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Working with aluminum hardware?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by jawilder, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. jawilder


    Jun 27, 2006
    I am looking into using aluminum for dovetailed bolsters to save on weight. Aside from keeping the aluminum dust away from iron dust (thermite), I was wondering if anyone had advice on which aluminum to get, what to expect, etc.

    Fastenal has it locally or I could get it online. I want my pins to match up so they hide well but can't seem to find any 6061 pins in 1/8. I can get aluminum welding rods but they are as round as a football.

    Any suggestions, tips, or warnings working with aluminum bolsters?
  2. John Katt

    John Katt

    Mar 19, 2012
    I bought a piece of 1 1/4 x1/4 from the local hardware and it was so soft that it seemed like every time I touched it there was a new scratch, I read that T5 and T6 have better wear resistance but less corrosion resistance, if i ever do it again I would go for the T5

    edit and every time I handled the hardware stuff after I finished the handles my fingers had black on them.... dirty stuff
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  3. woodwrkr221


    Jan 28, 2011
    Having worked for an aluminum window manufacturer for a brief period, I know that aluminum needs a clear coat such as anodizing to prevent the aluminum from developing white chalky oxidation over time. Aluminum oxidizes in the same way that steel and iron will rust.
  4. thompsonblades


    Dec 25, 2009
    I honestly recomend you drop the alluminum idea. There are some pretty tough alluminum alloys out there, but they can be hard to get. And even then, you'll have to worry about some weird oxidation affects where your alluminum bolster touches the steel blade. You may just be better off going with steel. The total weight won't change much with what you're talking about. A gram or 2 at most.

    There is one last thing you should know. Alluminum doesn't pollish up well. It will always appear to be a very dull silver.

    I just cannot think of any advantages to using alluminum over steel in knife construction.
  5. jawilder


    Jun 27, 2006
    I thought to use aluminum because of all the old Western knives that use an aluminum pommel. There are plenty of them still around and hold up fairly well, although they are scratched up. I have put the aluminum idea on hold for a while. I might come back to it later but I'll stick with SS for now.

  6. thompsonblades


    Dec 25, 2009
    If you're talking about knives actually made back in the old west, I should point out that back then, aluminum was as valuable as platinum. The technology to mass produce alluminum wasn't available till after 1900. It was used for the same reason that silver or gold was used. It was a precious metal. Thats the only reason it was used back then. They were show pieces.
  7. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    I'm sure he was talking about "Western" brand knives.
    Aluminum has been commonly used for 70 or so years as knife fittings. It still works well.
  8. jawilder


    Jun 27, 2006
    Yes, I was talking about the "Western" brand knives that commonly used aluminum hardware.

    Here is an example of a pic I found online

    Bill, do you ever use aluminum on any of your knives? I have heard mixed reviews. Some love it and say it works great and some say the opposite. I would like to get first hand info from someone who has actually used it
  9. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    I did one a couple of years ago that had aluminum handles. It was a folder. I used T6 and hand engraved it, but I nickel plated it. All of the "tactical" folders use aluminum handles, and it seems to work well. Aluminum self passivates after it's ground. Other than the finish dulling, there are usually no further problems with normal care. A little Simichrome brightens it right up. Thin aluminum finger guards (like the brass one on the knife you showed) are brittle and can break. That's why the factories used brass (which is ductile) for the guards and aluminum for butt caps.
    The production versions of my Leverletto tactical use aluminum handles, but they are anodized. Anodizing is a process that creates a relatively thick, very hard, aluminum oxide layer on the surface. The aluminum can be dyed any color during the anodization process.

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