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Pattern-welded integral-frame-handle bowie

Well that’s a mouthful. But I didn’t really know how else to describe this knife, so until its new owner comes up with a better name, it will just have to be my “pattern-welded integral-frame-handle bowie.”


This is definitely my most complex piece to date. Probably also my prettiest. And it was a very long time in the making.


The general idea for this knife first came to me about two years ago as I was preparing my test knives for the Journeyman judging. I wanted my first “JS” marked damascus knife to be something special, and I always liked the look of multi-bar opposing twist pattern billets, so I started working on design ideas based on that general theme. I also wanted to incorporate a curved guard face into the design and started to think about building it into an integral knife pattern. I then came up with the idea of using one of the twisted bars in the multi-bar construction to build an integral “wrap-around” handle frame and guard. Essentially, I would forge one long twist damascus bar – being careful to get the orientation of the twists correct – and then fold that bar over into a “C” shape before stacking the additional twisted bars in between the prongs and then forge-welding all the pieces together. Once welded, the billet would require additional forging and shaping, both on the blade and the guard and handle profile. The handle profile was particularly difficult to forge because of the large hollow space left inside the tang area, so I built a few forms to help me mold the profile into the shape I wanted it.






Now I must admit, it required more than one attempt to forge a suitable billet, and on my first attempt I even received a stern reprimand from the original hammer-God, Thor himself. As I was re-heating that first billet, already stacked, wrapped and welded, a violent thunder-storm broke out and a bolt of lightning struck nearby (perhaps even hitting my shop directly) and traveled through my steel-bodied forge, jumped into the billet itself, and then ran up the tongs I was holding it with to shake my hand. The entire shop lit up in a bright blue flash and I about jumped right out of my boots from the shock! It’s not often that Thor will strike his hammer down to shake hands with a bladesmith, but perhaps he was trying to tell me something, and my next attempt at this billet proved successful.


Once the billet was finally forged to shape (I performed all the forge-work in my shop in Vermont before I came to Germany), I ground and filed the knife to its finished form. The transition between the curved guard face and the ricasso took some extra hand-work with precision files and a lot of sandpaper, but I didn’t know of any other way to get it just the way I wanted it.


The blade was forged and ground to incorporate a nice distal taper and a very fine point, making this more of a fighter-style blade than a big bowie, but I refrained from calling it a fighter because I did not sharpen the clip. That said, it’s definitely not far off. With the distal taper comes also the important element of balance, and here I also took care to make the knife feel light and lively in the hand, with a balance point just slightly forward of the ricasso.


The handle scales are a nicely figured specimen of curly koa from Hawaii. Sandwiched between them is a small slab of spruce (a lighter and softer wood than koa) which fits tightly into the hollow of the handle frame. These parts were bedded and epoxied after shaping and polishing, and are further held in place by a set of stainless steel pins with domed and polished faces.


Though this knife was quite a challenge for me, taking much longer to complete than I had ever intended, I’m quite pleased with the result and hope that my friend Roger, who now owns this knife, will enjoy it too. He just recently sent the knife out to a professional sheathmaker for a nice new pair of pants, and from there it will be sent on to a professional photographer for some glamour shots. I’ll post them on the site once I have them. Thanks Roger!