Saturday, December 15, 2012

An unusual handle repair

You may or may not know that I do handle repairs for kitchen knives. Recently I was asked if I could repair a Kurkri or spelled Khurki. A Kurkri is a Nepalese knife. This is an example of well made Kurkri.

It was a souvenir a client pick up backpacking though Nepal. It was not the best example, probably made exclusively for traveler as souvenirs. But after lugging the heavy piece of steel around with him for months it ended up representing something more than just a knife. After talking with the client I got the impression that it represented the experienced during his travels. Holding the knife and feeling the weight of the steel, reminded him of what seemed to be a important time in his life. I don't know any of the is for sure, it is how I interpreted the conversation. Either-way, I was sure the object had meaning to him.

The handle was made of hollow horn, it was dry cracks and originally poorly fitted. I told the client I would see if I could dig up some walnut to replace the handle to come as close to the color of the horn that was almost black. The brass Bolster and heal of the handle were also thin, hollow, abused and misshaped. So I had to replace them too. I had lots of brass at home so it would not be a problem. Eventually I also found a piece of purple heat wood. A bit warmer in color than the walnut but much harder, and more practical. The client mentioned he wanted to use the knife.

The knife clearly had meaning for the client so I wanted to treat the object with respect. So I would try to mach up and improve without changing the visual integrity of the knife. I also did not know who made the knife. Even though it might have been mass-produced for a souvenir sales, the knife was clearly hand made and it was easy to see traces of the craftsmen. Who knows what kind of tools the craftsman had or the conditions we worked under. As long as I did not know I chose to regard the maker with the same respect as the owner. 
This is a photo of the original blade, handle and brass ferrule.
* (photos taken on an iPhone 3) 
* (I am NOT a "Slöjdare" I sharpen and repair kitchen knives.)

Removing the handle and cleaning up the tang. 

Brass parts to manufacture from solid brass. ( I enjoy brass. It is soft and easily shaped, but still has weight and a wonderful warm, golden luster) In most cases it compliments wood well.


I mark the shape of the replacement part, cut, file and sand.


The original ferrule was thin and worn. I replacement bolster should not be perfect, so the overall aesthetics of the knife would not be disturbed . As I mentioned earlier I wanted to consider and respect the intrinsic value of the object.

Not being a “Slöjdare” the hardest part was drilling and centering the tang of the knife's blade. It had to coincide with the form and bend of the handle as well as the new solid brass bolster as well as the heal or but cap. I worked slow and eventually found a nice fit. 

Then cut the ruff form with a hand saw before the glue up. 

Because of the curved blade and angle of the heal, custom blocks and extra clamp has to be used. 
Glue up

I went “old school” on the handle . A series of vertical cuts to the right depth then a sharp chisel to remove the waste. This is an old way of removing wood that I find enjoyable. Using a sharp hand saw, and a well polished chisel combines a very rough method and delicate technique.



Then shaping with a rough file. 

Then sanding. 

After sanding the shape to a point and was happy with. The client wanted the same markings on the handle. On the original knife the markings were a bit crude and uneven. I wanted wanted to imitate this without it looking like a poorly done job. It was hard to find the right balance.

With the sealant I went old school once again with a Swedish pure cool pressed linseed oil mixed with pure spirits of gum turpentine and adding bees wax at the end. 

I was quit please that I could use the original brass part to rivet the end of the tang to the heal. It made if feel a little more like an restoration rather than a repair. 

I also left some small light scratches so the handle and it's new part would not feel like replacement part but blend in with the intrinsic value of the knife.

 As you can see in this close up the blade is uneven with small pits and waves. Because of this it was difficult to sharpen. The edge should be in a perfect line to get the most from your cut.

 Over all it was a fun project and was glad to restore a meaning full object to a client. Also making an old tool comfortable and useful again. 


  1. Nice Post, showing good techniques.
    Leather Repairs Hull Carry out Furniture Repairs Hull, Bolster Repairs And Furniture restoration By Fully Trained Technicians for domestic and commercial customers.