This is what it looked like when it came off the mill.
I'm a decent machinist, so the machined piece was already pretty close to what I wanted without a whole lot of extra material to remove. However, it has a lot of different kinds of cutter marks and imperfect details. Normally I would take something like that to the grinder to finish it out. However, the complexity of the geometry and my desire to maintain crisp accurate detail led me to a different approach. The first thing I did when it came off the mill was to clean it up a bit with a smooth single cut file. Then I started with 220 grit stones that I shaped with a bastard file and I got to work refining the shape and scrubbing out the tool marks. By far this was the most difficult and time consuming aspect of the job. From there I progressed through the stones and paper, ending at 2000 grit before buffing with green, white and pink. Very little buffing actually.
EDM stones can be had in different materials and hardness. With soft coarse grit cutting the fastest and harder finer less friable cutting slowly but accurately. They can be shaped with a file to fit the surface you're stoning and will conform to the underlying geometry after a little scrubbing. This allowed me to maintain sharp detail running down the length of the blade and smoothly contoured organic surfaces without waves and undulations. It took me many hours to finish the steel after machining it to get the finished work into what you see. Though I'm sure someone like Mr. Imel could do the job much faster (and better) than me.
Page two view:
(I remember how much time I spent to show this well. There were reflectors everywhere.....)
I remember when Nathan and his charming wife brought this to my Show Studio at Blade. I was like: WTF?!! Who IS this guy? Outstanding work!
Since then I've learned and appreciated his posts and work that much more. This one will NEVER get old. Look at the tapered 'tangs'. That's insane machining.
Nathan, since you've alluded to veteran maker Billy Mace Imel a few times, I'm going to show others why you refer to him:
His work is as smart as his suit. (I'd allow yours is a wee bit more complex, too. )
I'm glad you are posting this now. it deserves more comments than my past display amidst all the others.
I remember being awed when seeing Nathan's Shop Talk thread on the machining of this dagger.
The astonishing craftsmanship shown in the design, in planning and executing the machine work, and in the hand finishing, is shown in the result.
I would hope this could settle the fact that it's the person who creates the work, whatever the set of tools used.
Billy is the master, no doubt.
I first talked to him about daggers in Atlanta about 5 years ago. He and I have a lot in common (machinists), and as others have alluded he is a fine gentleman and has amassed a wealth of knowledge, so I enjoy talking to him. He's an interesting guy. His wife, Beverly, is also a joy to talk to. Those two are quite a pair. I hope they can continue to make the show. Beverly had foot surgery earlier in the year so we're lucky they made it out this year.
His dagger was my inspiration for doing an integral. And while I didn't deliberately plagiarize the shape of his blade, it is no coincidence they have a similar sweep. I love the curve of it. It sweeps into an impossibly pointy point. It just keeps going. Your eye runs along the curve on its way to the tip and the rate of curvature goes straighter and straighter, yet it never goes straight or curves out, ending in an eye crossing impossibly pointy point that looks like it should be flying in outer space.
His black daggers are a sight to behold. I'm going to get one next year if I can.
Last edited by Nathan the Machinist; 08-07-2012 at 07:19 PM.
Wow! I didn't know this was that kind of forum. What curves.
Very beautiful and precise work. I really like it. -Burton
... I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.
I'm also a fan of daggers and Billy Mace Imel makes some exquisite ones.
Yours is OUTSTANDING Nathan!
Pleasure seeing it,
Outstanding work Nathan! Skills like yours are hard earned and well deserved my friend, and it definitely shows!
Thanks for letting us have a look and I, for one, am VERY appreciative of the info/explanations in your posts. I'm an info-junkie, so posts like yours are right up my alley!
Man, that turned out NICE!!!! Nathan, is there more than one of these out there or have you actually been rubbing this one with a polishing cloth for about a year?
Nathan, you did an amazing job that is truly a piece of art and turned out great.
Did you use an ordinary mill to start with?
Well... it looks like this dagger is on Knives Annual 2013's cover. Congratulations ! That is really well done.
That is one truly beautiful knife, nice work sir.
great googly-mooglagly that is fine. incredible detail.
Sexy curves indeed!!
All the best,
David Darom (ddd)
Outstanding! Your initial mill work is just art and then you made it way better, wow! Great lines too, everything is top notch.
Thanks Joe. This is that same dagger. I intended to post it over here then, but my attempts to take additional photographs of it didn't turn out so hot and I ended up going onto other projects and forgot about it.
Absolutely gorgeous Nathan!
If im not mistaken it looks like that one made the cover of Blades 2013 annual?
That is honestly one of the nicest knives that I have ever seen.
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