Kephart EDC – Multi Part Handle Scales

Buy this knife here

Horace Kephart (1862-1931) is a familiar name to bushcrafters along with George Washington Sears (See Knife 59) and was one of the leading outdoor writers of his time. Kephart designed the knife. This is how he described it in the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft:

“Its blade and handle are each 4¼ inches long, the blade being 1 inch wide, 1/8-inch thick on the back, broad pointed, and continued through the handle as a hasp and riveted to it.

“The handle of this knife is of oval cross-section, long enough to give a good grip for the whole hand, with no sharp edges to blister one’s hand. It has a ¼-inch knob behind the cutting edge as a guard, but there is no guard on the back, for it would be useless and in the way.

“This knife weighs only 4 ounces. It was made by a country blacksmith, and is one of the homeliest things I ever saw; but it has outlived in my affections the score of other knives that I have use”.

An excerpt from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Kephart:

He wrote of his experiences in a series of articles in the magazine Field and Stream. These articles were collected into his first book, Camping and Woodcraft, which was first published in 1906. While mostly a manual of living outdoors, Kephart interspersed his philosophy:

Your thoroughbred camper likes not the attentions of a landlord, nor will he suffer himself to be rooted to the soil by cares of ownership or lease. It is not possession of the land, but of the landscape, that enjoys; and as for that, all the wild parts of the earth are his, by a title that carries with it no obligation but that he shall not desecrate nor lay them waste.

Houses, to such a one, in summer are little better than cages; fences and walls are his abomination; plowed fields are only so many patches of torn and tormented earth. The sleek comeliness of pasture it too prim and artificial, domestic cattle have a meek and ignoble bearing, fields of grain are monotonous to his eyes, which turn for relief to abandoned old-field, overgrown with thicket, that still harbors some the shy children of the wild. It is not the clearing but the unfenced wilderness that is the camper’s real home. He is brother to that good old friend of mine who in gentle satire of our formal gardens and close- cropped lawns, was wont to say, ‘I love the unimproved works of God.’

He also published some more books of the same theme such as Camp Cookery (1910) and Sporting Firearms (1912). In addition, he wrote The Hunting Rifle section of Guns, Ammunition and Tackle (New York: Macmillan, 1904), a volume of Caspar Whitney’s prestigious American Sportsman’s Library.

Combining his own experience and observations with other written studies, Kephart wrote a study of Appalachian lifestyles and culture called Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913 and expanded in 1922.

He wrote a short history of the Cherokee and other books which became standards in the field.

Kephart completed a typescript for a novel in 1929. However, the book was not edited and published until 2009. It is published under the title Smoky Mountain Magic.

Kephart never left the Great Smokies, having been instantaneously killed in a mountain-road automobile accident on April 2, 1931.

My version of the Kephart EDC – Multi Part Handle Scales

  • Blade 1/8” 1080 4 1/32”
  • Overall length 9”

For these scales I used a piece of rosewood and a piece of spalted beech to make a two piece scale. First I made sure I had a good fit. Then I glued the pieces together while they sat on a piece of wax paper. The center piece in the picture is a single piece which then got cut down the center to form the two scales.

The I epoxied g10 spacers on each scale. I used the wax paper to separate them so I could clamp them together and get a good bond.

The handle of this Kephart EDC was finished with the help of 2″x72″scalloped belts. I have then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.

Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt.

Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales
Knife 63 – Kephart EDC - Multi Part Handle Scales

Shown with the Wooden Lined Knife Sheath


Knife 55 Seax – Vine Filing-laminated scales

Stabilized Spalted Beech and Wenge laminated strips

  • Steel – 1/8”” 1095
  • Blade – 4 1/4″
  • Overall – 8 3/4′
  • Scales – Laminated stabilized beech/wenge
  • Handle Finish – hand rubbed tru-oil

The vine pattern is probably the most common type of file work done on a knife spine. I’ve outlined the steps below so that most everyone can complete this and move on to more exciting filework.

Vine Spline Filing

1). Mark the spine with layout blue or marker. Alternate left and right. I used 3/8″ spacing.

2). Cut semi-circles on the left side every other mark. I used a 5/32” chainsaw file.

3). Cut semi-circles on the right side, every other mark. These are cut the same depth as the left side. (option: make these cuts shifted ahead by 3/16″).

4). With the narrowest edge of a triangular or half round needle file, cut the ‘leaves’ about 3/32″ above each big half round. Do this on both sides.

5). Carefully shape the lower portions of the big half rounds to smooth the vine. I used the flat side of the triangle file to knock the corner off and finished with the chainsaw file.

Mark the spine with layout blue or marker. Alternate left and right. I used 3/8″ spacing. Then Cut semi-circles on the left side every other mark. I used a 5/32” chainsaw file.
Cut semi-circles on the right side, every other mark. These are cut the same depth as the left side. (option: make these cuts shifted ahead by 3/16″)
With the narrowest edge of a triangular or half round needle file, cut the ‘leaves’ about 3/32″ above each big half round. Do this on both sides.
Carefully shape the lower portions of the big half rounds to smooth the vine. I used the flat side of the triangle file to knock the corner off and finished with the chainsaw file.

Laminated Handle

I made this laminated handle on this “Knife 55 Seax – Vine Filing-laminated scales” by stabilized strips of beech and wenge and compressing them together during the process of cooking the cactus juice.

Another good article, http://dcknives.blogspot.com/p/basic-filework-vine.html



The Knife that has been remade

The Knife that has been remade – Lots of Mistakes and really could have been earlier in the lineup, but it has actually been in and out of the lineup, so to speak. I’m trying to keep this line up to pieces that came out successfully or at least close with a strong learning experience. This knife definitely qualifies in the “strong learning” category.

This Knife “The Knife that has been remade” certainly helped with my knife making education. I made a lot of mistakes and most of this Knife is a transition of those mistakes from trial and error and fix this and try that.

The first mistake has to do with the thickness. When I started making this knife, it was meant as a throwing knife. Kind of a remake of the knives I made when I was young. I obviously knew nothing about throwing knives then or at this time.

I didn’t do any research on how thick the knife should be. Now, when I start to design a knife, I research what the traditional thickness is for the style of knife I’m going to make. You’ll obviously find a lot of variations, but you’ll want to define a reason for yourself if you’re hitting the outer edge of the extreme or beyond. With your parameters.

My next mistake was not stopping to redesign. I just kept grinding. I was grinding with an angle grinder (I hadn’t built the belt grinder or the stand for my belt sander yet) and I was designing on the fly.

I soon determined it was starting to look like a hunting knife. Yes, I thought, a Bushcraft style hunting knife.

After getting the holes drilled and the knife heat treated, I made some hophornbeam scales and got them attached. What transformed was one of the ugliest example of knife work I’ve seen. So, into a pile of scrap it went.

Every once in a while, it would come out of the scrap pile for a test of a process. I tried doing some forced patina with coffee. I would save left over coffee in the morning and soaked the knife in it. That didn’t work. I guess my coffee wasn’t strong enough. It did stain the handle though. Lesson learned.  Be careful of the handle when forcing patina.

I also soaked it in vinegar. I didn’t like the outcome. It was not very dark but very blotchy. It also stained the end of the handle. Lessons learned.

Sooner or later it dawned on me that I could turn the handle into one with a hidden tang. I dug up an old wood chisel and commence to removing the handle. This is where I discovered how hard it would be for a handle to separate. It came off in little pieces. After cutting the brass pins flush, I still had to beat them out with a punch.

Rather than risk ruining the temper buy trying to burn the tang into the handle, I decided on a two piece. This worked out fairly well buy simply marking out the two scales and using a chisel to carve out the tang on both sides. As an afterthought, I could have gone with a framed tang as well. The framed tang would probably have looked better.

And yet, it still did not look very good. I just didn’t like it so it again, sat on the bench until motivation struck again. This time I decided to build up a handle. I went to the leather scrap box, cut some squares, punched the center holes for the tang. I dug up some mahogany and drilled for the tang for a front and bit piece. I epoxied them together and clamped them right.

I’m not sure the story has ended for this knife.


Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle

Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle was made from a worn-out file, this would have been a great knife had I stopped and thought about the design before I built it. There are several design mistakes in this knife. The handle is too short. Not that a longer handle is a must, but for this knife style, it just doesn’t fit.

I made the finger guard stop in the same place top and bottom (see the image) so it left an unsightly gap in the blade. I then tried to fix that gap by grinding, but that only made it slightly better.

Design Note: Round handles do not provide natural indexing for the blade edge. Oval will provide an index of the edge in relationship to the grip and will also deliver the ability to apply twisting force if needed.

Short handles are very undesirable for knives that will be worked hard. They should be long enough for all fingers to squeeze the handle comfortably and securely.

Although a person with small hands could use this knife comfortably. And for short task the knife works well. A short profile also makes it easier to carry and lessens the weight. As always there are trade offs.

Knife Design

After doing a little research and looking at a lot of knives, I’ve come to the conclusion that a length of 4 1/2 inches is a good size for an average comfortable knife handle. So as rule all blades would be about 7 3/8” long. So, at times we need to skew the results of the golden ration when we want a 4” blade. The point being is a shorter blade may look better with a shorter handle, however it will not function as well, so the trade offs need to be made.

Handles will be designed longer or shorter depending on the type of knife, it’s intended use, and also possibly the size of the user’s hands. This can be a personal preference as well on a custom knife. In general, a handle a little too long is better and more comfortable than a knife handle to short.

Blade lengths will be longer or shorter depending on the kind of knife, the intended use, and so forth.

As with most physical design functions, a paper draft can look much different than when the knife is built. It’s always a good idea to make a wood or cardboard mockup. I have gotten into the habit of making a template as part of the build. This helps in two areas. It allows it to be seen in physical form, and it allows it to be duplicated or modified if another one is to be made.

  • Design the knife based on its function.
  • Test your design
  • Use prototypes

Here Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle is fully profiled. The bevel was ground on the belt grinder. Note the notches in the tang to help the epoxy grip.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File - profile
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

The Knife guard was cut from a piece of steel I found laying around the shop.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File Ready for hand sanding
Ready for some hand sanding

Next up is cutting and stacking the handle leather. I save all my scrap leather just for this purpose. I cut the pieces in squares and punch a center slot for the tang.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Then after putting the finger guard on I coat each piece with epoxy (using slow curing) and stack and clamp it.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

After the epoxy cures it’s time to profile the handle. I cut to basic shape on the band saw

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Taping the blade not only protects the blade from epoxy and being scratched, it also helps protect me from the sharp edge.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
After profiling and sanding
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Here is the design flaw. It was a foolish mistake and a poorly executed build. I’ll chalk it up to inexperience.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Next is a half-hearted attempt to fix it by grinding the back down. It looked better, but I’m still not very happy with myself on this one.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

 

 




 

Adding the Knife handle — Option 2

This option takes a little longer but is a little more forgiving. If you have some time, I suggest you try it.

You’ll find the first part of the process the same, in both options I epoxy any laminated woods first. So a wood scale with two types of wood laminated is done ahead of time. This just simplifies the gluing.

I also like to use slower setting epoxy. It give a little bit more time to get things right.

I also tape off the blade. I do this for two reasons. First, it helps with cleanup (use the blue painters masking tape) and second it protects your fingers from the sharp edges.

If you’d like you can use a knife to cut the tape to the profile of the scales under the front. This will protect the blade from any squeeze out. I have found wiping with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol does the trick for cleaning off any squeeze out though.

Option 2

Mark out the scales by tracing the knife handle. Be sure you make a right and left side. There’s not much that’s more annoying then cutting out two blanks for the same side of the knife. With just a pure single species wood scale it may not matter, but I still like to ensure the nicest grain is out. Make the cut a little bigger than the knife. You will grind the excess off later.

I cut mine out on a bandsaw, but a coping saw, Jewelers saw or even a hacksaw will work in a pinch.

Here is where the difference starts.

If you’re using spacers, epoxy the scale and spacers on the scales. You can clamp both sides together by placing some wax paper between them.

Note we haven’t drilled any holes yet.

Once the epoxy is set, clamp the two together and grind the bevel on the front and sand to finish. This so like we did in option 1, but without the holes to keep them aligned.

Now we’ll go ahead and epoxy one side. Clamp it. As we said in option 1, You don’t want the clamps so tight that it squeezes all the epoxy out, but make sure the scale  are tight, even and properly set.

Epoxy just one side

Using a damp rag or paper towel with rubbing alcohol (acetone or mineral spirits work as well) wipe off any epoxy the spit out the front. The front part (bolster side) is all you need to worry about. You don’t want the rag wet enough that you pull or dilute the epoxy under the scales, so less is more.

Leave it set until the epoxy has cured.

Clamp it an let it set

Now drill the holes from the knife side out.

Now set the second side in the exact same manner. You need to ensure the front of the scales are aligned. Clamp, wipe off any squeeze out and let set.

Once the epoxy is cured, drill from the first side. Coat the pins with epoxy and set them.

Let them cure.

Now drill the rest of the holes and epoxy the pins in. Once the pins are in and cured we’ll move into shaping the handle.

Next you’ll be shaping the handle. This can be done with the belt grinder, rasp, files or any combination of these. I typically cut the pins off with a hack saw first.

Keep in mind epoxy is heat sensitive, so you don’t want to get the handle to hot. When it gets warm to the touch, stop and let it cool or switch to hand tools.

I typically hand sand my wood scales to 2000 grit, then hand rub an oil finish. Wet sanding about every third or fourth coat will give a nice smooth finish. Us fine wet dry paper. I use 320 first, then 2000 grit. How many coats are up to you. Coat until your happy with the results. I typically do somewhere between 4 and 10 coats.


Adding the Knife handle — Option 1

Now let’s add a handle to our full tang knife. I have two basic techniques that I’ve tried. I still use both from time to time. I’ll describe both and let you decide if you’d like to try both as well.

In both options I epoxy any laminated woods first. So a wood scale with two types of wood laminated is done ahead of time. This just simplifies the glueing.

I also like to use slower setting epoxy. It give a little bit more time to get things right.

I also tape off the blade. I do this for two reasons. First, it helps with cleanup (use the blue painters masking tape) and second it protects your fingers from the sharp edges.

Use a knife to cut the tape to the profile of the scales under the front.

Option 1

Mark out the scales by tracing the knife handle. Be sure you make a right and left side. There’s not much that’s more annoying then cutting out two blanks for the same side of the knife. With just a pure single species wood scale it may not matter, but I still like to ensure the nicest grain is out. Make the cut a little bigger than the knife. You will grind the excess off later.

One of the scale cut to size

I cut mine out on a bandsaw, but a coping saw, Jewelers saw or even a hacksaw will work in a pinch.

Set the scale on the knife. Make sure the front bolster side of the scale is a little long. We’ll be sanding it to size latter.

Here you need to hold the scale for drilling. You can hand hold it or clamp it. At this point it doesn’t need to be exact, but make sure the scale has not slide past the edge.

Next I drill the first hole. Slide a temporary pin into the hole to be sure it stays aligned. (The temporary pins can be the pins you plan to use, but at this point the placement is temporary)

Drill the second hole. Add another pin. Continue until all holes are drilled. (If you’ve drilled additional balance holes, be sure you don’t drill those)

Drilling the second hole
Drilling the third hole

Now push the pins so they’re flush on the second scale side. Remove one pin and hold the second scale in place and even with the first scale. (Again, this doesn’t have to be exact, as long as you don’t slide past the point of not having enough to grind even)

Drilling through the first scale into the second

Drill the first hole. (It doesn’t matter which hole you start with) Now reinsert the pin.

Remove another pin and drill the hole, making sure the scale is still aligned. (Using a small clamp will sometimes help) Drill the hole and reinsert the pin.

Drilling the second hole straight through

Repeat for all of the pins.

Now remove the scales from the knife and hold them together. Reinsert the pins in the holes. (without the knife). If you plan to use spacers, add them to the center. I drill the holes for the spacers using the same technique.

Check your fit often

Now grind the front of the scales. You will typically put a taper at the front, but this depends on the design. You want to completely sand this front portion so it does not require any sanding after installation. Sanding here without hitting the blade is next to impossible.

I’m finishing the front of the scales by hand sanding

Once this is completed, get everything ready for installation.

If you haven’t done so already, get your pins ready and make sure they fit properly. One of the mistakes I made in my first few knives was not tapering the ends of the pins enough and it caused some blow out driving them through. A little longer with a nice taper fixes that.

I cut the pins with a hack saw
I taper the pins to help prevent tear out
Cleaning the pins
Final fit test
Cut the tape to fit the scale
Lay every thing out and make sure it’s ready. Wipe everything down with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits

Now mix your epoxy and coat each piece, one at a time as you set them together. Do one side, then insert two pins, then the other side. The first side you’ll be sliding the pins into the scales, the second side you’ll be sliding the scales onto the two pins. Leaving them protruding just enough for the scales to line up, not completely through yet.

Once the scale are lines up and in place, drive the pins into place, then coat the remaining pins and set them as well.

Now clamp the handle. You don’t want the clamps so tight that it squeezes all the epoxy out, but make sure the scale (and spacers if you’re using them) are tight, even and properly set.

Using a damp rag or paper towel with rubbing alcohol (acetone or mineral spirits work as well) wipe off any epoxy the spit out the front. The front part (bolster side) is all you need to worry about. You don’t want the rag wet enough that you pull or dilute the epoxy under the scales, so less is more.

Now let it set overnight.

Next you’ll be shaping the handle. This can be done with the belt grinder, rasp, files or any combination of these. I typically cut the pins off with a hack saw first.

If you’re using a grinder, keep in mind epoxy is heat sensitive, so you don’t want to get the handle to hot. When it gets warm to the touch, stop and let it cool or switch to hand tools.

I typically hand sand my wood scales to 2000 grit, then hand rub an oil finish. Wet sanding about every third or fourth coat will give a nice smooth finish. Us fine wet dry paper. I use 320 first, then 2000 grit.

How many coats are up to you. Coat until your happy with the results. I typically do somewhere between 4 and 10 coats.

That’s one way. Next we’ll talk about another option.

.