I was inspired to post this by Ed's wonderful post on his wooden box project. After completing this jade neck knife last year I decided to be a bit more adventurous and tackle an all jade dagger.
Last years neck knife:
I searched the web for ideas and saw some nice daggers, I settled on the proportions of a beat up old Gerber Guardian dagger that I found when cleaning out the draws of an employee who left the office rather rapidly one day. This is the knife and my initial sketches.
I then refined and dimensioned the shape into something I could use to make a template for cutting out the various elements of the knife. There are four components to this knife, the blade, the handle and the front and rear bolsters to be made using 3 different coloured jades. Note the pattern on the knife handle, it was my intention to carve this pattern into the handle.
My vision was to use all Tamworth nephrite and local Tamworth timber for a presentation box and to call the knife 'gabba yarrul' which means 'mountain stone' in the language of the Gamilaroi (or Kamilaroi) people who are the traditional guardians of the area where the nephrite is found.
This is the slab of nephrite used for the blade, it comes from Michael B's friend John.
The blade was cut out on my band saw then preformed to the outline shape on the grinding wheels, this is nice jade with no tendency to fracture, yippee. I then rough ground a small bevel, I found this hard to keep straight so I quickly swapped to hand grinding the bevels with thick carbide sticks. This makes for a slow and very well controlled grinding action. This is the blade during shaping, just about finished the 100 grit shaping, then onto 220 and 400 carbide sticks.
I took the edge of the blade down to around 0.3-0.5mm thick and sanded to a prepolish of 3000 carbide. I won't polish further until it is ready to be assembled as it may get scratched while fitting the other elements. The biggest problem I had was with the plunge lines (where the blade bevel ends near the front bolster. I had tried a few things to make the plunge lines and had stuffed one up a bit so I had to even everything up. It now looks ok, if I do another one this is an area I will pay a lot more attention to. Here is the completed blade in its pre-polish state.
Next step is to cut out the handle. I wanted to used a light coloured whitish nephrite and went through my stash. I found a green/white block that looked ok and slabbed it into a block about 80mm x 25mm x 15mm. To see how this stuff worked I cut a couple of test cabs, well they were a complete disaster, they chipped, under cut, were very soft and the polish was poor. So I had to scap the white jade idea and raid the rest of my stash. I came up with 2 other options, one was a green to white opaque nephrite, the other was a dark dusky green that I found a year ago on a visit to MickB's which I was intending to use for the bolsters. In the end I decided to go with the dark nephrite I self collected (bottom block in the photo).
I was still unsure whether the carved handle in my original drawing would work so I grabbed the original white handle block and ground it to the shape of my handle, it was soft and quick to cut and I got a soft polish on it using dry 1200 carbide belt and some fabulustre on a buff. It is quite attractive.
I then used this handle as a prototype for the carving of the handle pattern, well the block chipped as expected (thats why it is not being used), I have ground and rough sanded the pattern. I don't like the pattern and won't use it, it is too hard to see the pattern and it looks like sh***. The pattern may look better if better cut and fully polished but I just don't think it is worth it, so the final handle will go uncarved. Maybe a sandwich of different toned slabs would work in the future for this style of pattern?
Now that I am using a dark material for my handle, I needed a light/white material for the bolsters. I sourced some 'mint ice' jadeite from Guatamala to use for the bolsters. The crew at Mayan Mountain, they were very helpful. This will take it away from an all Tamworth knife, but it will still be all 'jade'.
I cut out the front and back bolster. Then drilled a few divets on the back bolster and the back of the handle to give the glue something to grab onto, I considered putting a small ball bearing in the holes but was concerned it could rust and destroy the piece.
I then started shaping the handle working on the top and bottom curve, I am continually redrawing the centreline onto all the pieces, this is essential to keep it all centred, I also use callipers and a carpenters square to ensure everything lines up.
I have also started shaping the front bolster, I used the band saw to start the cuts, then the Dremel with tiny blades, then squaring it all up by hand. Again keeping the centre line in place. I am also making a few asymmetric beads out of the jadeite as test pieces to learn how the material works and polishes.
Nest step is to drill out the bolster and the handle to take the knife tang, then onto carving the front bolster, simple.... More to come.