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Thread: DIY Sgian Dubh

  1. #1
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    Cool DIY Sgian Dubh

    My fully functional, handcrafted Sgian Dubh is complete!

    Materials- one worn out 1” wide flat file, 1/8” stainless steel wire, Purple Heart scales, epoxy. I will post the step-by-step process later today.

    Here is the finished product-
    73808FFD-AAAD-4A97-918F-2DAB763F6893.jpeg



    Okay, here is the process I used. You’ll need some tools and know-how, but it’s fairly simple.

    Tools: Grinder, belt sander, hammer, torch, drill (drill press is better, but a hand drill will do), a vice grip or pliers, a bench vice, a pair of clamps, and at least one good round or triangle file. You’ll also need 10-16 oz. of mineral oil and a fireproof container that your blade will fit into.

    Materials: old file- 1” wide x 1/8” thick, at least 7” long. 1/8” pin stock (brass or stainless steel will work), wood of your choice for the handle (hard woods work best- walnut, cherry, Purple Heart, hickory, bog oak, etc.), 2 part epoxy (5 minute cure time).


    1: clamp the flat file in a vice, fire up the torch, and heat the metal to a dull glow along the full length. Then, let it air-cool to room temperature. This is called annealing, and it softens the steel, making it easier to work with (important when filing notches and drilling holes.)

    2: Once your file has cooled, grind all of the teeth smooth. Next, trace an outline of your preferred Sgian Dubh shape and size on the metal. Using your grinder, grind down the steel to the outline you have traced. It’s okay at this point to leave any excess file length on the handle end in place. Grinding is a rapid process, and you need to take it slowly. Material is easy to remove, but it is very difficult to put back.

    3: once your rough shape is established, it’s time to decide which side of the blade will be sharp, and which will not. Sgian Dubhs have a very symmetrical blade shape, so you will take a small round or triangle file, and file 3-5 small notches on the spine of the blade. This is called jimping, and it is the source of our Sgian’s decorative notches. These notches also allow you to index the blade’s edge without looking at it. Nifty, huh?

    4: since these instructions are for a full-tang Sgian Dubh, we will now measure out and drill the pin holes in the tang. If you did not anneal the file, this is where it will let you know. Drilling holes in hardened steel is nigh-impossible, and will ruin your drill bits.
    Drill three 1/8” holes through the tang along the centerline, evenly spaced out. Go slow, and use some oil on the bit. When they’ve been completed, make sure your 1/8” pin material will fit without swearing or blunt force.

    5: if your blade is not going to be functional, you can round off all the edges and polish the blade.
    If you want your Sgian Dubh to be a functional piece, now is the time where we grind the bevels into the blade. Use a bench-mounted belt sander for this, it turns out much nicer that way. Grind an angle from the spine to the edge, slowly and carefully removing material. Keep the grinds as even as possible on both sides; you are shooting for a 20-25 degree angle overall. Do not sharpen the blade at this time. Bad things will happen if you do… finally, if you’ve left excess material on the handle, now is the time to cut it off and do any final shaping of the tang.

    5A: This one is critical for a functional blade. Place your container of mineral oil in a clear area out of doors free of any inflammables. Clamp your blade by the tang using the vice grips. Fire up your torch, and heat the edge of the blade (and only the edge) to a bright Orange color (at this point, a magnet should not stick to the heated portion of the blade. If it does, get the blade hotter!). Immediately place the blade in the oil. It will flare up, but the flames will quickly go out. Allow the blade to sit in the oil for 20-30 seconds. When you remove the blade from the oil, a file drawn across the edge will skate, instead of biting into soft steel. Heating only the edge allows the spine some flex and makes a stronger blade.

    6: handles- your handle blanks need to be just a bit bigger than the tang, and approximately 1/4” thick. Carefully clamp (one) blank to the tang of your knife, and drill the pin holes for the scales, using the holes you already drilled in the tang as a guide. Repeat this process with the other scale. Once more, check your holes with the pin material to prevent future swearing marathons.

    7: Carefully, test fit your handles to the tang using your pin stock of choice. Three pins, approx. 1” long will do nicely. If everything fits smoothly, great! If not, tweak things a bit until it does. Then, clean the tang and scales of any dust or oil.

    8: grab your epoxy, and mix it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spread a thin layer of epoxy on both sides of the tang. Carefully fit the scales and pins together, and then clamp the scales tightly together after wiping any excess epoxy off. Even with 5 minute epoxy, it’s not a bad plan to allow the epoxy to fully set for 24 hours or so. Use this time to surf Xmarks, or run around in a kilt…

    9: using your belt sander (or by hand, although it’ll take much longer), shape your handle scales to the tang. Again, go slowly. When you’ve got a rough shape, switch to hand sanding. Use finer grits to smooth out the finish.

    10: use your wood finish of choice. For knives that get used, I prefer an oiled or waxed finish. You can use whatever you’d like.

    11: once the finish is dry, you can sharpen the blade. Again, you are shooting for a 20-25 degree angle.


    Congrats, if you’ve made it this far, you now have a hand-crafted Sgian Dubh!
    Last edited by Recon1342; 16th September 21 at 07:15 PM. Reason: Added How-To

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  3. #2
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    Very nice and understated. I like it!

    Cheers,

    SM
    Shaun Maxwell
    Vice President & Texas Commissioner
    Clan Maxwell Society

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  5. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recon1342 View Post
    My fully functional, handcrafted Sgian Dubh is complete!

    Materials- one worn out 1” wide flat file, 1/8” stainless steel wire, Purple Heart scales, epoxy. I will post the step-by-step process later today.

    Here is the finished product-
    73808FFD-AAAD-4A97-918F-2DAB763F6893.jpeg



    Okay, here is the process I used. You’ll need some tools and know-how, but it’s fairly simple.

    Tools: Grinder, belt sander, hammer, torch, drill (drill press is better, but a hand drill will do), a vice grip or pliers, a bench vice, a pair of clamps, and at least one good round or triangle file. You’ll also need 10-16 oz. of mineral oil and a fireproof container that your blade will fit into.

    Materials: old file- 1” wide x 1/8” thick, at least 7” long. 1/8” pin stock (brass or stainless steel will work), wood of your choice for the handle (hard woods work best- walnut, cherry, Purple Heart, hickory, bog oak, etc.), 2 part epoxy (5 minute cure time).


    1: clamp the flat file in a vice, fire up the torch, and heat the metal to a dull glow along the full length. Then, let it air-cool to room temperature. This is called annealing, and it softens the steel, making it easier to work with (important when filing notches and drilling holes.)

    2: Once your file has cooled, grind all of the teeth smooth. Next, trace an outline of your preferred Sgian Dubh shape and size on the metal. Using your grinder, grind down the steel to the outline you have traced. It’s okay at this point to leave any excess file length on the handle end in place. Grinding is a rapid process, and you need to take it slowly. Material is easy to remove, but it is very difficult to put back.

    3: once your rough shape is established, it’s time to decide which side of the blade will be sharp, and which will not. Sgian Dubhs have a very symmetrical blade shape, so you will take a small round or triangle file, and file 3-5 small notches on the spine of the blade. This is called jimping, and it is the source of our Sgian’s decorative notches. These notches also allow you to index the blade’s edge without looking at it. Nifty, huh?

    4: since these instructions are for a full-tang Sgian Dubh, we will now measure out and drill the pin holes in the tang. If you did not anneal the file, this is where it will let you know. Drilling holes in hardened steel is nigh-impossible, and will ruin your drill bits.
    Drill three 1/8” holes through the tang along the centerline, evenly spaced out. Go slow, and use some oil on the bit. When they’ve been completed, make sure your 1/8” pin material will fit without swearing or blunt force.

    5: if your blade is not going to be functional, you can round off all the edges and polish the blade.
    If you want your Sgian Dubh to be a functional piece, now is the time where we grind the bevels into the blade. Use a bench-mounted belt sander for this, it turns out much nicer that way. Grind an angle from the spine to the edge, slowly and carefully removing material. Keep the grinds as even as possible on both sides; you are shooting for a 20-25 degree angle overall. Do not sharpen the blade at this time. Bad things will happen if you do… finally, if you’ve left excess material on the handle, now is the time to cut it off and do any final shaping of the tang.

    5A: This one is critical for a functional blade. Place your container of mineral oil in a clear area out of doors free of any inflammables. Clamp your blade by the tang using the vice grips. Fire up your torch, and heat the edge of the blade (and only the edge) to a bright Orange color (at this point, a magnet should not stick to the heated portion of the blade. If it does, get the blade hotter!). Immediately place the blade in the oil. It will flare up, but the flames will quickly go out. Allow the blade to sit in the oil for 20-30 seconds. When you remove the blade from the oil, a file drawn across the edge will skate, instead of biting into soft steel. Heating only the edge allows the spine some flex and makes a stronger blade.

    6: handles- your handle blanks need to be just a bit bigger than the tang, and approximately 1/4” thick. Carefully clamp (one) blank to the tang of your knife, and drill the pin holes for the scales, using the holes you already drilled in the tang as a guide. Repeat this process with the other scale. Once more, check your holes with the pin material to prevent future swearing marathons.

    7: Carefully, test fit your handles to the tang using your pin stock of choice. Three pins, approx. 1” long will do nicely. If everything fits smoothly, great! If not, tweak things a bit until it does. Then, clean the tang and scales of any dust or oil.

    8: grab your epoxy, and mix it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spread a thin layer of epoxy on both sides of the tang. Carefully fit the scales and pins together, and then clamp the scales tightly together after wiping any excess epoxy off. Even with 5 minute epoxy, it’s not a bad plan to allow the epoxy to fully set for 24 hours or so. Use this time to surf Xmarks, or run around in a kilt…

    9: using your belt sander (or by hand, although it’ll take much longer), shape your handle scales to the tang. Again, go slowly. When you’ve got a rough shape, switch to hand sanding. Use finer grits to smooth out the finish.

    10: use your wood finish of choice. For knives that get used, I prefer an oiled or waxed finish. You can use whatever you’d like.

    11: once the finish is dry, you can sharpen the blade. Again, you are shooting for a 20-25 degree angle.


    Congrats, if you’ve made it this far, you now have a hand-crafted Sgian Dubh!
    Beautiful job!
    Oil tempering is good. So is using a file as your blank. They are very hard (and hard to work, I'll bet). I'm particularly impressed with the high polish finish on your blade It looks like it's been chromed. Did you polish it with Jeweller's Rouge?

    "Purple Heart"? Are you one of those or is there another meaning?
    Those ancient U Nialls from Donegal were a randy bunch.

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  7. #4
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    Great looking knife and really appreciate those instructions. Definitely going to try in the future.

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  9. #5
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    Great detailed instuctions. Well done.
    Rama4390

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  11. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninehostages View Post
    "Purple Heart"? Are you one of those or is there another meaning?
    https://www.wood-database.com/purpleheart/#pics


    http://www.woodassistant.com/wood-da...pleheart-wood/

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  13. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninehostages View Post
    Beautiful job!
    Oil tempering is good. So is using a file as your blank. They are very hard (and hard to work, I'll bet). I'm particularly impressed with the high polish finish on your blade It looks like it's been chromed. Did you polish it with Jeweller's Rouge?

    "Purple Heart"? Are you one of those or is there another meaning?
    I’m a fabricator by trade, so I have access to some neat toys. Blade was ground to size, then I used a 120 grit flap disc on the grinder; then a “red wheel”, (basically a red Scotchbrite flap disc), and then a gray polishing wheel. No rouge necessary.


    Purple Heart the wood, not the medal. I thankfully avoided that specific award during my time in Iraq. It’s an extremely dense hardwood that finishes to a brownish purple. If you gently heat it, it brings out the purple more, which is how I got my finish so dark.

    ETA: Files are indeed very hard steel, which is why I included instructions for annealing. It makes a big difference in how the metal behaves.
    Last edited by Recon1342; 17th September 21 at 06:31 AM. Reason: Annealing

  14. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recon1342 View Post
    I’m a fabricator by trade, so I have access to some neat toys. Blade was ground to size, then I used a 120 grit flap disc on the grinder; then a “red wheel”, (basically a red Scotchbrite flap disc), and then a gray polishing wheel. No rouge necessary.


    Purple Heart the wood, not the medal. I thankfully avoided that specific award during my time in Iraq. It’s an extremely dense hardwood that finishes to a brownish purple. If you gently heat it, it brings out the purple more, which is how I got my finish so dark.

    ETA: Files are indeed very hard steel, which is why I included instructions for annealing. It makes a big difference in how the metal behaves.
    My service as an Engineer in the Navy just left me hard of hearing.

    WHATJA SAY AGAIN, SONNY?
    Those ancient U Nialls from Donegal were a randy bunch.

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  16. #9
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    A great step-by-step guide. And the sgian looks great! Well done.

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