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Knife Making Mistakes are Required


“Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom.” ―William Jordan

If Jordan is correct, I developed a lot of wisdom over the weekend! Half tang knives require the finger guard to slide over the butt end of the tang and come to rest just before reaching an interference fit at what will be the final resting place for the guard. This requires creating a slot in the guard that is slightly smaller than the area of the knife upon which it will be pressed. I like the guards to be angled to the side view centerline of the knife blade. I think it adds interest to the overall look of the knife, the downside being it is more difficult to produce.


There are many ways to create the finger guard slot ranging from manual filing to wire EDM. Which method to use is a trade off between time, quality, money, and availability of equipment. I was taught a method tending toward hand filing. Having trained as a machinist, and process improvement oriented, I was confident I could improve the part quality and save some time. I knew my Bridgeport vertical mill had a role to play, which meant employing my overly conditioned “correct” machining methods involving tool compensation, calculations, backlash, and so on.


After six hours of “correct” machining and two nice pieces of brass in the trash can, I reduced the process to basically machining to reference lines thus eliminating much of the correct way gymnastics and greatly simplifying the process. Because of the angles introduced (“guards to be angled”), I reposition the part in the vise at points during the machining process. Working to reference lines makes this a snap. Formal training is valuable, but there are times to break the rules. The mistakes weren’t enjoyable at the time, but they paved the way to a nice process improvement.


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