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Our blades sometimes have more holes than you'd normally need when putting on a handle or guard.

The two large holes along the center line of the handle are drilled for handle bolts, and are large enough to take any of the nesting style, solid head type. Smaller shank bolts may be used in these large holes. Epoxy will fill the balance of the hole and actually help make a better bond through the handle.

The single large hole at the butt end of the tang is for a thong liner tube, but may also be used for a handle or bolster pin if you'd prefer. Pins are epoxied in, so the oversized hole in the tang is not a problem if you drill the grip slabs to the proper size for the pin. It's drilled a few thousandths over quarter inch. Extra, or oversize holes in the tang actually increase the strength of the epoxy bond.

Handle pin holes are drilled for 1/8" diameter stock with just a bit of clearance. They're normally in pairs. Most folks don't use bolts if they're using pins. These smaller holes will sometimes have a burr that needs to be cleaned out before a pin will fit.

Bolster and guard holes are in pairs at the front of the grip section of the blade. Sometimes it looks like we put in two sets of handle pin holes there. With a slide - on type guard, you need only use the top pin hole. ( Hitting the bottom one with a drill would be darn near impossible anyway.) Double guards, those that extend both above and below the blade, don't need to be pinned if they're well soldered.

When using plain, slab handles on a blade that has both bolster and pin holes in front, use the rear set of holes for handle pins when you don't put on a bolster. The visual balance is better than having a set of pins right up at the very front of the handle slabs.

You may change a guard type blade to take bolsters by grinding off the guard stub and using the guard holes for bolster pins.

You may take a complex appearing blade, with all those holes, and just cover up all of them with a plain, slab handle extended forward far enough to cover the holes which are not needed. You may eliminate the guard notch on blades like the #43 or #49 by simply extending the curve of the finger groove farther forward, or grinding in a second groove at the ricasso.

The drawings opposite show our #44 blade set up in a variety of designs. #1 is the simple, slab handled option, with the guard stub removed. #2 shows the same idea, but with both front and rear bolsters. #3 has a hunter guard with a plain, slab grip which id pinned rather than bolted. #4 uses a hunter guard with slab grip and rear bolsters. #5 has a double guard and slab handle pinned on. #6 is the blade, as we ship it.

Blades with double guards, those that extend both above and below the blade, mounted from the front or rear, do not have guard pin holes. It's just too darn hard to hit that hole with a drill through the guard when there's no maneuvering room. Rear mounted double guards are anchored by the handle, and front mounted guards must be soldered. We have added a single pin hole for a front mounted guard on the #79. If you feel that you need a pinned guard on one of our blades that does not normally have pin holes there, just order the blade soft, fit your guard, drill it, and send it back for hardening.

Many of our slab handled types are not designed to use a guard but may be quickly modified to accept one with only a few minutes effort and the right tool, like a Dremel grinder. One of those little cutoff wheels will make a guard notch in just a few minutes. Don't plan on drilling a new pin hole though, unless you have carbide tooling.

If regular handle pins don't look interesting enough for you, try using heavy copper tubing, 1/8 th inch in diameter. (Air conditioner repair guys have it.) You may leave the center open, or insert contrasting material, either smaller tubing or pins, to make a bulls eye effect. Combat type blades with the open center, tubing pins are rather attractive and offer the ability to use the open center of the tube for a lashing hole.

We now stock material to make mosaic pins to decorate and liven up a knife handle, and also have foot long, completed sections of mosaic pin that will make about a dozen if cut carefully.

Your guard may be simply soldered on, soldered in the notch we described, or pinned and soldered. Some knife makers are substituting metal epoxy for solder when a guard has been pinned on. Our blades are hard enough to require using a special carbide drill, should you plan to add pins and want to drill the holes yourself.

If in the future, you want to use a guard on one of our slab handled models, requiring the finger stop removed, notching or pin holes, you may order it with those modifications at no extra cost, but delivery is generally slowed by several weeks because many modifications have to be done on a soft blade. We will also drill extra or special holes for your specific order. We locate and punch drill centers by hand, so lets not get too crazy with designs.

Some of our blades have either single or double guard lugs built right into the pattern. They are intended to project beyond the handle material, where it covers the tang, but may be covered with the handle if you prefer. See the "Combat Grip" farther on. If the lugs are left uncovered, you should round the crisp corners a bit to make them more comfortable. We can also grind off one or both of the lugs before shipping, should you prefer a smoother design.

Handle material holes must be "square", that is, drilled at 90 degrees to the long axis of th knife. When you have a tapered tang or irregular shaped handle material, that may be difficult. Clint Breshears made a simple fixture out of three bolts and two pieces of salvage micarta. Using micarta pretty much assures a true surface to begin with, and both sides are parallel, if it hasn't been messed up.

With this fixture, the lower block rests on the drill press table and it is thicker than the handle material. The knife, clamped at the flat ricasso area of the blade, is about as truely flat as it will ever get. The handle material may be clamped or glued to the underside of the tang.

You simply drill through the existing tang holes, and your handle pin or bolt holes are in there right. Flip the knife over, clamp or glue on the second side, and drill through again.

This is especially important when using pins. They generally don't have nearly as much clearance as a bolt set.

Light milling, like hollowing out a wooden sheath, etc., may be done on a regular drill press. Revelation. Wooden sheaths are made in halves and glued together, not dug out from the end. Just lock the feed at the proper setting with a mill in the chuck and feed the wood in slowly. ( I really did have a couple fellows who thought you had to dig it out from the end.) Do not push too fast or hard, or the wood will take off in whatever direction it likes.

Drilling a five or six inch hole through a solid handle for a stick tang can be a real problem when most twist drills aren't long enough, and most drill presses won't reach that deep. This is an old trick used by gunsmiths', originating so far back that most of us have forgotten.

With a center mark punched on each end of your handle material, and the drill's point aligned precisely with the upwardly pointed bottom center, you can't miss. Balance one end of the handle with the punch mark atop the bottom center and drill as far as possible, starting precisely on the top center punch mark in the material.

Now, reverse the handle material, placing the drilled hole over the bottom center, and drilling down through the punch mark on the opposite end of the handle. It's virtually impossible to get anything less than a perfect alignment of the two holes where they meet in the interior of the handle when using this trick.

You might also use this technique when it's necessary to drill two holes side by side to make a hole for a rectangular stick tang.

There's always a drawback. When you get the drill in there fairly deep, there's going to be a lot of friction that makes the handle blank want to spin right along with the drill. You might want to hold it with a good sized pliers or even a crescent wrench to resist the torque.

The reason for the center point sliding or adjusting its' height through the collar is to save mis-alignment. A good many drill presses would have to have the head raised or lowered in order to set this gadget up. Many do not have a firm indexing system to keep the head precisely aligned while you're doing that. If the center point can be raised to meet the drill three or four inches above the table, and then lowered to just half an inch above the table without loosing the alignment, you'll save a lot of trouble trying to drill through five inches of material.

A simple hook scraper is the tool you need to widen or connect holes to fit the tang. They're easy to make with some 0-1 drill rod.

Many worn or inexpensive drill presses have just a slight up and down play in the quill, making drills much more likely to catch when they break through. This can be a real pain when you're using a thirty dollar carbide drill and it snaps after two holes. The easiest way to beat the problem is to back up the piece you're drilling. Just clamp a slab of scrap to the back of the project you're drilling. Two vise grip pliers will do the job well. Go ahead and drill. The back up piece will allow you to drill completely through the knife steel without the sudden release of pressure at the break through.

Drilling your tang holes, especially the larger sizes, can be downright dangerous when the drill catches as it breaks through.

First, punch all your drill locations on the left side of the tang so that you're holding the blade with your left hand, fingers around the back of the blade, while drilling.

Second, mount some sort of peg (steel) either on your drill press table or vise in a position where it'll stop the blade from whirling around, should it slip from your hand. A "C" clamp in the right spot works fine.

Third, wear a tight glove on the left hand and goggles to protect your eyes. Loose gloves might snag on the chuck or bit. Don't use dull or worn out drills. If you use a cooling or cutting oil, be sure to wash it off before sending the blades off to heat treat. Heat treaters get upset when their ovens start smelling and smoking.

Remember to break the crisp edge of each hole with a countersink to reduce the stresses developed during heat treating.


When the chuck of your drill sharpening fixture is too large to grasp a tiny drill, put the drill in a pin vise and put the pin vise in the chuck. Thanks to Barry Posner.

Most of use wish we had an extra hand at least a couple times an hour when we're making blades. Put a foot operated switch on the drill press and buffer. The toe switch lets you use both hands on the machine full time. It's also great for "loading" your buffing wheels by jogging them to run slowly.

If you use the foot switch, don't wire around the regular off and on switch that's part of the machine. You don't want the buffer or drill press to start up each time you accidentally step on the foot pedal. Scares the heck out of visitors too.


This web page was created by Zoe Martin
Copyright �1997 By Blades 'N' Stuff - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED