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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Help with Making a Whittle Tang Knife Reply to topic
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David Clark





Joined: 10 Feb 2009

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 8:39 am    Post subject: Help with Making a Whittle Tang Knife         Reply with quote

I have made several knives as of yet (mostly practice stuff that is nothing to brag about), but they have all had slab/scale handles. I am very interested in making more historical whittle tang handles for some belt knives and seaxes, but I cannot seem to find a tutorial on how one is made. I know that the center needs to be scooped/scraped out to create the cavity for the tang, but how does one get the blade to sit secure? Epoxy? What kind of tool(s) would I need to scrape out the hole? Some form of small lathe perhaps?
Also, I have seen mentioned a method that uses fire to burn out the socket? I have no idea how one would go about this....

Any advice, knowledge, or tutorials would be most appreciated. I just want to do it right the first time Laughing Out Loud
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you're going to use antler for the handle, just soak the antler for two/three days and then tap it on with a hide faced (or other soft faced) mallet. No need to drill or burn it on as the soaking softens the spongy core of the antler enough for the tang to drive it's way through it.

Once dry, the handle is well and truly stuck there.

If using wood, I usually drill a pilot hole through the handle and then burn it on. to burn it on, heat the tang up, line it up with your pilot hole and then, again using a soft mallet, start to tap it on. After a few strokes, I tend to stop, knock the handle off again and reheat the tang before tapping it on a bit further.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David,
Here are instructions for assembling an English Cutler ballock dagger kit. I'd imagine the concepts are applicable: http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/theenglishcutler/k...aggers.pdf .

If that method doesn't work, I'd think drilling a small initial hole and then using small files to widen it in spots could work.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not an expert craftsman, but I've done my fair share of projects like this so I'll share some stuff I've learned. First of all, you are correct; the handle needs to be hollowed out for the tang to pass through. There are a few different ways to go about it. The most straightforward way is to drill it out. Use a drill bit that's about the thickness of your tang (a little smaller is ideal; allows more room for error) to get it started then switch to hand tools to widen it. Small files and rasps work well. As to the fire method, you can bore out the handle to match the tang exactly by heating the tang and burning through. I've never done that before, so I can't really give you much to go on there. It depends on if you are using a pre-made blade (already heat treated) or forging your own. If it's a pre-made, then I'd opt for the former method to avoid ruining the heat treat.

As for securing the blade in the handle, again you have options. If it's something like a belt knife, then you'd probably want to bore all the way through the handle so you can peen the tang over the end of it. If the handle fits the tang well, it shouldn't rattle or move much. Add some epoxy or cutlers resin and finish it off by peening it, and you'll have a rock solid construction that will last a lifetime. For something like a seax, you can bore part way in and secure it with softwood wedges. I'd recommend using cutler's resin or epoxy for this as well.

It's does require some finesse and patience, but it's not terribly difficult. Go slow and work carefully and you should be fine.
I'd highly recommend one of the English Cutler ballock dagger kits. These are loads of fun and provide a great opportunity to hone the skills you'll need to complete other similar projects. http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/theenglishcutler/k...knives.htm. Chad already provided the link on that page with instructions on how to complete it which are indeed applicable to smaller whittle tang knives. Hope this helps, and good luck! Happy
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David Clark





Joined: 10 Feb 2009

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you both so much. Happy
I have two wonderful antlers from a delicious deer that I took about 4 years ago, and they keep 'screaming' at me to make handles out of them. Thus they shall be first. Wood after that. What kind of wood is best for a beginner's knife handle?
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Bernard Delor




Location: France
Joined: 19 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many woods can fit.
A hardwood is better because it won't get scratched. Iron wood, boxwood and ebony are perfect, but more common ones can be used too : oak, walnut, briar, and many more...
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A non-traditional way to make a handle for a whittle tang handle is to split the material for the handle make a carefully fitted recess for the tang in both pieces and then epoxy the tang and the two grip halves together. This method eliminates a round hole where the tang exits the grip.
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bernard Delor said, "A hardwood is better because it won't get scratched. Iron wood, boxwood and ebony are perfect, but more common ones can be used too : oak, walnut, briar, and many more..."


Well, yes but things are not quite as clear cut as that. A hard wood is less easily damaged than a soft wood but some hardwoods aren't very hard while some softwoods are very hard.. If you're confused I can't blame you. Somewhat technically a hardwood is any tree that has leaves instead of needles and a softwood is any tree with needles rather than leaves. The problem is that some hardwoods are actually very soft. One can, for example. dent basswood (linden in Europe) with one's thumbnail. Butternut too is quite soft and easily dented or damaged. Eastern hemlock is a softwood but when dry it is extremely hard. Yew trees have needles but the wood is fairly hard.

Iron wood is tricky because it is a common name and used for the wood of different trees in different places. In New England Iron wood refers to American Hornbeam which is extremely hard when dry. A very high end manufacturer of hand tools in New England has handles for chisels turned from American hornbeam.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jan, 2012 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Go for a piece of wood that is dry and without cracks and you will be fine.
I have made wittle tang knives out of a lot of different types of wood.

Generally I like softer woods. They are easy to work with, and while they may be scratched and nicked with use, I like that kind of character on my knives. For me they are tools to be used.

You could keep color in mind as well, most wood change color with age and any surface treatment with oil or else can affect this as well.

Materials I have used in no particular order: Birch, ash, yew, hazel, peartree, cherry, elm, bone and antler. The elm turned out epsecially nice actually.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Perry L. Goss




Location: Missouri
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jan, 2012 5:26 am    Post subject: setting a tang         Reply with quote

I would agree with all of the above.

Some notes though.

1.) Softwood if your buring in - can get off center easier.
2.) Hardwood I think is better, buringing in or otherwise. Personal preference though.
3.) Do not force it! Cracks and splits will arise later after it cools. Go in increments and clean out each time. The tang will cool, but so what. Just re-heat. Better than trashing a nice piece of wood, or all your efforts up to that point.
4.) I heat my tangs red hot and burn in with increments for clean out of burned wood dust ( a must). Be careful on small diameter tangs though.
5.) I also use files, rasps, drill bits etc. to "assist" the burn in. It is soooo easy to get off track. Again, clean the tang hole out frequently, helps to keep the deminsions intact.
6.) Use a block that is at best rough shaped, save the final shape for after the tang is set completely. Just in case of off-center mistakes.
7.) I know many guys over at Don Fogg that do not heat the tang red hot, but to blue and burn in. Either method will take repeated applications.
8.) I think the key is to drill out with slightly undersize bit, lining up carefully and take your bloody time man! This is no time nor place for short cuts. I once had a beautiful piece of heavily burled, aged English walnut for a dudgeon I was working on. Ruined it trying to get it done before work that night. Haste makes waste.
9.) I use epoxy although there are many old receipes out there for the older glues. I just do not have the time to mess with them and once the handle is on and set....

Scottish: Ballentine, Black, Cameron, Chisholm, Cunningham, Crawford, Grant, Jaffray, MacFarlane, MacGillivray, MacKay-Reay/Strathnaver, Munro, Robertson, Sinclair, Wallace

Irish/Welsh: Bodkin, Mendenhall, Hackworth

Swiss: Goss von Rothenfluh, Naff von Zurich und Solland von Appenzel
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Perry L. Goss




Location: Missouri
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jan, 2012 5:30 am    Post subject: forgot this one         Reply with quote

Ken Speed wrote:
A non-traditional way to make a handle for a whittle tang handle is to split the material for the handle make a carefully fitted recess for the tang in both pieces and then epoxy the tang and the two grip halves together. This method eliminates a round hole where the tang exits the grip.


One of my favorites. Easy to do and as long as you do a good job and take your time it will work. I use this especially if the wood is going to be a base and be covered with leather.

After all...Albion does this as historical on their sword handles if I remember correctly. Well, don't know if they use epoxy or not.

Thanks for reminding me!

Scottish: Ballentine, Black, Cameron, Chisholm, Cunningham, Crawford, Grant, Jaffray, MacFarlane, MacGillivray, MacKay-Reay/Strathnaver, Munro, Robertson, Sinclair, Wallace

Irish/Welsh: Bodkin, Mendenhall, Hackworth

Swiss: Goss von Rothenfluh, Naff von Zurich und Solland von Appenzel
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Feb, 2012 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Putting handles on blades is one of my favorite parts of the whole assembly process. The method of heating the tang is very common,both on swords and knives,and works quite well. One thing I would caution,because I don't think it's been mentioned yet, is that when you heat the tang(especially on smaller pieces)),be careful the heat doesn't spread to the blade,and cause it to lose or change the temper. I would say (depending on the material being used for the handle) that heating the tang to red heat is a bit of an overkill.As long as there is an adequate sized pilot hole,the tang should burn through just fine at about 700-900 degrees farenheit ,which is a bit under red heat. I normally put a clamp on the portion where the blade and tang meet,to act as a heat sink,just to be safe. Cheers!
Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
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Mackenzie Cosens




Location: Vancouver Canada
Joined: 08 Aug 2007

Posts: 238

PostPosted: Fri 17 Feb, 2012 3:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if anyone else does this, but I shape the end of the tang like an old square cut nail and after I burned the pilot hole just short of where I want it, I let the tang cool enough that it is not burning the wood and tap the last bit on like it was a nail.

So far, its worked well on tight grained tough woods.

Mackenzie
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