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Thread: Make your own Athame

  1. #1
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Make your own Athame

    The Stick Handled Athame

    I make and sell some really, really nice athames, but it’s labor intensive work so they end up being expensive. It’s nice to have fine tools, but you don’t really need them - you could easily use a kitchen knife as an athame… but I’m thinking that a lot of people would enjoy making an athame for themselves.

    I think I’ve figured out a way that almost anybody can make a nice athame quickly and easily, with very few special tools. I call this the Stick Handled Athame because… well… it uses a stick for a handle. You should be able to make one of these for around $30 - 40, even if you have to buy most of the tools. If you follow my instructions, here’s what you’ll end up with:



    You will need a few tools and supplies. Here’s what you’ll need (from left to right):



    A. A knife blade. The one I’m using is about 6 inches long. You can use a larger one if you like. I suggest that you get your blade from Atlanta Cutlery - they have good blades at excellent prices. Here’s a link: http://www.atlantacutlery.com/c-90-k...-supplies.aspx . They call this one a boot dagger blade, and it costs $13.

    B. A stick. Ideally you’ll cut a sapling, let it dry in the basement for a year, then use it. Less than ideally you will find a fallen branch and use that. The problem with the branch is that by the time it drops from the tree it has already begun to deteriorate and is more likely to split when you are working with it. If you do use a fallen branch, I recommend that you do the “optional” step of wire wrapping the end - this will keep the wood from breaking later on while you are using it. Or, you could carve out a chunk of wood.

    C. Some kind of metal for the guard. I recommend either copper or brass because they are easy to work with. I also suggest that you use 14 or 16 gauge metal (the gauge refers to the thickness) because that would be heavy enough to be substantial, but not so heavy that you’ll have trouble working with it. Your best price for copper or brass will come when you buy a 12” x 12” sheet from a jewelry supply company, like
    Contenti (http://www.contenti.com/products/metals/560-123.html), but if you are only making one, you might want to get your small piece of metal from onlinemetals.com (http://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant...253&top_cat=87).

    D. A set of files. The set I have pictured comes from Home Depot, and cost about $12. It has every thing you’ll need. It even comes with file handles!

    E. Copper or brass wire. I suggest 18 or 20 gauge. You can get a spool of this from most hardware stores (like Ace) for around $5. This is optional, by the way, but I think it’s a nice touch.

    F. Sandpaper. Get a variety pack of wet/dry sandpaper. This will work on both metal and wood.

    G. Miscellaneous stuff - masking tape, pencil, two part epoxy glue, flat sticks, ruler, hack saw and hack saw blades, wood saw, a bunch of heavy rubber bands, a center punch, hammer, assorted drill bits and a drill.

    ---------- Post added at 09:18 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:07 PM ----------

    Here’s What You Gotta Do:

    1. Saw your stick to the correct length. Using a wood saw (I’m using a coping saw because it was still lying around from the bone thing), cut off one end of the stick cleanly, use your fist to measure the length, and cut off the other end. Make it a bit bigger than your fist - it’ll be more comfortable to hold.





    2. Drill a hole in the stick for the tang to go into. The “tang” is the part of the blade that holds it in the handle - you’ll need a drill bit that is about the same width as the tang of the blade closest to the blade. For the blade I’m using, a half inch drill is just right.



    Now there’s a problem with this step. If you push a drill through the end of a stick, the drill exerts pressure outward, which will cause the stick to split, unless you can exert pressure inward to counteract the outer pressure.



    For this purpose, I will use the wonder product known as “masking tape.” If your stick has bark on it, and you want to keep the bark, wrap a piece of paper tightly around the stick, and wrap several thick layers of masking tape around each end of the stick, and around the middle. See the red arrows in the following picture:



    If you happen to have a vice, you can clamp the stick in a vice for drilling (notice that I’ve wrapped the stick in thick paper toweling to keep the vice’ jaws from chewing it up). If you don’t have a vice, somebody will have to hold the stick for you while you drill it.

    Although I need to drill a half inch hole to fit the tang, I’m going to two-step it by drilling a hole with a smaller drill bit, then drill it out again with the half inch drill. This is another precaution to keep it from splitting.





    3. Cut the tang to fit. Slide the tang into the hole in the stick you just drilled (you can take the paper and masking tape off). It most likely won’t go in all the way because the hole won’t be deep enough. You’ll have to cut a chunk off the tang to get it to fit right. For that, use a hack saw with a brand new, never been use blade - hardened steel is a bear to cut, and a dull blade won’t do it. Notice that I’m using the vice again, with the blade wrapped in thick paper towel to keep the vice’ jaws from chewing it up. Again, if you don’t have a vice, somebody can hold the blade for you while you cut.





    Now I can fit it together and it looks like a knife…

    I am the sword,
    The wound,
    The stain,
    The scorned transfigured child
    Of Cain

  2. #2
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    4. Making the guard. Now we’ll start on the guard that keeps your hand from sliding down onto the blade when you are using it. The guard needs to be at least as wide as you stick so it covers the end. I’m going to file some off the two sides of the stick so that the guard won’t have to be jumbo wide:





    On your piece of copper or brass, use a sharpie marker to measure out a rectangle a bit wider than the thickness of your stick (at the end), and as long as you like. Draw a line from corner to opposite corner, and then between the two remaining corners. The exact center of your rectangle will be where the two lines cross.



    You have to cut a slot in the center of the guard for the tang to go through. The better that this slot fit’s the tang, the neater your athame will look, so you want to measure the width of the tang, and mark that on your metal.



    Find a drill bit which is slightly thinner than the tang is thick. Take a center punch (pointed hardened steel stick, something like a pencil) and place it carefully on the center line of your copper or brass, and smack it sharply once with the hammer. This will put a little dent in the metal where you will be drilling - this keeps the drill bit from slipping around on the surface of the metal. Do a whole series of these, about the thickness of the drill you picked out apart.



    Drill out holes - hopefully they will touch, and your metal will end up looking something like this:



    Use a thin, small file (the set I pictured has these in it) to clean out the metal between the holes. While you are doing this, keep trying to fit the tang through the slot. You want to get a nice, tight fit.



    Now take your hacksaw and saw out your guard. Try fitting it all together to see how everything fits:



    The guard looks kind of crude just square cut like this, so I’ll use the file to round off the edges a bit…



    I’m also going to use the round end of a ball peen hammer to put some “hand forged” dents in:



    Just for fun, I also put a bit of a curve into the guard. Here’s how it looks assembled:



    5. Wire wrapping part 1. This next step is optional, but if you are using wood that needs reinforcement, this will do that.

    I’m going to do a bit of wire wrapping, mostly as a decoration. Before I glue everything up, I need to file a small notch in the end of the handle for the wire to set in. See the red arrow in the following picture:



    Don’t cut the wire off the spool - you don’t know how much you need yet - but do put a 90 degree bend in the wire about 2 inches from the end. Put the bent end of the wire into the hole in the stick, and position it so that the wire runs out through the filed notch. Here’s how it should look:



    Now take it all apart. It’s time to mix up the epoxy! Yay!

    6. Gluing it up. I recommend that you buy the kind of epoxy that comes in a syringe like contraption. I suggest that you do NOT use 5 minute epoxy, unless you’ve done this before. 5 minute epoxy sets up hard in 5 minutes - if you aren’t quick, it’ll get hard while you are still getting everything positioned… and ruin it.

    Squeeze out a lot of epoxy - both parts. Mix the two parts thoroughly using a stick, then shovel the epoxy into the hole in the stick. You’ll have to do some estimating here - you want the hole to be completely filled with the epoxy WHEN THE TANG IS INSERTED, so fill the hole up, but leave enough space so that the epoxy doesn’t overflow the hole too badly when the tang is pushed in. Use a clean cloth to wipe any epoxy off the stick handle before it sets up.



    Now that the glue is in there, assemble everything. Keep wiping any epoxy off surfaces when you need to.

    Your blade probably came with a plastic tip protector, If not, you can fake one up out of cardboard and masking tape. Put the tip protector on the tip of the blade, and take some sturdy rubber bands to use as clamps - stretch these over the tip protector and the butt end of the handle. Use a bunch because you really want the rubber bands to hold everything solid and secure until the epoxy hardens up. Notice that the spool of copper wire is hanging down loose:



    Double check everything to make sure it’s all straight, and that everything is fitting together correctly - if the epoxy hardens up with anything out of alignment, you won’t be able to fix it. Double check, then double check your double checking.

    8. Wire wrapping part 2. Once you are sure that everything is right, set you athame aside, blade point up (so the epoxy doesn’t leak out) until the epoxy hardens up (check the epoxy label for recommended time).

    Now you can take off the rubber bands and the tip protector. Grab hold of the spool of wire and begin wrapping it TIGHTLY around the end of the stick. Keep going around, as tightly and as neatly as you can, until you like the way it looks, then, use wire cutters to cut the wire. Put a 90 degree bend in the end of the wire (see the red arrow in the following picture).



    At the exact place where the bend in the wire begins drill a small hole, just big enough for the wire to fit in. Squirt a bit of glue in that hole and puch the bent end of the wire into the hole. If it keeps popping out, wrap a bit of masking tape around it to hold the wire in place until the glue sets up.

    And that’s it. Wipe the stick down with some boiled linseed oil, then go off and do some conjuring.



    This project took me about 3 hours, which included taking the pictures. It’s an easy, rewarding project that should be doable for most people in an afternoon or two. Have fun!
    I am the sword,
    The wound,
    The stain,
    The scorned transfigured child
    Of Cain

  3. #3
    Supporter Thjoth's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Nice instructional, Corbin. One thing I've found works well for guards (which mostly applies to thicker guards) is to drill out the area to fit the tang like you mentioned, and then use some needle files to slowly expand and smooth out the slot until it is just BARELY short of being pushed all the way up flush with the ricasso. I'm talking less than a millimeter. Then, grab a hammer and a wood block with a big hole drilled in it so that it fits over the tang, put the blade in a vice, and give it a few sharp smacks to force the guard up to the ricasso. Then, to top it off, put a block of wood under the guard with the blade still in a vice, get a small punch, and use the punch to stake the slot. The mark from staking it will be covered up by the handle, and the guard will be fixed on there so solidly it may as well be forged out of one piece. An older knifemaker I know taught me the trick, and you probably already know it, but just passing it on

    If you're really one for over-constructing something, after you do that, fill up all the gaps in the guard/tang fit with epoxy as you epoxy the handle on. A nuclear bomb wouldn't be able to loosen that guard up.

    EDIT: Oh, and just to mention it, the old knifemaker I mentioned also uses the needle files to shape the handle precisely to fit the tang, and he hand forges and grinds all of his blades. Every one of his processes takes FOREVER, I mean it takes him 2 weeks to make a bowie knife (it would be longer, but he's been doing it for 40 years), but he sells his knives for about $400 apiece as well.
    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others."
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    Let a man never stir on his road a step
    without his weapons of war;
    for unsure is the knowing when the need shall arise
    of a spear on the way without.
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  4. #4
    Silver Member Hawkfeathers's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Very cool! You're very good at instructing this kind of thing. I'm the kitchen knife type. I LOL'd at the one picture where you're working over the comics, and there's Beetle Bailey jumping up & down cussing. That would be me if I tried projects like this!
    “But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Corbin, you have the best tutorials!
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Corbin, you have the best tutorials!
    LOL - well, you said you wanted internet art lesons

    Hawkfeathers, I wish you lived near me - I'd walk you through it, and you'd find out that you can do a lot more than you think you can! My scrap box is full of things I tried and failed at - sometimes after many hours of work. You just keep hammering away at it (an especially apporpriate metaphor for metal work...), and eventually you'll end up with something nice. It isn't always what you start out making, but... nice is still good!

    Thjoth, when you put the blade in the vice, what do you use to protect it from the jaws? The paper towel trick won't work if you clamp hard enough to hold the blade while you are hammering. Do wooden blocks work?

    I knew the trick about making the slot just a tiny bit too small, but I never thought about staking it in - the would really hold the guard in there nicely.
    I am the sword,
    The wound,
    The stain,
    The scorned transfigured child
    Of Cain

  7. #7
    Silver Member Hawkfeathers's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    I'm sure I probably could - my "thing" is photography, though. I'm way right-brained, except when it comes to financial things. Although.....I have successfully built a few of those "assemble it yourself" furniture pieces, including a rather large wall unit complete with glass doors & magnetic catches. I did that very logically - had a stock person help me put the 100+ lb. box in my car, opened the box and carried the pieces inside a few at a time, followed all the instructions precisely. Which left me with a 100+ lb. fully assembled wall unit lying horizontally on the floor, as directed. Of course I couldn't pick it up and place it against the wall. LMAO!!! Hadda phone for help on that last little step!
    The reason I'm proud of these things is, if you've ever done one, you know the instructions are poorly translated from Chinese, in most cases. It's pretty funny!
    “But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

  8. #8
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Corbin, can you use other stuff, besides wood? What are good candidate materials?
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  9. #9
    bibliophibian volcaniclastic's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Corbin, can you use other stuff, besides wood? What are good candidate materials?
    Harder to drill, but you could probably use antler or bone.
    We are all these things [...]. Pride, desire, compassion, cleverness, belligerence, fruitfulness, loyalty...and guilt. But above it all stands love. And if we desire to be more than human, that is the star by which we must set our sights.

    Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart.

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  10. #10
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Make your own Athame

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Corbin, can you use other stuff, besides wood? What are good candidate materials?
    Yes - Vulcaniclasrtc is right. Both bone and antler make very good handles.

    Bone (like a leg bone) is already mostly hollow and you can use any long skinny tool (like a chisel or a sharpened screwdriver) to clean out the webby marrow bone on the inside. Antler is solid and needs to be drilled - it's about as easy to drill as the wood.

    But, basically, any material that you can get a hole in can be used. You could even use a piece of copper water pipe, if you wanted a metal handle, for instance. It would be possible, also, to do something like make a handle by wrapping strips of leather around the tang until it gets thick enough to be comfortable.

    If you look at the link to the knife blades that I give, you'll see that there are blades with tangs that are flat and as wide as the blade. You can use any flat material that you can drill to make handles for these. You cut two slabs out to rough shape, glue and rivet (epoxy, and special rivets are available called "cutler's rivets") them to the tang, and then finish file & sand them.

    If you use this method, slabs or bone, or horn (water buffalo is usual), or ivory, or wood, or mother of pearl, and even plastic make nice handles. Pretty much all of this material is available from people on the web who sell knife mating supplies, or I can usually get them for you.
    I am the sword,
    The wound,
    The stain,
    The scorned transfigured child
    Of Cain

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