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Handles and fittings, the low tech way.

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Here's the next installment. I'll be showing the way I do one style of guard and spacer as well as the coffin handle and probably some checkering and carving along the way. This is the way I do it, not the only way, and in some cases other smiths may have far superior methods than I do. Anyone with ideas or tips to contribute please feel free.    :readit:  not too much else is needed to make this guard. I will be using a rotary tool later on(for texturing) but that is not required.
Here's the bar of steel, and a scribe for marking lines. You can see the tang of the blade and I am holding a drill bit shank over it to determine the correct size to drill the holes.

In this pic you can see a few of the files I use. At the very least you will need a couple of sizes of round chainsaw files, a large flat file double cut on one side and single cut on the other, and a small square needle file or auger file(more about this one later). Needs to be small enough to get inside the holes to square them up. I also use a coarse half round file and a round, course rattail file a lot for shaping and contouring.


In that last pic there is a slotted wooden stick. I use that for tapping the guard onto the tang. More on that later.

Here I am laying out where the slot for the tang needs to be in the guard. This guard will be blade centered. In other words the distance from the top of the guard to the spine will be the same as the distance from the top of the guard to the   edge, not to the bottom of the ricasso. See arrows in photo.


After laying out where the slot needs to be, I determine how many holes I can fit with the drill bit(slightly smaller diameter than the tang thickness) without the holes overlapping. In this case 4 holes. If you are using a hand drill measure very carefully and center punch for each hole. I didn't get the punch marks perfect, and it caused a goof up. The drill bit was narrow enough that it didn't cause me any grief though.

Here's the goof up. Worked out OK anyway. There should have been a web between those two overlapping holes, but the combination of poorly placed center punch mark, and a very dull drill bit caused the bit to wander.


After drilling the holes, the web between needs to be filed away with a suitable sized round file. Open it up until you can get a flat file in there. In this case I am using an auger file. It has teeth on the flats at one end, and teeth on the edge at the other end. Also, it's tapered to fit in a fairly small slot. Very handy file for squaring up the corners of the slot. If you can't find one of these, small flat or square needle files will work also.


Continue to open the slot up until the tang will fit in the slot. The tang is tapered so the guard will only go on a short distance at first. Just keep filing and checking and try to keep the slot sides as flat and square as possible.

Here is a view from the top. I am now using a 6 inch flat file with teeth all around to enlarge the slot more. The hole in the guard should be tapered so it is larger in the back than the front. This helps to get a nice tight looking joint. Guys with mills often mill a larger slot in the backside of the guard........this is the same effect. Makes it easier to get the guard fitting tight and square.

Here you can see I am getting close to the shoulders of the tang.
At this point I make sure the shoulders are as true and square as possible with the blade. I use a round file for this. Don't want any sharp corners here. I also bevel the edges of the tang a little bit. If you have a file guide to help here that's great. I just use my eyeball and then check it with a machinist square when I get things really close to seated.
Now I'll take my slotted stick and tap the guard towards the shoulders lightly. Don't whomp it too hard or it'll stick on really tight. If this happens, just use the slotted stick to tap the guard back off again........and don't hit so hard next time.    :D    

After I remove the guard from the tang I look inside the slot to see where it is too tight. This will show up as rubbed and dented spots. See red arrows pointing where things are too snug.

I use the auger file and round this over gently......the goal is to have this shape match the shoulder of the tang. It should be a tight fit.

Tap it back on and see where it gets to.
getting closer.

Take it off and check for tight spots.



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