GrainReaper

My First Sgian Dubh

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All right now... I wanted a sgian dubh to wear when kilted that was actually functional and not some froo froo chrome and plastic showy trinket. I am by nature a do-it-yourself sorta guy, I have a garden, I bake my own bread, I make my own soap, I brew the beer I drink.... So it seemed obvious that I should just cobble up a useful bit of kit myself!

I have a good number of old as the hills files from my father and grandfather so I figured it was a good place to start right? One thing I know is most modern files aren't made from a good quality tool steel but rather some case hardened junk metal. (Something to be mindful of for projects like this one). I took an old file and got busy annealing the hardened steel so I can work it easily.

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I built a good hot blaze in the fire pit and tossed the file into the coals where it sat all evening while beers were consumed and the gears in my head turned with visions of the knife to be...

After letting the fire slowly die and cool overnight I checked the file with another file, it was easily worked so I knew I was successful in my annealing. So I began to grind, file and shape the metal...

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I didn't want a traditional shape but rather something I could actually use for everyday needs. I opted for a thinner width with a straight edge that could be used for opening a box, cutting a rope, whatever.

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I tried my hand at some simple file work that didn't turn out too horribly.

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Some things I learned in the shaping of my knife blade were that it's far better to set your bevel and your edge with almost anything but a die grinder and those scruffy rolock disks normally used for removing stubborn automotive gaskets. My bevel line wanders a good bit and trying to keep the edge centered was a huge PITA to do. Next time it's a belt sander and a simple bevel jig.

I polished the blade completely and fitted it to a bit of antler I had from a couple seasons ago.

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I then heated the metal up to non-magnetic and quenched it in used motor oil, a quick file test wouldn't even leave a mark in the blade so I knew I successfully hardened the metal! After some cleanup of the blade I tempered it in the oven for an hour, let it cool to room temp and repeat a few more times (not sure the repeat sessions were needed because I was already at my desired metal color so I knew I was close enough to have a good blade that would take an edge pretty well, hold an edge nicely, but not be so brittle that it shatters if dropped. Then it was back to the polisher and jewelers compound to bring the shine back.

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After cleanup of the antler, polishing up the crown, drilling and epoxying the blade in it was starting to look like what I envisioned!

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The file work turned out pretty good for a first attempt, polished up it really looked all right!

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Some sanding and polishing on the antler gave me a satisfactory finish to the hilt area, nothing to catch my hose!

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Looks good.

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Then I grabbed some leather scraps from tandy leather and started making a simple formed sheath that I could comfortably wear in my hose without worry of it slipping off the sgian dubh.

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A couple light coats of neatsfoot oil and some time in the sun has darkened the leather a bit, overall I'm pleased with this project.... I have never annealed, hardened, tempered, anything in my life, it was a true learning experience and one I'm eager to tackle again!

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Looks good.

Thanks! I think it turned out better than I expected given my zero experience in doing any of this!

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I am pleased that the natural curve of the antler helps it fit nicely in my hose

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Very nice. It better than many of those I've seen. Definately better than my first SEVERAL knives.

Jim

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See that fine fine example of a half assed sheath? Yup I stitched it together with kite string I pilfered from my son's Spider-Man kite.

Take that conventional craftsmen!

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That is a sweet looking knife there sir.

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That is a sweet looking knife there sir.

Thank you sir! I think it's a serviceable blade that I actually use quite often.

I'm hoping my next one is a good bit better in fit, finish, and I'm hoping to improve my file skills for round two.

I have about a dozen old files that need repurposing, maybe I should get cracking!

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Very nice. It better than many of those I've seen. Definately better than my first SEVERAL knives.

Jim

I agree with Jim, beats my first few no problem

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Ok, you knife makers are just trying to be nice!

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To you guys with more experience is my basic process for annealing, hardening, and tempering somewhat correct? Or was I just lucky?

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It looks pretty good to me though I don't work metal I have seen quite a bit of it done since I'm a pipefitter.

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Looks good to me! I am also planning to make my own sgian dubh which will be my first knife as well... I only hope it looks as half as good as your knife!

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Looks good to me! I am also planning to make my own sgian dubh which will be my first knife as well... I only hope it looks as half as good as your knife!

Just take your time and my only pointer that I learned long ago when I dabbled in jewelry making is that polishing as you go is easier than trying to polish from a rough state at the end...

Having a polish on the blade prior to hardening made the cleanup of scale after quenching a breeze!

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