Scale mods are among the easiest mods that can be done, and have the most impact on the SAK. In fact, non SAK people will notice even a simple scale mod, like wood, before they would notice more complex layer or tool mods.
I am certain that any professional woodworker will consider this exactly how NOT to do it, or at the very least an extremely inefficient way of accomplishing what should be a relatively simple operation. But, I have fun doing it and I get to make a good old mess!
It just so happens that I have a few scales that need to be done for folks who have been waiting WAY too long, and I appreciate their patience. Here we see the before and after of this project. I started this mod with a 1/4 inch plank of cocobolo, which I cut into roughly 1 inch x 4 inch “blanks.”
I then clamp an old liner from a disassembled Victorinox 91mm model, since it is a 91mm model we are making it for. I then used a carpenter’s pencil to trace a basic outline of the liner onto the blank to get a rough idea of how much wood I am going to have to chip away. There is no need to be exact at this point as I usually do this a number of times throughout the process, bringing it a little closer each time. At this point, it is just a loose guideline.
Despite looking like a researcher from ET, it is important to wear proper safety equipment when working with manmade materials and exotic hardwoods. I use a cheap dust filter mask, but I suggest getting something better if you are actually going to go out and get something. Safety glasses are also a must, especially when using power tools, which as you will see I don’t use too many of, but better to look silly for a few minutes than to lose an eye and look silly for the rest of your life. After all, it’s not like someone is going to post a picture of you looking like that on the Internet or anything!
Time to make some dust. I use the flex shaft on my motor tool (store brand version of a Dremel) with a course sanding drum to carve out a shape close to what I have just drawn on the blank. Again, I stay outside the lines as I will whittle them down in the next few steps.
As you can see, I make A LOT of dust! I always keep a dustbuster handy around my workbench to help get rid of some of this stuff.
Now we have a basic scale shape, but it’s still a LONG way from being a scale!
I use the edge of my workbench (really, just a 1x8 plank bolted to the top of an old desk) and clamp the blank down so I can have a solid place to start shaping it.
Using a long strip of extremely course sandpaper (I think it’s about 60 grit or so) I run it back and forth over the blank at one end to just past the middle, then turn it around and do the other side. This is the same motion you use to shine your shoes- pull the left side down, then the right, then the left, then the right. This raises A LOT of dust and so it’s very important to have your mask on now too.
I use a file to help shape the ends. Again, at this point, I am just trying for a general shape, rather than perfection.
Now that we have something vaguely scale- like:
the real work can begin. At this point the project starts to take shape, but it starts to get a little harder as well since now I have to start getting a little more precise. Any screw up now, a cut that’s a little too deep means I have to start over.
Having a variety of grades of sandpaper is a cheap and effective way of getting to do what you want without running the risk of messing up. In addition to shaping the scale nicely, removing scratches and any odd angles, sanding really brings out the grain.
I like to use a sanding pad that I got from Sears for only a few dollars. They are great for contoured things like bedposts, table legs and SAK scales.
As you can see, it’s a dirty job. That shirt and pair of jeans was clean before I started. My wife is gonna kill me!
At the risk of leaving you folks hanging, I am going to end it here since the next few steps which involve drilling, more sanding, carving and actually mounting the scales is pretty involved and due to some good old health problems I can only do so much at a time, and this is where I finished today.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 where I hopefully end with the same number of fingers I started with!