Construction of an inletted tang knife

        In inletted tang construction I cut a slot in the top of a piece of timber to match the width of the knife tang. The knife blank, with guard soldered in place, is checked for fit in the timber and any small alterations made as required, thus ensuring a good fit. The blank is then epoxied into the slot.

Half tang blank with guard

The semi skinner blank with guard soldered in place. I usually drill more than just two holes in the tang for the epoxy to key into.

       Once the epoxy has cured I cut the timber of the handle to its intended outline shape and then bring the profile down to final dimensions.

Rough shaped half tang knife

The handle has been cut to outline profile and a retaining pin (not really needed) added.

       The scales are sanded flat, the handle edges and guard rounded over and everything is fine sanded and the guard polished.

Half tang knife

The completed knife.

       I like the inletted tang construction for a few reasons. It takes somewhat less time to make compared to the way I make a full tang knife. Secondly, for a given knife design and steel thickness an inletted tang knife is lighter than a comparable untapered full tang knife, with less weight in the handle bringing the balance point of the knife forward towards the blade.

       To me the most important reason for favouring inletted tang construction is potential long term integrity. With this construction method the tang is embedded in epoxy, and any movement or warping of the timber over time is less able to open up a gap between tang and timber where corrosion can begin.

       By contrast, if the timber handle scales on a full tang knife move or warp a small gap can open up between the tang and the timber, which is a place where corrosion can start. As rust forms it expands to further open up the gap between tang and timber.

Strength of inletted tang knives.

       It may be argued that inletted tang construction isn't as strong as full tang. The first image below shows four inletted tang knives which were tested to destruction (note in the top knife the tang doesn't even extend to the butt). In all cases the knives broke in the blade, not at the tang-blade point. The next image shows four full tang knives tested similarly - same result. The third image of the series shows two stick tang knives broken the same way - and with the same result. This extreme testing hopefully goes some way to showing that inletted tang construction, with a well-fitted guard, is a reasonably strong way to make a knife.

Four inletted tang knives broken during destructive testing. To test them I clamp the blade in a vice and swing on the handle using a 24 inch Crescent wrench until they snap.

Four untapered full tang knives broken during testing.

Two hidden tang knives broken during testing.

Copyright © 2018 Darren Englebretsen