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Sami knife build-along

Discussion in 'How I Made It: Tutorials' started by Roman, Oct 14, 2014.

  1. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    As a new member on this forum I wanted to contribute to the community and share my knowledge. Here is a build-along for the Sami knife I recently finished. I made this knife for my friend and was taking photos through the process.

    Sami are a small nation of native people in Scandinavia. They are spread across Sweden, Norway, Finland and north-west part of Russia. Their main business is herding reindeer as well as hunting and fishing. This is why reindeer is what their life was based on for hundreds and thousands of years and off course they utilize every part of reindeer. In particular, antlers are used for making knife handles and sheath. Since polished antler surface is kind of slippery in hand they started making grooves on them which gave birth a specific type art - Sami antler carving.

    Now to the knife building. It always starts with the sketch and selection of materials.
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    Materials: birch burl, L-shaped piece of reindeer antler and another small piece of reindeer antler for the end part of handle. Bolster was cut of L piece. Blade is made out of 1086 steel by Nova Scotia blacksmith Randal Graham.
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    Marrow on the bolster does not look great and this time I wanted to try something new...
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    Here we go...
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    All parts are ready for gluing. It's important to minimize number of times when you put your bolster on the bade and take it off as the steel blade slowly grinds that tight slit on the antler/wood and makes it wider and this affects the final fit and look. So, once bolster fits well, I only take it off for gluing.
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    With little brother...
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    Oops... Forgot to dye the leather spacers. While they are drying I cut the L-shaped piece in halfs with the hacksaw and draw the rough shape. These two halves need to be sanded nice and smooth to get a nice glue line. The less material is to be sanded, the better fit you get, so after drawing rough shape I will cut it out.
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    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
  2. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    Gluing...
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    The tip of the tang needs to be riveted to secure the handle. I usually prefer to use a nut, but in this case the tang is tapered and its tip is to thin for threading.
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    Bad news! See that little gap? This is not going to look good at all! The tang was much softer than I expected and it bent when I was riveting it...
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    Fixed the problem with another piece of antler. There is lot more progress on the little one now...
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    Catch up with little brother...
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    More work on the handle and started shaping the sheath.
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    Handle is shaped. But the butt needs some decoration...
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    The perfect glue line...
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    With little brother again. Ready for the Teak Oil...
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  3. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    Sheath. Made that tench for the blade using Dremel tool and also tapered antler to the tips on the outside.
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    Could not wait and decided to finish the handles first. I give them a bath in warm teak oil till bubbles stop coming out, then let them cool and apply two coats of teak oil following instructions on the bottle.
    As you can see the half-liter beer can makes a perfect container for this work. This is why I have no choice but to keep refilling my stock of empty cans. Fortunately they are never sold empty... :)
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    Drying...
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    Back to sheath now.
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    Gluing two parts together with Titebond II.
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    Almost there. See that dark stain on the sheath? Here there was a sort of depression on antler and this needs to be fixed.
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    Slow cure epoxy mixed with lots of antler dust. Epoxy sometimes does not stick to the antler well. To insure good gripI I scratched antler a lot with a piece of hacksaw blade and then cleaned it few times with acetone to remove any grease. As epoxy was curing I formed the proper shape...
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    Next step is to install pins for more traditional look and to insure that is the glue fails the sheath will not fall apart. This time I decided to try brass bolts.
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    After sanding and polishing bolts look ok, but not perfect...
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  4. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    All is ready for carving. I could not take photos of the carving process as I'm missing the third hand to hold the camera...
    Carving is done. Does not look like much, does it?
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    And now I need to apply paint. This is my favorite moment. Magic!
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    After paint is dry it's time for leather work...
    I tightly wrap the whole knife with cling film and measure rectangular piece of leather. Then soak it in warm water for at least half an hour. Sides are tapered to about 0.5 of leather thickness.
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    Wrap the sheath and knife with wet leather and set it to dry for a couple of hours.
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    Then I sew it tightly with 50 lib. braided fishing line. The leather is still wet and I smooth it out and shape many times during drying.
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    Then I cut off excess of leather, sand down the seam, dye the leather and apply finish. Also don't forget the belt loop...
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    Very last step - sharpening...
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    Knife is finished!
    Thanks for watching.
     
    jonliss likes this.
  5. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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  6. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    Wow! That is a great build-along. It always amazes me how something that looks quite rough at some stage is transformed into a work of art. Great post!

    BTW, if you are looking for more 1/2 litre beer cans, empty of course, I have a pile of them. ;-)

    Dan
     
  7. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    Dan, this is very generous offer. I'm not sure if I can take it... LOL
     
  8. shadman

    shadman Member

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    wow-great pics and awesome work-
     
  9. Alexander13

    Alexander13 Member

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    That is an awesome build along!! Beautiful knives and excellent craftsmanship. Thanks for sharing.

    Joel
     
  10. Mythtaken

    Mythtaken Staff Member CKM Staff

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    Excellent build along, Roman. And the results are stunning.
     
  11. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    Thank you guys!
     
  12. Slannesh

    Slannesh Active Member

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    Love this one. Great job on showing how you do some of your stuff man. Thanks!

    For the carving, do you do it by hand or with a dremel with a very fine tip? You mentioned it was a 2 hand job so no pics but didn't get into the actual process at all. I'm very curious about that part.
     
  13. Roman

    Roman Best Leatherwork Best Build

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    Slannesh, for the carving I use a small carving knife which I made myself using Dremel (so, technically Dremel is involved in the carving :D).
    The carving knife has to be very sharp.

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    And this is how carving is done. You basically hold a knife like a pencil in one hand and cut a line by pushing the knife with a thumb of other hand while holding your work with remaining hands... Don't cut deep. Just a bit more than a hair line is enough. Then you turn around and cut on the other side of same line, making V-shaped (more or less) groove. Then sand it lightly with 800-1000 grit and then down to 2000 grit to make and antler look nice.
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    Head band magnifier comes handy too...:)
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  14. Slannesh

    Slannesh Active Member

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    Thanks very much! Guess I have some grinding to do :)
     
  15. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    Love the magnifier glasses! Those will freak the trick-or-treaters out.
     

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