I bought a beat up HI Uddha sword about a year back where the handle was toast. The cool part was that the blade was made by Bura, who was one of the best kamis in Nepal. He had to retire due to health problems and his blades are collector’s items now. At any rate, I decided to replace the trashed handled with black paper micarta, acid etched the blade and made a custom Kydex sheath. It has a new owner now but thought you might find it interesting.
This HI Sirupati had a 16-17″ blade and was about 21″ overall when it arrived to us with a busted handle so the first step was to boil it and a few others with bad handles and then pry it off:
I made two new handles by gluing assembled blocks around the tangs of the two Sirupatis. I didn’t mention it before, but they are twins – both about 21″ long so you can see a before and after shot. The trick was to form a block made of black paper micarta and black glass reinforced Acraglas epoxy. I then used my new Esteem grinder to remove the parts of the micarta that didn’t feel like a handle:
The following photos are of the first completed Sirupati that has an acid etched blade and its custom sheath made from 0.093″ thick Kydex:
The intent of posting this is to show how a very traditional looking khukuri can look after some modernizing.
I am routinely asked how to rehydrate khukuri wood handles that have dried out over time. This is a service we provide when tuning khukuris and have learned a few tricks along the way that we can share. We approach rehydration or moisturizing by using a 50/50 mix of quality boiled linseed oil (BLO) and turpentine, which we purchase by the gallon from our local Ace Hardware store and sometimes Lowes. The turpentine helps thin the BLO and avoids it becoming unduly tacky.
The procedure is pretty simple so let me outline it. I see handles that often need some tinder loving care such as this Keshar Lal Villager Utility Knife (KLVUK) khukuri handle:
My first step is to do any wood repairs such as gluing cracks, filling holes and sanding. It is very common to find a poor fit between the end cap and the wood for example and I will true it up all the way around either with sanding strips or a sanding mop such as what is shown here:
A mop is good for fast touch ups but not for leveling surfaces or otherwise intentionally shaping the wood. I buy big shop rolls of 1″ wide sand paper in 80, 120, 220 and 320 grits so I can select the grit I need.
The next step is to soak the handle in the turpentine and BLO mixture. I shoot for it being about 90-100 degrees and soak the wood for at least four hours.
I then rub the handle down with a blue shop towel to remove the liquid and let it air dry for about a day. The results are striking. The below photo shows three KLVUKs that arrived with basically the same color of wood that I picked for this story for that very reason. The bottom handle is untouched. The middle handle is after sanding and the top handle is after following the above process. This helps you see the results.
Here is one of our completed KLVUKs:
I hope this helps you do some care on your blades as well.
As many of you know, I think very highly of HI khukuris – both the organization and the blades they produce. This is a great video where the reviewer does a thorough job and explains why he likes the MI M43 that he tested so much. At any rate, if you are interested, check this out as it is very well done:
There are three websites you might want to check out to learn more:
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I’ve had folks ask why we branched from AK furniture into Himalayan Imports khukuris. The answer is simple – both AKs and HI khukuris are incredibly rugged, dependable tools that may not be the most “pretty” things made but you can bet your life on them. In fact, I got into the HI khukuris after so many board members on www.akfiles.com said over and over that HI khukuris are absolutely the best available. So, in the fall of 2011, I bought my first HI khukuri – a massive Super Chiruwa Ang Khola. Then I bought another … and another … and another. They are addictive just like AKs as well!
What I found amazing is that the bladesmiths in Nepal (known as “kamis”) are working in the HI factory in very primitive conditions forging these blades from salvaged truck springs (5160 alloy) and using basic hand tools and anvils. Their methods have been handed down from grandfather, to father, to son for hundreds of years making differentially hardened, field serviceable blades. The engineering, if I dare call it that, is so amazingly cool. They figured out what worked and what didn’t by trial and error over hundreds of years. Each khukuri is unique and reflects the kami who makes it. These aren’t mass produced pretty knives rolling off a conveyor belt. Instead they are extremely functional tools with a long proven history. If you like reading about history, there are so many fascinating references on the Internet and books available!
At any rate, as I journeyed along, I noticed a lot of guys who owned AKs also owned an HI blade or were very interested in getting one. Given that we’ve been working with plastics for over three years now, it seemed like a good fit. Starting in the spring of 2013, we began planning for the custom Kydex sheaths including research into designs, materials and tooling. Over the course of the summer we made a number of test sheaths until we hit on the current type of design and how to make it. We also found out that a lot of folks, women included, didn’t just want a sheath – they wanted to get the blade from us as well to one-stop-shop. Thus, we first started making sheaths for our spare blades to sell plus we got into rehandling the khukuris using the various types of micarta that are available.