Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Old Hickory Butcher Knife Project - Part 1

An old friend asked if I would re-handle his Old Hickory butcher knife for him, no problem says I. A week later he asks me if I could do some leather work for him, yes I says. He then says would it be possible to make a sheath for the Old Hickory and piggy back a Mora Frost Knife on to it.....I commented maybe....a challenge for me.

Anyway first things first lets do the handle on the knife. The scales came off so very easily I wondered how they ever stayed on even for carving meat.

The pins basically just dropped out with a small blow from my mallet. I suppose that I could have replaced the original scales with some nice wood in the same design as the originals. However, I was not happy with the way it looked and knowing that the knife was going to be a working tool a better deign was needed. Once the scales were off water had seeped behind the old scales and started the rusting process.
You can see the amount of water damage to the knife handle. It strikes me that if this knife was to be used for heavy butcher work then where there is water it would be replaced with blood...a bit of a infection nightmare potentially.
So, the plan was to design a new handle for this old girl. I sat down and worked a simple pattern out that should be functional and look reasonable. Once a template was made of I went.
The picture actually has the wrong template in but you get the idea. You can just see the marker pen outline on the handle opposite for me to work too.
Time to go to work with the grinder and Dremmel to achieve the desired new handle shape. The key is not to let the blade or handle get hot destroying the hardening. I have a tub of cold water at the side of the grinder cooling the work down on a regular basis.

Eventually the shape appears that I wanted, cleaning the rust of the handle in preparation for gluing in the future.

What wood to use for the handle? well I have some African Olive wood in the cupboard, so I cut a section and marked it out split it in two for the scales.

Level the inner side of the scales mark the design of the handle on the outer and sand the faces of the scales together. Luckily the holes in the original handle fit the Loveless bolts a bit less work. Drill the holes in the scales for the Loveless bolts and countersink, nearly ready for the gluing phase.

So, the next phase was to glue the scales to the tang for this I used gorilla glue I normally use epoxy slow cure but I hadn't got enough left.

I left the glue to cure for 24 hours before starting work on shaping the handle. African Olive wood is a hard wood and quite time consuming to shape.

The first thing I generally do is to define the top and bottom of the tang which allows me to then work on the thickness of the scales before finally working on the feel of the handle in the hand.

Once the shape is finally there its a case of sanding......sanding and sanding until your happy with the finish. 

I chose to apply a Danish Oil finish to the finished African Olive wood handle.

I actually really enjoyed making this handle and am extremely happy with the work. It took half the time of the last tang handle I made. So, Old Hickory Butcher Knife Pimped LOL. That's the end of Part 1. The hard bit is to make a sheath for this with a piggy back of a Mora Frost....

Thanks for reading.



  1. Nice work !
    Good looking piece of wood.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes lovely grain in the Olive Wood.

  2. Great work! I think I shall do the same treatment to one I purchased recently from a gentleman who had it stowed in his tool box. It's isn't in bad shape overall, but I would be willing to bet it will have the same rust issue as yours did. The perfect excuse to make a new handle for it! Yours turned out great and I really like the design of the handle.

  3. Thank you for the kind comment. The scales are easy to remove and the tang will undoubtedly be rusted. Good Luck.