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  #1  
Old 05-28-2018, 09:54 PM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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Questions on Bowie knives

I'm planning on making an approximately 10 inch blade Bowie knife out of either 1095 or 1084 and I have a couple questions.

1. Will a clay quench in canola oil provide a tough enough spine for chopping with a blade that large? I typically risk a water quench with 1095 but I also heat treat before grinding bevels (yes I keep the blade cool) and obviously I don't want to do that with a blade that large.

2. Is 5/32 an appropriate thickness for that blade? I want it to be light and fast with a good balance.

3. How would I adjust the balance of the blade if I plan in doing a hidden Tang construction? Where would the best place be to center the balance?

It's been a while since I've been here but I have time for knife making again. It's good to be back.


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Old 05-29-2018, 04:18 AM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
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I would go with a 3/16 thickness Hunter.

Lets talk about the length first, the blade being ten inches is fine, make the handle long as well, l'd go minimum 6"to help balance the feel and the look of the knife. It just looks better with a large blade to have a large handle. At least to me.

l forged two Arkansas Toothpicks with 12" long double edged blades and 7" handle on one,(haven't finished the 2nd one) and the knife balances right on the guard and l accomplished that feat with a heavy brass bullet shaped pommel. With the knife balanced that way it handles like it was lighter, the brass pommel is a counter weight to the blade and it is quick and easy to twirl, though kinda dangerous.lol
l didn't make it as a chopper, but a fighter and specifically for bears. My son encountered a few of them out trout fishing so he wanted something that could dispatch a bear and that 1080 blade could do that, though l told him a bigger gun might be more appropriate. lf you can do a full grind up to the spine that would make the knife lighter and certainly will make it cut/chop better. Good idea to grind back most of the blade before HT, l always did, do you still grind with the 2x42 grinder?

As for quenching in water, l wouldn't, canola oil is comparatively cheap. As for the clay you can just edge quench the blade as well or draw the spine back with a torch. The clay may make a nice hamon if you go that route, but l'm not an expert on hamons, but it should leave the spine relatively softer than the edge. Quenching in canola should still draw back the spine enough, especially after temper.

l presume you're using a forge for the heat treat? The reason l said 3/16 thick is you won't need to worry if your spine is thick enough. l made the Arkansas toothpicks from 3/16 and tempered them back more than l would a regular cutting knife in case if it hits the rib bones it wouldn't break, but its pretty hard to break a 3/16 thick blade Hunter. Here's a link to it.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/139620...7671162338314/

Keeping the knife balanced will make it better handling since fast is what you want, but then look at a Kukri, really blade heavy and its still the fighting knife of the Nepalese Army. Those blades run 1/4 to 3/8 thick. It's all in how much you train with it, but they are awesome choppers. l tried one once to chop some firewood and it was as good as a small ax.
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Old 05-29-2018, 08:15 AM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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Jim,

Glad you mentioned that about the handle, I don't know if I would've realized the proportions until it was too late. A pommel was something I was afraid I might have to do. Hopefully not, but we'll see.

I wasn't planning on quenching in water for this knife, just wanted to see if someone thought canola would work and it appears it does, thanks. I don't have a torch, so drawing it back isn't an option but I have clay quenched smaller blades before, which is why i was curious if that would work. I'll likely either edge quench or do a clay quench.

I still use the 2x42. It's been a workhorse for me. Hopefully I can get a 2x72 someday but right now I can't justify spending the money on one.

I actually heat treat in a temperature controlled furnace at work. I'm not very good at heat treating with a forge and the temperature control removes any doubts in my heat treat. I've tested multiple samples using this method and it produces an extremely fine grain when broken.

I have mostly 5/32 which is why I was going to try for that thickness but I think I still have some 3/16 1084 laying around so maybe I'll go that route. I definitely plan on full flat grinds and I'm considering a distal taper as well, despite the fact that I've never done one.

Hopefully I don't end up as heavy as a kukri. I want something that can be used as a fighter or as a utility knife. I imagine that a well balanced blade would perform better but I know little to nothing about knives of this size. Most of my work to this point has been medium-small hunting/edc knives, this is an area pretty much unexplored for me.

Thanks for the advice Jim. Nice knife by the way!


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Old 05-29-2018, 09:38 AM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
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Are you going to run the hidden tang all the way through Hunter? It's what I did to attach the pommel tapped 1/4-20, but it was relatively easy since I forged the knife.
Heck if l was using an oven l'd make it out of O1, but you have to use what you have.

l don't think you'll find a 10" blade very utilitarian though. l carried a Western Bowie knife in the Army and it wasn't good for much except fighting and chopping wood, tried skinning a rabbit with it and borrowed a pocket knife, going what was l thinking?

l understand the desire to make a big Bowie though, but l might try an 8" blade first, l didn't just up and make a 12" blade without some prior experience first. As for the distal taper, it takes practice and you might want to consider a false upper edge to reduce some weight as well. Play to your strengths on a new project like this.

Last edited by jimmontg; 05-29-2018 at 09:42 AM.
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  #5  
Old 05-29-2018, 11:59 AM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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My plan was not to do a through-tang, instead only run it part of the way through with a pin and epoxy holding the handle together. I don't have a welder or welding experience to attach threaded rod to the tang and I'm not confident that if I took a die to the tang that the threads on either the tang or the cap would be able to hold up under stress. I'm not as big a fan of coffin handled bowie's but would that be a better option since it's full tang?

I've never worked with O-1 although in the future I'd like to if I make more big knives. I probably shouldn't have called it a utility knife, more of a fighter/chopper is what I was thinking. I'm a fan of small knives because they seem to be far better for the vast majority of uses, I just wanted to branch out here and a bowie is something I've been thinking about for a long time.

I'm glad you suggested a false edge, I was already planning on it. As far as length goes, technically what I've drawn out is 9.5". Do you really think grinding an extra 1.5" would be that much extra work? Maybe I should step it down in size. I'm still in the planning stages so I'm open for changing the size if the difference would be significant.

I've linked the blade design below, I'd love your thoughts on it. If you're not comfortable with the gyazo link let me know and I'll just upload the image here.

https://gyazo.com/be1b3e4df2be8ef83a721cbc39218d25


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Old 05-29-2018, 02:28 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
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Looks like a tried and true design Hunter.

When l made those Toothpicks I had access to a band saw and there isn't any welded stick tacked on the knife, it's one solid piece from point to pommel. I also pinned the knife 4x up in the tang area where it tapers and I threaded about 2" of the end of the tang, it was ground 3/16 by 1/4 and there was plenty of thread in the pommel, even the cocobolo spacer was tapped, all glued and screwed. That knife ain't coming apart. I have a set of 6" drill bits too. BTW l avoid full tangs now mostly, the steel/handle area is a pain to get perfect.

As for attaching the pommel to the handle you can use one of those wood screw/machine thread combo bolts if you want too, or l just use a tap and tap the handle and the pommel and use brass 5/16-18 all-thread with epoxy or the glue of your choice, it's something l have done with the exotic woods l like as those dense woods take threads well. Those threads with glue aren't going to let go and are better than pins. Also, you can assemble the whole knife together to determine how everything fits up. l like to get my handle guard fit before gluing, but that's just me. Once everything fits up, you can take it apart and then glue it up. Your pin placement is the most important part anyway.

No l guess an extra 1 1/2 inch won't matter. As for the O1, if l had an oven l wouldn't ever use any other carbon steel. lt is easy to heat treat to get its optimal performance and is superior to 1084/95. Also the canola oil is a good quench medium for it until it gets used too many times. Breaks down and doesn't work as good.

The HT is simple enough, grind blade to 95% finish, pop into oven and heat up to 1200 and equalize then go to 1475 and soak for 15 minutes, quench in 130 degree oil. l might add that if it warps out of the quench you can put on a pair of gloves and straighten it, but you only have about 3 minutes to do it, have a mallet handy for thicker blades. For RC60 hardness temper at 400 for two, two hour tempers. Make sure you get the O1 with the 0.20 vanadium as it promotes a finer grain, but at that percent it doesn't provide any wear resistance, but the chrome and tungsten do. The 1475 is this alloy's sweet spot.

Samarai Stuart turned me on to the check and straighten right out of quench tip. Wished l had known that years ago. l started making knives with O1 and HT with charcoal and quenched in ATF until l found a HT company in OKC where l lived. l might add, warping was never a big issue with O1 if you didn't burn it up grinding it.
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Old 05-29-2018, 05:37 PM
damon damon is offline
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i did this one as through tang, with threaded nut on the end. with full flat grind, and distal taper it made an amazingly light blade. i got most of the material out of the way with grinder, and draw filing before HT. its 1084 with clay HT, oil quench. 5"-6" of handle should be plenty. the 3/16 stainless cap on the back end does provide an ounce or so of counter weight, but was mostly there as a plate to transfer the torque of the nut to compress all the handle parts against the guard.
if you want it to be a chopper youll actually want more weight in the blade anyway, so no need to worry too much about balancing too close to the guard.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oiseau...posted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/oiseau...posted-public/

with this one, rather than welding, i slotted the end of a bolt and riveted it to the end of the tang. the nut is countersunk into the back of the handle. a plate covers that, and tiny brass wood screws (along with epoxy) secure it to the handle.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oiseau...posted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/oiseau...posted-public/
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Old 05-29-2018, 11:37 PM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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Ok, I'm starting to think a through Tang would be a good idea, I'll trust in your experience with the threads and try it. I'll keep that in mind about the 0.2% vanadium in the O-1. Thanks Jim.

Damon, that knife is gorgeous. Any tips on grinding the distal taper? If I have to choose between the two I'd rather have a light and fast fighter over a chopper. My thoughts were to either cut out a rectangle of steel for the blade, dykem the top and bottom edges, and grind the rectangle of steel as I would a bevel down it's length and then grind the profile, or I would do the same thing but grind the profile first. My reasoning for the first method is that it seems that it would be easier to keep the grind even down it's length even though it would seem to be a lot of extra work. I'm open to pretty much any tips here.


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Old 05-30-2018, 04:00 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
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Hunter, profile first.

If you did your grind first and then profiled it wouldn't be even. l tried using a surface grinder at work in 1995 to get the perfect bevel and when l ground the profile it was not even from the curve to the tip which was still thick. l don't know what l was thinking about. l had to finish by hand and it was harder to even it out.

Damon said something I had forgotten, you can grind most of the distal taper and finish by draw filing it as that certainly makes it easier to finish with a real even grind. You start with a mill file (new or very good) and finish with sandpaper wrapped tight around the file. lt is one method to try and l finished my dagger toothpick using sandpaper taped to dymondwood sticks, but that was after HT.

You can stick with your stub tang idea and use the tapped hole process I described before or Damon's small brass screws idea to attach a butt plate on. A through tang isn't necessary for either method and you can do it after you have the handle and guard pinned too. Lots of options.

There, it doesn't need to be difficult, concentrate on getting the blade ground to what you want Hunter and how you're going to make and fit an S guard. When you bend the brass it will tend to curve in the middle and not fit flat against the back of the ricasso, just a heads up if you haven't done one before.

If you haven't done it, you must remember to clamp the center portion of the guard in the vice and then bend the short outside tab with a hammer or whatever you may use, do same for each side. If the flat part stays in the vice it stays flat. lf you attempt to bend the short tabs by pulling the long piece you will probably curve the center of your S.
l was a metal fabricator for decades.
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Old 05-31-2018, 06:14 AM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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Thanks Jim, I'll keep that in mind.


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Old 06-05-2018, 05:43 PM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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As 'Johnny come lately' to this conversation, I'll offer my meager advise for what it's worth.

I have a couple bowie projects rolling now and you are considering many of the same things I have.

Bear in mind: A bowie was/is not used like kukris or karambits. Kali and tantojitsu are not fighting styles for the bowie. If you study photos of bowies from the 1830s and even many today, you'll notice that the handle arcs upward from the spine of the knife or curves with it. I deduct that there is a reason for that. When these guys decided to throw down with each other, they grabbed a handfull of jacket or sideburns and thrust upward into the other man's body repeatedly. This technique also explains the clip-point (gets between ribs). It also explains why these knives got longer and longer--it gave reach advantage.
Yea..., they were no ninjas.

The good news is that this technique is also ideal for bear defense. Grab some fur. Hold the beast at arm's length, and thrust, thrust, thrust!

With all this in mind (assuming you buy my logic), I think 3/16" 1084 is awesome. 5/32" might be getting a tad thin.
Clay quench in 120-140 degree oil (I use peanut oil). Cold oil won't do it.
If you go hidden tang, use at least two pins to reduce the tendency for things to pivot as the joints and mating surfaces age and absorb stress.
A false edge is advisable.

Chopping shouldn't even be considered for designed performance--slashing..., maybe.

I think of an actual fighting bowie as a hand-held bayonet with a blade wide enough to hurt really bad when twisted.

Have fun with it!


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Old 06-06-2018, 07:15 AM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Garrett View Post
As 'Johnny come lately' to this conversation, I'll offer my meager advise for what it's worth.

I have a couple bowie projects rolling now and you are considering many of the same things I have.

Bear in mind: A bowie was/is not used like kukris or karambits. Kali and tantojitsu are not fighting styles for the bowie. If you study photos of bowies from the 1830s and even many today, you'll notice that the handle arcs upward from the spine of the knife or curves with it. I deduct that there is a reason for that. When these guys decided to throw down with each other, they grabbed a handfull of jacket or sideburns and thrust upward into the other man's body repeatedly. This technique also explains the clip-point (gets between ribs). It also explains why these knives got longer and longer--it gave reach advantage.
Yea..., they were no ninjas.

The good news is that this technique is also ideal for bear defense. Grab some fur. Hold the beast at arm's length, and thrust, thrust, thrust!

With all this in mind (assuming you buy my logic), I think 3/16" 1084 is awesome. 5/32" might be getting a tad thin.
Clay quench in 120-140 degree oil (I use peanut oil). Cold oil won't do it.
If you go hidden tang, use at least two pins to reduce the tendency for things to pivot as the joints and mating surfaces age and absorb stress.
A false edge is advisable.

Chopping shouldn't even be considered for designed performance--slashing..., maybe.

I think of an actual fighting bowie as a hand-held bayonet with a blade wide enough to hurt really bad when twisted.

Have fun with it!
Wow that's fantastic insight! I've seen several of the coffin handle style bowie's where the handle angled back from the spine. I always just attributed that to a strange style of maker, I never realized that that odd looking change in direction could have a purpose.

I'll keep the 2 pins in mind, although I think I'm leaning more towards doing a threaded tang. I love false edges on larger blades so that won't be an issue.

Thanks for the advice on the design. I'm sure I will have fun with it. Right not I'm working on a couple other knife projects I need to finish up and then this blade will be my sole focus until I finish it. I'm so excited to see how it goes.


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Old 06-06-2018, 08:22 AM
WBE WBE is offline
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Bowies were originally intended to be held and used edge up. A little upward off set in the grip allows a more natural alignment for this in a thrust. As the blade enters, the natural navigational course of the holders arm is upward, or away from the entrance thus causing a wider wound rather than just a puncture. A puncture and slash, all in one.
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Old 06-07-2018, 09:10 AM
dtec1 dtec1 is offline
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Hey Hunter happy to see ya back in the mix....I don't have time to read the whole thread right now but I sent you a message check your private message box and again good to see ya back!
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Old 06-08-2018, 10:27 PM
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Hunter10139 Hunter10139 is offline
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I responded dtec, it's good to be back.


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