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Wa handle with minimal power tools

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AT5760

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I'd like to take a shot at making new handles for my two Tosa project knives. I've tried to read up on handle installs and on opening up a slot for the tang.

What I need some guidance/help with is the process for shaping the handle (octagonal or Oval/D). I don't have a lot of power tools at my disposal and would rather see if I can make do, albeit slowly, rather than buy a table saw/band saw/router.

I'm sure this isn't the first thread on this, but neither Google searches nor forum searches led to much for results. What I'd love is a video or picture by picture tutorial on how to shape the square blank.

I've got a couple of hand saws, a circular saw, and a Dremel. Any tips would be great.

Andy
 

ian

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I can tell you how I made this one! Then it will truly be the blind leading the blind.

I have no idea how to make D or oval handles, but octagonal is not too bad with hand tools. I drilled the holes first and hollowed out the tang hole. Then drew the taper of the handle out on all four sides. I then C-clamped the blank to a 2x4, and also to my counter, and then rip-sawed the thing to the rough tapered quadrilateral shape. (So, the cuts were mostly straight along the blank, with a little diagonal movement for the taper.) Then I marked out the chamfers on the sides with pencil, and used a block plane to cut them in. Finally, I sanded starting at 120 or so and went up to 600 or so? I don’t remember. Then I burned it with a kitchen torch, and gave it a bunch of coats of tung oil.

Good luck getting better advice from people with actual experience!
 

FishmanDE

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Did my first install two months ago; WAY easier than you'd think. Cant help with making the handle tho.
 

AT5760

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Thanks @ian. That’s helpful. I’m trying to visualize the physical setup for the cuts. Once I get the taper started and corners cut, I’m willing to plane and sand away.
 

Yet-Another-Dave

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... I’m willing to plane and sand away.
You didn't mention a plane in your first post. (What kind?) With even a small block plane you should be able to easily take the corners off a square blank and get to an octagon. A little taper or rounding end to end shouldn't be much harder. For more complex curves a spokeshave (basically a plane for curves) would be the traditional tool, but I'd guess not necessary for typical Wa handles.

Oh, if your blank isn't square to start you can saw it close and a plane can smooth and shave it down to reach square.
 

McMan

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You didn't mention a plane in your first post. (What kind?) With even a small block plane you should be able to easily take the corners off a square blank and get to an octagon. A little taper or rounding end to end shouldn't be much harder.
Somewhere buried in this forum is a thread with a video of a craftsman in Japan doing exactly this. He had made a clamp/jig out of two parallel piece of stock. The blank went in the middle with the corner facing up. Plane knocked off the corner. Flip rinse and repeat for the remaining corners. After that, it was an octagon. Somewhere in the process he did something to get that to a tapered octagon--but "he did something" is about as specific as I can get :)
 

AT5760

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Here are some links and other helpful pieces of information:

1. Video shared by Stefan several years ago that gives an overview on traditional, power tool, wa handle making:

2. Reddit thread with a nice photo by photo walkthrough: https://www.reddit.com/r/knifemaking/comments/3j6mnt
Step 2 is shaping the handle; good pictures of clamping setup. Work primarily done with a plane.

3. Good explanation from Cris Anderson with lots of photos. Dowel method. Not hand tools, but plenty of pictures to explain the process for multi-piece handles. My Method for Making Wa Handles
 

inferno

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i use saw, rasp, c file, f file, sandpaper, in that order.

even though i have access to power tools i prefer to do it this way. at least with wood.
 

cotedupy

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Ah that's certainly not the end of the world, just even it up a bit, then epoxy is your friend when fitting the tang.

Others have given all the guidance I could already, it isn't too tricky. I did some of my first with a penknife, tho now use a 40 grit handheld belt sander on its side for the initial shaping. Which considerably speeds up the process, tho does remove some of the artisanal romance of it!
 

inferno

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dont use files in there, they are too fine and slow.

use a rasp or a small saw blade. or just drill the crap out and "mill" with the drillbit sideways :)
 

Carl Kotte

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Have sent a message. I hope you don't mind me sharing your wisdom @Carl Kotte , it seemed perfectly suited to the question at hand!
Thanks O, of course! I hope you edited the text (took away typos, worked on syntax, and made the language read more like English) - and more importantly - added a few insights of your own! Your handles are excellent! Mine are beige 😀
 

cotedupy

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Thanks O, of course! I hope you edited the text (took away typos, worked on syntax, and made the language read more like English) - and more importantly - added a few insights of your own! Your handles are excellent! Mine are beige 😀
Ah don't worry CK... at least one of the recipients (@juice ) is an Australian, so your English will be far better than his, even if he is a journalist ;)
 

Carl Kotte

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Ah don't worry CK... at least one of the recipients (@juice ) is an Australian, so your English will be far better than his, even if he is a journalist ;)
Ah the gospel is passed on to our liquid orange friend. I expect there to be a gospel of juice, with a slightly different content, soon. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is into green, blue and red handles.
 

nakiriknaifuwaifu

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More often than not this tends to be my method tbh.

OP - Before I tried my first handle Carl K sent me a brilliantly detailed run-down of his process, inc pictures (and also involving no power tools) which I can forward on if you'd like...?
I'd like a copy of that too; please and thank you!
 

cotedupy

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I was going to say ’no, wait, you don’t want to!’. Then I realized that @cotedupy has managed to do great handles with that instruction as a basis. So now I say, go for it and Good luck!
You should make a post of it Carl. It's a very good explanation and breakdown of the process for people wanting to try their hand it. If someone like me can follow, and make passable examples, then there are probably a huge number of far better handles waiting to be made by others!
 

M1k3

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You should make a post of it Carl. It's a very good explanation and breakdown of the process for people wanting to try their hand it. If someone like me can follow, and make passable examples, then there are probably a huge number of far better handles waiting to be made by others!
+2
 

ian

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Carl Kotte

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Also, if George the penis was visible in Any of those pictures (it would surprise me, but you can never be too careful), please exclude those pictures (or Edit George out of them!)
 

AT5760

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Here is @Carl Kotte 's guidance. Since I'm not sure who/what George is and for the sake of simplicity, I have left out the photos. Note, the photos are progress pictures and not setup pictures, so I don't think that they are necessary. I made some edits for organization and clarity - no edits for content.

Equipment needed: a drill, a needle file/rasp, a file, a wood carving knife, and sand paper

1. Find handle materials of appropriate sizes.

2. (I make handles in different lengths, usually 120 mm to 150). For simplicity assume you want to make a simple handle (one piece of wood, no spacers or bolsters or anything fancy)! You typically want to start out with a piece of wood that’s way thicker than the final product. So you have your handle blank of appropriate length, now drill! Tangs are of all sizes, shapes and lengths but this approach usually works. I drill 3 holes with a 4 mm drill. I then pick a longer drill with bigger circumference (everything between 5-6 mm seems to work so long as it makes a 100 mm deep hole), and drill the middle hole once again. That unites the three holes and makes the slot sufficiently deep.

3. I take a needle file or a rasp to make the slot wide enough for the specific tang. This usually takes a lot of time.

4. Now it’s time to shape the handle. Since I lack a work space I try to avoid making a lot of saw dust (it’s nasty stuff), so I use a carving knife and chisels as much as possible. I usually go over the surface with files and sandpaper afterwards. Then, use 120, 150, 220, 400 grit sandpaper with a cork backing.

5. once you’re happy with the finish (the smoothness and the looks of the grain) you do a few coatings with oil. Birchwood casey’s tru-oil is supposed to be one of the best. I’ve used Rustin’s Danish oil with good results.

6. Install the handle! (There’s plenty of info about that here on KKF. I like using solid melt glue and a heated tang but there are other options).

7. For somewhat fancier handles all you need is a saw, some glue and clamps. After the glue has settled I drill as described previously and then go through all the same steps.
 

Carl Kotte

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Ah, Yeah, George is the infamous handle blank @Tim Rowland once offered to @ian here:
 
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