Intro: Turquoise Insets Made Easy
I am retired and have a lot of time to mess around on my 15 acres and in my shop. I have made knives by buying a knife "blade" (AKA "blank") on eBay and making the handles from one of my Bois D'Arc trees, and I have made them from old car leaf springs. This time I wanted a different look. I bought a 10" Stainless Steel knife with a 6' blade, a brass bolster, and a 1/4" round hidden tang (the part that is epoxied inside the handle). The cost was $18.50 + $0 S/H from BigSkyKnife on eBay.
I acquired a deer antler from a friend; planning to use the base (AKA "coronet") for the handle. I also wanted to inset two pieces of turquoise into the handle; one in the coronet and one on the side where I cut off a spike and polished it.
Adding the turquoise was more difficult than I had expected, so let's mainly cover that part in this post.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
Deer Antler or material of your choice........Micarta 2 piece handles (AKA scales) are available on eBay and are very inexpensive. Hard woods from S. American & Africa such as Iron Wood & Rose Wood also listed. They are fantastic.
Turquoise or your choice.........Jade, Opal, Crystal, or Fordite (one of my favorites)
Epoxy Cement, clear.
Little wooden popsicle sticks to mix epoxy
Flat piece of metal or plastic to mix it on. I use an upside down cat food can. Works great.
Sandpaper assortment. I buy 1/2 sheet assortment containing 250 to 4000 grit. It's faster and cheaper than driving all over town looking for those grits.
Milling Machine or Drill Press.......Using a hand drill is too difficult. One slip and you've ruined your work. Possibly drilled a new ventilation hole in your body. The damage done by a 3/8" drill bit is not all that different from a .38 caliber bullet.
Flat End Milling Bits (AKA end mill) or drill bit a little smaller than the stone you are wanting to insert after grinding it down to fit said hole.
Buffing wheel; air or electric. I have a really nice one from Harbor Freight that cost $70.00 and compares favorably with name brand $500.00 double shafted bench grinder/polisher.
Step 2: Making This Knife From Saw Blade & Antler Prong
Step 3: Drill a Hole
Pick out a stone you want to insert into your horn or wooden handle. You probably need to choose a stone that you can grind down into a circle that will fit the hole that you drill and polish to a sheen. I chose a piece of turquoise that I had set into black epoxy to make it smooth on the back. That is not all that necessary for this project, but it was a small stone I had left over from when I was making turquoise & silver jewelry.
Step 4: The Hard Part
I did the large piece on the coronet first with reasonable success, but the second on the side was much more difficult due to the shape of the stone. I had previously shaped it to mount on a silver ring mounting. It had a beautiful heart shaped stone, pointed on one end. I had padded the handle with several layers of cloth to keep from damaging it and clamped it in the vise of my milling machine. I used a 3/16" end mill, but due to the irregular shape of the stone, it didn't take long to make a mistake and run the cutting tool outside my scribed guide line. Time to fit a stone into the hole instead of cutting hole to fit the stone.
Step 5: My Solution
Instead of milling out a hole with the same dimension as the stone, it is much easier and more exact to mill out a flat bottom / flat sided 3/16" deep hole in the antler with an end mill and then grind a stone to fit that hole.These pics show the handle end being drilled with an end mill. The reason I use it instead of a drill bit is that it cuts flat, straight up and down sides with a flat bottom. Not necessary, but it makes a nice hole.
Step 6: Mounting the Stone Securely
I find it is best to pre-fit the stone and cut a small piece of masking tape on top of stone and another on the edge of the hole. Mark it to assure that you get it back exactly to the pre-fit position. Use a pencil, NOT an ink pen or sharpie. If you do, the ink will not come off of the antler.
Mix a 2 part clear epoxy. I use Loctite or Permatex brands, both reputable companies. Some knife makers use Gorilla Glue, but I have never tried it. Work quickly, but carefully; the epoxy hardens within 3 to 5 minutes.
Fill the hole (but do not overfill) and work it into all the corners of the hole. Press the stone in the hole, aligning marks on tape.
Carefully wipe off any excess with a piece of paper towel or Q-tip & acetone (or fingernail polish remover)
Let it set with stone on top so it will not fall out. It should harden within 30 minutes, but I like to avoid handling it for 6 hours or so.
Now, wasn't that easy...........