Introduction: Mini Khopesh Sword - Letter Opener
I was inspired by ZombieTool.net design style and decided to make my version of a Khopesh in their style. This sword is usually 24 inches long, this one is about 10 inches long. I tried a few new things on this build like welding on bolsters, acid etching the blade and leather wrapping a tiny handle. It was a really good learning experience and I am super happy with the end results. I learned that my welding is terrible, thank goodness for grinders. I learned that with acid etching less is more and more is more. And when it came to the leather I learned that working at this small scale is a little difficult. Contact cement got on everything. If you are curious about my process then keeping on reading. Also please remember to vote!
I have made a version of this before but this time I wanted it to look a little more aggressive so I added a couple of more pointy edges and slightly elongated and angled the handle a little more. Once I was happy with the design I printed it out and then using my razor I cut out the template.
I decided to use 1/8 inch thick 1095 knife steel for this because I wanted to sharpen it and have it hold an edge. This is entirely overkill for this, you could just as easily use mild steel for this project. You could make this out of wood if you chose too. Letter openers don't have to be razor sharp to cut open an envelope.
Anyhow next I taped the template on to the steel and traced out the shape.
Next I clamped the piece to my bench and began to cut out the shape. I used my angle grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel to make some of the larger cuts and then switched to my portable band saw ( How to Make a Portable Band Saw Stand) to finish the piece. This is just the rough cut portion, I try to stay on the outside of the lines when cutting. Later I can work my way up to the actual marker line.
After the basic rough cutting is complete its time to move on to the clean up. I used my bench top grinder to clean up the cuts and remove the bigger sections of material. Then I used my 1 x 30 inch belt sander to refine the shape a little further. I couldn't get to some of the tight curves with my belt sander so I used a round file to reach those spots.
In order to flatten the blade I attach two welding magnets to one side and use them as handles to hold down the blade while I run it over my 4 x 36 inch belt grinder. The metal will get hot so I make sure to cool the piece down in a bucket of water after a few passes of sanding. The goal here is to get the piece flat and clean on both sides.
Next I added the bevel. I used my 1 x 30 inch belt sander and I also used a flat mill file to establish the bevel. I used the belt sander with a 320 grit belt to clean up the file marks once I was happy with the bevel.
I needed to make a template for the bolsters and the pommel so I used a small piece of paper and the edge of a pencil to trace the shape of the handle. I cut out those tracings and made sure that the sizes were correct and would look good on the handle.
After checking the size of the pieces I traced the bolster and pommel templates on to some scrap pieces of steel. I used my portable band saw to cut out four pieces total, I would need two pieces for each side, two bolsters and two pommels. Again I checked to make sure I liked the scale and look of the pieces before moving to the next step.
I'm not very good at welding but I knew that I could clean up my welds after the fact. My main goal here was to make sure the bolsters and pommel pieces all stuck to the handle. You can see in the third pic the massive blobs. They are not pretty but I was able to grind and sand them down to the shape I wanted using my bench grinder and 1 x 30 belt sander. The last pic shows the clean up pieces after sanding.
If you don't have a welder you could also drill a pin hole and attach the pieces with epoxy and pins, however if you do this you would not be able to heat treat the blade since the epoxy will melt. Or you could wait until after heat treating and attach the pieces later.
With the bolsters and pommel attached I prepped the blade for heat treating. I sanded the entire piece up to 400 grit and wiped it down with acetone.
This step is not necessary unless you want a hardened blade. You do not need a hardened blade for a letter opener and mild steel blade will work just as well.
With that said I heated up the blade in my forge (How to Make a Mini Forge) until it was no longer magnetic and then quenched it in peanut oil. Once cooled I checked the hardness with a file. If the file skates across the steel without biting in to the metal then the blade is hardened. If the file bites in to the metal and leaves files marks then the blade is not hardened and will have to be re-heat treated.
Before tempering the blade I clean it up by sanding it up to 400 grit. Then I place it in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. I let it cool in the oven until its safe to handle.
The second pic shows the blade after the temper, the color is hard to see in the pic but its sort of a bronze color. Next I sand it again using 400 grit sand paper to remove the temper colors and clean up the blade.
This step is optional as well, here I sharpened the edge using a diamond stone. I sharpened it as this point because I wanted to etch the blade and didn't want to risk damaging the look of the blade after etching.
Now it was time to etch the blade. I use a 1:1 ratio of Ferric Chloride and water as the etching agent. I submerged the blade in the mix for 20 minutes then I dunk it in a mixture of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid. The last pic shows the etched blade. You end up with a sort of patina very flat grey look to the steel.
I wasn't super happy with the look so I sanded it a bit but I still wasn't happy with it. So I grabbed my paint marker and started drawing random lines on the blade. The paint marker acts like a masking or stencil and will protect the blade from the acid etch. Any exposed metal that is not covered by the marker will get etched. Once I was happy with the random marks I dipped the blade again in the acid etch but this time for 10 minutes and then rinsed it in the baking soda water mixture.
I also made sure to protect the bolsters and pommels from the acid since I did not want to etch those parts again. For those pieces I just masked them off with electrical tape.
The first pic shows the acid etch after I cleaned off the blade with acetone. I still wasn't happy so I repeated the process two more times each time I drew on random lines and etched the blade for 10 minutes. The last pic shows the blade after the third acid etch. I was finally happy with the look of the blade.
This is where I learned that more is more when it comes to etching. The different layers achieved the contrast I was after.
With all the etching complete it was time to leather wrap the handle. I first applied contact cement to the handle and to the back of the leather strip. The leather is called shoe lace leather that I purchased at the craft store. I let the contact cement set up for 15 minutes.
Once the contact cement was setup I began to tightly wrap the leather around the handle. I just took my time and tried to make sure and keep everything nice and snug while wrapping the handle. Once I got down to the pommel I trimmed off the excess with the a razor.
I did have to resharpen the blade because of all the etching, it did more damage to the edge then I would have expected. This is were I learned that the more you etch the less metal there is.
I really enjoyed this project. I learned a ton and I am super happy with the end result, it looks just like I was hoping it would which is a rare feat for me. I usually don't get things to turn out exactly how I expect them too but in this case I guess the stars aligned.
Now checking the mail is going to be a lot more fun.
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