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Thread: How do you drill scales for a tapered tang? {Pics of finished knife added}

  1. #1
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    How do you drill scales for a tapered tang? {Pics of finished knife added}


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    So I am doing my first tapered tang knife, and was wondering what the simplest method of drilling the scales was?

    I have already drilled the tang and tapered it.

    I have seen people glue one scale to the tang, drill it, flip it, then do the other side. But it seems like there would be a simpler/quicker way of doing it.
    I only have a small bench top drill press, so big complicated jigs won't really work to hold the knife 90 degrees to the drill bit.
    Any help or suggestion would be much appreciated!!
    Ben Tendick
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  2. #2
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    I drill the tang while flat, then taper it, as you've done. That's crucial.

    Then I use spring clamps (small C-clamps work, too) to hold one scale to the tang (while the scale is still rectangular), and mount the scale in an inexpensive machinist's vise, so the blade is horizontal both along its length, and across the width. This is all about keeping the centerlines of the blade perpendicular to the drill bit. The scale will obviously be a couple degrees off of horizontal. You can eyeball it but checking with a small level increase confidence. This is important, so that your pins or bolts will end up perpendicular to the centerlines of the blade.

    I drill one hole and place a trial pin/bolt through it, to help ensure the scale doesn't shift. I drill any and all remaining holes in the same fashion. Remove that scale, flip the blade and repeat for the other scale.

    The angles involved are slight enough that you can trial-pin the scales together and shape the fronts together for a clean match, on a bolsterless design. For a full-tang knife with bolsters, a bit more careful machining/handfitting is sometimes needed. It may sound complicated, but honestly it doesn't take much longer to do it than it does to type out the instructions. No jigs required.

    Boom, you're now ready to glue up and pin/bolt your scales, let the adhesive cure, then grind them down to the tang profile and finish the knife.

    I feel strongly that a nicely-tapered tang helps a good deal with how your knife balances, and shows a certain skill-level and dedication that helps set handmade knives above the factory stuff. Plus they look really cool!
    Ask JT (updated 4/10/14)

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  3. #3
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    I do similar to James, only I use a shop built jig/blade holder/vise. I use two drops of cyanoacrylate (credit to Bob Terzoula) to hold the scale being drilled in place (too many issues with scales shifting with clamps)




  4. #4
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    I see a support under the scale in your jig, could you elaborate?
    Thanks
    Mark

  5. #5
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    I do mine with two tools: calipers and tape. Measure the thickness of your tapered tang end with calipers. Subtract that number from the original bar thickness, and divide by two. What you're measuring is the amount of taper on each side. Then, take masking tape or painter's tape and put strips of tape on the down side of the butt end of the scales until the tape is as thick as the amount of your taper. Clamp lightly to the drill press table and drill straight through. The tape will make your scales tip a few degrees, and the centerline of the blade will be parallel to the table, as James explained.

  6. #6
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    I do it similar to the way jkf96a describes except i use a drill bit the thickness of the taper under the butt instead of tape. This method will only work with scales of uniform thickness like wood, G10 or micarta. If you're using stag or bone, you'd have to go back to clamping it at the ricasso.

    Another tip that stacy posted about using CA to temporarily attach scales for drilling is to put the knife in the freezer for 10 minutes when it's time to remove the scales. CA doesn't like the cold and they will pop right off.

  7. #7
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    I use wooden builders shims and sand them to the right taper with 60 grit on a surface plate, then put it under the scale and tang before drilling.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by markb View Post
    I see a support under the scale in your jig, could you elaborate?
    Thanks
    Mark
    Just a wedge of scrap Micarta to support the tang.

  9. #9
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    I saw the to holes in the jig and thought that maybe it was an height adjustable feature.

    I'll be making one of these soon. Clamping the recasso in a drill press vice on end is just to cumbersome and time consuming.



    Thanks
    Mark

  10. #10
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    In Nick Wheeler's signature thread he shows a jig for drilling tangs. It has an adjustable support. Jess

  11. #11
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    I'm glad to see guys are recognizing the need to compensate for the taper. I can't tell you how many makers have posted on here and told me in person, that it doesn't matter.

    I gotta say though, the trouble caused by avoiding a fixture... that is to mess around with various methods getting the centerline back to perpendicular to the spindle... sounds like a lot more headache that just making a simple fixture. Especially when you consider the fixture is something that will last until you quit making knives.

    Even more importantly, the other methods pretty much require you to be using scales of uniform thickness. What the heck do you do if you want to use stag, jigged bone, sheep horn, ivory, etc. ----- that aren't flat anywhere other than on the tang side? Or even wood scales that aren't perfectly uniform and you don't want to have to make them that way prior to handle drilling/shaping?

    This is my little fixture. It's dirt simple. I made it when I was about 20, and barely knew how to drill and tap a hole. It's a little taller than it needs to be, but as it turns out I'm glad--- it allows me to put bigger clamps on the scales if I need to.



    Conveniently, it works just as well for drilling through hidden tang handles.








    Ben, I know what you said about a small drill press, but this fixture will fit on my tiny little $50 HF drill press just as well as the bigger ones.

    An alternative is to clamp a nice and heavy, STOUT square or rectangular piece of barstock to the drill press table with a few inches overhanging the edge. Then clamp the blade onto that bar at the ricasso area. Of course you have to swing the table to one side and do some maneuvering to get everything lined up, but it works.


    This, to me, is a prime example of one of those things where you can stop what you're doing for an hour or two, make a jig or fixture that will forever make a step simple and repeatable instead of fighting it for years.
    -Nick-



    This link will take you to the tag-along thread where I made the damascus camp knife (above) from START to FINISH...


    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/sh...metal-with-you

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by markb View Post
    I saw the to holes in the jig and thought that maybe it was an height adjustable feature.

    I'll be making one of these soon. Clamping the recasso in a drill press vice on end is just to cumbersome and time consuming.

    Thanks
    Mark
    I may eventually do what Nick has done with his tang support; I have a few things floating around my head though so I haven't committed.

  13. #13
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    In SR Johnsons video, he uses a hand held wedge to support the tang when drilling. He holds the blade at the recaso in some sort of vice( can't remember what type) but leaves hands free to hold the wedge, very quick.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the kick in the pants Nick and David, a jig it is!!
    I will post pics when it is finished.
    Ben Tendick
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  15. #15
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    For blades with tapered full tangs; I do all hole drilling while the handle slabs and tang are full dimensioned. With both scales squared, sandwich double sided tape between them, clamp on one side of the tang; drill through the tang and then through both scales. The result is perfect aligned holes in both tang and scales. Now taper the tang, attach scales on each side and finish.
    Last edited by Fred.Rowe; 05-25-2012 at 07:07 PM.

  16. #16
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    I've seen this type of thread time and again. Guess I'm just lucky, but I drill all holes a shade over size while the tang is full, taper the tang, epoxy one handle slab, drill through with final size drill, epoxy other side, drill through first hole and that's the end of the story. Worried over this a lot about 10yrs. ago and quit worrying since it all worked. Guess I'm just lucky.

  17. #17
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    So about an 1hr of work and it should last at least my lifetime.

    I am not good with math and angles and all that smart stuff. But it seems to me that if you drill a hole in something
    while it is flat, and then angle it, the hole is no longer straight.

    So this jig should take all the guess work and luck out of the equation. I am not very lucky anyway!
    Thanks for all the comments and pics guys!



    Ben Tendick
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenR.T. View Post
    So about an 1hr of work and it should last at least my lifetime.

    I am not good with math and angles and all that smart stuff. But it seems to me that if you drill a hole in something
    while it is flat, and then angle it, the hole is no longer straight.
    On the contrary; when the holes are drilled with the materials flat, the holes are perpendicular to the centerline of the blade even after the tang is tapered.

    Fred

  19. #19
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    I am still a little confused Fred. Do you then taper the scales to match the tang?
    Ben Tendick
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenR.T. View Post
    I am still a little confused Fred. Do you then taper the scales to match the tang?
    I do it that way; grind the scales to shape after I drill the tang and the scales when flat.

    There are a lot of ways to do it and whichever way works for you, thats the one to use.

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