It has been quite a process, but we're finally here at a finished sword. Shiny eh? Still needs a scabbard, but that'll be a project unto itself. As you may recall, we left the action with the handle scales being bonded in place. We pick up with our intrepid heroes >24 hours later, now that the glue has dried.
CHECK SCALE AND PIN ADHESION
Before proceeding, if something didn't hold, you want to find out now. So give everything a good double check. Once you have profiled everything, if you lose a scale, it is too late and you'll have to either start over or remove a surprising amount of material from the tang to get them to align again.
PROFILE THE HANDLE
First step of forming any three dimensional shape by hand via a subtractive technology is sizing things up in two dimensions. So we head to the belt grinder to profile things. This is one of those titanic moments when the handle really starts to take shape, and you also get to see how close the handle fitting came out.
ROUGH OUT THE SHAPE
From here, with rasp and files, rough out the shape. Power tools generally do this too quickly, and coarse sandpaper or similar tends to remove wood faster than metal leaving the pins and tang proud. The result? This must be done with something rigid like a file to the final shape and fairly high finish.
FIX ANY GAPS
Technically I could/should have done this as part of the profiling process. No big deal doing it now though. A little dab of glue here and there to firm up the softer charred wood at the edges and to fill some small gaps where the burning-in didn't go perfectly.
CLEAN UP EXCESS GLUE
Before we get to finish sanding, cleaning up any glue seepage, particularly around the ricasso, is important. I did it with some acetone, q-tips, scrap wood carved into toothpicks, and some 0000 steel wool.
Sanding is both the most annoying and rewarding part of any project. It takes ages and is incredibly fickle, however it is also the rewarding moment where, if you're skilled and a little lucky, beauty gets to spring free from your work.
CLEAN AND PREP
I finished sanding at 1000 grit. I tried some 0000 steel wool, however the sandpaper must have been wearing/loading as it produced a higher finish than the steel wool so I just left it. A good wipe down and blast with compressed air and we're ready for finish.
FINISHING, ONE COAT AT A TIME
This is immediately after the first coat of Formby's Tung Oil. (technically a tung oil varnish blend) Still works reasonably well at preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the wood, rather than turning it to plastique. I will say, I am disappointed in how this handle came out. Cocobolo usually is richer and more beautiful than this. It also is typically quite a bit more red in color. What happened? Well the block from which I carved it still appears quite orange/red. Were I to finish that, I expect it would come out more like other cocobolo. My guess is the fire forming of the handle drove some of the beautiful resin and color out of it. Live and learn I suppose? It is still beautiful. shades of orange and purple which will only pop more with additional coats, however it isn't quite as stunning as I had hoped.
UNMASKING AND FINISHING TOUCHES
The final touches. I removed the masking from the blade, sharpened it, polished it, and with a grimace wiped a coating of wax on it to protect that lustre. It reduces that beautiful mirror shine somewhat, but in the long run it'll keep the blade looking prettier. Perhaps I'll hazard a buffing at some point, but don't want to buff through the protection.