View Full Version : Josh Dabney Servicemember Knife build. (pic heavy)

Josh Dabney
11-23-2010, 09:04 AM
I think most of us probably have similar views that we owe a debt of gratitude to all of our men and women in uniform who risk everything to provide our security, freedom, and protect our way of life. Making a knife for a soldier is to me a great way to express my thanks and I'm greatful to have the oppertunity to participate in this project and thanks the fellas who made it all happen- Justin, Murph, Bill, Dave, Boss, and Aldo to name a few.

I've never served or been in a hostile enviornment so I can only speculate the requirements of a Combat Duty knife. It goes unsaid that form will definately follow function but an appealing form sure isn't a bad thing if funtion isn't compromised. I thought hard about what I would personally want in a knife under the harsh curcumstances it will likely face and here's what I came up with-

1st priority is an effective fighting tool. To me this means nice and pointy while being stout enough at the tip to take anything thrown it's way without damage and thin enough at the edge to be laser sharp, an efficient cutter, and easily maintained. I also think it's very important that the handle is designed to protect the users hand from the blade in extremely stressfull split second situations.

2nd priority is that the blade is stout enough in general for extreme utility chores that a kitchen knife or hunter would likely never see. The typical caveat "it's a knife not a screwdriver or prybar" just cannot be applied to a combat knife IMHO. I imagine that a soldier would grab the most convenient and possibly only tool available to do just about anything necessary.

I think if these requirements are met then all other typical utility chores we use knives for will take care of themselves. I guess by this I mean I wouldn't mind if my Combat knife wasn't the MOST effective knife for opening boxes, letters, mail etc, and believe that for most general tasks like this the effectivness can be judged more accurately by how sharp the blade is than its geometry.

I thought I'd give you guys some insight into my train of thought for the design choices and grind style I put on my knife.

I am open too, and would appreciate, any comments, commentary, critique, or advice reguarding my thinking, design and build.

Pics to follow shortly -Josh

Josh Dabney
11-23-2010, 09:56 AM
I pretty much always work from a sketch and attempt to follow my "blueprint" as close as possible.

Here I traced my blank on paper a couple times and drew up a couple concepts.

I decided to go with the bottom concept but didn't get any process pics of profiling or grinding the main bevels but the blade is a combination grind with the main bevel and swedge being ground freehand on a 10" contact wheel.

After some research and consulting with a buddy experienced working A2 I decided to go ahead and HT the blade myself.
My method for HT was this- Foil wrap, double crimped, with a stamp sized shred of brown cardboard paper inside the envelope and placed in the cold Evenheat.
-Ramp to 1450 and hold for 15 minutes then ramp to 1775 and hold for 45 minutes.
-Remove envelope from oven and plate quench while spraying compressed air between the plates.
-Temper immediately in kitchen oven at 400 degrees 2 hours. For fun I file checked the blade after this temper and a brand new chainsaw file wouln't touch it !
-Temper in Evenheat 500 degrees 2 hours then air cool
-Temper again in Evenheat at 500 2 more hours.

Here she is HT'ed with the bevels and swedge cleaned up to show the grind lines

Edge thickness at HT .022

This shot shows the tip geometry at HT. I ran the hollow grinds straight off the tip to keep the blade full thickness on the flats all the way to the point. Planning a flat ground tip this is the geometry I wanted with my hollow grind but even if I wanted it to be hollow ground completely I would've ground it this way pre HT so that the quench plates would make contact on the flats all the way to the tip of the blade.

I tend to do alot of cutting with my thumb or finger resting on the spine so I didn't want the spine too thin right in front of the thumb ramp. I did however want to have a swedge to take a little extra weight off the blade. This is just a shot of the spine to show the flat on top of the swedge.

Stay tuned...

Josh Dabney
11-23-2010, 10:16 AM
This is the rest I've got right now :)

Now I've got the blade HT-ed and ready to flat grind the tip of the blade. This proved to be challenging geometry to get symmetrical ! It is however extremely close after a little -tag your it- from left side to right, LOL. I still gotta do some more hand finishing of these two flats before I'd call them complete but the machine work is done.

In the next two pics I've colored both the edge and spine with a sharpie to highlight the edge thickness and the shape and stoutness of blade directly behid the point of the blade. Going back to my train of thought on the geometry for this blade I feel like I pretty much nailed what I was shooting for.

Here's the tip shot of the spine. While flat grinding the tip and chasing those grind lines I determined after some serious studying of my grinds that there is a symmetry issue on the "diamond" shaped spine that I couldn't resolve with the flatgrind. The issue of imbalance here is actually a product of the hollow ground swedge and although I haven't done it yet I gotta go back to the contact wheel and make the swedge just a teeny bit deeper on the left side in the pic (right side of blade). This imbalance should show clearly in the pic

This is where I'm currently at but will keep posting as more progress is made.

Let me know what you guys think of this grind. It's a very challenging grind but I think the end result is gonna be worth the sweat involved.


Curtiss Knives
11-23-2010, 10:26 AM
Got to love those grinds!!! Great job!

Denny Eller
11-23-2010, 11:00 AM
Wow, Josh!! Those grinds are awesome! Almost makes me want to re-enlist! Can't wait to see the finished knife - whoever gets it is bound to love it.

11-23-2010, 01:10 PM
Excellent grinding! Some real thought in there. :)

Sean Cochran
11-23-2010, 05:23 PM
Looking real good Josh

11-24-2010, 03:09 AM
Josh that is going to be a great knife love the grinds.

11-24-2010, 06:41 PM
Josh, agree with all of the above. Looks great. Hope you get to cut something before you ship it out,
would really like to see what you think of it's cutting ability.
Good I would guess? Well Done,

Josh Dabney
11-29-2010, 09:31 AM
I got some time to continue working on this knife over the weekend and give it some tortue testing just to see how she holds an edge and just what kind of ABUSE she'll take before failure.

I'm not talking about an ABS style bend test here but more of a cutting, hacking, stabbing, twisting, let's just see if I can break the tip off this sucker kinda test.

Of course this isn't and wasn't meant to be a scientific test that could be used to compare the performance of one knife to another and all results are of course subject to my opinion only.

Mainly if this sucker is gonna break i wanted it to happen right now here in my garage not in the sandbox.

Pics to follow- :biggrin:


Josh Dabney
11-29-2010, 09:59 AM
1st order of business is to get a hair poppin edge on the blade.

I'm still at .020 edge thickness so I started by coloring the bottom portion of the blade with a sharpie which just makes it easy to compare the grind from the left side to the right.

At this point I'm using a 1" slack belt to put a short convex edge on the blade.

Progressing with the convex. I haven't done convexed grinds alot so I'm going slow and easy with light passes a little at a time.

Now I'm going to move on to hand sanding to blend the top of the convex into the hollow grind. My sanding block is a piece of G10 with cork gasket material glued to it.
At his point I'm using some Norton 320 grit paper. A little slow going but nothing drastic happening either which is a good thing.

Progressing slowly. Here you can see how that sharpie helps to show you exactly what your getting with the blending efforts.

Now we've got our edge thinned down a bit and a slightly chubby 400 grit edge convexed right to a burr and we're ready to move on to the stone and strop. I always put the final edge on my knives the good ole' fashioned way. There are plenty of methods out there that give fantastic results such as paper wheels or just using the grinder to sharpen but my logic is this- How is the user of this knife gonna sharpen it ? My guess would be that 99% of knife users will use a stone and sharpen by hand so thats how I still do it.
I'm using a Lansky fine stone and a leather strop loaded with white jewelers rouge to get a hair popping edge.

Time to cut up some stuff !

Josh Dabney
11-29-2010, 10:40 AM
I just got a tonneau cover for my truck so I had this cardboard laying around so I made a bunch of cuts to get an idea of her edge holding ability. Cutting this much carboard was enough to lose the hair popping sharpness the blade had but she continued to be what I consider working sharp throught the rest of my cutting. This is what I consider normal from my experience with other knives that will lose that scary sharpness relatively quickly but remain usefully sharp for a long time thereafter before needing a touch-up on the edge.

Continued on to carving on this 1x4 a bit making some curly cues, whittling one end of the board, and hacking and twisting into the small knot that was conveniently on the edge of the board, and using the tip of the knife to bore a hole throught the middle with a result of zero noticable change to sharpness or damage to the edge.

Continued with my bad habit of stabbing the tip into my grinder bench and bending over and twisting

Not that expect anyone to purposely drop their knife on concrete but accidents do happen so what the heck. Here's a shot after dropping it tip down form approx 6 feet onto the driveway. Score= knife 1 concrete 0

Still no damage thus far. This last act of abuse actually did put a couple flat spots on the edge. I'm not 100% positive if whittling the nail flatened the edge or if it was slipping off the nail body and slamming into the head of the nail that did it but either way it flattened the edge as opposed to chipping it out which is a positive in my book and indicative of fine grained steel thats not overly hard. I would expect either large grain structure or extreme hardness to result in chipping at the edge.

After the nail I went back to my sharpening stone and returned the edge to shaving sharp in about a minute on the fine stone. Except of course in the area where the flat spots are but I was mainly just wanting to see how much effort it would take to resharpen after some use. I will of course be using the grinder to set the edge back to new condition.

Josh Dabney
11-29-2010, 10:47 AM
That last pic clearly shows that I didn't get my convex edge nearly thin enough above the edge and I basically removed the convex on the stone while sharpening so I'll be going back to convex that edge to a thinner geometry.

I don't use any guides while sharpening so I cant say I'm precisely at 15 degrees per side but thats what I was shooting for while sharpening.

Overall I'd say this knife is good to go and will be a reliable performer while at the same time being easily maintained.

Let me know what you guys think !

Thanks, Josh

11-29-2010, 11:03 AM
Not only a great project, but an awesome explanation of how and why an edge can perform so well! Thanks Josh!

Denny Eller
11-29-2010, 01:22 PM
Great tests, Josh. It took some big cojones to drop that beauty from 6' onto concrete point first. That knife ought to withstand several trips to the sand box and back. Super workmanship!

12-01-2010, 06:41 AM
I've been wanting to see some pics of these service knives. Thanks, and looks like it'll make any soldier proud.

12-09-2010, 06:44 PM
Great job Josh! Thanks for posting all the pics and info. Looks like a survivor there, should be an awesome knife.

01-09-2011, 10:18 AM
Wow I enjoyed that. Thankyou for posting :)

01-09-2011, 10:27 AM
nice job on thinking through the geometry and the testing Josh.

Ernie Swanson
01-09-2011, 03:22 PM
Great job on the knife and the testing.
I like how you explained everything!

Josh Dabney
01-22-2011, 09:46 PM
Betcha yall I thought I fell off the face of the earth huh :biggrin:
Boy I've been busy with everything but making knives, With a shower remodel, trip up north for the holidays, a week of being good and sick, and a two weeks with my parents here visiting all past things are finally returning to normal and I'm beginning to get some real work done.

So we'll continue on basically from where we left off with this build. I did decide to re-profile the tip of the blade to increase pointyness a little and add yet another thinner convex grind to the tip part of the blade along with thinning out the convex over the entire length of the blade.

So here we are ready to etch the makers mark. The directions on my homebuilt etcher pretty much explain my process of etching.


I like to etch with my Q-tip a little wet so I always get a little "shadow" around the mark but it's only on the surface so a little clean-up and here we are

Josh Dabney
01-22-2011, 10:23 PM
With the MM etched it time to move on to the blade finish. I'm wanting a finish thats not shiny and low maintainence. Although a soldier probably takes care of his gear meticulously when time allows that oppertunity the last thing he needs to worry about is keeping a purdy finish on his blade. So I'm gonna help him out with a finish thats ugly and rough enough that there'll be no need to worry about it, just use it an abuse it. As you'll soon see it's unlikely they do anything worse to it that what I've already done :biggrin:

This is a method for getting an "antique" patina on a carbon steel knife that works quite well and I thought it would be an interesting finish as opposed to more modern methods of coating the blade.

The first step in the process is to cold blue the blade. I'm gonna clean with the acetone then wash with dishsoap and hot water to degrease in prep for the bluing.

Here we are after a the cold bluing. There were some large areas that just didn't wanna take the blue so I re-cleaned and blued again with the same result so I figure I'd just go for it and see what I got

After bluing I rinsed it off with hot water then into this 2 liter bottle filled with bleach. As it was explained to me the bluing acts as an activator that causes the bleach to "etch" the steel. It's really pretty interesting as you can watch the rust grow on the steel it happens so fast. I kept it in the bleach for approx 3 minutes then pulled it rinsed to see what had then went back in for another 3 minutes.

Heres a shot comming out of round one in the bleach tank

And round two. You can see we got some significant rusting going on here :35: just what we're looking for


Wiping of the gross build up of rust with a dry towel to see what kind of pitting we ended up with


I like to neutralize the rusting action with a good soaking of PB Blaster

Follow that up with a good shot of Ballistol and a heavy scrubdown with steel wool and here's what we've got

Now we're lookin good but still have some shine on the blade in spots so we're gonna follow up with a quick dip in the Ferric tank

And finally here we are with our carefree blade finish.
Stains- bring'em on
rust- who cares
scratches from doing god knows what- character marks just like a good scar

And who says ugly is a bad thing ?

Thanks for the comments fellas ! Please keep'em comming and let me know what you think of my Rough-N-Ready low tech blade finish.

Stay tuned for more as we progress with finishing up this knife.

I do have one more idea on how I might make this blade even a little uglier but I'll have to experiment with it on the under the scale part of the handle first.

Take care, Josh

Curtiss Knives
01-23-2011, 06:39 AM
Thats my kinda knife! Hardcore user finish. Nice work Josh.

Justin King
01-23-2011, 07:33 AM
I like the way that is turning out!

Josh Dabney
01-23-2011, 10:10 PM
We left off pretty much ready for scales but I did go ahead and cold blue one more time and followed by some steel wool for a nice cold grey steel finish.

Intslling scales isn't the hardest thing to do but some problems can arise especially on a build like this where the handle material is just slightly larger than the tang so we'll run through how I go about it just in case we've got any newbies following along.

I lined up the scale with the but end lined up with the tang and made a pencil line across the forward edge to determine the maximum scale material available for shaping the front edge of the scales

You can see that I'm a little limited as to how I can shape the scales due to the length of the tang. I've got fairly big hands so this pic is just to show how much longer than neccessary the handle is at this point

I decided to re-profile the rear of the tang to accomplish two things -Shorten the handle to a more suitable length and allow my scales to extend further forward so I can get an appealing shape on the front of the scales.

I'll be shooting for something similar to this for the front end

The ole 50 grit blaze made short work of re-profiling. I followed the blaze up with an 80 then 220 J flex

Now that I'm profiled the way I want I again lined the scale up nearly flush on the butt end then scribe around tang. The black you see on the handle material is going to be against the tang in final construction. I scribed on the tan side so that when I put my scales together for profiling my scribed line will be showing.

Josh Dabney
01-23-2011, 10:44 PM
I decided I didn't really like the location of the lanyard hole. I could be completely crazy but it just seems to me that however the lanyard hangs down from the top side it's gonna end up in the way of getting a quick secure grip on the handle. I have it in mind that moving the tube to the bottom of the butt will cause it to hang down the underside of the handle allowing the users finger to slip right in between the lanyard and handle for a firm grip without lanyard interference. I'm also planning to use flared tubing instead of the corbys so I traced out my tang on paper and adjusted the placement of the rear tube and added a fourth tube between the two corby holes.

Now I've got a plan going I layed my tang on the paper to determine where I needed to remove steel from the tang to clear the rear most tubing hole

Probably should've done this planning before HT but it's really nothing an 1/8" solid carbide endmill cant handle

Here we are milled out and lined up with the pattern

Now I layed the scale back on the blade with the scribed side out and drew roughly how I'm gonna shape the front of the scales

This is something you've gotta watch out for. These scales were cut with a saw that wasn't perfectly 90 degrees. No biggie but when you flip one scale so the black sides are together the angle is reversed so they are not a perfect match. I lined my scales up on the tang being sure I had some material past the end of the tang and nearly flush on the spine side.

I started using this method of installing scales when using bookmatched wood to keep them bookmatched as close as possible when installed and have found it a pretty easy way to do it and gives great results every time.
I begin by lining up the scales, clamping them together, then drilling two holes for "registration" pins on the OUTSIDE of the handle like this


Now that I've got those pins in I can go ahead and shape the front of the scales

I decided to chamfor the front edge using my 45 degree dovetail jig.

You can get'em pretty darn even with a jig like this

Now that's done I'm ready to install the first scale so I line it up and trace that front edge so I know exactly where to prep for glue-up

Josh Dabney
01-23-2011, 11:04 PM
To prep for epoxy I score up both the tang and scale with 60 grit sandpaper then give a cleaning with alcohol.

Can you use too many clamps while gluing up handle material ? I use as many as I can fit :biggrin:

Once scale #1 is ready I profile the scale to within .010 or so from the tang of course leaving two little tabs where the registration pins go.

This just shows how the pins are used to line up the second scale and the result

Now before we get excited and glue up scale #2 we'ld better drill some tubing holes through scale #1 first.

This shot shows how I did the layout to locate the added hole

Now repeat prep and glue up for scale number two and profile it down close to the tang with the 50 grit blaze
It's starting to look like a knife.

Now I'll go ahead and use the 50 grit and platen to remove some of the bulk for shaping.

Thats as far as I got today.


01-24-2011, 08:02 AM
I need some popcorn and a large coke and some Goobers... This is like watching an awesome movie!

Denny Eller
01-24-2011, 10:37 AM
Excellent WIP, Josh. Great pictures and really easy to follow along. Thank you for doing this.

Josh Dabney
01-25-2011, 08:52 AM
If there's one thing I've learned in knifemaking it's that the most difficult part for me is PATIENCE, LOL. The quickest route to a bonified mistake is being in a hurry for the finished product and getting the cart in front of the horse and doing something out of logical order making following steps much harder that they should've been. Think it through and take your time.

That being said before we get excited about shaping the handle we better get the flared tubing installed while we've still got a nice flat on the slabs which will make it MUCH easier to get consistant countersinking for the tubing.

Admittidly- this is the Po-Boy method of flaring tubing and more precise methods would give more appealing end results but this method does get the job done and still secures the scales for life.

Countersinking the scales. I've used this method once before but that time I did a much shallower countersink then ground the tubing flush to the scales. On this knife I'm hoping to get the tubing flared and remain below the surface of the scale.

Clean up the tubing with some 220 by hand then insert and mark. I'm going to leave approx. 1/16" protruding from each side. When you cut the tubing be sure to leave enough extra that you can grind it flat and smooth on both sides and end up at the proper length

After the tubing is cut and ground to length I give it a tiny chamfer on the outside by had with 220 and on the inside by giving it a light touch with the countersink

Almost forgot to get this pic. These are 2 #8 wood screws with the threads ground off and shortened so they'll slide inside of the tubing

The screw heads get used like this to do the flaring. This set-up goes right in the bench vise. A word of caution- The majority of the flaring happens on the side of the vise that moves so when starting give a little squeeze then flip it over and squeeze from the other side to keep from having a huge flare on one side and tiny one on the other. If you find you flared one side too much you can attempt to push that side deeper by removing the screw head from the opposite side and squeezing, then put the screw back, flip and squeeze on the shallow side.

Here is the end result

Although I didn't snap any pics of it I feel obligated to sheepishly admit that 1/16" past the handle material was WAY too much for the depth of my countersink. What happens is the tubing will only flare so far before the "rim" of the flare splits which is exactly what happened to the first tube I installed. I drilled through the center of the tube with a 7/32 bit to remove it and it did spin a little and bugger up one side of the countersink a little but I think we'll be ok. If not I'll be grinding the scales off and starting from scratch :what!: I should also mention that I settled on the tubing being just shy of the suface on both sides for a good length.

Another thing I didn't catch in the pics is that I also used epoxy with the tubing. Being flared it's really not needed to secure the scales but I did it as a moisure barrier. There's open space around the lanyard tube and the second tube from the front so I wanted to be sure those open spaces wouldn't fill with water if submerged.

It's worth mentioning here that because of the shape of the handle around the rearmost tube coupled with the fact that I dont want to grind into the tubing I not only pre-shaped the scales but also pre-shaped the tubing with the ends ground at an angle instead of flat.
It's not a big angle but I marked where the short side of the angles are with a sharpie so I'd be sure to get it lined up where I needed when flaring.

Finally we've got all the tubing installed

Here's a close-up of the countersink that got buggered with removing that first tube. It's a little rough around the edges but I'm still going to be doing some shaping on the scales which SHOULD clean things up a bit. I'm fiarly sure it'll work out alright in the end

With tubing installed we can now move on to final shaping of the handle. I'll use a 1" 80 grit slack belt to further tune the shape close then make any need adjustmets with files or rasps and finish up by hand sanding it. I'm gonna start by cutting the thumb grooves into the scales with a needle file

Keep your file card handy as the file will load up with just a few strokes so clean often and it'll go quick. I'll final tune these with sandpaper wrapped around a drill bit shank but we're done with the file and very close to where we'll end up

I went ahead and smoothed some things up with that slack belt and ready to move on to final shaping by hand but this is how I left off last night

Thanks for following along Fellas and glad your enjoying it.

Hopefully I'll get a little more time tonight than last night, LOL


Josh Dabney
01-25-2011, 04:07 PM
I'm getting to the point in making a knife, or anything else for that matter, where I'm getting excited and want to work on it all the time till it's completed. Final handle work and sheathmaking are about the only things I manage to work on during the day because I can get away with doing at the kitchen table :shush: Actually my lovely wife is very understanding and besides... I already scratched the heck out of the glass hand sanding my first kit blades on.

Since I'm done with power tools till it's time to sharpen I broke out my hobby vice with suction base, a rasp, a few files, a couple sanding blocks and a piece of 220. This file works so good for handle material that I never use it metal. It'll eat micarta like nobody's business and is fantastic for shaping the end grain of hardwoods.

Using that big ole file to smooth off high spots and adjust my flats to a domed shape. Use this file with caution and a LIGHT touch and keep it away from inside curves cuz it's hungry !

Getting a grip to see just where I want to contour the handle

Something about like this should do the trick

I learned long ago trying to work micarta with a 3x21 belt sander that a rasp is the way to go for shaping so I started taking some small bites with my rasp to create a finger groove of sorts

Boy this looks kinda cool and isn't as hard on the fingers as I imagined it would be. Might as well play around with the rasp and see what I can come up with

These rasp cuts look cool and seem to greatly improve traction on the handle so I think I'm gonna go with it. Before going forward with the rasp I'd better final tune the handle shape so I can match up this spiffy rasp work. This multi color handle material is pretty cool stuff to work with ! I'm judging my contour from left to right using the coloring as an estimation of symetry

Josh Dabney
01-25-2011, 04:48 PM
I though I'd show you this little sanding block. It's hard rubber so it's firm but does have a little give to it. one end has an angle ground on for getting into tight areas an the other end has a square corner and a radiused corner. I use this on for something on just about evey knife I make.

It accels at blending and spot sanding on small areas like this

Now that I'm done tuning things up I re-pointed and extended some of the grooves and added similar grooves to the thumb grooves

Now it's time to get this pattern over to the opposite side as close as possible. I started by marking pencil lines where the "points" are so we'll have a rasp cut in between each line

Now I've got enough marks that I should be able to get it very close to side #1

Start by getting some shallow cuts started then eyeball it to see which way to push the cut as you get deeper

Once I work a couple of the cuts down I'll eyeball it again and make more pencil marks to guide where I need to cut.

Thats where I'm at. Getting close to finishing the handle off :biggrin:


Josh Dabney
01-25-2011, 09:07 PM
Nothing heavy to report tonight, just more of the same.

Continuing with rasp/file work on side 2. Take a few passes then check, take a few more then check

Laying out the thumb groove grooves

I filed those in and decided I should at least attempt to make my tubing/coutersink areas a bit more uniform. This is an aluminum oxide grinding wheel that came with my dremel kit chucked up in the drill press. Eyeball it and lightly grind till it feels right

She's really starting to look like a knife now

Theres still some minor adjustments that need made to the scales but it's essentially done.

Let me know what you guys think.


01-25-2011, 09:16 PM
Lookin mighty good there Josh. Some lucky servicemember is going to be dang proud to own it.

01-25-2011, 09:26 PM
heck of build. i'd be tickled to carry that one..

01-26-2011, 09:17 AM
Awesome work and great WIP along the way...


Bill T
01-26-2011, 09:27 AM
That is a Bad @$$ Knife !!

Denny Eller
01-26-2011, 09:50 AM
Excellent WIP Josh. You did one heck of a job on that knife - great grinds, neat finish and some terrific handle work. Wish I had one just like it 41 years ago.

Josh Dabney
01-26-2011, 08:59 PM
Well I guess she was ALMOST done. I did manage to tie up the rest of the loose ends on this knife today so this'll be the last update till I get my order from Tracy and get to work on the sheath.

I've been carrying this bad boy around the house playing with it and getting a FEEL for what it telling me to do. Didn't know knives could talk did ya ? All the major work being done it time to de-fang this sucker the rest of the way, blacken the tubing, and give the tang THE TREATMENT.

Here we see what the scales look like in the front on the bottom. Doesn't look too friendly to the fingers does it ? I'm going to be filing right up to the blade so I threw a couple pieces of masking tape along the ricasso. Wouldn't wanna scratch that fine finish :lol:

First I filed the sharp corner away and blended it into the side of the handle

Do the other side and even things up

Here you can see how some of the "points" between the rasp grooves are a little squarish and others are more rounded so I'm going to roll any pointy parts that'll dig into the fingers over

Another shot to show where material was removed

Now it's looking better

Same thing up on top

I thought this may be hard to explain but the very edges of the thumb grooves had some real bite to them so I colored a little bit with a sharpie to show where I smoothed the edges of the grooves over a little

Did both sides of them all like this

When I filed those points off the scales I actually created a new sharp edge that also needs to be addressed

Used an 1/8" wide strip of 220 and shoe shine motion to completely smooth this inside curve over

Doing all this shaping on the front of the scales removed a good portion of my 45 degree chamfer so again with the needle file to carry the chamfer back down till it meets the tang

Now we've got EVERYTHING smoothed over so that no matter how you hold or turn the knife nothing will be biting you or giving you blisters or uncomfortable hot sopts yet we still have an extremely good grip with the grooves for traction.

Now onto the final details. The devil really is in the details huh.
Here we've got some Ajax's Jax Black that were going to use to "blacken" the brass tubing. Simple stuff really. Clean the brass and coat it with the solution and let it do it's magic.

I didn't get them truely black but more of a golden brown. No matter as my real intent was to remove the shine.

Now it's finally time to etch the tang with the treatment starting with the cold blue and a foam brush I trimmed to a small point for this detail work.

Now that it's blued I'm wetting the surface with bleach using this little paintbrush. It took a little experimenting to get the bleach etch. I kept the surface wet for about 5 minutes with little noticable rust formation. After that I started wetting the top side, flipping to the bottom and wetting it then back to the top wipe off, re-wet, turn over etc etc etc. Using this procedure gave the desired results

And this is what we ended up with

Got it pitted up pretty good I think.

Now my knife is completed other than sharpening. As I mentioned though I'll be continuing on with this thread once I start making the Kydex sheath.

Thanks for all the comments guys. They are appreciated :biggrin:


Josh Dabney
01-29-2011, 09:16 PM
I've made a couple kydex sheaths before but it's been awhile so bare with me while we experiment in an attempt to accomplish a few goals.

-The first and formost job of a sheath is to protect the user from the sharp blade. Shouldn't be a problem with kydex :3:

-Proper retension with no room for the blade to wiggle or rattle while inside the sheath while allowing easy access to drawing the knife. Remember- A loose sheath houses a dull knife !

I've been thinking for awhile about this sheath and it's destiny for at least one trip into harms way. NOT something that should be taken lightly by a maker IMHO. This is what I know about this knife and sheaths future. The things I don't know also had a big affect on what I wanted this sheath to be able to do. It could end up in a Spec Warriors hands, an infantryman, or a mechanic. Will this person be right or left handed ? Even if they're right handed the other gear they must pack may neccessitate left handed carry. Upside down carry on backpack straps ? Crossdraw ? The possibilities are endless not to mention that the users mission could change their desired placement of their sheath.

With these ideas in mind I decided to shoot for what I'll call a "Modular Sheath System" Sure as heck sounds fancy huh ?

What I mean by this is the body of the sheath will be a seperate piece from the Molle Locks so it can be removed and flipped to the opposite side for left handed carry. I also would like the sheath to have the ability to be able to tilt for user adjustable comfort.

A couple other requirements I have for this sheath are dead tight perfect retension. It's gotta be able to fly out of airplanes, climb walls, crawl over rocks, slug through mud, muck, water etc etc etc all the while staying quiet and in place ready for action.

The second thing is being able to grip the handle right where you need your hand for using the knife while it's still in the sheath. Grab- Draw- Use ! No fumbling around repositioning the hand for a comfortable grip after the knife is drawn. A leather pouch sheath is a great sheath for a hunter but wouldn't fit the bill here.

Thats enough Dabney sheathmaking theory already LOL

Lets make us a sheath !


Josh Dabney
01-29-2011, 10:10 PM
It always helps to make a plan before starting. Here we're getting our pattern started

Now you can see I've got a fairly detailed plan laid out for my build. There will be 3 main components 1. the body 2. The "Molle lock plate" or molle swivel
3. The Swivel mount

Here's a good bit of our materials. I ordered that EZ-Lapp diamond shapener not knowing exactly how it was made but I figured I'd pick it up and see if I could figure out a way to incorperate it into my sheath.

For those without a bandsaw these Weiss tin snips cut kydex no problem. Here I cut the sides of the body a little oversize. They do seem to want to slip around while being pressed around the knife

Now I traced my blade where I want it on my material just to speed things up when going from the oven to the press

Since I'm out of Duct tape I put 3 layers of masking tape on each side of the blade and trimmed it with scissors just to give it room to slide freely in and out

My foam for pressing is a Pilates mat that was laying around house not seeing any use :lol: Probably not the very best thing to use but it does work

In the evenheat cooking at 280 degrees. I think I probably could of gone a little higher temp than that but would have to experiment

The low tech pilates mat and a fat man press in action.

Now we're molded and move on with using layout lines just like on my drawing along with drilling the first rivet hole in the tip

Continuing on with laying out our plan. the rivet lines are 3/8" from the knife outline and the outside is 3/4" away

Getting all these lines going on can get confusing opening the door for Mr Murphy to step in so I cut out the perimeter on the bandsaw to simplify things a little

Because I want the sheath to be reversible (right to left handed) and also from verticle to horizontal carry I need my 4 mounting points for the swivel mount to be a perfect square so all 4 holes line up in any position. My rivet lines we're 61mm apart so I marked two holes on the same side 61mm apart and center-punched them. In the pic I'm using a 1-2-3 block as a square to transfer to the other side.

Now the mark made with the square will be square to the two marks on the first side but it's not as simple as measuring down 61mm to locate our last mark because my rivet lines aren't PERFECTLY parallel to each other. I again squared up with the 1-2-3 block and scribed a line. Wherever 61mm lands on the scribed line measuring across the sheath will be our last mark. In the pic you can see how far out of square my rivet line was. And finally we checked to be certain we're square by measuring diagonally at 86mm :35: I though I'd mention I hate metric measurments but it woked out to a perfect mm so what the heck


Now because I want these 4 holes to be perfect I'm drilling 1/8" pilot holes to make it easier for the 1/4" holes

Josh Dabney
01-29-2011, 11:06 PM
Now those 4 holes are located I quickly layed out and drilled the rest of the holes. From there I put the sheath together by hand then started drilling through my drilled holes and through the un-drilled side adding rivets as I went to keep everything in alignment

Before I go too far I like to clamp things up with spring clamps to get an idea of what kind of fit I've got

While I had used the heat gun method in the past with good results my heat gun broke since my last Kydex sheath. Not being very excited about the fit I threw the sheath back in the oven to heat up for a re-mold. I re-prepped the blade with electrical tape this time and added a little on the handle to "bell" the mouth of the sheath a little just to ease the amount of force it takes to put the knife in the sheath.

Still un-impressed with my fit after molding #2 I decided to put things on hold and run to Harbor Frieght in the morning for a new heat gun as I knew I'd get better results. Not bad for $13

You can see I wrapped a bandana around the main body just to keep the heat away and re-molded the upper section with localized heat

Now we're getting somewhere !

Moving on to the swivel mount I started by drilling through the first hole then using an old 1/4" bit as an alignmet pin to drill the second hole then add another alignment pin then drill the last 2 holes

Using diagonals to find the center of the square

Alot going on in this pic. I drilled an 1/8" center hole through my kydex and into the wood and put a pin in the wood for the kydex to swivel on. Reamed the Kydex for a good fit on the pin. Marked a circle with my compass where I want my slots milled then did the layout for milling the slots

Set up to mill in the 1/4" slots. Plunged through then slowly turned the kydex by hand

Checking out the fit to the body. I think I'll shape the mount something like this

Measuring the hole spacing I need on the Molle Lock swivel plate

This is the nut that attatches the Molle lock to the Molle lock swivel. These need to be ground down flush with the kydex so the Molle lock will sit flat against the swivel. I drilled a hole through extra kydex and ground em right down

Then run the screw through the backside shortened nut to straighten up the threads

Molle locks installed. Now I also ground thes screws down to nearly flush then took them apart and ground another turns worth of length off

Laying out the final shape of the swivel mount

To keep the milled circles concentric to the swivel allign the endmill up with the pin in the x axis (left to right)

Dang does this work good. Having a mill ROCKS !

And here we are cleaned up and mounted up with Chicago screw studs in place.

I added these rubber washers to help smooth up the swiveling action and act as a sorta lock washer once squshed down tight

Lets see just how much swivel action we ended up with

Josh Dabney
01-29-2011, 11:44 PM
I'm imagining a soldier packing light, out in the boonies and needing to tune up his edge or just take a couple minutes of down time and get a small but needed mental stress break. What better to do than sharpen his pride and joy ? But alas... no sharpening stone. This is why I picked up the medium grit diamond sharpener and see if I could somehow store the sharpener on the sheath so it'ld always be handy whenever it was needed.

Some things I thought about doing was the obvious piggyback setup or connecting it to a rivet so it would swivel out for use. I even considered going the piggyback route and making it so it would be retractable so you could slide it out for use and back in for storage.

After looking at it for a couple days this is what I came up with. The sharpener itself is a rather cheesy affair being a very thin strip of metal glued to an affeminent purple plastic stick :lol: Probably not something a badazz commando wants to be toting around Afganistan and showing of to his buddies.

I had no problem seperating the actual sharpener from the plastic

Here you can see I lined up the sharpener where I wanted it and scribed around the sides with a razor blade

Back to the trusty mill to take a .010 cut into the Molle lock to assist in keeping the sharpener in place

Like a glove :biggrin:

A thin coating of epoxy (hope it sticks to this type of plastic !) and some spring clamps to keep it tight

And here we are ready to go with our diamond sharpener installed on the sheath. Remove sheath from gear and sharpen anytime anywhere.

Sheathed with my original plan

Here she is dang near completed. Still gotta install all the rivets and clean up all the edges but 240 pics later she's basically done :biggrin:

Thanks everyone for the great comments and following along my Servicemember knife and sheath build !


01-30-2011, 08:43 AM
Josh, some great details on that knife.

I love the handle notches. :biggrin:

Denny Eller
01-30-2011, 12:34 PM
Thank you for posting this build, Josh. You are going to show some serviceman that somebody in Florida really cares about him/her and that means so much to a lonely warrior far from home.

Bill T
01-30-2011, 01:58 PM
Josh , I must say , not only is the Knife AWESOME , but so is the sheath and this WIP .
You really have set the bar high for the rest of us ...
Thank you very much Sir !!

02-02-2011, 09:55 PM
That is going to make a serviceman very happy and very proud.

Carey Quinn
02-03-2011, 04:35 PM
Josh, I haven't chimed in during your WIP but waited 'till the end to say; holy cow! Very nicely done. Someone is going to be very happy and proud to carry that knife.

When I get mine done, I think I'll just quietly slip it into the pile and hope no one sees it at the same time yours is out.

Thanks for the education,

02-12-2011, 09:17 AM
I love the handle. That is great knife, I really appreciate the thought you have put into this knife. Thanks for your support!

Bennie Lovejoy
02-12-2011, 03:39 PM
Everything about that knife is awesome. Sheath included.