Category Archives: Care and Modification

How to Remove Old Cosmoline and Grease or Even Free Up Rusty Parts The Easy Way

We’ve all had parts come in with really dried out preservative on it such as grease or cosmoline.  I bought some 100 year old khukuri blades that were coated in dried out grease and realized this was a great time to take some photos.  There’s a way to get all this crud off very easily – most will practically wipe off!

I learned the following trick years ago after a friend was worried I would blow myself up using gas, brake cleaner, etc.  In hindsight I must admit it was risky but I rationalized it because I needed to get the parts clean – this is not only effective but also way safer.

Take a 5 gallon pail with a sealable lid on it.  In the photos you see a basic Ace Hardware plastic bucket with it’s lid that has a waterproof gasket.

I first learned about this years ago for firearms and it is a cleaner known as Ed’s Red and I’ve used it ever since.  The formula was developed and shared by a gentleman named “Ed Harris” and it works great for dissolving grease, cosmoline and even penetrating rusty parts.

The basic formula is:

  • 1 part Dexron III or better
  • 1 part deodorized kerosene
  • 1 part mineral spirits
  • 1 part acetone

I use it over and over, which is why I recommended the lid.  I’ve been using this bucket for probably 3-5 years now.  If it gets really gross or seems to stop working then I will change it but it’s fine so far.

So, I set the blades in the ATF and liberally coated the sides and let it sit.  I periodically would reverse the blades so they could be immersed.  If they were smaller parts, I’d drop them in there and let them sit for a few days.

What I wold so each time when I turned them was to rub the blades down and try and get the softened/dissolved grease off.  A lot of it would wipe right off with no scrubbing.

So here they are a couple of days later simply wiped down.  I left a thin film of ATF on them to reduce the odds of rust but all the old dried grease is gone.

When I am done, I put the lid back on and move the pail out of the way.  I do keep wet parts out of the cleaner as I don’t want to contaminate it with water but other than that, I’ve soaked all kinds of greasy, oily, rusty, dirty parts in this.  The crud settles to the bottom of the pail over time.  I’ve learned that if I stir it up there is a lot of debris.  If it gets too bad, it will be time for a new batch.

I mentioned it in passing but this is also great for penetrating rusty parts so you can take them apart.  I can’t begin to guess what all I have soaked in this bucket over the years but it sure includes gun parts, blades, rusty car parts, etc.  It’s a huge time saver and I hope it helps you out as well.

P.S.  If you want to read more on Ed’s formula, click here for his original article that is in the public domain.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.   With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


20 tips for getting better results with epoxy

I use a ton of epoxy as part of my work plus fixing all kinds of stuff at home, on cars, guns, knives and more.  I’d like to take a few minutes share some lessons learned with you to bear in mind on your next project that involves epoxy:

  1. Buy quality epoxy – not cheap junk.  Epoxy is a generic term and a lot of the no-name blister pack retail stuff is crap.  Go for brand names.  If they list real specs about the formulation then it is probably legit.
  2. I recommend industrial epoxies and not the consumer stuff.  My hands down favorite epoxy is Brownell’s Acra Glas liquid.  It is strong and resists breaking down from repeated impacts very well.  It’s one down side is that it takes a long time to set up so it may not be your best bet if you need something to be fixed and back in service quickly.
  3. Know your application and match the formula to your need – there is no magical formula that does everything.  You may need a putty, a fast cure, a short pot life, higher heat resistance, improved impact resistance, shear strength, etc.  Figure out what you need and then look for the epoxy that will work best for you.  At any given time I probably have 3-4 different formulations on hand.
  4. The longer it takes an epoxy to cure the stronger it is.  All things being equal, an epoxy that cures in 24 hours will be stronger than one that claims to do so in 5, 10 or 30 minutes.
  5. Read the package – setting up vs. curing and reaching full strength are two very different things.
  6. If you want to get epoxy to flow into wood or difficult areas, heat it up.  The liquid thins as it warms up but note this will also speed up how fast it sets up and cures.
  7. As epoxy gets colder, it takes longer and longer to cure.  If you are working outside, use a space heater, flood light or other heat source to keep the epoxy and the work piece area being repaired at least 70F.  I shoot for 80-90F.
  8. Epoxy can get really thick as it gets cold and not want to come out of the containers.  Either keep it inside where it is warm or at least warm it up before you use it,
  9. Epoxy resin can sugar with age just like honey.  What I mean is that will develop a solid mass in the resin bottle – it’s not really sugar!  If you heat up a container of water, take the resin container’s lid off and then set it the container in the water, the resin will warm up and the solid will dissolve back into liquid.  I buy 28oz or larger bottles of Acra-Glas that I don’t always use right away so when it sugars, I do this.
  10. As mentioned above, I buy my epoxy in bulk.  Acra-Glas can be measured by volume and it has a ratio of 1 hardener to 4 resin.  The way I deal with this is very simple – I use 10cc syringes without needles.  I have on syringe in a cup that I use for hardener and one syringe stored in a cup that I use for hardener.  The reason I do this is that the two parts do not react to the air very fast.  I may be able to use one syringe for a several weeks/months before it stops working so I set the syringe in its dedicated cup when done to be used again.  I do not use fresh syringes every time.  A 100 count syringe pack will last me at least a year.
  11. You can definitely color epoxy.  You can buy purpose-made dyes such as So-Strong or add in powdered tempra paint.
  12. You can add fillers for strength or looks.  When filling gaps, I mix 1/32″ milled glass fibers with the epoxy.  The ratio depends on the epoxy you are using, how thick/pasty you want the result to be or how much you want it to still flow into place.
  13. To get rid of bubbles you either need to draw a vacuum, apply pressure or at least use a heat gun to thin the epoxy once it is applied and this allows the trapped air to escape.
  14. When I am gluing big objects together, such as wood panels, forms, or other construction I will use a cartridge based epoxy.  My favorite is Hysol E-20HP.  To use a cartridge, you need the dispensing gun and also the correct mixing tip.  This allows you to squeeze the trigger and properly mixed epoxy comes out of the tip.  When you are done, you just let the tip harden in place sealing the epoxy.  When you are ready to use the gun again, you simply remove the plugged tip with a new one.  This allows for you to deploy a bead of epoxy very quickly but the con is that you throw away a tip every time you stop.  You also can’t color the epoxy first but it is fast and convenient on larger projects.
  15. The surface must be clean for epoxy to work best.  Remove dust, dirt, oil, etc.
  16. A rough surface is always better than a smooth surface.  I always recommend sanding, brushing or blasting a surface to improve adhesion.  Not only do you increase the surface area but you also are creating a texture where the epoxy can get under the base material in thousands of tiny places to really grab hold.
  17. Wear disposable gloves to avoid making a mess.  I buy boxes of the Harbor Freight 5 mil nitrile gloves when they go on sale for $5.99/box of 100.  They really are a good value for a medium-light duty disposable glove.
  18. If you need to clamp parts together, wrap the assemble with wax paper to avoid gluing your clamps to the work piece – yeah, I’ve done that.
  19. Whenever possible, I prefer to clamp work together to get this best bond.
  20. Check, double-check and come back in again later and check your work again to make sure nothing has shifted.

I hope these tips help you with your next project.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed. Doing so will help us fund continued development of the blog.


How To Make a Kydex Cross Draw Khukuri Sheath

I recently made a sheath for a khukuri with serrations on the back of the spine and it was a bit of a learning experience compared to how I normally make a khukuri sheath and though I would share what was done.  The khukuri in question had a nicely done blade and fitment was good.  It had about a 10″ blade, 6″ handle and 16″ overall.  The spine was between 1/4-3/8″ thick.  All in all, it was a medium weight nice khukuri though I am not really sure who made it

Now for this weight range, I could go with .080 or .093″ Kydex.  I went on the heavy side and used .093″ thick black Kydex that I buy in 12×24″ sheets – usually from

So, first up I do two layers of blue painters tape on each side to allow for some “wiggle room” between the blade and the Kydex.  If you want it tighter, use just one layer.  I would recommend having this space to allow for dust, dirt, etc.  Next up is to trim the Kydex so it is long enough to have a bit of material past the end of the blade, a few inches onto the handle and then an about 1.5″ or so on each side when the Kydex folds over.  If you want to use two pieces, you certainly can.  The final sheath I did for this khukuri uses two sheets of Kydex trimmed to size.

Once the Kydex is trimmed to size, you need to heat it to around 360F but less than 400F.  I Use a 16×20″ MPress Heat Press with a digital controller to set the temperature at 360F and to heat the Kydex for 40 seconds.  Note that I also have Teflon/PTFE sheets attached with rare earth magnets to protect the press’ faces if the Kydex were to melt. 

In years past, I used a modified hot plate / electric griddle to heat my Kydex.  For a tad over two years now I have had the MPress and really like it.  At any rate, once the Kydex is hot and pliant, you need to mold the Kydex to the blade.  In this first take, I used my HD Industrial vacuum press to do the work.   You draw the vacuum down and let the membrane do the work and cool down so the Kydex stiffens again.


Next up, draw your planning lines around the blade.  You need to figure out your rivet pattern and then drill the holes.  I do 0.75″ centers to accommodate large Tek-Lok belt fasteners among other options.  Notice the big flap drawn at the top above the handle.  That creates the “funnels” that will guide the khukuri into the sheath and then lock it into place.

Next, debur the holes with a deburring tool such as the Mango II in the above photo.  Then, install the correct size rivets in the holes.  Orient the larger factor finished end of the rivet to be facing viewers when the blade is carried.  It looks better than the small end that results after compressing the rivets.  After that, use a rivet tool to flare and secure the rivets.  I use purpose-built dies in my 1/2 ton arbor press to do that but there are cheaper manual units for use with hammer.  If you plan on doing many sheaths or holsters, go with the arbor press.

Here’s the result.  Note that the round tools are what I use to form the funnels.

Next, I use a band saw to cut close to the outside cut-off line I drew.

I then use a Rigid Oscillating End Sander to do the shaping.  I bought thebunitat Home Depot two years ago and it works great for this.  I use a 40-60 grit belt to quickly do the grinding.

Now I did the test fitting and had an “oh crap” moment.  I normally expose the blade to allow for quick insertion and extraction but I couldn’t do that with this model due to the serrations.  They were exposed and would clearly hang up on everything so it was time to come up with a plan B.  It dawned on my that I needed something to serve as a “sheath” for the serrations that would give me work room inside the sheath once it was formed.  So after thinking about for a few minutes, I took some 3/16″ fuel line, slit it down the middle and pulled it onto the khukuri.

I also wanted the khukuri to push a lot further into the rear piece of Kydex so that meant I needed to use the khukuri press that I designed just for this.  It is built like a tank from layers of 3/4″ plywood and uses four 500# Quick Clamps to compress the Khydex.  The results is tight uniform clamp around the handle and blade of a khukuri.

Next, it was time again to mark, cut and rivet the sheath.  Again, note the tabs drawn above the handle to form the funnel.

After cutting, I use a heat gun to heat each tab and bend it over a round mandrel.  I have a 1/2″ round piece of aluminum that I normally use.  Note, I have burned out a number of cheap heat guns.  The DeWalt is over two years old and still going strong.

I use MEK solvent on a rag to smooth over the edges of the Kydex and make it look good.  If you use MEK, be sure to wear solvent gloves and work outdoors or in a very well ventilated area.  That stuff is hot – meaning it evaporates fast and is not something you want to be breathing.

I used 1″ heavy duty nylon webbing for the retention strap along with a snap stud and quality heavy-duty #24 snap head.  I heat an old small screw driver to melt a hole in the strap for the stud and the snap head and then a purpose built die in my arbor press to actually open the rivet head inside the snap.

The Tek-Lok is secured to the sheath via slotted posts, screws and rubber spacers cut to the length needed.  Note, use Vibra-Tite or blue Loc-Tite to secure the screws and nuts or they will work lose and fall off.

Here is the end result.  The old buffalo hide and wood sheath is above for reference.  I like adding paracord for lashing and survival use.

In the next photo you can see the opening for the tip of the khukuri to slide into – that pocket is essential.  Once the tip is inserted, the handle is pushed towards the funnels that open, allow the handle to pass and then spring closed locking the handle in.  To truly lock it in and protect against brush, you need a retention strap that serves to keep the sheath closed – if the sheath is held shut then the blade can’t come out.

Here are two more shots

I hope you found the post of interest!

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed. Doing so will help us fund continued development of the blog.


How to make a custom khukuri handle for a rat tang with micarta and epoxy

I am a huge fan of Nepalese khkuris including ones from Himalayan Imports and GK&Co (Deepak Sunar).  I do like customizing them also and have made handles many ways for both the full-tang and rat tail tang blades.  What I am going to show below is a rat tail tang and you’ll notice the curve the tang has.  This is the traditional tang and is very strong.  Westerners have a mistaken belief that full-tang is better.

The Nepalese bladesmiths, known as “kamis”, have evolved their design over centuries based on real world experience.  Their rat tail tang is very strong, allows for the traditional handle to be changed relatively easily and since the handle can flex somewhat on the tang, some of the shock is absorbed there vs. by the wielder’s hand.  When the British arrived they mandated a full tang on their Army models based on their experience and beliefs.  In short, when you are looking at khukuris, do not discount rat tails as weak because they are not.

The first step I do is to blast my slabs of Micarta to prepare them for maximum adhesion.  I am a zealot on cleaning too before gluing.  Do not attempt to glue the shiny micarta to the blade or it will knock right off with the first shock. Basically we are going to make a handle by sandwiching a piece in the middle that has the tang outline cut out between two outer slabs.  These are black canvas micarta slabs that have already been blasted – that is why they are dull.

The thickness of the middle slab needs to be the same thickness as the thickest part of the tang to keep things simple.

Next, I lay the middle slab under the tang and trace its outline.

I was doing two blades at once.  See the one above sitting in the cut out notch and the one below I have just traced the outline with a Sharpie marker.  Please note I have not taped the edge of the khukuri’s blade yet.  I would recommend you do that at some point to protect yourself.

This is slightly out of sequence but see the two round drill holes at the end of the tang?  I did them before sawing to make turning around at the end easier.  The numbers marked on the micarta correspond with which of the two blades I was working with.

I would then use a jig saw or band saw to cut the section out where the handle went.  Note, I more often use a band saw these days and you can do whatever works for you.

See how the tang fits in?  It does not need to be perfect as this will all be filled with structural epoxy.

I do not have a photo, but I would abrasive blast the tang until it was clean shiny steel.  I would wear nitrile rubber gloves and hose everything (tang and slabs) down with brake cleaner to make sure no oils from my skin contaminated the work pieces.  Note, I often drive a 1/8″ brass cross-pin in through the thick part of the tang to lock everything in place just in case and also use a piece of thick wall 3/8″ brass tube at the rear to make a lanyard hole.  I did not do these things on this particular model and they are features to consider.  For people new to this, I would recommend the brass cross pin.  I always do this now even though I have never had a handle fail but I evolved this method and learned over the course of a number of years.

Next, take the outer slabs and round the outside edges over.  What you want to do is to create the taper you want before you glue the handle on.  It is hard to sand up front on the handle once it is glued together.  I would take the three pieces, clamp them together and then work on the belt sander until I got the shape I wanted on the front leading edge.  This is all we want to shape at this point.  I always preferred to do the majority of my shaping once the handle was epoxied onto the blade.

For gluing the handle, I will only recommend Brownell’s AcraGlas liquid.  It is a very strong, durable, and shock resistant epoxy.  Absolutely do not use a cheap epoxy as it will likely break down and crumble (“sugar”) over time with repeated heavy blows.  Always bear in mind that the big khukuris are choppers and heavy.  What you do needs to hold up under extreme use compared to many knife handles that see very light relative use.  To be safe, I would recommend you always abrasive blast the steel and the micarta before applying the epoxy – don’t try and just get by with sanding or otherwise scuffing the surface.  By blasting you are almost doubling the surface area for the epoxy to adhere to and the irregular surface creates countless shapes where the epoxy can get under “ridges” in the micarta and the steel to really securely hold the parts together.

Follow the AcraGlas mixing instructions to the letter.  I add in a bit of milled 1/32″ glass fiber to increase the strength in the filled areas.  The ratio for AcraGlas liquid is 1 part hardener to four parts resin and I’d add about 1 part of the glass fiber.  It is a bit of a balancing act because you do not want to make the resulting epoxy too thick.  You need it to run in, fill voids and seep into the micarta as much as possible.  [To get the most out of your epoxy, please click here to read a post I did a while back detailing my lessons learned over the years.]

Next, cut a piece of wax paper to wrap the handle.  You want to apply a ton of epoxy, clamp the heck out of it and let it sit and cure for 24 hours.  When you remove the wax paper, if there are any imperfections you need to fix by adding more glue, first blast the surface, clean it and then glue it.  Do not just put epoxy on top of epoxy without preparing the surface first.

Next, if you haven’t done so yet, tape your blade’s cutting edge to make sure you don’t get sliced when sanding the handle.  When working with a belt sander it can grab hold of the work and surprise you – you don’t want a sharp edge to be flying around!!

I do a lot of my handle work on a Rigid oscillating belt edge sander from Home Depot with 40-80 grit sand paper.  Hook your shop vac up to suck up the dust and be sure to wear both a good dust mask (such as a N99 rated mask/respirator) and eye protection.  The dust goes everywhere so be sure to have the vacuum hooked up and stop periodically to clean up and also to inspect your work.

In terms of shaping the handle, I will relay a piece of funny sounding advice – remove all the material that isn’t part of the handle.  Really useful, right?  When the fellow told me this years ago his point was that making a handle is applied art.  You are sculpting a handle by removing material and working towards a shape you have thought out.  I would remove a bit and test the feel, remove a bit and test the feel over and over.

I have experimented with many shapes over the years and it is really up to you.  I would stick with coarse sanding to keep the handle from being slippery and did both one handed and hand-and-a-half models.  In all cases, I wanted to user to have control while chopping / hacking with the blade.  One real strong recommendation:  ALWAYS build a finger stop or hand stop into your design.  You do not want a hand to slide forward onto the blade.  I always built the stop into the handle but you could certainly make your own metal cross guard or do something else — just be sure to protect the user’s hands.

The below blade is acid etched with a combination of apple cider vinegar and phosphoric acid and then everything, including the handle, had boiled linseed oil (BLO) applied to it. [Click here for my post about acid etching blades.]


This is a handle from a big HI WWII model blade.  Note the lanyard hole at the end.  I would drill the hole both for a friction fit and I would cut the tube longer than needed, blast it, clean it and then apply epoxy liberally before inserting it into the blade.  I would then sand it down to size as part of the final shaping of the handle.

This is black paper micarta that comes out a beautiful obsidian black.  It is on a long, elegant 24″-ish Sirupati.  Notice the oversized pommel to serve as a hand stop and the finger groove up front for indexing and grip.  This is a hand-and-half design meaning a person could grab hold with their second hand if they really wanted to.

The cool thing with the handles is that you have a ton of materials and options to consider to make a very unique functional piece.  I hope this blog post gives you some ideas.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements.  EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.  Doing so will help us fund continued development of the blog.


How to get what you want from epoxy – for me it is long life, shock resistance and strength


Folks, I work a lot with epoxy and reply on it as a structural adhesive to both fill gaps and bond parts together.  I’ve done everything from fixing car parts, wood furniture, tools, rifle bedding, scope mount bedding, custom knife handles and much more with epoxy.  It is incredibly versatile but you need to do some planning to really get what you want out of it predictably.

In case you didn’t know it, “epoxy” is a general term for a wide range of cured polyepoxide resins glues with different physical characteristics such as how long they cure, strength, temperature resistance and so forth (click here if you want to learn more about the chemistry).   There are a ton of options out there as quality manufacturers experiment with different resin and hardener formulations.  In short, not all epoxies are the same and for people concerned with the quality of what they are building, they need to think things through.  For quite some time I’ve wanted to write down a series of tips for folks to get strong reliable results so here they are:

Buy a quality brand epoxy to begin with

What I have found over the years is that not all epoxies are created equal so spend the money and buy quality epoxy.  There can be a huge difference in how well the epoxy will last over time and/or how strong it really is.  Do not buy the bargain basement junk.  In general, if the maker lists all the physical properties then it is a well thought out and executed formula.  I have three epoxies that I use the most in order are Brownell’s AcraGlas liquid (not the gel), Locite E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel.  Once in a while if I need a fast cure epoxy, I will get a retail blister pack of some five minute epoxy and I’ll explain more in a moment.

Strongly consider what your application is

Epoxy comes in many formulations.  They can vary the chemistry of the resin, the hardener and the filler to behave differently.  Consider the following example characteristics:

  • Liquid, Gel/Paste or Putty/Bar — The liquid can seep into pores and fibers plus it can be spread but it can run into places you do not want.  Gels and pastes tend to stay put better but do not seep in as well.  The really thick puttys and bars are great for filling space or creating an impromptu clamp or to seal a hole but they definite don’t sink in much.
  • Temperature – you need to think both about the temperature when you are mixing and applying the epoxy as some will not set up at all if too cold.  You also need to think about the heat when in operation because many epoxies soften and lose their bond the hotter they get.   For example, you may apply epoxy to an exhaust manifold but it will blow off when it gets hot.
  • Pot life – this is how long you can still apply it before it starts to thicken.  Some folks will refer to this as working time.  You need to mix the two parts together, apply the epoxy, position and clamp the work before you run out of time.  Keep this in mind.
  • Cure time – this is how long until the epoxy reaches full strength
  • Color – you can get epoxies in different colors
  • Ratio / mixing – some are by volume or by weight.  The easy consumer stuff is usually 1:1 by volume but when you get into the more sophisticated epoxies the volumes vary or a digital scale is needed
  • Heat resistance – some epoxies resist heat better than others before they soften and “let go”
  • Shock resistance – some formulations hold up better than others before they start the break apart and “sugar”.  Sugaring refers to the powdery look epoxy gets as it breaks apart.  Brownell’s AcraGlas, Loctite E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel have all held up very well for me under shocks.  My go-to epoxy for most work is Acra-Glas liquid because it holds up so very well.
  • Others – there are other factors that may matter to you but the important thing is to think through your application

Go with as long of a curing time as you can for maximum strength

What many people do not know is that the faster an epoxy cures, the weaker it is.  Conversely, the longer the formulation takes to cure, the stronger it is.  All things being equal, a 24 hour curing epoxy will be stronger than 90-second, 5-minute, 30-minute and so forth epoxies.  Now there is a time and a place where speed is needed and also situations where strength is paramount.  When I make khukuri hands and other things where strength is critical, I always use a 24 hour epoxy.

Use the Proper Ratios

Be sure to carefully follow the mixing ratios.  For volume ratio work, I use 10cc or larger syringes without the needles on them to meter liquid resin and hardener.  For example, I like AcraGlas and it is 4 parts resin to 1 part hardener.  I keep two syringes separated that I re-use over and over.  With the syringe in the holding cup labeled “resin”, I use it to draw 4 cubic centimeters (CCs) of resin out and squirt it into a mixing cup.  With the hardener syringe, I meter out 1 CC of hardener into the cup.  Now you can vary that.  If you need a smaller about, meter out 2 CC of resin and 1/2CC of hardener.  The syringes really help.  If you are doing larger volumes then either use bigger syringes or disposable cups that have measurements printed on the side.  Also note how I pour from the bulk container into the smaller intermediary containers that are easy to work with plus I avoid contamination, dropping a big bottle, etc.

The Loctite E-120HP comes in a specialized dispenser tube that uses a gun and tip to do all the mixing.  It’s cool as can be for volume work where additional coloring or fillers are not needed.

For the Devcon Plastic Steel, I use my digital scale.

Here’s one thing not to do:  Some guys have heard that if they add more hardener it will cure faster.  This may be true but the resulting cured epoxy will be weaker.  Do not deviate from the manufacturer’s recommendations if you want the physical properties they report.

Mix thoroughly

Folks, I can’t stress this enough.   Mix the heck out of the two parts and combine them thoroughly.  If you are doing larger volumes, consider doing what is known as a double pour.  Pour the two parts into a first container, mix them thoroughly and then pour the combination into the middle of a second container and mix.  What a double pour does is avoid having unmixed materials that have stuck to the walls of the container come out when you are applying the epoxy.  Keep your pot life / working time in mind.

Most of the time I am using a generic 5oz plastic cup and plastic knife to do the mixing.  I buy them by the hundreds for Ronin’s Grips and they are cheap regardless.  Do not use styrofoam.

Prepare the surface

Whatever you want to bond epoxy to had better be clean and free of oils, greases, waxes, release agents and so forth.  Second, the more abraded the surface the better.  If you abrasive blast a surface not only can you double the surface area being bonded together but the irregular surface creates many opportunities for the epoxy to get “under” material to create a better grip.  If you can’t blast then at least sand the surface with 80-100 grit sand paper.

So here are two rules to bear in mind when it comes to the surface:

  1. Clean, clean, clean and wear gloves to not contaminate the surface with oil from your skin
  2. Shiny is bad.  A polished smooth surface will not give you anywhere near the bonding strength that a blasted or abraded surface will.  I blast everything that I can – metals, micarta, plastic and even wood.  It makes a world of difference – seriously.

The following is a bakelite handle from an electric griddle of my parents’.  The unit works great and has sentimental value so I cleaned it, blasted it, cut a quick cross hatch pattern to give even more grip and then cleaned it again.  It set up like a rock and we used it all Memorial Day morning to cook hundreds and hundreds of pancakes with no problem.\

Heating Epoxy

Heat can help you two ways.  First, by warming epoxy it tends to flow better.  If you need to to soak into wood or other surfaces, consider using a heat gun to blow/chase the epoxy into the wood.  Do not burn the epoxy – just warm it up.  Second, in general, warming epoxy up tends to make it cure faster.  Now there are limits and you need to either experiment or talk to the vendor before doing anything too radical.  I will often use a halogen light or other heat source to warm the surface up to 80-100F.  In chemistry, there is a formula known as the Arrhenius Equation that notes that for each additional 10 degrees Celsius added, a reaction rate doubles (click here for more info on the equation).  My experience is that you want the heat to penetrate and warm all of the epoxy and not just the surface and you also do not want to burn the epoxy.  In general, I do not exceed 100F but that is just me.  I found something that works good enough and have just stayed there.

Also pay attention to the minimum temperature requirements for curing.  Some epoxies will not do anything at all at freezing.  Some take forever to cure at 50F.  It just depends.  When in doubt, use a lamp or something to gently heat the part.

Coloring Epoxy

What many folks do not know is that you can actually color epoxy.  I have found two approaches that work.  First, use powdered tempera paint.  You can stir in a bit of black powder to get black epoxy.  Now I did this starting out and have since moved to using epoxy dyes so I am added less powder to the mix because I want to save the volume for glass fillers which we will talk about next.


You can modify the physical strength of epoxy by adding a substrate or fillers.  For example, fiberglass is matted glass fiber that bonded together with epoxy made for that purpose.  Folks working with carbon fibers are using epoxy for bonding that together.  I add 1/32″ milled glass fibers to my epoxies to get more strength.  If I want more of a paste, I add more glass fiber and if I want it to be more of a liquid, I use less.  The exact volume of glass fiber depends on what you are trying to do.  Some vendors will give you recommendations and others will not.

Clamping / Work holding

In general, you want to apply the epoxy and then clamp everything together really well and then let it sit.   You may choose to use traditional clamps, vacuum, etc.  Bear in mind two things:

1.  Be careful that you secure the material and that it can’t shift while curing.  I can’t tell you how many times I have checked stuff and found out it moved and had to change my approach.  Figure this out before you apply the glue in case you need to make something, change your approach, etc.  Check it regularly to make sure it hasn’t shifted regardless.  Every time I think something can’t move – it does.

2.  The epoxy will run out of what you are working on.  Decide how you are going to deal with it.  Wax paper can protect your tools and table.  You can scrape the epoxy off after it has partially cured.  You can wipe things down with acetone when partially cured.  Just think it through otherwise you are going to glue stuff together really well that you do not want bonded – trust me.  It is a real headache so plan for seepage/dripping and how you will deal with it.


This is something I have gotten better at over the years – wait the recommended amount of time.  If they say 24 hours then wait 24 hours.  If you have questions about using the part sooner then ask the manufacturer.  For example, you might be able to assemble something after 10 hours but not actually put it under strain for 24 hours.  Factor in the temperature.  The colder it is then the longer it will take.  Remember what I said about the heat from lamps above.


Yeah, I had to add this.  Follow all guidance from the vendors.  The resins aren’t too bad but some of the hardeners are nasty.  Wear rubber gloves, use eye protection, work in a well ventilated area and wear a real good dust mask when sanding.  I use N99 masks now for everything.

I hope you found this general epoxy guidance helpful!

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements.  EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.  Doing so will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Here are links to some of the stuff I use:

AcraGlas at Brownells.  As a reminder, I prefer and recommend the liquid, not the gel:–prod1033.aspx

Loctite E-120HP [note that most sellers on Amazon charge a fortune for this so dig around at industrial supply houses such as McMaster, Zoro, MSC, etc.  Also, remember that you need the tube of glue, gun and disposable tips.  When the glue hardens in the tip, it protects the cartridge and you then replace the tip for your next work session but it does mean you need multiple tips.  I use this glue mostly for big projects like bonding together larger pieces of wood, etc.]

ITW Devcon Plastic Steel

JB KwikWeld – note that this is a thicker grey liquid.  I use it if I am in a rush and need an epoxy.  I’ve used it to bed rifles and repair stuff mainly.  I have not used it on knife handles.  Also, due to its grey color, you can go darker towards black but not lighter.

Now I have used a ton of their sticks to create clamps, fill voids, etc.  I typically have 2-4 sticks sitting in my supplies because when I need them, I need them.

Epoxy Dyes – there are a bunch on Amazon but I don’t know them.  In general, I use So-Strong dyes from SmoothOn when I need small amounts.  My black dye is bought by the pound in bulk containers.

10cc Syringes

Digital Scale – it will get filthy so buy something cheap but with good reviews.

Clamps – there are so many ways to clamp stuff together.  I use everything from woodworking vises to spring clips to C-clamps to the big heavy duty Irwin clamps that can do up to 600 pounds of pressure with one hand.

Wax paper

Plastic Cups – I’d recommend checking around.  You need to balance cost and quality.  Some cups are absurdly thin and you can’t use them for mixing.  I get mine from GFS and you can tell they have made them cheaper and cheaper over the years.  5oz is still good but 9 and 16oz cups aren’t so red hot any longer.

Plastic Knives – again, check around.  I get mine from GFS in a big box and they work just fine.

Heat gun – I have burned out a ton of them.  This DeWalt D26950 is the first one to last longer than a year.  I’d guess I’ve been using it for almost three now.

Dust Mask – I used Moldex 2310 N99 face masks now exclusively.  They hold up fairly well and aren’t hard to breath with.

Nitrile Gloves – the best deal I have found is from Harbor Freight for their 5mil gloves.  When they go on sale or you get a coupon for $5.99/box of 100 gloves, go get them.  They are thin and don’t hold up to tough use but to keep your hands clean and balancing off strength and cost, they are a pretty good deal.  Even at $7.99/box without shipping they are a pretty good deal.


2014 Restoration of a 21-1/8″ New Haven Edge Tool Co #3 Cleaver

This dates back to August 2014.  I scored a beat up but fascinating New Haven Edge Tool Co #3 Cleaver.  It was quite large measuring approximately 21-1/8″ long and 3.187 pounds.  The exact age was hard to say – it could be anywhere from 100-150 years old given the way it is made.   After doing some digging, one person doing research said that “New Haven Edge Tool Company” was  a Sargent Brand and the listed it discontinued in their 1911 catalog so that would mean this cleaver is likely older than that.  Regardless, you would never know it now.

It would appear to be cast iron and is just a big no nonsense brute of a cleaver.  It’s either ready to go to work or to be one heck of a conversation piece.  Let me tell you a bit about what we did after we bought it:

The handle was cracked and we stabilized it internally with a special Cyanoacrylate glue that penetrates wood very deeply.  We also used glass reinforced epoxy to seal the front of the handle where the blade is inserted.  The blade is actually secured via rat tail tang that goes through the whole handle and is peened over at the pommel to firmly secure it.  Once we had the handle all fixed up, we sanded it and then applied four coats of a penetrating combination of boiled linseed oil (BLO) and turpentine.

The blade was actually in very good shape and most of our work was cosmetic.  We did some sanding to shape it, abrasive blasted it and then used an acid etching based on apple cider vinegar and phosphoric acid (click here to learn more).  Once it was all set, we applied a thick coat of engine oil to stop the rusting.  If you plan to use this to cut meat, and it definitely will do the job, be sure to was the blade and then apply a cooking oil to the blade.  This will avoid making your food taste funny plus it will prevent rust.

So, here’s how it turned out before it found a new home:

Approximate Dimensions

Overall length:  21-1/8″

Blade length: 9-5/8″

Blade height by the handle:  3-7/8″

Blade height at its tallest point:  5-1/2″

Handle at its thickest point: 1-5/8″

Handle at its thinnest point in the middle:  1-1/4″

Weight:  3.187 pounds

By the way, the BSI Super Thin glue is fantastic for taking care of cracks:

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements.  EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.  Doing so will help us fund continued development of the blog.

The following is a real-time search of eBay using keywords that have worked for me in the past and I hope they help you find something (note a few odd items might show up just like any other search does):

antique large hog splitter cleaver

$35.00 (1 Bid)
End Date: Sunday Jun-24-2018 9:33:50 PDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

Huge Vintage Hog Splitter Meat Cleaver Butcher Knife 29 3/4 long 12" long Blade

End Date: Monday Jul-23-2018 10:21:51 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $249.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Vintage Butcher's Slaughterhouse Meat Cleaver / Hog Splitter 33" with 16" blade

$149.99 (1 Bid)
End Date: Sunday Jul-1-2018 16:30:54 PDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

Hog splitter

End Date: Tuesday Jul-3-2018 2:15:28 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $90.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique Foster Bros Meat Cleaver Huge 32 INCH LONG Hog Splitter Butcher RARE

End Date: Tuesday Jul-3-2018 19:16:11 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $349.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique LAMSON & GOODNOW No.12 Butcher's Slaughterhouse Cleaver/Hog Splitter

End Date: Tuesday Jun-26-2018 19:02:16 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $329.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Wednesday Jul-4-2018 3:31:38 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $50.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Sunday Jun-24-2018 5:59:17 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $89.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique Hog Splitter

End Date: Tuesday Jul-17-2018 12:09:03 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $218.40
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

RARE Antique LAMSON & GOODNOW Butcher's Slaughterhouse Cleaver/Hog Splitter A+++

End Date: Tuesday Jul-17-2018 21:57:12 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $324.05
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Friday Jun-29-2018 15:59:03 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $249.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique Meat Cleaver Seneca USA Made VTG Butcher Knife Hog Splitter 11.5" Long

End Date: Monday Jun-25-2018 7:21:18 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $20.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Large vintage Foster Bros #16 meat cleaver hog Beef Carcass Slaughter house

End Date: Monday Jul-9-2018 21:48:24 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $340.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique Wm Beatty & Son Logo Butcher's Cleaver Hog Cow Splitter Farm Tool Prop

End Date: Tuesday Jul-10-2018 20:03:05 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $69.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique P.S.& W Hog Splitter Meat Cleaver butcher knife Peck, Stow, & Wilcox

End Date: Sunday Jul-22-2018 18:20:54 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $129.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique Meat Cleaver Seneca USA Made Vintage Butcher Knife Hog Splitter 11" Long

End Date: Monday Jul-2-2018 8:49:23 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $21.59
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Sunday Jul-1-2018 3:46:26 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $54.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Antique VTG Pig Hog Cow Splitter Butcher Meat Cleaver Knife Beehive Handle 18"

End Date: Wednesday Jul-11-2018 23:20:28 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $249.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Monday Jul-16-2018 3:59:34 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $145.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Huge antique cleaver, hog splitter w/ 10" blade aluminum theater knife handle

$62.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday Jun-27-2018 14:41:33 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $80.60
Buy It Now | Bid now | Add to watch list

Acid Etching Steel With Apple Cider Vinegar

Some folks have asked how I get the dull grey look on khukuris that I used to work on.  The answer is simple – apple cider vinegar straight from the grocery.  I’ve also experimented with various ratios of Prep-and-Etch, which contains Phosphoric Acid, and gotten a darker color but apple cider works remarkably well.  Apple cider vinegar contains 5-10% acetic acid (CH3COOH) depending on how it is made.  For example, I read that Heinz is about 5%.  My local store caries Spartan brand, which is their store brand, and it works just fine.  By the way, this only works with steels that can rust.  For example a mild steel or high carbon.  It will not work on stainless, aluminum, etc.

Safety Notes:

I would recommend doing this outside or some place very well ventilated or else if the acetic acid condenses on metal surfaces in your shop/garage, it will cause rust.

Wear safety glasses and don’t goof around with the stuff.  I’ve never had a problem but probably need to say some kind of warning here.


  1. Clean the part and remove all oil and grease.  Either hose it down really well with brake cleaner or soak it in acetone.
  2. Abrasive blast the part – I use “The Original Black Beauty” media that I get at my local farm supply store.  It’s made from coal slag and is fairly environmentally friendly.  It does break down quick so if you use your blast cabinet a lot, be prepared to clean it out and add new media when performance starts to suffer.  Blasting will get you a really nice uniform surface color.  I suppose you could try sanding or wire brushing but blasting has worked the best for me and is all I do now.  My only recommendation is not to use sand because as it breaks down it creates a fine dust that will never come out of your lungs – read that as “bad”.  I do use a blast cabinet with a vacuum to get rid of dust, you could do this outside with a hand blaster or tank blaster and dust mask if you needed to.  I wear a hood when blasting outside as the media goes everywhere.  Just protect yourself is the bottom line.
  3. Wear rubber gloves and clean the part again – the gloves are to keep oils from your skin from contaminating the part and preventing etching.  Cleanliness is critical.
  4. Put the part in cider that is at least 70 degrees.  I like 100-150.  If it is too cold the reaction slows waaaaay down.  I don’t like to get it super hot or boil it as you lose a ton of cider with no real benefit.  I have done this in everything from stainless steel containers to plastic containers and even plastic trays used for wallpaper with halogen lights warming it up.  In general the colder the cider the slower the etching and the hotter the cider the faster the etching bearing in mind you will have the cider evaporating faster.
    Note:  If you do not see bubbles coming off the part then either the solution is too cold (especially on cold days under 70F), the part is not clean or ready (so clean and blast it) or the cider too weak.  I’ve never had an issue with weak cider – always the first two.
  5. Submerge the part in the acid and let it sit for 15-30 minutes.  It’s not a strong acid so there’s no rush.  Just check the part and stop at the color you want.
  6. Rinse with hot water
  7. Rub down with WD40 and steel wool to get the loose particles off
  8. Then I like to seal it with boiled linseed oil (BLO).  Some of you may know BLO for woodworking but it is an old school rust inhibitor.  If you don’t want BLO, then thoroughly oil your part.

I like the results.  No real harmful chemicals are used, it’s cheap and looks great.


The light brown solution is just apple cider.  If it is darker, it was 25-50% Prep-and-Etch + the vinegar.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.   With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


You can usually get a coal slag blast media very, very cheap from farm stores.  Check there first because off Amazon you are paying a pretty penny for shipping whether they bury it in the item’s price or call it out separate.  I think I pay $7-9 per 25# bag at Family Farm and Home.

This is the actual product I use:

Now for the blasting, you have tons of options – hand blaster for small work, siphon blaster, pressurized tank or cabinets.  It all depends on how much blasting you plan to do.  I started out with a siphon blaster – dirt cheap but very slow.  I then got a tank and it was very fast and portable but media went everywhere.  I still have that for working on cars and big parts.  However, for my grips, gun parts and knives, I use my blast cabinet.  I have a Cyclone brand large bench unit and am relatively happy.  If I had it to do over, I would have gotten a free standing unit with a bigger and deeper hopper so I’m not constantly hitting the side or moving media around by hand.  I have a foot control pedal and that really helps plus it gets a the pneumatics out of the cabinet where they would normally be subject to abrasive dust and wear.

Cyclone Manufacturing

My pressurized tank blaster is a Harbor Freight unit.  It’s held up relatively fine other than my constantly wearing out valves and tips.  The tank itself is just fine.

How to Moisturize a Horn Handle on a Khukuri

DSC_0027 DSC_0033


I regularly am asked about how to moisturize or condition a horn handle.  This is important because if horn shrinks then it will likely split because it can’t shrink uniformly due to all the glue, different moisture levels, etc.  With that said, there is a very easy fix.  You can use hoof conditioner for horses to impart oils back into the horn.  I gently warm the horn slightly and the conditioner and then rub it into the horn by hand.  It’s important to use a bare hand so the warmth of your body is helping keep everything liquid.  I will work the conditioner in for about 5-10 minutes and then let it sit until it looks dry and depending on the temperature that might be 10-15 minutes or even just when I get back around to it.

I then repeat the above 2-4 times depending on how fast the conditioner is being absorbed.  I then buff the horn with a cloth handle and let it sit.  That’s it – mission accomplished.

I would recommend to khukuri owners to do this a couple of times per year if possible – especially in the fall and spring when the temperatures and humidity are changing.

I like Hooflex but just about any will do.  This may just be a personal preference but I was told to use thicker conditioners years ago vs.