62 HRC, however, is not only more than adequate, it is even more than ayone could wish for. So, there would be no issue at all, if  Roselli simply told the truth. This is a most excellent material, period, and needs no boasting up.

If you look for a blade, buy it, though.

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