Has anyone tried laser cutting

Stang Bladeworks

KNIFE MAKER
To save some time and headache I have my parts waterjet cut. The waterjet is not accurate enough to spot holes on both sides of my scales so I only spot a few holes on either side and manually transfer the rest. It is also not accurate enough to cut my lockbars. Specifically the Kerf is too much. It results in a lockface that is not perpendicular to the scale. As a result I gave been manually cutting the lockbars. I am looking for ways to avoid this tedious step. I recently learned of laser cutting and I am wondering if anyone has tried it. I called a local place today and they think they can do a perpendicular cut but they are not sure. My scales are .160" titanium.

I asked if they can cut some scrap ti and they will but there is still a cost so I want to see if anyone has used this process before. I guess they need argon gas to cut titanium and they normally don't require it for any other material. I am mostly concerned about heat warping the ti. I spend extra to get flat titanium and I have no interest in trying to straighten it. It sounds like more hassle than just cutting the lockbars myself.

Any input is greatly appreciated.

I know that the waterjet kerf can be accounted for when setting the lockup but my waterjet guy has missed specific instructions before and I am not 100% confident they will orient the parts the same way each time. I don't want to continually modify my lockup angle to compensate and risk losing a knife that is 80% complete. I am thinking of still waterjet cutting the other parts and just using laser for the lockside as it seems to be a more expensive process.

I am also aware that some places seem to be able to waterjet and get better results but I try to use local places to save on shipping costs and delays to provide my customers with the best price possible.
 

Self Made Knives

Well-Known Member
Can't speak for Ti, but I have had knife blanks laser cut a few times. I don't think you will be much happier with the laser, my parts still often have a draft or angle to the cut. Holes are bigger one side than the other. And, the laser hardens the blade steel around all the cuts which is a pain. I would guess that heat is going to affect Ti also. I know other makers are getting lock bars cut on waterjet, so obviously is possible. If it were me, I'd have them cut it all except the lock face, just leave that last bit for you to do.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Staff member
Waterjet quality is all over the place. Chris Dunn (located in Chad Nichols shop) might be able to get you better results. He does a lot of knife parts. A waterjet needs a dynamic head to minimize draft when cutting. This has to be properly programmed by the operator but you should be able to get it nearly perpendicular. It will cost a bit more as they have to slow things down. Holes punched in scales should be dead nuts. If not, they operator is not securing the work piece to the table and it is moving. There should be no issue on hole alignment. If there is, move on to the next waterjetter.

The oxidized Ti edge for a laser will be brutally hard and tough so holes needing to be reamed will be an absolute bear to ream. I have not heard of anyone using a laser on Ti as it moves so much from heat. Also the lock bar face on a laser cut piece will not act anything like a "normal" cut. You might be able to carbidize it but it's an expensive maybe to get wrong. Oxidized Ti is really a pain to deal with.
 

Stang Bladeworks

KNIFE MAKER
Waterjet quality is all over the place. Chris Dunn (located in Chad Nichols shop) might be able to get you better results. He does a lot of knife parts. A waterjet needs a dynamic head to minimize draft when cutting. This has to be properly programmed by the operator but you should be able to get it nearly perpendicular. It will cost a bit more as they have to slow things down. Holes punched in scales should be dead nuts. If not, they operator is not securing the work piece to the table and it is moving. There should be no issue on hole alignment. If there is, move on to the next waterjetter.

The oxidized Ti edge for a laser will be brutally hard and tough so holes needing to be reamed will be an absolute bear to ream. I have not heard of anyone using a laser on Ti as it moves so much from heat. Also the lock bar face on a laser cut piece will not act anything like a "normal" cut. You might be able to carbidize it but it's an expensive maybe to get wrong. Oxidized Ti is really a pain to deal with.
Thanks for the reply, It sounds like laser may not be the best idea. My waterjet guy does use dynamic control on the outside profile and it is pretty straight but he says he cant use it on the slot without making it much wider. I guess he just runs a single pass to get a .035"ish slot. I have heard of others being able to do it. I may try only cutting the longer axis like Self Made Knives suggested. That sounds like a good idea. I think I will still need to cut the actual face manually. I don't have a ton of options locally and I would rather not mail my parts out if possible. Manually cutting them is not really the end of the world but it is a messy job. I have been using .032" die grinder disks in an arbor that I mount in my mill. I was using Dremel disks the same way but I found they break easily and the arbors bend. They are also way more expensive. As long as I run a cool mist the ti does not get hot. So far I have had no warping so maybe I should just be happy with my process.

I'm curious what methods other people use for their knives. Its such an important step I don't want to rush it and ruin a knife.
 

Stang Bladeworks

KNIFE MAKER
Can't speak for Ti, but I have had knife blanks laser cut a few times. I don't think you will be much happier with the laser, my parts still often have a draft or angle to the cut. Holes are bigger one side than the other. And, the laser hardens the blade steel around all the cuts which is a pain. I would guess that heat is going to affect Ti also. I know other makers are getting lock bars cut on waterjet, so obviously is possible. If it were me, I'd have them cut it all except the lock face, just leave that last bit for you to do.
That sounds like a great idea.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Waterjet quality is all over the place
BIG Amen to that! I've gone through several different outfit over my career. Just about the time I think I found "the one".... they get really popular, and their quality goes to pot. (they try to hurry jobs because they have so much to do).

I've not had Chris do anything for me yet, but I intend to. I'd trust Chad Nichols with my life, and if Chris works outta his shop, he's doing it right...Chad wouldn't have it any other way.

The oxidized Ti edge for a laser will be brutally hard and tough
Reason number 2 NOT to have Ti laser cut!!!

Personally, I don't understand why anyone uses laser cutting for knifemaking..... that heat affected zone is just a lot of work and waste. For my part, waterjet is the ONLY way to go for knifemakers. It's just a matter of finding one that adheres to quality over quantity. The big issue is, by the time you send in a sheet to Ti, and then the parts come back with terrible cuts.....you're either forced to "eat it" or use the parts and try to make them work (which they often don't). One more of knifemaking's great riddles to solve!
 

Self Made Knives

Well-Known Member
Personally, I don't understand why anyone uses laser cutting for knifemaking.....
Ed, the reason some of us have used laser is cost. I can get a sheet of knife steel lasered for half the price of water jet. Then, there's shipping to consider too. I found a laser guy local that does pretty good work, but the only 2 waterjet shops I could find acted like they weren't interested in doing what they consider a small job. If you throw shipping onto the more expensive out of town waterjet services then laser becomes more attractive. The HAZ is a little bit of a pain, but not that big of a deal. I bundle 20-30 blanks together in foil and run an anneal cycle in Evenheat overnight. Next morning, butter soft blanks.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
I get where you're coming from, but you still have the extra work of having to grind off the HAZ and the supplies to do it with? That small portion is wrecked beyond repair/use from a laser....so you gotta factor in that time and materials. If you're leaving it there, you shouldn't, and it's gona come back to bite you sooner or later.
I'm also with you on finding/wanting to use somebody local. Like you, I have two waterjet shops within a few miles of me, but both of them are just not good choices. One wants a $500 "setup" fee, which I'm sure is to scare off people like me, and the other makes his living off of Boeing, so any time a job from them comes in, you're job gets pushed to the end of the line. Last time I tried using him, my sheet of Ti sat there for over two months before I finally went to pick it up, and told him to forget it.
That being said, neither of them are very good, at least as far as cutting for knives/knifemakers.

For me, the math works out in favor of finding/using a good waterjet service. Just not having to deal with/waste the HAZ allows the pattern/pieces to be nested closer on a sheet for waterjet cutting versus laser, and routinely yields me an extra 4-6 folders from a 24x36" sheet. The money from those extra parts/knives, more than pays for the difference between having to send out to a "good" waterjet outfit, versus using something local that may or may yield me all usable parts.
I guess in the end, I'm just not a big fan of laser cutting for knife parts, for many reasons, and would just rather find a "good" waterjet....which most time's isn't all that easy. :)
 
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Self Made Knives

Well-Known Member
Yeah, I always add some meat to my cutting edge on drawings. I grind around a 1/16th or so off the edge on all the blanks, but the spine and holes I just let them go through the normal knife making process. I'd love to try waterjet someday, but the last couple years I'm just not making enough blades to bother with it. I've been focusing more on learning forging, working towards the ABS testing.
 
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