Another non-guitar project - KNIFE HANDLES!

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,359
Recently my mom has moved from her house of the last 25 years to a senior community near my brother's house. From a three-bedroom house to a one-room apartment, she had to downsize a lot - so much stuff donated and given away! As I was helping her go through her kitchen, I looked at her set of steak knives that she got as a wedding gift when she and my dad were wed back in February of 1964. They are Sheffield stainless steel, and used to have swanky-for-the-early-1960's mother-of-toilet-seat handles. But my mom has run them through her dishwasher countless times, and the acrylic pearloid was completely wrecked.

So I offered to replace the handles for her, since clearly she wasn't giving these knives away as part of the Great Purge. I had no idea what I would do, but I took the block of knives home with me after we got done with the packing, and then I settled down to plan my solution.

First I looked online for white swirly acrylic mother-of-pearl handle-stock, thinking I would restore them to their original appearance. There are hordes of purveyors of acrylic turning stock and knife scales out there, but I just wasn't feeling the love.

Then I remembered - I have a trove of of Brazilian rosewood I picked up when a Bay Area guitar builder retired and consigned his offcuts of rosewood and mahogany to the local Woodcraft shop. EUREKA, etc.

So I am now replacing the degraded plastic handles of these not particularly collectible steak knives with some pretty extravagant rosewood. As one does.


Before I realized this would be a fun project to document, I had already gotten the old handles off. Anyway, here's a shot of one knife with part of its original handle stuck on for purposes of demonstration. There are other handle fragments to demonstrate how trashed they were. The tangs are carbon steel, not stainless, so there was a lot of rust on them from five decades of hand- and dishwasher-washing. I cleaned the rust up with an abrasive-impregnated nylon brush on the drill.

In the photo you also see one of the rosewood blanks, and another with the handle shape I settled on stuck to it. As you can see, I don't have the bore line of the template lined up with the tang of the blade. I eyeballed the cut to balance the handle where I wanted it relative to the tang and blade.

Turns out this rosewood is VERY HEAVY, VERY HARD, and VERY DENSE. I got a little smoke on the band saw before I eased back on my attack, and then I got some more unavoidable smoke when boring the blanks for the tangs. I used the drill bit to broaden the hole to a slight oval to accommodate the not-quite-round tangs. Pretty sure I dulled the bit completely, but it


More photos soon!

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Spud

Senior member
Messages
1,312
Recently my mom has moved from her house of the last 25 years to a senior community near my brother's house. From a three-bedroom house to a one-room apartment, she had to downsize a lot - so much stuff donated and given away! As I was helping her go through her kitchen, I looked at her set of steak knives that she got as a wedding gift when she and my dad were wed back in February of 1964. They are Sheffield stainless steel, and used to have swanky-for-the-early-1960's mother-of-toilet-seat handles. But my mom has run them through her dishwasher countless times, and the acrylic pearloid was completely wrecked.

So I offered to replace the handles for her, since clearly she wasn't giving these knives away as part of the Great Purge. I had no idea what I would do, but I took the block of knives home with me after we got done with the packing, and then I settled down to plan my solution.

First I looked online for white swirly acrylic mother-of-pearl handle-stock, thinking I would restore them to their original appearance. There are hordes of purveyors of acrylic turning stock and knife scales out there, but I just wasn't feeling the love.

Then I remembered - I have a trove of of Brazilian rosewood I picked up when a Bay Area guitar builder retired and consigned his offcuts of rosewood and mahogany to the local Woodcraft shop. EUREKA, etc.

So I am now replacing the degraded plastic handles of these not particularly collectible steak knives with some pretty extravagant rosewood. As one does.


Before I realized this would be a fun project to document, I had already gotten the old handles off. Anyway, here's a shot of one knife with part of its original handle stuck on for purposes of demonstration. There are other handle fragments to demonstrate how trashed they were. The tangs are carbon steel, not stainless, so there was a lot of rust on them from five decades of hand- and dishwasher-washing. I cleaned the rust up with an abrasive-impregnated nylon brush on the drill.

In the photo you also see one of the rosewood blanks, and another with the handle shape I settled on stuck to it. As you can see, I don't have the bore line of the template lined up with the tang of the blade. I eyeballed the cut to balance the handle where I wanted it relative to the tang and blade.

Turns out this rosewood is VERY HEAVY, VERY HARD, and VERY DENSE. I got a little smoke on the band saw before I eased back on my attack, and then I got some more unavoidable smoke when boring the blanks for the tangs. I used the drill bit to broaden the hole to a slight oval to accommodate the not-quite-round tangs. Pretty sure I dulled the bit completely, but it


More photos soon!

KqUCQf5koUMxilkzqgX9a7kgAtwQl21de-ERCI4nM7We5iGBvwRNzYZDs_mP6gTL2-DXtkyycgQYOfAJ3DFewgmjhZCYZNYEUot2GnGTNaF2Jl98dF13oayYytKgoXqs3cxlXdWuh30SfOTOzvSvBdoY_hLhAeVDlBu0dwH3v9dLumu2nRMy0lty0HTwiA19O6npGRD_HyCal5k8EsJf0Y5hnIjhjkElGmF7iRCXYjasoP0pLSXtpAYkCI1IbyggiVrygGoiCIgQW0WuBDMkhuDgHUfOaomOOAPzl-aFCLm2-H1tyDzKcO2J6mMRbA_mhIdfOiv1u-hA9Z_YaoIGqGbjHo_orSi1jba0EnWiJZCke0SfWexCVoSiewf9Z7-YSMp3jF1zGuI4_1bS4ZjVekOEXcw7aRd7-C25a8ys9k6vZaY6N36YZq1aMnVTuQ25XqFKp5n2WOU7YyQHIXV4yCdHGq4ZOg6MQ5_1RnaD0pHgM6LT4pNWAtVs_2jNW5KwvnclQnsJfkPZQs6VZwBa5-CPsS8ZsfDdAAvayaxhCfizGnRokyKwzDpawoI8x9OWIB5p6QZwFAW-xlZjlxtGqbzuHV7hLTCYA0ILnKEaOiNzTbW_H3jmcmpUDp2xquS-VVs2wKN-66BMAerJJAykT50LsngO6UHZUmkqU1TeRO1Y_ZQNi6bMOKxxbdK-2KL2jORxwLaubipTAcSGUJd8ybfGYQUy0V8XvNUPVNB7r47FrgPArcCdCcize3KCVSHKwB7_97GR-p8Dm9UfZi6LhR_iVVOHYwXeVO7jmjkAKnui5v3WQx_ylYySm0nrH-0mo8i6qNFso90gysXFTqqV68BQmFUrfuznflPOOcpTVeEzeq1AuEeaenvm0OnDeArNCWBxtN5Wiqozx1t3bVPDaBL1AHFQ7-acmpAERbQ6=s937-no
Looking great! You are a good son.
 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,528
That mandalorian steel is made originally on rigel 7. My friend Kirk told me.
 

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,359
Progress report!

I did a prototype at the beginning of the project a couple weeks ago, and sanded it down to 400 and applied a couple coats of tung oil, just to see how I liked the look and feel. AND I LIKE IT. I've walked around with it in my pocket for the last three weeks to see how it weathers, and it weathers quite nicely, thank you very much. I very much like the rich purply look of the tung-oiled wood. The richness of the color is not that evident with a digital photo taken under my recessed kitchen lights, but in person, it's much more complex.

My prototype had some issues. First, I bored the hole for the tang before I laid out the handle shape, and I affixed the paper with the outline on the blank a little too far back. So when I cut out the handle from the blank, the tang hole was a little too far forward and the visual balance was awkward. See below - prototype handle on the left, final version on the right.

V-4TKJ1_gXJ-dyLYQk5DDmAjEUK67ypgjUFNwAjf-T5KhHruRbu0sIK1fXQvcxwv23fysWig2Vgwn_22T32SOt7vDpHs46qo1mMZCf-GZ2-8ULU2F7zkGfEK-e-FG9x2fPLkRQZ1_z-5H8Se2EX-JjTT7R9oFFSWwvWWe9dtEb6_N-PeFBbatSv2E5q0MfxXFPoMGT3Ykj-H6e65E4Fh7lvMlilHulSP9agcKRR1Qg0KkiIm9eH42ezSXdC0OGnTCyV5ZBPWzfy4QOYbIsCmLdhMi8OqiTCo9kWJ_1Ks24nObzR0Lcwvr_diALKQul79k1A0y53d8VR8J5AyVp69R84TThH_uh_5O4uhsS97PlbC9jVZno99FHvEINYO2VgTtWsifOaOwbDKxpW-CyC64ohFmtmUM2fJDn6uPZ-VYlWQx3m3rbEdlIgIcp8p7im0IQ5rOux7-SljUyMU44LLq2yDv4wfTLWcnOU4pHi2hhdxRB3XJth1M7Ii7MqxzNGqqeT-5ffnPwR9XRmwJboKfrDg6znvlUoPk53XjPk1_swvFjDkTfgUHYJAvvRH4AicgtHa6b4TeflkD9mwGgRy3kPedPRuTlz6Fgkowjq6IF6jgt223iv9NcS9EQBLXkHj4-RxmsCr-aBsV9Tnop9F5ZckUbKwldxJQeJT9tz24QoDN-RHTh-3HlrZ9ysFJyzyHfqu39F_Sq5GCd9bt4Uvlw26j210IbhXrB0TIEzlFVca1rhI4uNQcgI4vxNlgpBcTCDpd5Zkfr-9jgVM6nTQfK9whxZwFyL0Gom6mq23BN8HOzOTBD5Q_lhrfkKaYz8fHhldoNo1yN2lmOQt5ZmHV_N_k_9BNN5ualvHDiCU_tuH2orc0b-RXJ6fRAhN2Vm9n7UJ8XHt27FtJN-10J0Fjjek8h-ZikayRtghD7B9=w444-h937-no


Second, I also was not happy with the profile of the handle. It felt nice in the hand because it was smooth, oiled rosewood, but it lacked some heft. So the final design has a little more beef at the back, and a tapered, wedge-shaped cross-section instead of a rectangular one (final on the left, prototype on the right):

mxBMfeceTxQ4EgoTWz572iH1cKs6OFc_gjf-9nY1fLfPZ9RSt9ul8r8goNcg3xm5RBhG1PYOi26vF_QPkpuPm6MXgBhvolBKMrGjqzOopAWjiXyqB0Vk-z1ui4mWJ3kfknkm7VdNt_DovyzV36jCYgcsHxwXUoSiA6IbMdRwtrtbz9LoVQv2N7NJ-ivZqg1vV_UpK3eabimNR6ugvq-HXL3rIV2YzEvlF9c5tMfqW1UuFHvvRIPO1jjQs_TcUD1OSyL0vAJ-XMVn3a8FV96CKCvFAO0wpAxh91D9OpiHE5ilnWA33m0_TGSKWpbQL0ZHERwEXKA-MRq5RUvItcqA9ayhNk7Y29SI-hpcvuifMXcrAbcUXC-Vw8HJfBslLmqfbKLT07JBemXelZ3i3_YZpWdkqXr1RcUuNbKewR8LPD2Lj-DlgszpwbALDbO4NaQs_XWAvxMjiaN1XA63jvHhXsl4-pgqqvTfeKoBNafhnVrfZId_Y1CLigvcCwWwvvgpJtY1APaqBCBd4dhKDPuF5WsYtd80avg-gBs4ug0uxeT7JidVWq__e06iW4ON_IgLQfMiYyqoBF0cuEm7tU2n6Fh4GUWEuseRRDn6U1oYYTYJISpHXdxvDVox_3HY9o9l_UWu23evT_xWwJuU21lUOxufiVhDsxrvRQ2Dis18zfvdAMgeiKjaBeMae5SFRNq99CMft5GQP_07NPTypdnbmOz0zXRiQfrjRcIpFVO8nWgePS-46rpR5dL-VcVJOlikAdgLGmByedc2gMvlvPpr2mXJ43h_ZsDrVcCA7uTv6zKyg31xddW28dTW4l-22yG-9X52rA_EVtDX33iR4amBDCcCR_2VaYZNxOkvXpjVS01J6zkOBdXD1hemsQyUo7ih4k7yefnHiAjiZ-NbFf3moPDQr-1RA-r5HXiuply1=w819-h937-no


t_lWVWMNo5bOxXjHb-upFbaLn0IdSviCC7o5sQFzXWU0rli1rTYMT6gjsNHha7iXafFHDHg5JKP61PnUguDKec8EoDk62THEylAIm4eOhAVOHbdjWWs6GX0BHSbDIWaKdzhM6oPwIU9LmB8Hm4H0qkJikfYIswGWB0uV0e5CsySIDT6vaDcox8mCXwmtY8m8WpHSAY00bsT6hZuoy25JrwsjpL47mChtfeme9COwefdEBW1w-9V9hdLJ0PvLQtIcJDkM78WRvMA7uoAyv2dV30x21Lx1fWAi2TNSiI-be-zhmSjJVfQ6er4cEqxA943Lw4h_BbQ9Bi0LoQcqzpIjl4S6IkKlP1b-x2To4Fn4IRwSnmTHv0vZbtXNfA91p3CEdB7_9aF4cIG2mwVomgT1rbeU0E7YMIRJkLeYy6zbvJpEEijNQpVL_2Ec_1zISJORCgTsWRcqtDtF11ipo4tZJmrAQlGZDypL8W-6Ber9lXoj8PqndnVoIOK_k1yRl9SK8T7ZLxxvwJ8nuoNfWGcsAn1GLEpdOo1ktBVW8wU8tmzkTEHFMbrsPXBTzlxnrc-ysMZemv0tJwmMF9T8OVM936ZS40sCMPyY7cySGAqbmOP0iJu5aUdCGytKgfnD9CVPhESlGDtWSxt-dsfmpoIyKpau6oGylvwt9Gt03eXaf3lzaBJ-mgQzEOyW1l4J3chM_IptMjcugCTvZ-6w4J-D9Z9lIMrvVTIoQg9TwWuiKdhqQfaYOdwa127yIjczpjEJZmdE6ZVpYQMo9k9JBLdgXHrHa6kQhaudMqLORFvEGFIQtRZvL9InFHNDxMMT9tnzI6P5N27iDnCPjebXXuh-EHb0P6m5lQUNgCZ5XrWG-IMQCLMNRuKo4HAibZIkI7f0A-JktWbuBBFccZh5gohMTLZmrrafMIL18LYU4JSA=w797-h937-no


I had another instance of shaping inconsistency during mass production, so one specimen had the handle veering ever-so-slightly off to the left when you look at the knife from the back, handle to the floor and blade straight-up-and-down (sorry, no photo). Last night I couldn't stand the imperfection any longer, so I cut a new blank and bored and shaped a new handle. All better now!

I sanded all six handles to 400 and then taped everything up to protect it from epoxy gunk during glue-up.

qy2HEK9H3aTU_ZEuYBNle78tAYUYclH4X6uCgcOL1ehreffxPHr2jXVlPv_6KzhRisGQl-hv-U8LLK0v-7c3HCxjweMptqF2VeRCfv4n0KcnUa6j3Xxc8CPBY6gIVxuXCrZeju5sV8MWrTlkk4Qf0Bfd-4YSBEaqT7n3REcCaHrh4abrUxyLJ8IQzDtBDfIk1zo1b5PvmgKnu0AJPjJUZC1ljuYrj70tshgYdmWu7bZPvYYVuvcSPhvth0iDNAElWK39SNI65lW-ArquufeuaGIrNtP6YbvYh8UGREIdvN6ZmWnSymujOzy2rmDTxXNhwh6Wz39DQR2dMwYXH_oYO04nuDeh1njpCvRzO0GqYdijh4_4rp4YKMLRAtDbjOeq7s84bqgDF3OLQilbzmuidch71t7L6hHaQ_meQEcU86zBXkeAjnnk4gLnd6MBA9LvJWmijyydbZ94aH9QCWgar2gYMikTrWbhMFFYaHhdjHKW3DVlSAGKdLHOZbJqhIx5003lmzKyPaUfVEUe_p7BMeQOkFujXNP8WFyY6OjV27SkKhnWf2zIXv6oR5DbC7m1CmEQG3QtIwsKjZj8OoRwgxfLNHqa2ABeM04Ipb91Qqoosta32rnKwt03YeTkr5PohQvpfUdAMF1Olo_lfXStu437OLqbj6OjbInz3iKpsyaEznIuGQDCUveaolJdroHs8TK_xNPt0XBqeoKFzhgPSiFjyEBG3pkYv2zXYThp-yyuzE8XUsmpSsAR4zCjXKwu3Q4S2oE-A_0xy9NYl17VCbeSTnMxmZhQlPHl6GER4GxYJWHVrSFWMqJGHtiKSXuly8dIbtDYztDWJRmlDEkcDV73reJ_I4udPy_59zdu1u2Uo7smFZKzMoGmp-tZBlr5NjhO9TEoYKfDFD5SUD40oK3YMfVL847uzxZbilC-=w1349-h937-no


And then I mixed up a batch of epoxy and used that syringe to squirt the epoxy down into the tang holes. And then I went along and scraped a lot more epoxy off the plate I mixed on and troweled it into the holes with a thin strip of wood, because I am an idiot, and I did not get a tip for the syringe and so it made dad-blamed mess.

Fortunately I was able to work fast enough to get the epoxy in and the tangs inserted and seated before the epoxy had begun to set, and I am largely happy with the results. I'll post more photos with the tape off soon.

Next up, I am sharpening the serrated edges with a conical diamond rod, and then I'll polish the steel. Finally, I'll apply a half-dozen or so coats of tung oil to the handles. I will also probably build a block for these. The repurposed block my mom had them stuck in is from some other set of long-discarded crappy knives, and is made out of some yellowish softwood that wants to tip forward since these handles are just heavy enough to overbalance the block with a light nudge. Probably gonna go with maple, since I have it on hand.

Thanks for taking this ride with me.

Peace

Ian aka Bagman67
 
Last edited:

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,359
Oh, and I now have a whole bunch of really thin slices of rosewood suitable for inlay, so that's nice.
 

Nightclub Dwight

Senior member
Messages
687
Dang, the photos are not appearing for me. I'm a knife aficionado and I love Brazilian rosewood, so I'd love to see your handiwork. It is likely the problem is on my end. Cool project, I hope your mom is pleased with the results
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,474
Dang, the photos are not appearing for me. I'm a knife aficionado and I love Brazilian rosewood, so I'd love to see your handiwork. It is likely the problem is on my end. Cool project, I hope your mom is pleased with the results

I think the photos have been removed, or the links are broken, as they are not showing up any longer for me either.
 

aarontunes

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
2,588
No photo joy here either. :(

My cousin is a major knife builder. He actually won a season of Forged in Fire. His biz is called Jared's Forge. He sells them as fast as he can build them, and for big bucks.

Anyway, I went down to see him at the Portland Knife Show about a year ago, and wandering around the booths I was surprised at how big a business knife handles are, and how similar the market is to lam tops for guitars. You'll see people selling knife-handle blanks in all the best "tone woods" from Ebony to Koa, acrylic-filled blanks, etc. They sell them in singles or matched sets, and some of them ger really expensive.
 

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,359
Hm. I can't see the photos inline, either. If I edit the post, the photos show up again in the message editor; but that's likely because I am simultaneously logged into Google Photos in this browser session. I'll have to work out what's happening.

In the interim, here is a link to my public album of photos related to this project.


Last photo in the album is the state of affairs today: I have polished the blades with tripoli and then fine polishing compound with a buffer bit in my drill. I sharpened the serrations on the front edge with a conical diamond rod. The handles have been oiled, but you see there's a fair amount of contrast in the color from one handle to another. These all came from the same chunk of wood, so my suspicion is I need to add more coats of to oil the lighter-colored ones to make them match the darkest one. That's the plan, anyway. And if they end up not matching, OH WELL IT'S STILL GORGEOUS.

I'll try to post it inline here via link to google photos:

AL9nZEWL3myT_WwA2ZD8_jzVT0wrUpzCXSyAmSQ145k6qLaBtUdblNkZoCMe38UfZVjtzOcw2Zpdvem3A1vgP0D5M1cBZ8UZ80ELdOzM3GIL3Eb6hTT-96LL8m-0_t9HSZk6HrZbRegwtPhsu8_xfyRD5YwV=w1263-h937-no
 

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,359
No photo joy here either. :(

My cousin is a major knife builder. He actually won a season of Forged in Fire. His biz is called Jared's Forge. He sells them as fast as he can build them, and for big bucks.

Anyway, I went down to see him at the Portland Knife Show about a year ago, and wandering around the booths I was surprised at how big a business knife handles are, and how similar the market is to lam tops for guitars. You'll see people selling knife-handle blanks in all the best "tone woods" from Ebony to Koa, acrylic-filled blanks, etc. They sell them in singles or matched sets, and some of them ger really expensive.

Maybe I should consider selling off some of this rosewood and put it toward some more guitar goodies... Is your cousin in the market for some nice, straight-grained Brazilian?
 

aarontunes

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
2,588
Maybe I should consider selling off some of this rosewood and put it toward some more guitar goodies... Is your cousin in the market for some nice, straight-grained Brazilian?

No idea, but you could reach out to him:

 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,528
They won't let me look at knife related pictures at work. How do they know?
 
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