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Thread: integral bolster issues

  1. #1
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    integral bolster issues

    I'm in the process of shaping the handle for a western style paring knife, with integral bolsters. It's one of the zheng vg-10 laminated blade blanks. I've epoxied the scales on, and it looks like it's a nice tight fit against the tang and bolster, so if I can shape it correctly it should have good fit and finish.

    The question I have is, how do you shape the handle so it has a smooth transition from bolster to wood, without completely scratching the bolster? Or should I just shape the bolster along with the wood, and then polish the bolster? (how much scratching can polishing compound remove?) I have the bolster covered in tape, but it seems like it would be nearly impossible to shape the wood without sanding through the tape, and very difficult to get tell if I have a smooth transition with the tape in place. And since the wood is obviously softer than the metal bolster, I'm concerned I'll remove more wood than metal.

    I have a 1x30 belt sander, a lot of sand paper, and lots of files of all sizes and grades. I also have plenty of polishing compounds and buffing wheels.

    Any pro-tips?

  2. #2
    While I have done this, I would just use sand paper to shape the wood along with bolster. with proper sanding, it can be buffed back to mirror finish.

  3. #3
    I shape the bolster and wood together. It's not always easy to get them smooth and flush since as you noted the wood is softer than the steel and disappears quicker. One thing that helps is to rough shape the bolster before mounting the scales but even this can't stop soft wood from undercutting on finer belts. Sometimes you have to do it by hand with a backing block or shoe-shining technique or all of the above. The tang and pins can provide the same pain as the bolster too.

  4. #4
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    +1 to the above, they're a pain

  5. #5
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    In this case, the bolster is already shaped. It's basically a kit. The blade comes pre-ground, pre-sharpened (although I plan on touching it up a bit), bolsters all polished and shiny. I'm just putting a handle on it. So anything I do to the bolster is going to ruin that perfect factory finish, and I'll have to re-buff it (which I can do, I'd just rather not). But it's sounding like some shaping of the bolster is inevitable, so I'll just have to grit my teeth and do it. I like the "shoe polishing" technique idea. sounds like an efficient way of rounding the edges and corners. I might just take the belt of my 1x30 and use that.

    I'm putting tulipwood scales on it, so the streaks of red and orange should go very well with the "damascus" pattern (it's one of those VG-10 "faux-mascus" blades that are all over the place lately). If it comes out the way I expect the wood grain should look like flames. stay tuned.

  6. #6

    knyfeknerd's Avatar
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    Sometimes I wrap the bolster in painters (blue) tape, and that helps with the low grit. Just a little protection, hopefully you'll sand off the tape and not scratch the metal. To ensure a flush fit, I'd remove the tape before too high of a grit.
    If "Its" and "Buts" was candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas
    -Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon

  7. #7
    Senior Member jklip13's Avatar
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    spend less than ten bucks on a non woven abrasive finishing belt, they give really nice polish to bolster material as well as wood or laminates

  8. #8
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    Are you talking about the thick, furry, scotchbrite looking belts?

  9. #9
    You can try having the handle raised just slightly from the bolster. You'll have to get a good fit for the tang slot and tape up the bolster, being careful. Something like what Nick Wheeler does:



    If you do sand both though, use a really hard backing surface for the sandpaper and focus more on the steel than wood.
    "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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