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Review of the Jantz ATS-34 Kit

Jan 4, 1999
Building the Janz tapered tang ATS-34 kit

To call me a rank beginner at knife making would be an understatement. This kit was my second effort. The first one was a quick and easy micarta handled fillet knife. I can’t remember the model name of the kit but it’s advertised in the Jantz Supply catalog as a tapered tang ATS-34 drop point and the kit sells for $49.95 including the 7” overall, 3 ½” drop point polished blade, bolsters, pins and Dymondwood handle blanks. I didn’t buy the complete kit, just the blade, bolsters and pins. Since I’m not fond Dymondwood I dug through some exotic wood pieces in my woodshop and came up with a nice piece of quarter sawn kingwood which is a variety of rosewood. It’s very nice stuff.

I took the parts out of the bag and proceeded to test fit everything. The lanyard hole tube didn’t fit in the appropriate hole in the tang. I didn’t know exactly how to ream it out to fit the tube so I just decided to forego the lanyard hole. The holes in the bolsters weren’t perfectly aligned but I fixed that problem quickly with an electric drill. The other issue I dealt with was the imperfect match between the guard area on the blade and bolsters. I’m not an experienced knife maker so I decided the bolsters simply wouldn’t cover the integral guard completely and that was that. I wasn’t striving for perfection. I just wanted to pass some time and learn a little about knife making.

Step one was to epoxy the bolsters to the blade, insert the nickel silver pins and pein them. That went quite well. The pins completely disappeared upon grinding, sanding and buffing the bolsters.

Step two was to cut the handle material. My piece of kingwood was a whole inch thick so I resawed a piece on the bandsaw to create two book matched handle pieces. I cut the basic outline oversize on the bandsaw and made one perfectly straight edge on each on the table saw. Drilling the handle pin holes in the handle material was very simple. I held one handle side to the blade and marked one pin hole. I drilled it, inserted a pin and then completed the other holes by using the tang as a guide. Everything lined up perfectly. I expoxied the handles to the tang and inserted the seven handle pins which were also epoxied. The handles were thick enough that I was able to bury the pins in the wood with nothing sticking out. So I pressed the whole thing lightly in a woodworking vice so that it could dry overnight.

The next evening I went to work shaping and handles and bolsters. I did this fairly quickly using a 6X48 stationary belt sander. It’s not as sophisticated as a knifemakers grinder but it served well for the task. I used an oscillating sander with a ½” drum to sand the tight area behind the guard. A half hour with some sandpaper and a few minutes at the buffer and the knife was done. I applied some tung oil to the kingwood to bring out the almost gaudy grain.

I spent a total of three hours on the project-not bad for a rank beginner, I think-but I did make use of plenty of power equipment. The knife doesn’t have a lanyard hole and the guard area of the blade and the bolsters are not ground to a perfect match, but otherwise, the knife looks pretty nice. I’ll spend some time this weekend at the leather tooling stone and make up a sheath for it. I’m proud of the knife and recommend you try a kit of this type for yourself. You’ll not only gain some knowledge and some pride, but you’ll get a nice knife in the bargain. A photo of the completed knife can be viewed at http://www.knifeoutlet.com/images/droppoint.jpg. Take care.

Knife Outlet
That's not too bad, I may have to try that kit once.

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!

Military "Military" fans unite!!!
Thanks for describing your knife kit experience. Sounds like you enjoyed it.

I'm planning on buying a knife kit someday soon to see if I enjoy the knife making experience. Many forumites have recommended the kit approach for newbies to get a feel for what knife making is about. It sounds like a good way to start.

Also, Fred, thanks for posting your specials. I haven't purchased one yet, but I enjoy seeing them. You never know when a special will hit the hot button!

[This message has been edited by Bob Irons (edited 15 March 1999).]
To Prigger, thanks. Yes I enjoyed it a lot. and to both you and Bob Irons, yes I definitely recommend you try it. There are some less expensive kits with which to start if you feel like breaking the ice on something lower down the food chain. I chose the kit I chose for two reasons.

I wanted an ATS-34 stainless blade and I like the look of a nickel silver guard/bolster on this type of knife. I'm not willing to call what I put together a custom knife since I didn't design it nor did I make the blade. Let's call it a hand finished knife from a finished blade. It's a great blade, as it turns out. It cuts agressively and holds an edge very well for a stainless blade.

It wasn't hard to do at all understanding that I have a pretty well equipped woodworking shop. Even with hand tools the knife can be completed in a day, I think. Give it a shot. I've already started another one. My wife threw out the handle pins, though, so I have to order in some more before I can finish it. "You didn't need those little metal things on the workbench for anything did you?" Ah well!

Knife Outlet
That's a very nice looking knife, Fred. I've made up a couple of knives from blades, just with pretty plain wood handles, but that was about 25 years ago and I'm starting to get the itch to do it again, especially when I see projects like that! I'd like to do something a bit nicer this time around, so I will look Jantz up. Thanks for the review.

Paul Neubauer