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David G

Jade Dagger Project

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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?

 

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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'.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

David

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I look forward to watching this until it is completed! This is quite a complex project being done with multiple pieces and types of jade. Good wishes for success with it.

 

Janel

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Very cool and I will be watching for the finish. Looking good... Gave me an idea of doing one out of a piece of Ebony that I have for the blade.. MMM what would be good for the handle?

Thanks for sharing your work, and your idea.

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How will you fix the tang to the handle?

 

Lachlan, I am planning to glue it, it is a very short tang due to size of the original slab. No up to doing fancy joints yet, I do my work free hand and I do not have that level of precision.

 

I had thought of putting some silver pins in just for show, but i find it had to get an exact hole diameter with the diamond drill bits. I was planning to put a 6mm stainless steel tube into the back of the neck knife for a lanyard but in the test slabs I drilled I could not get an accurate enough hole that provided a tight fit for the tube.

 

Any suggestions? I will have more to show shortly.

 

David

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Yeah it does look quite short, you have the bolster to add to! To do the holes I would try a round diamond burr and do it slowly. Then measure the hole and buy the stainless or silver for the hole. I would then slightly flare each end of the hole and gently use a hammer to flare each end of the metal locking it into place. A drill press would be required.

 

How will you attach the back bolster?

 

If you're looking for a good glue check out hxtal epoxy!

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Jewelers use a series of flaring cones to press the silver tube outwards, gently tapping with a small hammer. It is a technique called tube riveting. (Am I correct with this?)

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Thanks for the suggestions, I would be very paranoid about breaking the stone with any peened pins. I know some makers use pins to fix stone so I will have a go at experimenting. Lachlan I use epoxy 330 works really well so long as it is mixed really well and is not mixed on plastic.

 

The back bolster is already attached, I drilled a big divet with a ball head bur in both the handle and the bolster, I considered putting a small ball bearing in for strength but was concerned it may rust and explode the joint, so there is just a ball of glue in there. There is little force on this joint so I would be surprised if it does not hold.

 

I would like to try some fancy glue free joints one day, for me it is a progression of small steps, understanding and executing a few elements well, then adding more for the next project. More elements also adds exponentially to the time to complete the project.

 

David

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This guy has some good info on how he attaches his stone scales to normal knives- makes great knives too!

http://www.jayfisher.com/

 

My experience with h-xtal is that the stone will break next to the glued part but never at the glue so its definitely stronger then pins!

Look forward to seeing it finished.

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Another idea would be the screw together pins, you then grind down the heads and polish and they look like normal pins. You would just have to get nice holes drilled.

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Hi Lachlan,

 

yes getting a perfect hole size with diamond bits is my challenge at the moment. Even the drill bits vary a bit dependent on the diamond coating, so a 2mm bit may make a 2.0 or 2.2mm hole depending on how much diamond is bonded to it.

 

I also find the drill bits tend to enlarge the hole as much as drill it. Will have to learn how to do it better. Starting with a smaller hole than intended then using the right size drill to finish it off seems to reduce deformation of the drill hole.

 

David

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Ok so Janel's regular postings has motivated me to post an update, even though like Janel I am in the stage where lots of work makes for little visual progress.

 

First step after blocking out the bolster was to drill and shape the hole of the tang. This requires a nice neat square hole which took a lot of patience to produce, I would like to recess the whole blade into the bolster about 2mm but have not been able to think of a way to drill the sort of hole neatly yet. Ideally the blade should look like it melds perfectly into the bolster and handle. Think David, think,,,

 

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I also got my first look at the whole project. Till now the visualisation of how it all blends together especially the colours has been in my head with fingers crossed.

 

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I did not like the completely rounded approach to the bolster so I changed the shape. I am still not happy with it, it looks ok in real life but in the photos looks too bulky. The bolster is made of jadeite and I have not worked much of this material so I am unsure how fine I can take it with out risk of breakage, it is quite crystalline. The blade and handle are nephrite jade and I have cut enough to have confidence in its toughness.

 

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The handle has been ground and is currently being sanded to its final shape, it is pretty close another hour or two and I can move to polishing.

 

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Here is the current look of the whole knife together. I thing the bolster needs less bulk, I intend to bring it down to be flush with the front and back side of the handle and spending hours arguing with myself over the best way to glue it all together to achieve that as it needs to be affixed to the handle to get a seamless progression between bolster and handle.

 

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Once I get the bolster right there are many hours of sanding and polishing left to go. I have also cut the timber that will form a presentation box to display and protect the dagger.

 

David

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Excellent work, can't wait to see it polished. Size and proportion looks good and the color should be fantastic when polished. Waiting to see the presentation box. What is the wood you will be using?

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Hi David,

 

Thank you for the update. I enjoy reading your thoughts about what you are doing. There are so many decisions to make with every step. I look forward to reading more.

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Excellent work, can't wait to see it polished. Size and proportion looks good and the color should be fantastic when polished. Waiting to see the presentation box. What is the wood you will be using?

 

Ed, it is a Aussie hardwood, nothing special at this point. I am not a precision woodworker. My original conception when I was using all nephrite jade from the Tamworth region was to get some local timber from the same area and make it a truly endemic knife hence the idea to give it a name from the local indigenous language. Now it has jadeite from Guatemala, that chain has been broken, so I am less fussed about materials. I may have a go at carving out the space for the knife with this timber, then do another one using more exotic timber based on my learning.

 

David

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That white jadeite is a pain in the arse for cracking when fine, because it doesnt have the fibres nephrite has. Had a ring and a few smaller test pieces crack easily. Maybe just do it all level with the knife if you dont like it that big? I think it will look great what ever you do.

 

To recess the bolster a bit for the knife blade I would use a router and a small diamond bit set to the depth you want.

 

It looks great! I think a single pin holding it with added glue would look amazing. Cant wait to see it finished!

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Ok, so I am at the point where lots of work provides very little to show for it. First up I decided to take the plunge and recess the front bolster as Lachlan suggested so the blade fits into it all the way around, lacking any tool to route this I had to do it all free hand, the sides were cut nicely, the ends are a little over cut but it will be hard to see due to the bolsters. It looks really good as it is no longer obvious how the blade tang is shaped and I am very pleased I spent the two hours to do it.

 

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I felt the whole thing was a little bland so I decided to put 2 stainless pins in to hold the blade in place. As I have never put pins into stone before I grabbed a jadeite bead I cut white getting a feel for the jadeite bolsters and added 3 pins to it as practice. The bead is side drilled with front and back face polished and the sides left natural.

 

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I was very happy with how the pins turned out so I took the plunge, held my breath drilled the handle. The front two holes are nicely aligned to the centre line, unfortunately the second hole on the back came out off centre and there is now nothing I can do about it. Other than perhaps start a new handle.

 

The pins currently sit proud about 3mm and will be ground down flush and polished once the handle is ready to finish.

 

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Back side failure...

 

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I still felt it is a bit bland so I decided to inlay a Gothic cross in the same white jadeite that I have used for the bolsters. With a little luck it will also take the focus away from the out of alignment pins on the back. I have never done any inlay before. I now know why Michael Hoover has found so many commercial 'real stone' inlays to be pure epoxy, they are a thousand times quicker and easier than the real thing. I have put flour into the cross to show it more clearly in the photograph and so I can see what still needs to be done, it is 25mm long and 15mm across and 3mm wide down the shaft so it is very fiddly to cut out and sees me wearing my loupe continuously.

 

Updated sketch.

 

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Flour in the hollow shows what work still needs to be done, the scale is tiny and it is very hard to see and work the diamond tools with water which distorts the shape and jade milk going everywhere.

 

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My next challenge is to finish the hollowing out of the cross and to cut a very small jadeite cross with the narrowest dimension only 3mm wide to fit, I have already cut a few small thin jadeite slabs in anticipation of a breakage or error or two. My current preponderance is how to get a good template of the cross onto the slab. Siena suggested using a mould which is a great idea, just not sure what to use. Any suggestions how to do it?

 

David

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Sticky tape :) just stick it over the flour then stick it on the new piece of jade. Or run a marker around the outside of the cross and do the same.

 

Looks good mate! How did you end up doing the holes?

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Well I have finally finished. I really struggled with the inlay and that is the weakest part, I ended up cutting the cross then enlarging the hole in the handle to take it, the cross was not 100% square and I sometimes used the wrong side to determine what material needed removing on the handle so I ended up with some over cuts. I struggled with the small scale as the width of the cross is only 2-3mm and my smallest ball bur is 1mm and smallest wheel 5mm so it was a struggle to work at that scale, I also has to use my loupe continuously while carving. I also did not take enough care with getting the air bubbles out of the glue when gluing the cross in, which I discovered when hand polishing as the diamond powder filed all the tiny air bubbles and looked awful, I had to go back to the belts and polish the handle on that (at least I learned my lesson). I enlarged the holes for the pins to hold the blade on on the back as they were out of alignment, I stuffed one of the holes up and had to make an oval plug for it, it looks OK and the fit is nice and snug so the glue does not show. There was lots and lots of micro sanding adjustments to get rid of scratches etc. The last step before assembly was to sharpen the blade, it wont cut much other then fruit but I would not like to be stabbed with it.

 

Once I had polished everything up it was time to put it all together, I took great care and used minimal epoxy so it came out really well and there are no glue lines visible to the eye.

 

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The back side..

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I see from my first post this project took just on 6 months. I am currently making a wooden presentation box to store it in.

 

David

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David,

I got to see this twice today here and on the lapidary forum. Wonderful job and super patience thank you for sharing it.

 

I thought about making a jade dagger after I got the new shop set up but that is as far as I ever wen with it. Maybe this will inspire me to get busy!!

 

All my best ......... Danny

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David,

I got to see this twice today here and on the lapidary forum. Wonderful job and super patience thank you for sharing it.

 

I thought about making a jade dagger after I got the new shop set up but that is as far as I ever wen with it. Maybe this will inspire me to get busy!!

 

All my best ......... Danny

 

I am sure yours will be amazing Danny, give it a go it is a fun project. I like doing the blades the best, there is a precision to them that is very pleasing..

 

David

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I made a wooden box for it as well, a bit rough, may make a better one in nicer timber, now I have done one I know what to do better next time.

 

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David

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