This custom Bowie knife project is for one of my favorite customers. I say my favorite because we really work well together in exploring ideas and coming up with something really unique and special. It's really fun for me to exchange ideas with the customer and we usually end up with something really special.
For this project the customer wanted a large Bowie knife but with a relatively thin and lightweight blade.
I made some sketches to start kicking around ideas. We knew the approximate size and style so I drew some variations on blade style.
The customer decided on a convex grind with a long clip point. However, he wasn't sure if he wanted a 9" or 10" blade or how long he wanted the clip point to be. So, I drew up several variations to help him decide.
He decided to go with a 9" blade with the long 6" clip point similar to the bottom illustration shown above. We narrowed the handle about 1/4"Here is the final sketch shown with some silver vine handles.
This knife will be about 13 7/8" overall with a blade 9" long and 2 1/2" wide of 1/8" thick 440C stainless steel. It will have a convex grind and be mirror polished. The blade will have a 6" sharpened clip point.
The downward curved 4" full tang handle will attached the handle scales with three 1/4" mosaic pins. We still haven't made the final decision on handle material but we are leaning toward some exotic wood.
The knife will have a 3/8" thick guard that tapers to 1/4" at the ends. It will also have a 3/8" or 1/2" butt cap of either stainless steel or brass depending what handle material we end up choosing.
We plan on doing quite a bit of filework to dress it up and making a unique sheath, possibly from brown stingray hide.
Time to get to work! As usual, I start with printing out a full size print of my drawing. This gives me a real idea of what the final product will look like and fit to the hand. It also serves as a template for tracing the pattern onto the steel stock.
Now its on to the metal cutting bandsaw to start cutting this baby out.
It's still pretty rough but you get an idea of what we are going to make.
Now I go to the disc grinder to smooth out the edges and refine the profile of the knife.
Once I get the profile done, I surface grind the sides to make them perfectly flat and remove all of the surface scale and pits.
We are going to fancy this one up with a lot of filework on the blade, handle, guard and butt cap. I want to do the filework on the blade before heat treating while the steel is relatively "soft". I did a "vine" pattern that I think will work nicely with the silver vine handles that we are planning to use.
Rough grind and surface grinding finished
Red hot out of the oven
OK, we have the blade hardened and tempered. So let's gather some more parts. Here are the silver vine slabs for the handle and a couple of pieces of 416 stainless steel that will become the guard and end cap.
A quick mock-up
Since this is going to be a full flat grind, I want to make and fit the guard so I can be sure where my grind need to end. I start by milling a slot for the tang.
I always want the guards to be a tight fit so I remove the last few thousandths with a hand file while test fitting until I get a perfect fit.
Now I do the finish grind with a series of finer and finer grit belts
And then a LOT of polishing with a series of buffing compounds
It's getting shiny but more buffing is still needed
Now that the blade is polished, I cover it with protective tape to prevent scratches. Now I test fit the stainless steel guard.
I cut the silver vine handle slabs to shape. Here is a mock-up to see where we are going
Now to fancy up that guard. I begin the filework.
Another mock-up to see how it looks so far.
OK, I silver soldered the guard in place and attached the silver vine handle slabs with mosaic pins. Now to sand and finish the handle.
Here the handle has been sanded to 2000 grit and then buffed. Next I shape the stainless steel end cap and test fit it to the knife. Now I will add some filework to the end cap.
Almost finished. Everything is assembled and polished.
I still need to do a little finish polishing, etch "Cheyenne" on the blade and sharpen the knife but now it is time to start working on the sheath.
All finished. I decided this knife needed something special for a sheath so I did some leather carving.
I also made a second sheath. This one is also carved leather but in a cross-draw setup made to be worn hanging in front of the left leg and drawn cross-body with the right hand.
This was another fun project for a great customer.