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Clamp soft blade between hardened plates as shown. File down to the hard steel and the guard shoulders will be true, ready to solder after the blade is hard. Use D-2, A-2, or 01 for the plates, harden, but do not draw. Bolts are for alignment of plates only. Vise does the clamping to hold the blade in place.

Blades are much easier to hold firmly between the plates when they are filed before the bevels or Vee grinds are cut. There's just more to hold on to. It also helps to line the "jaws" with a leather pad. Put the leather pads on with rubber cement so they're east to change.

Adapted from an idea presented by Bill Moran.

There are several types of guards, but they are made and fitted in basically the same manner.

The first type is for the narrow tang blade or the double guarded fighter, simply a filed rectangular slot near the center of a slab of metal.

The second type fits slab handled, hunter type blades, and is an open ended slot in a piece of metal, sort of a "U" shape.

Third, are bolsters, simply flat slabs soldered, and perhaps pinned, to the sides of a slab type grip in either guard or pommel position. DO NOT HAND SAND THE AREA OF A BLADE TO BE COVERED BY BOLSTERS. YOU'LL ROUND THE EDGES ENOUGH TO LEAVE A GAP AT THE EDGES OF THE JOINT. USE THE SPECIAL METHOD THAT WE DESCRIBE IN ANOTHER SECTION. Prepare for bolsters with the sanding technique mentioned towards the end of the hand rubbed finish section.

It is best to just pin bolsters. If soldered, flux will sometimes start leaching out, months after the knife is delivered. It might rust, or at least discolor the area. Use a lot of solder to completely fill the joint and hopefully, wash out all of the flux. Some fellows are now putting bolsters on with recessed socket screws, and it looks good.

For the first type of guard, the knife maker usually drills the guard blank with a number of holes in a line and files to connect them, and finally files to fit to the tang shoulders. Most stick tang knives have quite a fillet, rounded part, where the tang joins the blade. Regular files just won't cut an exactly square corner because the teeth at the edge get knocked right off. You have to make a relief cut in the guard slot to accommodate that. Do not make the entire slot wider.

The second type may have the slot started with bandsaw or cutoff saw, a much faster process. Use a fairly long piece of metal to start the guard. It'll be a lot easier to clamp down or hold on to while you're working. Cut it to the right length after the slot is fitted.

We recommend that the guard slot be completed before shaping the rest of the guard. It's real annoying if you cut the guard into a perfect ellipse, and then have the filed slot come up a bit slanted.

Start by cleaning up the guard materials' surface and scribe a bold line at the center of the flat that you'll be drilling from. Your material should be generously oversized at this point. This doesn't mean extra wide. One inch wide material is more than enough to do any guard, short of some really high art type. You should expect to work it down to three fourths of an inch or less in width.

Measure the thickness of the blade at the point where you'll put the guard on. Say that dimension is a full 3/16" -- take a 1/32" off that, and you get 5/32". Mark a series of drill centers on the guard blank along the scribe line 5/32" apart. If you're not too sure of your skill in filing, take a full 1/16" off to get your drill size. You'll have to file a bit more, but with less worrying. Punch each mark with a centerpunch. You can file a heavy nail to a round point if no centerpunch is handy. It'll get dull quick, but a new fellow isn't going to be doing a lot of this. This assures your drill won't drift when you drill a series of 5/32" holes along the scribe line, using the punch marks as accurate starting points. You can do this by hand drill if you're very careful, but it's not advised. (Once you get serious, you'll appreciate a flexible steel rule marked with 100ths, and a small magnifying glass.)

Using a small round file, connect the holes by filing away the thin webs left between them. Mark one side of your guard as being the front. Begin filing slowly and carefully to widen the slot until it'll accept the knife tang. All of our stick type knife tangs are tapered a bit to allow the guard to be fit progressively up the tang to the shoulders as you file the slot wider.

Using a needle type file to cut the sides of the guard slot flat is very difficult. We recommend a 4" flat file for this, making accuracy a lot easier. If the slot is wide enough for a larger file, use it. Longer files are easier to control. The guard is much easier to fit if you file a very slight taper in the slot so that it's wider in the back or handle side. This allows the guard to be straightened if your slot isn't exactly square to the blade. Try sliding the guard into place when you're getting close. Take it off and check the interior of the slot. Tight spots will have been rubbed shiny by the steel.

There's an old trick to getting the inner sides of the slot square to the front and back. Polish one of the flat sides to a mirror finish and then work from that side. If your file is held properly, the file and its' reflection in the guard will form a straight line. If they don't, adjust your cutting angle until they do.

Once the guard slot is filed wide enough for a snug fit to the tang, remove any filing burrs and semi-polish the guards front side.

Now, when you find that just a bit too much metal has been taken off, leaving gaps along the side of the blade, don't just toss the # * !!! thing in the scrap bucket. There's a "save it" sort of trick that us lazy fellows use a lot.

You'll need a punch with an end diameter of around 1/4 inch, with the end slightly domed or rounded. It should be steel.

You use the punch with about 1/4 of the punch face hanging out over the guard slot, hammering it down with firm, but gentle strokes. This will spread the metal slightly into the slot. Then the guard will fit tight again, but you'll have to re - finish the front of the guard where it has collected a bunch of dimples. Those are a lot easier to get rid of than starting all over.

If there is a major gap at the top of a slab handled guard, use the punch technique to tighten it up or just hammer the open top together a bit. You may also use the hammer technique to some degree, to narrow the entire slot if it's been filed too wide, if your hammer is heavy enough, and the guard isn't too wide or thick.

Basically, the assembly looks like this.

We've filed the guard stub and drilled the pin holes for a 1/8" pin and guard material 3/8" thick. This allows quite a variety of shapes. You only need the top pin hole for the guard. If there are two holes there, the bottom one is just in case you want to change to a bolster.

Once you've begun your guard slot, widen it carefully until the guard will just slide on the tang at the proper position.

Scribe a center line down the guard edge to locate the pin hole properly from front to back. Then measure from the grips' bottom edge to the center of the pre-drilled hole. ("A" in the sketch.) Scribe a second line across the front or back of your guard, (line B ) across the bottom of the filed slot using a square to transfer it around the corner to the edge of the guard (line C). Measure up from line C, along the centerline 1/32" less than the measurement you got on the blade at A, punch and drill your hole. Making the hole 1/32" "low" allows you to file the slot just a fraction deeper for the final fit.

File to fit and test pin the guard on. You may want to partially shape the guard before the final assembly.

Holes in the tang occasionally have small burrs which won't let the pins slide through. Use a small stone in your Dremel type tool to clean them out. You may also run a dull drill bit through the hole to clean it up. Using a sharp one would ruin it.

Before hammering the guard pin to set it, countersink the pin hole from both sides of the guard to about half the thickness of the material, using a drill just a few thousandths larger than the existing hole. (Be sure to clamp the work piece down firmly before starting. This is illustrated in the lower half of the drawing above.

Drilling a slightly larger hole into an existing hole always makes the work piece seem to want to climb right up the drill in an uncontrollable manner.) When hammered down, this helps the pin anchor better by literally locking everything in place as the pin expands to fill the slightly larger hole towards the outer surface of each side. A tapered reamer run into the hole will give the same effect as countersinking it and give a smoother hole.

File or grind the pin ends square and break the sharp corners by grinding or filing a 45 degree bevel before hammering to help keep the pin from bending over. Don't leave any more than about one diameter length of the pin sticking up out of the guard for the same reason. In addition to anchoring with the pin, a guard may also be soldered to prevent blood or moisture from working it's way up under the grip. If the guard fits really well, some guys seal with epoxy and skip the solder.

They do not make a file or grinder that will cut a precisely square, inside corner, which is what you need to make a guard fit well. Just about every guard will have to get a bit of relief filed into the joint area where the blade isn't quite square, and won't let the guard slide all the way to meet the guard shoulders.

When hammering the pins, put a piece of shim stock on the underside. It should have a hole to allow the pin head to project a bit, and rest on the anvil surface, right through the shim stock. This will keep the pin from shifting through the bolster or guard while you're hammering. In the sketch below, the shim stock is shown as a shaded area below the bolster.

The trick in the second paragraph back works very well with bolsters too. Always mark a guard so you can match it with the right blade later.

There are times when you will want to deliberately spread a pin on the ends without making it expand down inside the hole it's in. This next sketch illustrates four steps in sequence.

You begin, using a small chisel shaped tool, by tapping it gently with a hammer. It will make a small line across the pin. Continue, making a lot more of those lines, trying to get them as centered as possible. Each new mark will spread the end of the pin, just a few thousandths of an inch. When you've done about a dozen, the pin end should be well on its' way to being spread and well anchored in place.

The Loveless style guard that is simply soldered on from the front of the blade tends to make a lot of new knife makers a bit uneasy.

They think that there's the chance of it popping off under stress. Actually, one of R W's guards wouldn't come off unless you literally destroyed the whole knife, but here's a trick that should put your mind at ease.

Fit the guard, from the front, and get it ready to solder. Using .015 to .030 shim brass, make a pair of little "L" shaped braces. The short end should be about half the width of the guard on each side. The long leg should reach back past the first handle bolt hole. The width of the brass should be about one half or one third of the handle width.

Use a vise grip pliers to clamp one of the "L's" on each side of the tang, centered along the tangs' width, with the short leg of the "L" pressed firmly against the back of the guard. Go ahead and solder the guard, and put a spot of solder on the back of the guard on each side to join the "L" and the guard together permanently.

You'll have to cut a small recess in the underside of each handle to make space for the braces. Drill through each brace at the front bolt hole so the bolt through each brace will help anchor the guard.

If some character manages to break one of those off your knife, you can safely tell him that he has abused it.

All of this is written assuming that you are working with one our hardened blades. If you have a soft blade, you may simply fit the guard, drill through for a pin, and number both guard and tang so you get the right ones together after hardening.

For the record, Loveless has begun using a pin through the guard to help anchor it. He hates failure, even when it is most unlikely.

A tip from Dale Johnson for keeping a front mounted guard in place without solder.

Dale drills a pair of #30 holes at the exact junction of blade and tang, half the thickness of the guard up from the guard shoulders. Actually, with this method, you don't need guard shoulders.

It's going to help a lot if the holes are a precise distance apart, rather than using a random dimension. That way, the guard can be drilled to match without a lot of tricky fitting. If you do the drilling of guard and blade together, while the blade is soft, it's a lot easier than trying to hit those holes exactly, after the blade is hardened. Always mark the top and front of a guard if there can be the slightest doubt of how it should go on. Once the pair of pins are peened in, nothing is going to move that guard.

There are times when just getting a pin through the darn hole can be a lot more effort than you want to go through. You cannot, for instance, get a 1/8" pin through a 1/8" hole without a lot of work, and even some luck.

The problem is, getting the darn thing lined up and pushing straight enough to keep it from galling or jamming.

An old buddy, I regret that I've forgotten his name, gave me this one, and it's a jewel.

He used a couple of flat, circular magnets, the sort you can find without too much effort, for putting a heavy duty hook on the refrigerator door. Get rid of the hook part, and drill a hole through each, approximately through the center. Put a socket head machine screw through each hole and grind it flat with the side of the magnet opposite the head.

Now you have a couple gadgets to put in your vise jaws, that will stay where you put them, are easy to line up and easier to remove when you're done. You want the hollows in the head of each socket screw to line up, exactly, when the jaws are together.

If you'll start a pin into the hole of your knife handle and put it between the two magnets (while they're lined up, in the vise), you'll be able to use the vise to clamp down and force the pin into the hole.

Since you're squeezing between two steady and relatively fixed points, the pin has to go in straight, avoiding all of the problems that one runs into when trying to do this on the bench top with a little block of steel, and the side of a crescent wrench for a hammer. Well, there's never a hammer at hand when you need one, is there.


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