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I’ve come to really appreciate Osage Orange. It’s a unique wood. The very center is pithy. The outer white wood is as soft as pine. The orange heartwood is so durable it’s legendary .. literally. Documented cases of Osage Orange fence posts surviving 80+ years with little to no rot. It's earned a reputation as bow material .. very desirable bow material.

It’s also very attractive. With continued exposure to UV light .. it just attains a richer & deeper color. And, the pattern of the grain ..is simply.. magnificent.

Some 4~5 yrs ago .. I cut a branch from a local Osage Orange tree. It’s been “curing” in my garage ever since. About a year ago .. I started using it for scale material. It is a beautiful wood.

I’ve used VG-10 core laminated with 420 stainless in the kitchen for 10+ years. Abby purchased me a KIYA while working in Japan .. just shortly after we were married.


When I found a similar material being offered in a folder .. I hesitantly purchased a sample .. just hoping for the best. I’ve since acquired a number of friction folders & lever lock automatics with this blade steel. Great schtuff !!!

Somewhere along the line .. I acquired 4 of the pictured knife blanks .. I caught a sale. As stated .. I’ve found this blade steel phenomenal. I think it’s a powdered metal @ the center. I do know it’s VERY hard. I believe a fairly soft 420 series SS is the laminate. Corrosion resistant & pliable. Well .. pliable in comparison to the center core. I’ve come to enjoy the way it holds an edge ..AND.. looks nice doing it.


For this project .. I’m going to try for a teardrop handled small dagger. Osage Orange for the handle ..&.. laminated blade steel for the blade blank. I milled the “board” of wood from a 6” piece of a branch of an Osage Orange tree.

i.e. I fixed the branch in a vice such that the uppermost orange center wood was .. more or less .. “level”. I then milled the bark & white exterior wood down enough to expose the desired rich orange heartwood. Once I’d established a flat surface .. I flipped it over & milled a parallel flat surface on the opposing side. This provided 2 opposing parallel flat surfaces with which to clamp in the vise .. which I did to attain the other 2 flat & parallel sides of the resultant “board”.

I’ll likely do a very very simple mosaic pin .. consisting of a 1/32” rod inside a 1/16” tube. I’ve found a mix of copper & brass goes well with the Osage Orange wood.

I measured the corner to corner dimension of the tang to be 0.221” & decided on a 15/64 (0.234”) diameter drill bit. The length of the tang measured 1.775” ..so.. I drilled to a depth of 1.8”. I drilled this hole into the center of the butt end of the board.

With the brass washer in place .. I determined the placement of the pin hole by laying the blade blank on top of the wood blank & then butting the blade blank & washer tight up against the wood. I did this in numerous spots along the pictured side profile of the board while marking the resultant center of the pin hole. I did this in enough spots that I could accurately lay out a line on the side of the board. I then used the vernier calipers to identify the center line. i.e. I measured the board width at that point .. divided in half .. set the calipers to that ..&.. scribed a center line. The resultant X identifies the center of the desired pin hole for the hidden tang.

All that work & it didn’t quite line up. Close ..but.. not exact. The brass washer did not sit tight up against the end of the board .. there existed a slight gap. ARGH. Also .. the pin didn’t just slide through. Again ..close, but.. not exact.


The pinning issue .. I corrected by inserting the tang & then “pinning” it in place with the largest diameter drill bit I could get to slide through. I then placed that drill bit in a pin vice & used it as a file while sliding it in & out of the whole arrangement .. i.e. tang of blade blank inserted into wood blank & drill bit inserted simultaneously through all .. then slid back & forth. I repeated this with larger & larger drill bits until I slightly surpassed the pin diameter & could get the pin material to slide in place.

This still left the gap between the brass washer & the wood blank. I cut a thin leather washer to aid in this issue.

I used the existing brass washer to transfer the outside dimensions & the tang hole to the leather. I cut the leather blank out with scissors. I cut the tang hole out by placing the leather blank in the vise such that one edge of the desired hole was positioned at the edge of the vise jaws. Once clamped in place .. I folded the leather over & cut 2 parallel sides of the tang hole with a single edge razor blade & a mallet.

Well .. I used the pictured knife ..but.. would recommend a single edge razor blade to most.

The resulting fit was such that some force was required to compress the blade into the wooden blank before an alignment was attained that facilitated pin placement. There is no longer a gap between the brass washer & the wood .. all good !!!




There is still a bunch to do. I’ll post progress pics in the comments section .. as progress occurs.



D ale

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Replies to This Discussion

I, like you Dale, appreciate Osage.  It does not need stabilizing, a bit of time in the sun and it pops, no two peices are the same.  Can't wait to see this one finished

Great project Dale. The use of the leather washer is perfect, its how it was done on many edged weapons hundreds of years ago. 

Did a little layout before heading to the mill.

Having access to a sm milling machine saves sooo much time,


facilitates an increased level of control & accuracy.


the very same result could be had from a belt sander


manually & a lg amount of time.

Very interesting Dale , I saw Osage on GEC handle scales but thought it was very hard wood . I would love to see the finished item .

Hi, John !!!
The orange heartwood is extremely hard & durable ..... and ,  pretty.


However, the outer growth rings are white & just about as soft as pine. The very very center .. inside the very first growth ring .. is pithy. It can actually be removed with a bamboo barbecue skewer.


Were I dealing with the trunk of the tree .. this would not be an issue. I've just a branch ..wherein.. the issue is amplified. i.e. the "white wood” & the pithy cntr are a larger % of the overall cross-section.

It was a bear to cut ..&.. that strength just increases with age. It seems .. the dryer it gets .. the harder it gets. It cures into a very dense & finely grained wood. It also possesses a fibrous nature .. good luck trying to get a clean break .. on even the smallest of limbs.


I really like the result I obtain using this wood. I’ve put together a friction folder for my daughter. I re-handled an A.G. Russell Hunter Scalpel for a rough use & abuse work knife. I even made a sheath for the community utility knife .. the one that resides in the basket on the coffee table .. ever ready for use.

The orange heartwood darkens with exposure to UV light. The modified Hunter Scalpel has seen the light of day far more than the sheath and this effect is readily evident. Note: origin of both = same tree, same limb, same cut time, same cure time ... same same wood. Except .. the darker one has been exposed to more UV light.


And, John .. I got that knife I mentioned .. the dog tag knife. I did a short review of it here.




D ale

John Bamford said:

Very interesting Dale , I saw Osage on GEC handle scales but thought it was very hard wood . I would love to see the finished item .

I started tapering the handle blank today.

In preparation .. I took some measurements of Queen’s 06L. The teardrop linerlock is 3.82” OAL closed. It’s 0.570” @ the small end & 0.880” @ the larger end. SO0oo .. it tapers 0.310” along it’s length.

On the Osage Orange wooden blank .. I defined a 3” length & introduced a 0.200” taper along that length. Re: one of the last pics in previous remark. I’ve traced those lines on the Osage wood blank.

Specifically .. I clamped the Osage board in the vise @ an angle such that the end mill entered the wood blank 0.100” into the wood. As it traveled along the length of the board .. it exited the board 3” along that length.

After doing all four sides .. the wood blank now tapers toward the end drilled for the hidden tang.

Yes .. the mini-mill certainly helps. The same result could be obtained with a belt sander. Albeit .. a bit dustier. The same result could also be obtained with a rasp, file, sandpaper, & a good bit of elbow grease.

Do not be intimidated by the lack of tools. The most effective way I’ve found to learn these skills is by just jumping in, taking the risk of screwing something up, & giving it a try.

Starting out with a simple blade blank & putting your own handle in place is a wonderful way to get started. One learns about adhesives. One learns a bit about peening pins. One learns a bit about blanking out & forming scales. One learns how to accurately transfer holes from the tang of the blade blank to the scale material. One can learn a lot !!


This can be done very inexpensively with just a bit of effort & imagination. Yard sales, flea markets, & such will almost always have a straight sheath knife for not much. The handle might be broken & there’s probably no sheath ..but.. it’s inexpensive. SO0oo inexpensive you won’t cry if you mess it up. For a project like this .. it doesn’t matter that the handle is broken ..since.. that’s the project. AND .. if you watch for an old well known stamping .. you could even start the project with GOOD cutlery steel.

The scale material can also be salvaged. I’ve used wooden cigar box lids for quick one-off prototypes. A broken wooden hammer handle .. slit lengthwise .. would provide enough scale material for many projects. And .. it’s probably hard hickory .. pre-cured for you.

Enough for today .. I’m rambling.


D ale

These blade blanks have a flat grind on them.

Personally .. I've always found a dagger more provocative when dressed in a hollow grind.

SO0o .. I ground one side today.

I used a 6" wheel to obtain the pictured grind.

I'll have to re-etch ..but.. think the end result will be worth it.


Also .. the tang hole is now tapered.

It's 0.125" dia through the hard center layer.

It's 0.130"~0.135" OD @ the surface of the tang ..&.. not a perfect circle.

I reamed the hole to fit when proofing the pin for the tang & handle blank .. that's why it's no longer circular in the softer laminate material.


The outer laminates are a fairly soft 400 series stainless .. I think. I know they're soft .. because I drilled them with a standard HSS bit. Which .. I trashed when it hit the hard center layer. I flipped the blank over .. got a new drill bit ..&.. did the same thing. I had to use a 2-flute carbide 0.125" end mill to get through the hardened center. Probably should have started with the carbide. Irregardless .. I can safely state .. the laminate is soft & the center layer is hard enough to require carbide.

A bit of progress .. scarce as it is.

The blade blank comes with a flat grind.

I reground .. using a 6" dia .. for a hollow grind.

I also did some preforming on the Osage.

I reset the angle of the cutting edge using a fixed angle sharpening fixture.

During the process .. I implement the ubiquitous barbecue skewer as a temporary pin.

I'll need to re-etch the blade before final assembly.


Other than that .. I just might be ready for some epoxy.



D ale

Made a pin today. Since the OD is 0.125 (1/8)” .. there were some limitations.

The outside brass tube is indeed 1/8” tube. The copper tube inside that is 0.093 (3/32)” OD. The 3 brass pins on the inside are 0.031 (1/32)” OD. However .. to get all three of them to fit .. I had to drill the interior of the copper tube to 0.078 (5/64)”.

One side is rough .. the other is semi polished.

I'm OK with this.



D ale

A bit more progress   ...   ...   ...   Fri03 Mar 2017


After re-profiling the blade .. more of the VG-10 core is visible.

Blade is re-etched.

All is epoxied in place.

Machined the bolster .. flatter & elongated.

The long dimension is coincident with the "width" of the blade.


The handle is beginning to take shape.

The pin is even recognizable.


Slowly taking shape.

I'm getting there.



D ale

Looking good Dale !!

Thank you, John.

Slow ..but.. sure.

John Bamford said:

Looking good Dale !!


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