WIP: Tactical Sgian Dubh

Knife-makers | | | |

Ok, so I accepted a commission. Navy guy wants a high performance, rugged,
'tactical' Sgian Dubh, easily concealed, for close quarters defense. I think
he thinks he's a SEAL. Heck, maybe he is. Anyways, I ground, drilled,
hardened, and polished the blade, start to finish yesterday, 5 hours. 440C.
Going to have brass bolsters and antler scales. Couple pics...



Rick Crawford's picture

good start

Dad gum, that was sure quick!
Lookin' good, too.

Rick Crawford at Smoky Forge

gimperfi's picture

Sgian Dubh

Very nice and I hope you post a finished picture. Is that a convex edge and how thick is the 440C? I have tried my hand at cutting out blanks from large mill saw blades. Probably L6. They make good machetes without a heat-treat as I have a tiny propane forge. They are a bitch to drill though. Thanks for the post.
Wantabe knife maker

Radharc's picture


Thanks Rick and Gimp. Here's a finished pic, as requested. Yeah, Rick, the blade was quick, but the devil, as usual, was in the details. FINALLY finished the little demon on Sunday, after re-doing most of the parts except the blade. A real PITA. Yes, Gimper, convex, 1/8". I would maybe, while you're just practicing, work with hardened steel with no heat-treating, but learn what you can and then move on. You run a lot of risks doing that, and once you get the hang of heat-treating (normalizing, annealing, hardening, and tempering), you'll have much more control over the qualities of the blade. Making a nice knife is, in my mind, WAY too time consuming to then not have an optimally crafted blade. Differentially hardening a blade can create some almost magical qualities. You can make your own propane forge, use a coal one, or even use an oxy-acetylene rig, in a pinch. Anyways, here's the finished piece:

eligius1427's picture

Hi Michael, the knife looks

Hi Michael, the knife looks beautiful. I like all of the intricate details, i'm sure the client will love it.

Jake Balcom
Mettle Design
Lincoln, NE

Rick Crawford's picture

You really outdid yourself.

You really outdid yourself. This looks beautiful.
The combinations of colors and textures is just great.

Rick Crawford at Smoky Forge

Radharc's picture


Thanks, Jake and Rick. I don't think it's that great of a creation, personally, but the client is happy and has paid, so that's what counts. I'm just glad to be done with the bastard. The knife, not the client. LOL! I really prefer working on 'play' pieces, stuff that I just feel like making, but it's hard to turn down commissions when they're waving cash in your face. I'm overwhelmed with them right now, honestly. I have like 8 or 10 people that want knives, and I simply can't keep up. I did accept one the other day for a $650 knife, figured what the heck, you know? 

Imperial Wheeling Machines's picture

Beautiful work

Really, really nice work. You are a true craftsman.

Kerry Pinkerton

Will Jones's picture

Sweet! Once I've managed to

Once I've managed to forge a perfect blade, I'll move on to trying to do the rest of the furniture as neatly as that...
After looking at your site, found myself welding up a lump of motorcycle chain yesterday, dammit. Hope you haven't got me started again !
Incidentally that chain is hard as **** to forge once you've squeezed the air out of the middle!
Gonna hit it with the grinder tommorrow and see how it looks......
Will Jones

eligius1427's picture

Hi Will, I'm not sure if

Hi Will, I'm not sure if I'll ever try to make a knife, but I find this process fascinating. Post picts of your results if you can.

Jake Balcom
Mettle Design
Lincoln, NE

warren's picture


Will, ask Michael what happened to the chainsaw chain that I took to the Shindig.

I all know that it is a heck of alot of heating and beating.

www Metalrecipes -- heat and beat to the desired shape, repeat as necessary.

Will Jones's picture

O.K. Purely for your

O.K. Purely for your interest, and in the certain knowledge that I ain't never gonna be a knife maker of the same calibre as Michael, here's a pic of that motorcycle chain knife. I've welded up cable before but this was my first try at chain. When I was happy it was all stuck, I just drew it out and ground it - no folding or other manipulation.

Also had a go at the differential heat treatment with clay trick on this one, you can just see where I haven't fully ground out the evidence.

I am fascinated by this pattern welding business, but I do hate the grinding, and am frustrated that  I always find some fault in the result...The life so short, the craft so long to learn, as Chaucer said..chain knife 1chain knife 1chain knife 2chain knife 2

Will Jones

Radharc's picture

Big fun you betcha

Thanks, Kerry, glad you like it. Yeah, Will, it'll getcha, and then you can't stop. LOL!

Yeah, Warren, that was a train wreck, eh? I figured out why it was such a disaster. Number one, I was working with coal, which I am SO not used to. Number two, I was rushing, to just 'crank something out', and number three, I really don't work well with people watching, asking questions, other smiths elbowing me out of the way, etc. That bruising heat didn't help either. Will, suffice it to say, I was able to create nothing but sweat, frustration, and junk hunks of metal. It was NOT fun.

Neat, Will, the pics are small, but that looks pretty cool. Here's one I did awhile ago, out of chainsaw chain:

Will Jones's picture

Know what you mean.. I don't

Know what you mean.. I don't like working with an audience much - and don't produce the same quality of work away from my little workshop.
That's a nice pattern from the chainsaw..I like big bold patterns more than the very subtle ones you get after umpteen folds - but my bike chain pattern was a little too course - Next time I'll fold it over a couple of times and see what i get.
Will Jones

Radharc's picture


Hi Will. I've had people say they want to watch me work, and it's like 'No, sorry'. I get focused into a very tiny area, and get into a Zone, and it's almost like the presence of other people on the flippin' PLANET is distracting to my focus. LOL! We do these somewhat informal 'demo' things at the Shindigs, and Warren was kind enough to bring some chainsaw chain, so I dove in. Was thinking 'oh, coal, cool', forgetting how hot it can get, and ended up melting parts of the billet more than once. Also, I flew from Chicago, where it was in the mid 70s, down to NC, where it was mid 90s and humid. Add to that working in a medium-small area there with 2 coal forges going full blast, and it was probably like 110 right by the forge. Kind of zapped me. Propane, despite it's drawbacks, provides a very consistent, even heat. Understood, same here. In my own shop, I know exactly where every one of hundreds of tools is, what it will do, etc. Just no way to have that same mojo when you drop by someone else's shop. I like that pattern too. It was as you mentioned, I did no deformation to get that pattern, just welded the stack together. In person it's pretty neat, like a mosaic. I've had people tell me they see dragons and such in it. Fun!