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How to Make Sword Handles

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Blacksmith arts are practiced by fewer people every year, especially industrial blacksmithing. Most of those who remain are still producing knives, swords and armor pieces.

Blacksmiths do not share their techniques lightly. Metalsmithing is very hazardous. Serious injuries are possible from the heat, from metal fragments penetrating the skin, metal dust and forge fumes being inhaled into the lungs, as well as from cuts and scrapes.

Sword handles are made to complement and enhance the safety and beauty of a particular sword type. The sword handle you make must be appropriate to your chosen sword. This article will enable you to make a hidden tang, screw-on pommel sword handle, the most common European sword. Because handmade items do not have standardized measurements, all measurements will depend on the blade for which you wish to make a handle.

This article assumes you have access to a fully equipped forge and metal workshop. If you do not, seek out a local blacksmith for assistance. To find a local blacksmith, go online to I Forge Iron. If you have never made a blade, read the article, "Poof! You're a Sword Maker" at Anvilfire.com before proceeding.

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Find a proper bronze, steel, or stainless-steel blank long enough and wide enough for the cross guard of your sword. Scribe lines for the tang hole on the cross guard blank, making sure the hole is centered in all directions in the cross guard. Drill two holes in the blank, just short of the ends of the scribed tang placement. Use a jeweler's saw to cut between the holes on each line to make an oval slot. Use a metal-work file to square the oval ends of the slot and to remove any burrs. The slot should now appear rectangular. File the hole until it fits the blade snugly. Visit iforgeiron.com to view samples of blade guards.

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Find proper blanks of the same type of metal as your sword guard for your pommel. Visit iforgeiron.com to view examples. Drill and tap according to the thread that is on your sword tang. Grind the pommel to correct the shape. Sand and polish the pommel to the desired finish.

Find a 1 inch by 2 inch block of hardwood of your choice, 2 inches longer than your desired handle length. Cut to the correct length, leaving plenty of tightening room for your pommel. Use a drill press and a lampmaker's drill bit the diameter of your blade tang thickness to drill a hole through the center of the wood block, the full length of the block. Turn the block around to the far end. Scribe the same length and width slot in that end of the wood block as the slot in the blade guard you cut in step one. Exact measurements will depend on your chosen blade and blade guard.

Tilt the wood block in your vise from the edge of the slot, angled toward the center hole at the other end. Tighten the vise. Drill your next hole so that the drill bit enters the original hole at the other end of the block. Repeat the tilt in the opposite direction, drilling your third hole. Use a coping saw to connect the three holes, creating a tapered slot in your wooden handle. Cut away excess wood on the outside, leaving a quarter inch of material all the way around the sword tang slot and the hole at the other end. Sand and finish the wood as desired.

Cut two leather washers, one circular, with a hole the diameter of the single hole in one end of the wooden sword handle you have made. The hole in the second leather washer should be the same size and shape as the slot in your cross guard and the opposite end of the sword handle. Slide the cross guard onto the sword tang. Slide the long-slotted leather washer into place. Slide the sword tang into the wooden sword handle. Slide the second leather washer onto the sword tang. Screw your pommel into place.

Tip

Gypsy Wilburn, a 20-year industrial and artisan blacksmith, swordmaker and bladesmith, helped in ensuring the accuracy of these instructions.

About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.

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