World War II-style Damascus Steel Grenade Lanyard Bead

Starting another damascus steel and copper lanyard bead. Here I’m lathe turning the grenade body out of Geoff Keyes Damascus steel.  I’ve spent some time step drilling the 1/4 inch diameter hole through the center.  Damascus steel, since it’s made of many, many stacks of different kinds of steel isn’t the nicest stuff to drill…

While I’m at it, I carefully turn away everything that doesn’t look like a grenade…

Here I’m cutting the grenade body from the rest of the damascus steel.  I’ve planned ahead, and the waste material from this bead will become another one in the future.  Damascus steel is expensive, so I work hard to use as little as possible.

Above, I’ve cut the grenade handle and top from a thick bar of copper, and have spent a LOT of time cutting the male threads on the grenade body.  I’ll use the tap in the picture to cut the female threads through the copper grenade top.

And here are the two parts screwed together.  It’s very surprising how much time and effort it took to cut the two sets of threads – I don’t think I’ll try this again – far too much time and effort for what I’ll be able to sell it for…even though being able to disassemble it and play with is really cool!

The two parts disassembled.

Now I’ve got to cut the vertical grooves on the grenade body…the horizontal grooves were easy, since I turned them in place on the lathe.  I start by cutting (very deeply!) vertical grooves with a wide V graver.  There are six of these grooves, equally spaced around the circumference.

Now to enlarge those vertical grooves.  I’m using a large carbide bur in my NSK micrometer grinder.  Notice I’ve also added my signature to the neck of the grenade body.

Above, the finished vertical and horizontal grooves.

Now to etch the damascus steel grenade body with ferric chloride to reveal the damascus goodness within.  I’ve used a masking agent to cover the threads and my signature reserve so they won’t be harmed by the etching.

Here’s the grenade body completely etched and cleaned up, revealing the damascus folds.

Now on to the copper grenade top.  I desperately need to thin the copper handle area, so I’ve stuck it down with some pitch so I can use a coarse file for the thinning.

Here I’ve trimmed the excess from the sides of the arming handle.

Of course, no grenade is complete without the pin and ring pull.  Here I’ve created them from sterling silver.

Now I’ve got to engrave the details in the grenade top.  You can see the tiny grenade bead’s big brother (and my nude model…) in the image below.

So here’s the completed bead, shown with it’s big brother.

And another view…

All of the various pieces.  The copper thing on the right is what I call a “dangler.”  That passes through the central hole of the bead, so it can be strung on a leather cord as a pendant instead of a lanyard bead.

And here, partially assembled.  I’ve installed the pin and ring pull so they will spin and rotate but not be removable.  The pin and ring would be $50 USD to replace if they get lost…

More glamor shots…

WWII_US_Grenade_Bead_32 WWII_US_Grenade_Bead_34
Here with the dangle installed, and leather cord for use as a pendant.


Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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Fine English Scroll Earrings

My wife is starting a line of jewelry, and here are a pair of titanium earrings destined for a bit of Fine English Scroll engraving – at least my take on what I think Fine English Scroll is. The actual size of the earring is 1.75 inches tall.


I began with the basic shape of the earrings. These are tapered, so each of the four spirals I planned would have to be of graduated sizes. I chose four spirals for this earring because they would fit well – if the earring was shorter, then three would have been more appropriate, and if longer, then five or six. This is the first bit of artistic judgement I had to use…

Next, I placed a border inside the earring outlines. Sometimes I’ll cut the border, but this time I’m only using it for planning purposes – I want some space to remain outside the scrolls. That is artistic judgment number two… Then, I sketched in the spiral backbones. The one at the top I chose for the starting element, so it is the only one that is different since it contains the scroll origin (I think of it as the seed). Then I inked in the scroll backbones.

Also note the direction each of the spirals takes as it leaves (grows from…) the previous one, each spiral being in the opposite direction from the previous, just as plants grow – you seldom see a branch grow the other direction, and then it looks really weird.

Above is the actual pattern, ready for transfer. Note that I’ve removed the border – had I left it in, I might cut it in a moment of inattention. Best not to leave things to chance – no battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy…I have met the enemy, and he is me…

Here’s a little hint that took me a great deal of time to figure out: Most modern engraved spirals have one and a half turns! (See the blue line) I always tended to put too many turns in, then had difficulty filling them. This is a case where less is probably more…

Also, note that I have a knee in each of the four spirals (the red arrow) – I used a scribe to correct the transfers under the microscope. Even those corrections weren’t the greatest – it’s much easier to cut a smooth curve than it is to draw one, so I really just corrected them on the fly during cutting. Artistic judgement number three.

Here’s the earring with the scroll backbones cut.

And the earring in progress and finished.

And a closeup.  Of course, this is a pretty simple start, but at least it isn’t just a rectangle like most practice plates. Things really get worse when you try to fit this stuff on a knife or gun, with lots of odd shaped areas and curves. Plus, when your relatives show up with an odd shaped (fill in the blank) for you to add a few ruffles and flourishes to…

Hand engraved Fine English Scroll earrings completed. Grade 2 titanium, 1.75 inches tall. Now I need to make a matching pendant…no rest for the wicked…

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling


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Skull and Bones Damascus Steel Lanyard Bead

Starting the second lanyard bead out of  damascus steel by Geoff Keyes (  Above, I’ve engraved the outlines really deeply, so I can carve the skull in 3D, but below the surface in Japanese shishiaibori style.  I began with a wide graver (Lindsay Universal, 116 degree), followed by a narrower graver (Lindsay Detailer, 96 degree).  Each subsequent pass makes the cut deeper and deeper.  I finished deepening it even more with third pass with an onglette.

Above, I’ve darkened the bead for better visualization.

Here, I’ve begun the part of the shishiaibori process that makes it all come alive.  I’m using small flat gravers and carbide burs to carve the skull inside the deeply engraved outlines.  All of the skull will be inside those lines, and the highest point will be the original surface of  the bead.  Sorry for the lousy image…photography isn’t my strong suit.

Above is a simplified graphic explaining the Shishiaibori technique.

Here I’ve finished carving the interior of the skull.  I’ve done most of the surface refinement using small punches (made from discarded burs).

And a darkened version – I can’t help but want to know what it will look like when finished.  The bead is now ready to inlay the bones in 24 karat gold.  This kind of inlay is quite straightforward, and I’ve discussed it many times before.

Since this is damascus steel (or pattern welded steel, as it is sometimes called), I have to etch the surface in order to discover the lovely surprise waiting inside.  Prior to etching, damascus steel looks like any other kind of steel.  However, since I’ve spent all this effort carving the skull and inlaying the gold bones, I’m going to have to mask off the parts I don’t want etched.  I’m using a Charbonnel lacquer masking agent (the dark stuff covering the skull and the bones).

I prefer to use ferric chloride as the etching agent for steel.  Thats the icky looking yellow-brown liquid in the jar.  It’s by far the safest and most effective of the various agents I could use – most are acids, more difficult and dangerous to handle, with nasty vapors during the etching process.  I’ve jammed a dowel into the hole in the bead so I can extract it during etching to see how things are going without running the risk of damaging the masking.  About two hours in my chilly studio worked well in this case – yes, temperature plays a large part in this process.

The different types of steel Geoff Keyes used while making the damascus layers etch at different rates, and take on different hues during etching, revealing the surprises hidden inside.

Here’s a closeup of the bead after etching, so you can see the intricate details of the damascus steel.

Geoff_Keyes_Skull_Bones_Lanyard_BeadAnd here’s the bead from all sides, in all of its’ glory!

The Geoff Keyes Damascus Skull and Bones lanyard bead is complete, and soon to depart for America and into Geoff’s hot paws.

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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Gold Spider Damascus Bead

I’ve started a lanyard bead on some Geoff Keyes damascus steel.  I’m going to add a tiny gold spider hanging from a thread. This bead is for Geoff – shhh, don’t tell him…

Gold_Spider_Damascus_Bead_1Above, I’m beginning to turn the bead from Geoff’s damascus steel rod.  So far I’ve faced the rod, turned the rough exterior perfectly round and am drilling a center hole for drilling all the way through with successive sized drill bits.

Gold_Spider_Damascus_Bead_3Here I’ve carefully rounded the end, saying particular attention to the finish.  Any marks left on the surface now will be accentuated once I etch the damascus steel and reveal its’ complexities.

Above is the turned bead and the remainder of its’ bar – I tend to turn two beads at a time, because the next bed gives the lathe chuck something to hold onto.

You can see the preliminary etch above, revealing a really fine pattern (3/4 inch long/19 mm).  Geoff made the damascus from two or more different kinds of high carbon steel.  Each kind of steel etches at different rates (I used ferric chloride), leaving behind this beautiful woodgrain effect.  Now I need to make several tiny punches to create the raised portions of the gold spider.

I spent today making a set of punches for making the raised portions of a gold spider on yesterday’s Damascus lanyard bead. The spider will be similar to the gold ant on the beetle hobo nickel from a few weeks back.

Gold_Spider_Punch_1Above, I’ve transferred the design to a piece of 1/8 inch diameter piano wire.

Here I’ve engraved the interior of the design.

Now I’ve carved out the interior with a tiny carbide bur.  Can you see where we’re going with this punch yet?

Here I’ve engraved and carved exterior to the edge lines – I want a not quite sharp edge.

Above, you can see the shaped exterior on the two finished punches, one large for the spider’s abdomen (big butt…), and a smaller one for the spider’s head.  You can also see where I tested both punches on a piece of lead.

Below, I’m adding the spider to the Geoff Keyes damascus lanyard bead.

I’ve engraved the design of the spider into the damascus steel, and begun excavating the pocket in the spider’s body and head where I will inlay the 24 karat pure gold.

Above, I’ve completed excavating the inlay pocket with tiny carbide burs.

Here I’m undercutting the edges of the inlay pocket.  The soft gold will flow into these undercuts, trapping the gold into place.

Gold_Spider_Damascus_Bead_13In addition to the undercut edges, I’ve also added heavy stippling to the bottom of the inlay pocket.  This rough bottom will also allow the gold to flow into the zillions of crevices, creating additional hold.

Here I’m adding the gold in the form of a tiny ball melted on the end of the pure gold wire, squishing it in place with a brass punch, to be followed by the front body portion shaping punch I made last time.

I’m continuing the inlay process of the 24 karat gold spider abdomen by pounding in several gold balls

Above, I’ve rough-sculpted the abdomen with a brass punch, and used the shaped head punch to refine the shape of the gold in the head inlay.

I’ve used the abdomen punch we made earlier for the final shaping. I’ll carefully trim away the excess gold.

Here’s an overall view of the spider at this point, in my bead holding fixture.

Above is the finished spider body inlay.  Now I need to add in the wire gold for the legs and spider silk.

Here’s the beginning of inlaying a single 28 gauge gold wire into the silk strand the spider will hang from.

Now I’m adding in more wire into the legs.  Note how the edges of the leg cuts have been carefully undercut for the soft gold to flow into.

Gold_Spider_Damascus_Bead_27We’re halfway there.  I’ve used a small scraper to trim off the excess gold from the leg and silk inlays.

I’ve aded in tiny outlining cuts around the single wire inlays in the legs.  This step really makes the inlay pop visually.  Did I mention the spider is only a little more than one fourth of an inch tall?

Gold_Spider_Damascus_Bead_30aAnd, finally the completed bead, after darkening it with gun blue and adding a paracord lanyard.

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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Shibuichi Longhorn Beetle Hobo Nickel Tutorial

Shibuichi_Longhorn_Beetle_Hobo_Nickel_Tutorial_1Shibuichi_Longhorn_Beetle_Hobo_Nickel_Tutorial_2 Shibuichi_Longhorn_Beetle_Hobo_Nickel_Tutorial_3
Starting a new project, a Hobo Nickel with a shibuichi Japanese-style inlay of a longhorn beetle. I’ve been watching Ford Hallam (…/) make his lovely metal inlays, and have been taking his advice to “steal with my eyes.” I think I’ve broken the code, so I’m trying it with this beetle inlay.

Of course, I might have it all wrong, so you should take this with a grain of salt.  Additionally, since the traditional methods I’ve alluded to here are taken from the Japanese method of hammer and chisel, I’ve tailored all the actions to better suit my use of pneumatic hand engraving technology.

Here I’m sawing out and filing a tiny snail from a self-made plate of shibuichi (75% copper and 25% silver), about an eighth of an inch thick (3.2 mm).

Here I’m sawing out and filing a tiny snail (less than half an inch long) from a self-made plate of shibuichi (75% copper and 25% silver), about an eighth of an inch thick (3.2 mm).  This will make an almost 3D beetle in very high relief.

Above is a small sample of my favorite Japanese-style raised metal inlays by Ford Hallam, just to illustrate the wide range of exquisite work in this style being done today.  More of his work can be seen here:  (…/)

Heres a terrible image of the beetle after sawing it out with a jeweler’s saw and 2/0 blade.  Sorry for that…  I glue a paper printout onto the sheet and just saw through the paper.

Note the tiny vise I use to hold the beetle for careful filing.  It’s a wide nose pin vise.  This one is an antique, but almost identical modern versions are available at

You can also see the two jeweler’s files I used to trim up my rough sawing technique.  I try to file so that the base of my shibuichi inlay is wider than the top surface.  That way the inlay will tend to “dovetail” into the inlay pocket when I punch the pocket edges down into contact with the inlay, trapping it in place.  This will make a completely secure mechanical connection that is unlikely to ever come apart.

One of the problems I’ve always had with this style of inlay is getting a clear and close outline of the inlay transferred to the substrate because I couldn’t hold the inlay in place and trace around it without moving.  Here’s a view of a “complicated contraption” clamp I use to hold an inlay in place on the surface of the “base” metal while I scribe a very close outline.

I find this far quicker and more useful than the methods I’ve attempted in the past, including trying (and failing) to hold the inlay with my finger, and even super-gluing the inlay into place, scribing the outline and then releasing the glue using heat (warping the base metal and making a huge mess to clean up).  Incidentally, this little beetle is less than half an inch long (about 12 mm)  This clamp is held in place with a single socket cap screw in a threaded hole in the top of the vise, and rotates around that screw as well as allowing the brass nose to extend and contract in length.

As a point of interest, the shibuichi beetle inlay is harder than the cupronickel base metal of the coin, hence the need to use this style of inlay.

I’ll also use this clamp again to hold the inlay in place in the pocket while I punch the sides of the base metal to jam the inlay into place for a permanent installation.  The clamp will hold the inlay firmly in place, without allowing any movement, and the small size of clamp contact won’t interfere much with the operation.

Another view of the clamp.

A close-up view of the clamp in action.

Here are some images of the inlay hold-down clamp I took my inspiration from, so here are some images of it. Much more elegant than my cobbled-together solution. Photos courtesy of Mike Dubber and Brian Marshall, the clamps actually designed and manufactured by Ray Letourneau.

The result of the scribing and clamp in action, a clear and close outline, in the proper place.

Here’s the start of the pocket creation for the beetle inlay.  I use a narrow flat graver (45 degree face), and simply plunge it into the base metal at about a 45 degree angle.  My aim here is to start piling up a blob of base metal, and then using the power of the pneumatic airgraver to push the pile just beyond the edge of the outline.  I’ll repeat this all the way around the edges of the outline until I’ve gone completely around.  The tighter the curve, the narrower flat graver I use.

I use a Lindsay Classic Palm Control Airgraver with the heavy tungsten piston, 60 psi air and fairly long stroke – I want nice large piles of metal around the edges.  I’ll use these piles of base metal to punch down around the edge of the inlay, jamming it permanently in place.

I’m not terribly familiar with GRS or Enset operation, but obviously you’re going to want a high power setting.

A small disclaimer here – I’ve not used this method with steel yet, but I think it will work just fine.  I anticipate a few more broken tips, however, as this is likely to be hard on narrow flat gravers…

Above, I’ve gone all the way around.  Notice the individual graver marks have left a rough interior – I’ll use an onglette graver to clean up the bottom edges of the cuts.

Here I’m using the standard method of multiple parallel cuts to begin the excavation of the excess material from the inlay pocket.

I’ve used an NSK micromotor and tiny carbide bur to excavate to the bottom of the parallel graver cuts.  I’ll repeat the parallel graver cuts and carbide bur excavation to get this pocket deep enough (about 1 mm deep) to hold the inlay securely.  I’ll also use the onglette graver to make sure the bottom edges of the inlay pocket are clean and slightly wider than the top opening.

If I’ve done this correctly, the shibuichi inlay will “click” into place and not wobble horizontally.

Here’s the shibuichi inlay almost in place.  It doesn’t quite fit in the “right shoulder” notch and point of the shoulder (see the red arrows).  I’ll use the flat graver as a bulldozer and push up the edges of the inlay pocket in those areas a little more until I can see a small dark line between the inlay and base metal.

Once the inlay has a good fit, I use a small block of lead and engraver’s hammer to firmly seat the inlay in place (another Ford Hallam trick).  The lead won’t mar the inlay and acts to make a solid but controlled dead blow (no bounce).

When everything fits well, I re-install the clamp, adjust it until the position is correct, and then begin punching down the little piles of base metal around the edge of the inlay pocket.

Here’s a closeup of the inlay just sitting in the pocket.  Notice the raised edges of the nickel inlay pocket against the pinkish shibuichi inlay.  We’re ready to begin punching those raised edges down against the inlay.

Above, I’ve used a tiny punch to push the inlay pocket edges as close to the inlay as possible.  I’ve leaned the engraver’s block to and fro to get the angle right for effective punching.

My punches are made from old carbide bur shafts, with the carbide portions snapped off.  i grind the face flat, with a very slight radius to the edges of the face to avoid marring the surface.  The punch I’ve used here looks to be a little less than a millimeter in diameter.

A closeup of the punched edges.  The inlay is now permanently installed – to attempt to remove the inlay at this point would probably require destruction of the nickel base metal, and perhaps the shibuichi inlay as well.

Above is a quick and dirty graphic of the basic process of Japanese-style pocket inlay.

Above is the inlay installed, and the beginning of roughing in the additional details.

Here I’m rounding out the beetle’s body with carbide burs, although flat gravers would work as well.

Above, I’ve used a tiny scraper to refine the shape of the beetle wings (the long part of the body).

The same tool has refined the front body portions as well.

Trimming the body with a Lindsay Universal graver (116 degree V graver) and tiny carbide bur.  Then, the body parts were smoothed with a 600 grit pencil stone.

Above, after a little burnishing with 0000 steel wool.

Starting to inlay 24 karat gold in the legs.  The largest section of the right hind leg is two 28 gauge wires wide.  The middle leg shows the undercut sides, with angled holes made in the bottom of the inlay trough with a simple single pointed tool – I drove them in at about 45 degrees from vertical.  Barry Lee Hands explained the hole technique in this thread:   He calls this style of teeth raising “louver,” or “arch” and it works very well.

A little better view of the “louvers” in the inlay channels.

I doubled the gold wire over for a short distance to fill the widest parts of the legs.  A single width of wire worked fine for the slimmer portions of the legs.  You can still see the excess length of wire still attached.

Above, all the legs have been inlaid with gold, punched flush, and trimmed.  I use a small scraper to scrape the excess gold from the tops of the inlays.

Above you can see the tiny cuts I make in the nickel base metal just outside the gold inlay (see the right rear leg).  This step really finishes off the gold inlay and refines the visual appeal.  Compare the right rear leg with the right middle leg just above, and see how much more refined the right rear leg appears.

All of the gold inlays outlined with tiny cuts.

Above, I’ve begun making a raised inlaid ant in 24 karat gold.  Here I’ve excavated the tiny ant pockets in the usual manner, undercutting the edges with a tiny flat graver and raising “louvers” in the inlay bottom.  Then, I melted tiny balls on the end of my standard 28 gauge gold wire, altering the sizes of the melt balls as needed.  Using a flat-faced brass punch, I’ve tacked the balls into place, then begun shaping them into the appropriate ant body parts, making certain to securely punch down the edges into the undercuts.

Above, you can see the rough shapes established with the small brass flat-faced punch.

Here, I’ve used a small shaped female punches to further refine the shape of the three body parts.  For more about making punches like my “ant punches,” visit this link:

Above I’ve used a tiny square graver to trim away the excess gold, and further refine the shapes.  I’ve also gone over the surface with a tiny flat faced steel punch (made from a tiny worn out carbide bur).

I’ve inlaid the legs, but this time I did not punch the gold flush with surface, but left it fairly thick.  I might add these legs are quite tiny and narrow, so 28 gauge gold wire is pretty excessive for the size.  That leaves a pretty thick and wide layer of gold above the surface.  Using my tiny square graver I trimmed the excess gold away, leaving slightly raised inlays.  The ant is 3/16ths of an inch long (4.75 mm).

Here is an overview of where we are now, all the inlays are in and we are ready to do some background removal and texturing, followed by some stippling.

Above, the background has been removed around the beetle to create raised legs, and stippled to darken the shadow areas near the beetle and around the legs.

Also, I’ve stippled around the ant, and carved a hole for the ant.

And with the addition of patina (I use Birchwood Casey Super Blue) and a good inking, the Shibuichi Longhorn Beetle Hobo Nickel is finished!

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling



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Inlaid Shibuichi “Slimy Snail” Hobo Nickel Tutorial

Starting a new project, a Hobo Nickel with a shibuichi Japanese-style snail inlay.

I’ve been watching Ford Hallam (…/) make his lovely metal inlays, and have been taking his advice to “steal with my eyes.”  I think I’ve broken the code, so I’m trying it with this snail.  I’ll discuss the technique further as the project unfolds.  Here I’m sawing out and filing a tiny snail from a self-made plate of shibuichi (75% copper and 25% silver).  Note the tiny vise I use to hold the snail for careful filing.

I cut it out with a jeweler’s saw and 2/0 blade (actually several of them, since I had to attack it from several directions because of the length of the shibuichi plate, and I broke a blade backing out – I seldom break blades in forward gear, but reverse sometimes gets the best of me…)

One of the problems I’ve always had with this style of inlay is getting a clear and close outline of the inlay transferred to the substrate because I couldn’t hold the inlay in place and trace around it without things moving, and then requiring a lot of adjustments to the inlay pocket.  I’ve even superglued the inlay in place, then scribed around it, but removal is a mess.  However, I saw a beautiful clamping fixture designed to fix all that – unfortunately no longer manufactured.  So, this is my (rather inelegant..) solution, but it works like a champ.  I use the clamp fixture both for tracing the inlay outline and permanently seating the inlay in the substrate..

There’s been some interest in the inlay hold-down clamp I took my inspiration from, so here are some images of it.  Much more elegant than my cobbled-together solution.  Photos courtesy of Mike Dubber and Brian Marshall, the clamps actually manufactured by Ray Letourneau.

Here’s how I begin the inlay process (upper left) – using a flat graver, I drive it downwards (slightly inside the lines) at about a 45 degree angle, pushing up a little mound of metal and continuing to move that mound until it it slightly beyond (outside) the inlay line.  I repeat this all the way around the edge.  In the past, I’ve cut around the inside edge of the inlay pocket with a v-graver, then removed the interior waste material, but getting a good fit was difficult.  This new method (new to me…) solves those problems, needing only minor adjustments.  I then remove the interior waste material as per normal (flat gravers and carbide burs).  Two rounds of waste removal seemed to make the proper depth.  Next, I’ll seat the inlay and push the nickel edges up tight against the shibuichi inlay, fixing it permanently in place.  I believe this is the method of the ancient Japanese metal artists.

Got the snail inlay installed in the nickel.  You can see the before and after, using a punch to move the nickel “piles” back into place to contact the shibuichi inlay.  The hold is solid, permanent and strictly mechanical – no glue or solder.  Now I have to begin simmering turkey necks for tomorrow’s world famous gravy – hope everybody has a wonderful Christmas!

Finished carving and texturing the snail with flat gravers and carbide burs.  Next will be creating the background by removing the Indian head, in a logical sequence.

The Slimy Snail Hobo Nickel is complete.  I slipped in a simple background and texture and patina.  Shibuichi snail, hand engraved and inlaid into a 1929 US nickel (5 cent coin).

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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Tom included in The World of Art Knives, Vol III by Dr David Darom

Those who’ve been around the knife world for very long will recognize the many art knife books by Dr David Darom. I have a number of them myself, and have found lots of inspiration in them. Imagine my pleasant surprise when he asked me to participate in his latest, The World of Art Knives, Vol III. A very great honor! I was even more pleased when I received my copy, and got to see the spectacular 4 page spread he created with my artistic efforts! Thanks so much David!


The book is available from Nordic Knives USA,
Phone: (805)688-3612

Thanks for Looking!

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Centipede Tactical Lanyard Bead (and Others…)

Spent the last two days making titanium blanks for a pair of earrings and a couple tactical beads.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_0It’s a lot easier if someone else makes the knife or jewelry blanks, but no joy here…

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_1 Starting a new project – a tactical bead in titanium. I blatantly stole the bead shape from and I’m carving a wraparound centipede with 24 karat gold legs.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_2 After yesterday’s shameless commercial (I offer no apology!), we’ll continue with the centipede tactical bead…putting in all the gold inlays (28 of them), and reminding myself why I need to steer clear of this terrible titanium 6Al4V. Remind me next time I get this crazy idea…but, I have ordered some Grade 2 Ti, so not to worry!

I’ve removed all the background – next will be punch sculpting the body, followed by stippling the background, and we’ll be done!

Here’s a short video of the Centipede Bead:  Sorry, you’ll have to click the link to make it play…Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_2
Finished, except for a little cleanup (tomorrow!). Hand engraved and carved titanium centipede, with 28 pure gold inlays, 7/8 of an inch tall.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_3 OK, I had a cute idea (even if I do say so myself) to turn a tactical lanyard bead into a pendant…a simple turned hanger (this one is copper) and a couple of jump rings, and voila! It’s nondestructive, so if you want it to be a lanyard bead again, just remove the jump ring and it all comes apart…

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_4 Spent the last two days turning six lanyard beads for tactical knives in Grade 2 titanium, copper and bronze. Here you can see the various stages of manufacture, including drilling the titanium. The titanium drilling took longer than the rest of the operations combined! I’ll be engraving these over the next several months.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_5 After engraving the centipede tactical lanyard bead in this $@:*+{: terrible 6Al4V titanium, I wimped out and just “knapped” the second one, did a little minor engraving and stippling between the flutes, and heat treated it to a nice dark gold color.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_6 Making a copper pendant “dangler” at a client’s request for the faceted tactical lanyard bead. This one is designed for a ball chain.

Centipede_Tactical_Lanyard_Bead_7I’ve spent most of the last week working to create enough blank canvases to carry me through the next several months. Not my favorite part of the action, but eventually I run out of them so it’s back to the grind…literally!

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling


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Gold and Titanium Dragonfly Earrings

I started on a pair of titanium earrings for a friend. These will have 24 karat gold inlaid dragonfly bodies, and are about 0.75 inches square.

Deb_Dragonfly_Earrings_Posting_2The first few steps to inlay the gold wire in the dragonfly earrings. You can see the first gold wire tacked in place down the length of the dragonfly (lower right image) along with the double ended knife I use to trim the wire.

Deb_Dragonfly_Earrings_Posting_3 Scraping the excess gold using the small scraper (bottom images) followed by the carbide burnisher (upper right).

Deb_Dragonfly_Earrings_Posting_4 Stoning the gold with a Gesswein EDM stone (600 grit) to smooth the surface. I leave the gold at 600 grit because I like the look of the raw gold.

These earrings provided a nice way to show my process of background removal that will eventually make the design pop.

Deb_Dragonfly_Earrings_Posting_6Finished! Here I’ve added in all the body and wing details, and done the final inking in the lower image. Thanks for looking and all your great support!

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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Knapped Chalcedony Stone Dagger and Tulipwood Presentation Box

Tulipwood_Presentation_Box_Posting_1Some of you will remember the recent upper left image – my daughter laid claim to the chalcedony stone blade at the red arrow tip, and demanded a knife like the one laying on top (it’s not her birthday or Xmas). So, I carved a moose antler handle, and antiqued it. Then I used an ancient Native American fixative (called e-pox-y) to permanently affix the blade. Then my better half insisted I make a tulipwood presentation box for the stone knife. Keeping my girls happy… I’ll show the box making tomorrow…

You can find more information about making this style of presentation box in the Resources Section at this link:

Here’s the start of the presentation box. You need thin wood, I resaw standard lumber (cut in half along the thickness) and then plane thinner. Superglue and spray accelerator speeds things up.

The next steps in assembling the presentation box. I ended up with the pivot block a little too close to the box bottom, and had to correct by carving a bevel on the box bottom so the lid could fold back far enough…I’m calling that “graceful degradation.”

Tulipwood_Presentation_Box_Posting_4The final steps – trimming everything up and sanding smooth, with a linseed oil finish. I chose to round over the edges of this presentation box in a retro-1980s style that seems to work well with a stone knife.

Thanks for Looking!

Tom Sterling

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