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How to replace a stacked leather handle


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#1 Steve S.

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 09:53 PM

I've had a few requests to do a tutorial on how to replace the stacked leather handles on the M3, M4 & other knives with this type handle, so here goes! 

 

Here's a "before" pic of the knife, a PAL M3:

 

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First, remove the pommel. Best method I've found is to use a dremel with a small cutoff wheel & just "nip" the edges of the peened area back along the 4 sides enough to dive the blade out of the pommel. Don't grind the top of the peened end off or you wont have enough material to repeen & secure the pommel! It also helps to take the dremel or a file & remove just a bit of material from the blade handle where the pommel seats. usually just a few strokes with a file will be plenty to give just a bit extra for the repeening at the end.

 

Next remove the remnants of the old handle, if any remains & clean the blade handle. I usually knock any rust scale off with a file & run a bit of sandpaper on it. Once that is done, you are ready to start the new handle. There are knife supply places on the net & even a couple people selling the washers on Ebay, but I can't speak as to the quality of the leather. I'm picky about my leather so I make my own washers from saddle grade tanned hides I pick out myself. The hides I pick are approx 1/4" thick & very dense, not spongy, which eliminates alot of the compression issues associated with getting the handle tight. I cut the discs with a 1 1/8" round punch then with a hand punch make two holes then use a razor blade to make the slot.

 

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Next, clamp the knife in a vise between 3 pieces of wood., one on each side of the blade & another underneath the tip (preferably a scrap of hardwood for the tip) & you are ready to start installing the washers. After experimenting with a few different methods, I've found it best to use thinner leather for the first couple of washers & cut to fit. This will help tremendously from slipping up later & sanding the finish off the guard.

 

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#2 Steve S.

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:03 PM

Next, start installing the rest of the washers. I use a bit of wood glue between each one.

 

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After you get the washers stacked/glued & get close to the flange that the pommel seats on, slide a deep well socket, piece of pipe etc of the end & give it a few raps with a hammer. This helps compress & seat the washers. I have an old M% bayonet guard I slide over, then clamp with vise grips until the glue dries. 

 

IMG_4372.JPG

 

I also use the thinner leather & cut to fit the last washer that goes on before the pommel. Don't install this one or the pommel yet.  After the glue has dried a few hrs, you can unclamp everything & start the rough shaping. I use a belt sander, but this can also be done by hand, just takes alot longer. Don't worry, the glue holds everything together, so you can sand without the pommel attached. This helps save the finish on the pommel from being accidentally sanded.

 

IMG_4373.JPG



#3 Steve S.

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:10 PM

after you get the rough shape formed to suit you, its time to start the finish shaping/sanding. I start out with 80 grit for this, them move to 180, 320 & finally 600 grit. Once this is done, its time to clamp it back up in the vise & install the last washer & pommel. Add a dab of glue, slide the last washer on, then slip the pommel on & re peen. 

 

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Put some tape on the guard & pommel edges & carefully sand/shape the thinner washers installed on the ends until you are happy with the shape. 

 

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#4 Leatherneck72

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:19 PM

Awesome tutorial. Nice to see old fighting steel brought back to life! 



#5 Misfit 45

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:29 PM

That is great! Thanks for the tips.  I just might be able to do this myself.

Marv



#6 Steve S.

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:37 PM

Next step is adding the grooves. I start using a thin metal cutoff wheel in an air grinder, but highly advise using files if you don't have much experience with the air tools. Measure & lay out the groove spacing/pattern with a pencil & carefully start the grooves with a small triangular file. If the knife originally had "V" spaped grooves such a the M4, you can stick with the triangular file. If its square grooves such as the M3 you can switch to a regular flat file using the edge, Mark II's/USMC "Kabar" types you will finish with a rat tail round file etc. Our example here has square grooves, so after the grooves were started with the triangular file, I switched to the flat file for the finished cut. 

 

IMG_4388.JPG

 

I also fold up & run a little sandpaper in the grooves & on the edges to clean it up after filing, but don't stress too much over the "fuzzies" on the edges as they pretty much disappear at the end.

 

Now it's time to decide on a stain color. I am very picky about colors blending so usually choose a shade based on the condition of the metal. the better the blade the lighter the color for the handle. If the finish is pretty much worn away, I go dark. This knife I would classify as "middle of the road, so started with a couple coats of "british tan" dye. 

 

Rule of thumb on dyes:  start light, you can always go darker, but if you start dark, there's not much you can do to lighten it.

 

Here it is after 2 coats of dye & about an hr to soak in & dry. 

 

IMG_4390.JPG

 

On the lighter colors, I use an antiquing paste & rub it in with a dauber & let it sit for another hr or so. to really give it some age, I use an old dauber that had been used with black dye previously. The paste will slightly reacrtivate the dried up black dye & give things a "dirty" hue. After the paste has dried, I buff with an old piece of shearling lambswool. I only use the paste on the lighter colors. anything medium brown & darker doesn't require it, simply dye & buff. 

 

The finished product:

 

IMG_4394.JPG

 

 



#7 Steve S.

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 10:41 PM

And here is our finished handle. I usually give it a day or so, then a light coat of neutral shoe polish or mink oil, then another good buffing with the wool.

 

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Hope this helps anyone who is interested in trying this themselves. 



#8 Blacksmith

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 04:32 AM

Great tutorial, and exceptional job. Perfectly timed, as I have a WWII MKII that needs the same job. What approach do you use to repeen the tang end? Mainly interested in how you block / stabilize the blade. And a pic of your pommel end would be much appreciated. Thank you for posting this.

#9 jim_mi

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 06:20 AM

Excellent tutorial, thank you.
Jim

#10 lfwises

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 02:07 PM

Absolutely beautiful job! Steve



#11 collector

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 04:17 PM

Very nice tutorial, thanks



#12 Bluehawk

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 05:33 PM

Steve - horning in again on a topic way out of my league...

 

"I've had a few requests to do a tutorial on how to replace the stacked leather handles on the M3, M4 & other knives with this type handle.."

 

Is your process pretty much or exactly the manner in which an original would have been manufactured?



#13 Steve S.

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:20 PM

Steve - horning in again on a topic way out of my league...

 

"I've had a few requests to do a tutorial on how to replace the stacked leather handles on the M3, M4 & other knives with this type handle.."

 

Is your process pretty much or exactly the manner in which an original would have been manufactured?

 

 

I would assume that the originals were done pretty much in an all mechanized process with special machinery. I'm sure others here with more knowledge can chime in on that. My process is a more "home garage/hobby room" friendly process. 



#14 Steve S.

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:36 PM



Great tutorial, and exceptional job. Perfectly timed, as I have a WWII MKII that needs the same job. What approach do you use to repeen the tang end? Mainly interested in how you block / stabilize the blade. And a pic of your pommel end would be much appreciated. Thank you for posting this.

 

 

I'm currently working on a special jig to do these in but right now, here's what I use:

 

IMG_4396.JPG

 

IMG_4397.JPG

 

 I usually base the repeening on the condition it was in to start with. If it was previously rebuilt or bubba tried to tighten it up by beating on it, i just repeen with a small ball peen hammer. This one had a really nice original peen job so went about it a bit differently. I actually undercut the notches where the pommel seatsso I could drive the pommel a little closer to the guard exposing the peened edges. I the hammered/dollied the tang until I had the edges standing up enough to work the pommel off. I welded & reformed the pommel seat flanges back to original length then when the handle was done & pommel back in place, used a piece of 1/4" thick steel as a buffer to work the peening back in place without having hammer strikes all over it. lots of extra work but it turned out fairly well.

 

Heres the repeened pommel on this one:

 

IMG_4376.JPG



#15 Bluehawk

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:52 PM

 

 

I would assume that the originals were done pretty much in an all mechanized process with special machinery. I'm sure others here with more knowledge can chime in on that. My process is a more "home garage/hobby room" friendly process. 

Well, it surely is a wonderful solution, that much is very clear! 

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

I had fashioned a surmise that those handles were, somehow, turned on a lathe or something...  



#16 Steve S.

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 08:04 PM

I image that they were, but had to a special piece to cut oval instead of round. I would guess the cutter was on some kind of eccentric like a cam lobe that moved the blade in & out. I may be wrong, but interesting to think about! 



#17 doyler

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 09:01 PM

Steve

Great tutorial and thank for taking the time to work through text steps.

I often wondered about the peening process and if you had to manually or mechanically compress the pommel to the tang and washers when re peening or if the peening action does the compression to keep the pommel tight on the washers.

#18 Steve S.

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 09:52 PM

The leather I use is so dense, you can't get it to compress very muchI compress it what I can & have a min or two before it swells back up, enough time to slip the last washer/pommel on & get it fastened. Haven't had a loose one yet but again think it has to do with the type of leather. It takes about 5 good raps with a short handled 10lb sledge to cut a disc out! 



#19 doyler

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 09:56 PM

Thanks Steve

Never knew how the factory did it either.if they had a press or jig type clamp etc.

Yours turn out real nice with the leather you use.

#20 Patchcollector

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:28 AM

Very impressive,thanks for posting



#21 Blacksmith

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:35 AM

Thanks for the detail on your peening process Steve - very helpful.

#22 sactroop

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:44 PM

Steve, I'm posting a picture of a fixture I got a few years ago from Tom Williams, the old Camillus Companies Official Company Historian and knife maker.  

As you can see this one is for smaller knives, but I thought I'd post it in case there are features in this piece that may seem useful to you.  The fixture is normally used in a vise, although it can also be squeezed by a clamp to make it more maneuverable for procedures that could benefit from that.

 

P3260046.JPG

 

Somewhere I have a description from Tom on how they attached the stacked leather handles to knives like the M3, and 1219C2's.  

As I recall their process was more similar to your's than different, but I'll try and find that correspondence and post it here.



#23 Bluehawk

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 03:08 PM

About how many knives would had to have been manufactured using a hand-done or a mechanical process?



#24 Steve S.

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 12:11 AM



Steve, I'm posting a picture of a fixture I got a few years ago from Tom Williams, the old Camillus Companies Official Company Historian and knife maker.  

As you can see this one is for smaller knives, but I thought I'd post it in case there are features in this piece that may seem useful to you.  The fixture is normally used in a vise, although it can also be squeezed by a clamp to make it more maneuverable for procedures that could benefit from that.

 

attachicon.gifP3260046.JPG

 

Somewhere I have a description from Tom on how they attached the stacked leather handles to knives like the M3, and 1219C2's.  

As I recall their process was more similar to your's than different, but I'll try and find that correspondence and post it here.

 

 

Thanks for sharing! What I'm working on is something like this. The blade goes down into the tube & the top plate will tighten down on the pommel. Excuse the crude microsoft paint drawing...

 

jig.png



#25 Steve S.

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 12:19 AM

Heres a photo of the three different groove cuts I described earlier. Bottom is the M4 "V" cut done with a triangular file, Middle is the M3 with the square cut done with a flat file & top is a MK2 round cut done with a rat tail file. 

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