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Any tips for a contoured guard fit?

4 Posts
3 Users
Posts: 22
Eminent Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)
Topic starter

Hey everybody!

Lately I've been trying to add more curved to my designs, and that includes the guard/bolster to handle transition. The problem is, I'm awful at it! This little squiggle took me hours of back and forth to get everything tight enough to my liking.

My current process is to get the shaped guard and handle hole fit flat, then cut out the guard contour on blue painters tape and stick it to the handle block. Take most of it down with the grinder, then use sticky-back sandpaper on the guard to finish up the shape. That works well getting the guard and handle block the same, but then it gets out of register when I put it all on the tang.

Please let me know your tips!


Posted : 11/01/2023 9:58 pm
Jonathan Caruso
Posts: 8
Active Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)

Nice challenge! What comes to mind for me is to continue what you’ve done. However, what if you made the tang hole larger top and bottom so you have the room to move the handle material. One you get the block and the guard matched up bed the tang in the block with the guard and block matched up. Guide pins might help also. If none of that makes sense or helps, give Curtis Halland a  contact and pick his brain. Or look at some of his Instagram videos. Good luck!

Posted : 11/01/2023 10:53 pm
Joshua C States
Posts: 295
Reputable Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)

Back in the 20-teens we used to have a "Topic of the Month" and one or more of them (I forget) was about guard fit and shaping. This topic is still there: Fitting A Guard – Topic For September 2016 – Handles and Guards – American Bladesmith Society Forum

There is still this post about getting it on straight: Getting Guard On Straight – Tools, Equipment, and Jigs – American Bladesmith Society Forum

There is this post about hidden tang fit-up with lots of good methods for shaping the handle and guard simultaneously: Hidden Tang Guard Fit Up – Handles and Guards – American Bladesmith Society Forum

For what you have shown, I would suggest getting a perfect fit of the guard block to the tang first. (see all three posts above) Then using blind alignment pins to hold the guard block to the handle material and shaping the handle and guard off the blade together. If your tang slot in the wood is not perfectly square to the mating face where it meets the guard block, AND your mating faces are not perfectly flush to each other, driving the handle up against the guard block will throw it off.

Make sure the front face of the guard is flat and sanded to desired final finish and the back face of the guard fits flush to the handle material with no gaps on the knife.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

Posted : 12/01/2023 10:22 pm
Posts: 22
Eminent Member Journeyman Bladesmith (5yr)
Topic starter

Thank you both for your replies!

I agree, Curtis is good at it, and I'd like to hear from him. I'll take this opportunity to plug his instagram, which has a few peeks at his process:

It seems he contours the handle before drilling the handle block, which I can see having advantages.

You've also reminded me I need to up my alignment pin game! I just found this thread with a quick search (pasting here to keep everything together):

Though I could see where some contouring would be self-aligning without pins.

I think for my current project, which already has a hole in the handle block, I'll just oversize the hole and bed it as needed, and try post-contour holing next time.

Good replies already, and anyone else feel free to give your thoughts!

Posted : 12/01/2023 11:59 pm