Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Mini-Sword out of Brass Rod, Wire, and an Acorn Nut

"People who buy things are suckers," once said by the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. I've come to realize that people who buy supplies to make things are suckers, too, but less so than the average consumer. Scavenging and/or plundering might be the way to go, but that's not what this blog post is about.

This Father's Day, I couldn't decide what trivial trinket to purchase for my dad, so I decided to make something for him. Something cool. Something that reeks of badassery.

I decided to make a sword for my dad.

Okay, I decided to make a letter opener in the shape of a sword for my dad for Father's Day.

I initially wanted to make the mini-sword out of stainless steel because stainless steel is said to be a food-safe material. In addition to being a nifty letter opener, a stainless steel mini-sword could also be a meat skewer and/or a drink stirrer.

The sucker that I am, I purchased a variety of annealed stainless steel rods, in preparation for this project. To research some metalworking knowledge, I lurked in various metalworking forum topics. I soon realized that stainless steel is a relatively difficult and tough material to work with, even when annealed (softened by heat). Luckily, I barely touched the stainless steel rods before going to Plan B (or was it C? D, perhaps?).

I decided to hold off on stainless steel for a future mini-sword, and I decided to work with brass instead. Brass is a way softer material than stainless steel to cut, hammer, bend, and heat. Armed with a variety of clamps and vices, three hammers (one, two, and three pounds), a small hacksaw, a mini butane torch, files, grinding wheels, sandpaper, a cordless drill, various drill bits, a center punch, threading die, cutting fluid, a digital caliper, needle-nose pliers, jeweler's pliers, goggles for safety, and a cute-sized anvil -- I decided to work with brass. (I probably used other tools and equipment as well, but I can't remember them all.)

Stop. Hammertime.
I wanted the letter opener's parts to be as analogous to an actual sword as practically possible. A sword usually consists of four parts: (1) Blade and tang, (2) crossguard, (3) grip, and (4) pommel. Each part of the sword makes sure that the other parts stick together. I wanted the letter opener to do the same.

I used a relatively thin brass rod for the letter opener's "blade" and "tang." I wanted the end of the sword to be compatible with my choice of pommel -- an acorn nut (the hardware, not squirrel food). I made the "tang" a bit nontraditional by using a threading die to connect the acorn nut to the "blade" rod.

I tried to hammer the "blade" part somewhat flat, but I don't think I was as successful as I wanted to make the blade flat and wide. I hope a future mini-sword will have a wider blade; I'll have to use more elbow grease, and perhaps, some dragon's fire to accomplish this. In any case, I also used a couple of drill bit grinding wheels, a variety of files, and different grits of sandpaper to shape the "blade" to resemble a blade.

I used a relatively thick brass rod for the letter opener's crossguard. It was so thick, that I used a hacksaw to cut the rod in lengthwise in half. Cutting fluid is helpful when cutting metal. I then hammered and ground the half-rod into shape. A good vice is also helpful for this step. I drilled a hole in the middle of the metal piece with a cordless drill, a drill bit with the same size as the "blade/tang" rod, and some cutting fluid. I then connected the shaped crossguard rod to the shaped blade rod.

Functionally, the "grip" of the letter opener is supposed to push the crossguard flush against the blade, with the pommel keeping the grip in place. I had a few materials choices for this part of the mini-sword. I could drill a rod-sized hole down the length of an appropriately-sized wood dowel. Alternatively, I could use heat-shrink wrap as an ad-hoc sword grip. Since I wanted this particular mini-sword to be made out of one kind of metal -- brass that will hopefully have a golden polished shine -- I used brass wire for the grip. I simply wrapped the wire around the thick "tang" as tightly as possible. My wire-wrapping technique isn't up to snuff, so in the end, there was a presentation side to the mini-sword, and there was an ugly side, with the beginning and end of the wire.

The blade should have been a bit wider.
I did not have to grind, hammer, or bend the final part of the mini-sword -- the pommel. I simply used a brass acorn nut and screwed it to the threading at the end of the blade/tang rod. And thus, the mini-sword is complete.

The letter opener mini-sword isn't quite finished yet. I need to use some metal polish, and hopefully this brass "sword" will shine and sparkle like a pure gold "sword." I should probably seal my dad's Father's Day card envelope really well, so the letter opener can actually be used, at least once. Hopefully, Dad will dig the mini-sword.

I want to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the literal m-f'ers of the world (if you don't mind the complicated humor of the phrase -- fathers, mothers, you get it, right?) ... as well as the dads who adopted their children. Or used in vitro fertilization. And all the father figures of the world, too, regardless of gender. Hopefully, all your children will do something badass for you, too. Yes, I'm patting myself on the back for this D.I.Y. accomplishment. It's shaped like a freakin' sword, people!

I also hope the next mini-sword will be better than this one. I'm working my way up to stainless steel.


P.S. Edited to add the final, polished product present:

The Power of the Sun.

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