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Using some old steel! - Printable Version

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Using some old steel! - JLane - 07-11-2018

Ok so last year before we moved to Costa Rica I bought a Khukuri blade from Atlanta Cutlery, no handle.  It has been aged at 1930 by a fellow who should know on the IKRHS forum, so right between WWI and WWII.  This one had the traditional short tang and was packaged in heavy cosmaline (not sure if that was the correct spelling) but after a brake fluid wash it looked in good shape.  I attached a water buffalo horn handle (dog toy) with epoxy and sheet brass fittings.  I love the dimensions of the handel but my brass work is horrible.  Next up was to hand sand the blade make a good leather sheath to keep it safe.  After all the work was done the specs came to a 12" blade and 27 oz. overall weight, this khukuri really felt great in the hand and the edge geometry was amazing.  Because of its age and traditional tang there was some hesitation in using it but I figured that it would be better to just use it hard and if there was a failure then better to know when I wasn't depending on it.  So it cut down trees (8"+ Elms) and battoned thru seasoned White Oak firewood, cleared up the farm and broke up some old cabinets while we were getting ready to sell the house.  Nothing came loose and the edge never rolled, dullest it got was when I missed and hit a nail or other metal.  It earned my trust.
  Two weeks ago the opportunity came up to spend 4 days with the Cabecar Indians along the Rio Chirripo in southern CR.  We were to help with medical stuff and go into the reservation on trails to meet folks and see what was needed.  There is no electric lines, cell towers or roads once you cross that swinging bridge.  I have 9 Khukuris from different makers like Himalayan Imports, KHHI and two I have made, all good stuff but I chose this one to take.  It just has that right mix of speed and chopping power, plus it's kinda BTDT!  Every day it was put to use, chopping firewood for an elderly woman, clearing trails, setting up camp and other tasks.  Keith is the other guy I was with, he had never seen a Khukuri in action, his comment after a dead hardwood tree got turned into kindling was, "I've never seen a knife that can chop like that!"  Big Grin   The older woman in the pic is Gloria, she's 78 and has lived in that dirt floor home her entire life.  Funny thing is, when she was born, this blade was 10 years old!  Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you guys and I hope the album link works.  BTW when I got back home, 30 seconds on a steel, then some leather strap and it was popping hair again....not that it really ever dulled!
  Take care,
     Jim

https://photos.app.goo.gl/A3hfGkTj1tdfgEQQ6


RE: Using some old steel! - Deerstalker - 07-11-2018

(07-11-2018, 01:26 AM)JLane Wrote: I just wanted to share this with you guys and I hope the album link works.  

Thanks for that ........link is fine  Shy


RE: Using some old steel! - Andre DuMouchel - 07-11-2018

A very nice share, Thank you!


RE: Using some old steel! - Bill Hay - 07-11-2018

(07-11-2018, 01:26 AM)JLane Wrote: Because of its age and traditional tang there was some hesitation in using it but I figured that it would be better to just use it hard and if there was a failure then better to know when I wasn't depending on it.  

BTW when I got back home, 30 seconds on a steel, then some leather strap and it was popping hair again....not that it really ever dulled!

I can see how you were hesitant about that dinky handle.  How did those folks back then attach the handle?  Is it pinned?

Now I wonder...  How is it that they could be made back then with such incredible heat treat (probably using pretty primitive techniques), and modern knife makers have trouble matching that kind of effect?  Or do they, and I'm just not aware of knives matching that performance?


RE: Using some old steel! - JLane - 07-11-2018

(07-11-2018, 08:06 PM)Bill Hay Wrote:
(07-11-2018, 01:26 AM)JLane Wrote: Because of its age and traditional tang there was some hesitation in using it but I figured that it would be better to just use it hard and if there was a failure then better to know when I wasn't depending on it.  

BTW when I got back home, 30 seconds on a steel, then some leather strap and it was popping hair again....not that it really ever dulled!

I can see how you were hesitant about that dinky handle.  How did those folks back then attach the handle?  Is it pinned?

Now I wonder...  How is it that they could be made back then with such incredible heat treat (probably using pretty primitive techniques), and modern knife makers have trouble matching that kind of effect?  Or do they, and I'm just not aware of knives matching that performance?

Bill as I understand it, the tang is "burned in" and held in place by a homemade Nepali epoxy, I think it's called Lapas.  I of course used a modern two-part version with a high tensile strength.  What information I have read says that they don't plan on the wood handle lasting much over 10 years but do plan on the blade lasting many years.  So what they figure is that when the handle starts to get loose they can make another fairly quickly in the field.
  These folks may be poor as church mice...but they ain't dumb Wink



RE: Using some old steel! - thatmckenzie - 07-12-2018

Good to see you posting. Smile


RE: Using some old steel! - Grizzly Dave - 07-13-2018

Haft and brasswork look appropriate to the blade, good work Jim


RE: Using some old steel! - Stormcrow - 07-13-2018

Very cool project and story to go with it! Hidden tangs have gotten a bad rap because of badly done hidden tangs breaking. A properly done one has been the most common tang construction down through history for a reason. If it snapped frequently, it wouldn't have continued to be used.

You did a really good job on it! I wouldn't have realized that it wasn't built entirely by a kami if you hadn't said.

Bill Hay - Depends very much on the modern knifemaker. There's still a lot of bad information and poor understanding of heat treatment out there, in spite of good info and brains to pick being readily available. A lot of us work alone without someone to show us directly, which means that it's up to us to do our due diligence in researching information and testing it for ourselves. And geometry makes a big difference. My experience with khukuris has been that they have a more robust, axe-like edge than most Western knives.

I got to help a certain Australian fellow who was working with a khukuri company in Nepal to work out an improved heat treatment over what they had been doing. What I had them do was very simple (triple normalize, fully harden in canola oil, triple temper), but they were amazed at the increase in performance. Like, chopping rebar with no damage. But the harder steel was more abrasion resistant and the kamis had to work harder to get the finish they were used to, so they wanted to be paid more. Rather than advertise the improved performance and raise the prices to deal with the greater work, the boss went back to the old way that produced worse performance results. A lot of the kamis left that company to work under a different business model set up by the Australian, making higher-performance khukuris. I've never met him or talked to him on the phone, just electronic communication. It's a fun, weird little world we live in. Smile

The heat treatment they had been doing was to take a low heat along the edge, and harden with water poured from a tea pot along the edge. Not at all what I would want to do to leaf spring, but with experience and a lot of failed blades under your belt you could get something pretty decent. I strongly suspect that the reason a lot of khukuris tend to be built so stout is:

A.) To overcome some of the less-than-par heat treatment and keep the blades from breaking.

B.) To minimize the amount of hand forging they're having to do to forge a blade out of a 1/2" thick leaf spring.


RE: Using some old steel! - Bill Hay - 07-13-2018

Yes, fascinating information, James! Thanks for the reply...