rebuilding an old knife #1: Knife restoration

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Blog entry by jeffswildwood posted 06-14-2017 12:56 AM 1411 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of rebuilding an old knife series Part 2: Rust removal »

Hello. This is my first blog series on something I think will be fun. Of coarse I would like all the help and advice I can get as I am very new at this. I redid the handle on a knife a while ago and really enjoyed it. Since then I had wanted to try it again and began searching for a worthy one to do. Well, I found one and thought I would share the journey as I may have bit off more then I can chew. Here is the one I found to do.

This guy is in rough shape! I found it in a junk store and asked the Lady what she wanted for it. Amazed, she said “whatever you want to pay”. I handed her a dollar and she was happy. It has a nice design but I have no idea if it is home made or store bought. It seems to be very old. Has a leather handle with stitching and pins holding it in place. The leather cracks as you move it and crumbles. The leather has a name on it but I can’t read it due to age. It also has a groove on both sides. I think it hold possibility’s.

My first step was to remove the leather. Easy as it really just crumbled and fell off.

I noticed the end of the tang. A bit of an offset that is symmetrical. I don’t know if this is part of the knife or if it may have been hammered in the past. The blade tip says no. I need to decide if I should grind it off or incorporate it into the handle design.

I guess next step is cleaning and rust removal. Thanks everyone for reading this and again, any advice will be appreciated.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

8 comments so far

View Jerry's profile


3309 posts in 2248 days

#1 posted 06-14-2017 01:07 AM

You asked for advice so here it is. You’re going to want to remove the rust with Naval jelly first. Then take a wire wheel to the entire knife to get it cleaned up. Then take it to a buffing wheel to get a better polish on it. During the wire wheel and buffing process make sure that you do not overheat the steel of the blade or it will lose its’ temper. Keep a glass of cool water near the buffing wheel and cool it often. After that make some bolsters for the knife out of the wood of your choice. Make them oversized so you can shape them and sand them down to size. Attach them to the tang with epoxy, then shape them to your satisfaction. put some finish on the bolsters, sharpen up and you’re done!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View jeffswildwood's profile


4241 posts in 2577 days

#2 posted 06-14-2017 01:31 AM

Jerry, thanks a lot buddy! I need all the help I can get. I have no knowledge of this blades history but really want to bring it back. Wood work is my forte but that’s the final step. Blade work is new territory for me. Thanks again my friend!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3968 days

#3 posted 06-14-2017 01:50 AM

I prefer to soak them in Muriatic acid to remove the rust, then clean them with wire wheel and buffer. You can’t get it too hot with a wire wheel and buffer to worry about the heat treatment, but you will want the water to cool it down so you can hold it. LOL That place on the butt end shouldn’t be there, file it smooth and if there is a slight flat spot you can file it to remove it. I recommend a bolster or finger guard between the blade and handle to prevent the users hand from sliding up onto the edge of the blade. Choose your scale material and rough shape it a little bigger than the tang. Drill your pin holes through the tang and one scale, then drill through the scale and tang through the other scale. Now epoxy the scales and pins together. After cured you can shape the handle with whatever means you want.

View Lazyman's profile (online now)


4466 posts in 1987 days

#4 posted 06-14-2017 02:04 AM

I haven’t used naval jelly since I was a kid and my recollection is that it was messy and not that effective. I recently tried Evapo-rust and it it was pretty amazing how easy and effective it is. Simply soak the blade in the liquid and whipe or brush it off. That’s the way I would go. A little work on a wire wheel and some fine gritt wet/dry paper and you’ll have a nice shine. Work your way up to 800 at least and then finish off with some polishing compound on a buffing wheel. Of course, you’ll have to hone a nice edge on there somewhere along the way. It’s going to be a nice looking knife when you are done.

To me that that hammered end looks like a previous owner used the butt end as a hammer. Not the other way around. If only old tools could speak.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View svenbecca's profile


159 posts in 3067 days

#5 posted 06-14-2017 07:58 AM

I have no advice to give; I just want to see what you end up with.

-- A carpenter takes an ugly, knotted, twisted piece of wood and makes something beautiful and pure from it. Jesus is a carpenter, I am a piece of wood.

View HokieKen's profile


11981 posts in 1739 days

#6 posted 06-14-2017 11:05 AM

Exciting stuff Jeff. I’ll be following along! Here is a blog I did on my rust removal method. I believe Naval jelly is also a phosphoric acid like the solution I use just in a thicker form. I recommend it not only because it’s effective but because it actually forms a natural anti-corrosive that bonds at the molecular level. After treatment, I’d follow it up with a soft wire brush in a grinder or grey scotchbrite pads by hand. Then finally a polish with a buffer or dremel tool as others recommend above.

Not sure about the butt-end but I’m with the others, I’d grind it flat. It’ll be a pain to get scales to match well with it there. Old perfect-handle tools have “lips” like that cast at top and bottom of scales. For me at least, getting scales fit to those things is like herding cats.

Whatcha gonna use for scales? I’ve got some off-cuts from some exotics if you need something. Also, I HOPE I’ll be at West Penn Hardwoods in a couple of weeks. So I can grab you some stuff there if you’ve got something particular in mind.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View doubleDD's profile


8952 posts in 2643 days

#7 posted 06-14-2017 12:21 PM

I have restored a few things in my day and sometimes the results are great and sometimes so so. The fact is you bring new life to an old too. My only advise is keep working on it until you are satisfied with the results and it will be all worth it. If something is not coming out the way you want it then give it a rest for a while and come back to it later. Should be a good project for you Jeff.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View jeffswildwood's profile


4241 posts in 2577 days

#8 posted 06-14-2017 12:28 PM

Thanks for all the help guys. I really look forward to working on this. I think I will remove the back part, circled in yellow for a smoother look. Looks like I have many choices for rust removal. Ken, I read your blog briefly but I will be going back to read it in detail. Love your use of photo’s so I can see what to expect. I may take you up on the offer for cut offs when the time comes. I have a small assortment of woods but nothing I wanted to use. Walnut or cherry just seems basic to me. Be nice to have something a little “over the top”. Dan, I may think about that bolster on the handle. Brass would really set it off. Now to figure out how to do it. I may “pick your brain” a bit for info if you don’t mind. Lazy, Thanks for the tips. Working my way to 800 grit sound like a good idea. I do want a nice shine if possible. I had thought of leaving a little “patina” but I think shine now. Dave that is good advice. Hope for the best. It may not come out as a “brand new knife” look but from the state it is in now, anything is a good improvement. True, sometimes I do have to give a project some time and walk away and regroup. svenbecca, thanks for looking! Right now i am like you. I too just want to see what I end up with!

Since the last pictures I have removed the pins. May be a day or two until I get back to it as I had a mishap during the process. I cut the heads off and began pin driving the pin out. Hit my finger with a hammer on the tip and busted it good. Lots of blood and today I have a sore blue finger tip. Oh well, guess I just added a little DNA to it. Personalized! :)

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

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