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A Few Notes on Laser Cutting
by Dennis Beever

For laser cutting purposes, I just draw up my templates/outlines to full scale on Corel Draw and export the drawing to which ever file format the company prefers to work with (usually DXF). They will probably need to convert the drawing to some other format themselves for tooling purposes but most can read in a DXF file.

COST
Laser cutting can work out quite expensive for a small number of knives. The setup time on the machines becomes prohibitively expensive on a single knife. My local contact charges as much for one knife as he will for five or six.

I am in the UK so can only give you an idea of the charges I lay out, but it works out to around 10 per unit, (about $16 per knife), for three knives (the usual number I have cut). Costs per unit would drop significantly on larger numbers, say 10 or so.

The finish is very accurate, the laser cut itself is very fine so allowance in your drawings for cutting width is not really necessary.

If laser cutting works out a little on the expensive side for some of your readers, then they might try printing out the drawings and sticking them to their steel plate as a profile to follow on the bench grinder.

Sounds crude and laborious but I can assure you it can be done with results that are just as good as the laser cutting technique (albeit a lot slower).

FINISHING
I find the really hard work comes in finishing, i.e. grinding a 'decorative' bevel to give the appearance of a conventional Bowie. I have achieved acceptable results on the bench grinder and whetstone but the steels I have used have been too hard really.

To give myself a line to grind to on the grinder, I spray the laser cut templates with gray primer and draw on a bevel line with a fine tipped felt pen, repeating/correcting as necessary if I go over the line a bit! The bevel line is best achieved by reproducing the drawing template on to a medium card then trimming the blade part down to represent the inner edge of your preferred bevel line. Then simply draw 'round it on to the painted steel.

To protect against rust I use gun bluing, a chemical agent available from most gunsmiths easily applied that turns the metal black and gives a reasonable protection against surface rust. Gun bluing is cheap and very easily maintained.

Handles are finished with a single spray coat of rust resistant undercoat, left to dry then wrapped in two layers of electrical tape before a final chord wrap is whipped around (not unlike the examples on your web page submitted by another reader).

I strongly recommend the undercoat and insulation tape layers first - it keeps the rust at bay underneath the chord wrap. Gun bluing will not hold off rust indefinitely and will require touching up every other session. You don't really want to be undoing your chord wrap every other session to re-blue the handle area!

TYPES OF STEEL
I sourced some very hard tool steel that has proved virtually indestructible but is a bit on the thin/light side for the size of knives I've made (3.5mm on a 9 inch knife). I propose to use a lesser grade carbon steel (say 1080) next time around 5 or 6mm thick.

I have gone for high carbon steels for their superior toughness over stainless but their is no reason of course that a suitably thick 420 grade stainless material couldn't be used.

To help you get an idea of costs and different steels you can use, here is a link to an online store that carries a wide variety of steel products, like knife blanks, and has a full complement of processing abilities. (i.e. laser cutting).

http://www.admiralsteel.com/products/blades.html

One last tip - Although these drawings are to scale for knives around the 9 inch size, they can easily be re-sized through most graphics packages, (even the laser cutting company can do it for you).

Enlarging is usually a matter of stretching whilst maintaining the aspect ratio of the drawing."


Following are some of Dennis' templates:

(These are both intended as handle throwers, my personal preference being the McEvoy grip.)

I have included a finished 'ground' drawing of the Hibben type knife (Drawings K1 and K1F) which can be used as a base paper template to transfer the bevel line to the laser cut knife for grinding if desired. Be sure however NOT to use the finished ground drawing (Drawing No K1F) as the file for the laser cutting or the laser will cut the bevel line!

The same applies to drawing No K2F which shows a slab handle finish instead of chord wrap to knife K2.

K1
K1.gif

K1F
K1F.gif

K2
K2.gif

K2F
K2F.gif




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