Doug's Sword Making Tools Page
Some of the pictures of my tools in these links are 200k to 300k big. Be patient if you click.
- A workbench. You just can't do much without one. Get a Black & Decker Workmate if you must fold it up and put it away when you're not using it.
- Files. Very important. Must have. If you get used ones, don't get dull ones. They can look good but not cut. Look and see if the tips of the teeth are shiny - if they are, they're DULL! Try a test cut before buying, unless it's 50 cents or less. Then you can anneal it and make a different tool out of the steel. Rusty files are automatically bad. A tiny bit of rust on the cutting edge of the tooth removes that cutting edge. Then the "file" just rubs and doesn't cut away any material.
- More files. Flat, round, half-round, triangular. It's good to have wood rasps, too, for grips and scabbards.
- A wire bender. I got this one from Wholesale Tool in Detroit for about $60, and made the bending dies you see around it out of scrap round bar stock. It came with bending mandrels up to one inch in diameter. Mine go up to 3-1/2 inches. This bender is one of the handiest, most used tools that I use for making fencing sword hilts. It's also available from Harbor Freight Tools (www.harborfreight.com). In my latest catalog, received on August 20, 1998, it's marked down from $69.99 to $59.99 as catalog number 35150-9HCA.
- Belt Grinder. For making swords and hilts, I have 2 belt grinders - with 2" x 48" belts. For one, the Kalamazoo, I've made a jig for grinding blade bevels. The Kalamazoo costs about $175, without a motor. The other one is mostly parts made by Ickler and sold by Centaur Forge (blacksmith's supplier) in Wisconsin (see materials sources page). Belt grinders are extremely useful. It's probably the most-used power tool for making hilts, and blades. You get a flat platen to grind against, and a round wheel, and a slack belt area too. And you can change grits in seconds. I use one or two other belt grinders that use 1" x 42" belts. The grinders and the belts are less expensive and also very useful. There's a different one available from and visible at www.grizzlyindustrial.com, but I can't get a link directly to an individual tool page. You'll have to go there and search for the "knife-maker's belt sander / buffer." Look for catalog item number G1015. It uses 2 X 72 inch belts and costs $275 to $300. They also have two combination belt and disk sander/grinders that use the 1 X 42 belts and cost about $100. There is an 8-page article on building your own, with a plywood frame, from the Metal Web News at http://www.loganact.com/mwn/howto/sander1/sander.html. The article has 21 pictures showing how to build it.
- Sanding belts. You need them for a sander or grinder, but they're also very useful just handheld, like a shoeshine cloth, for polishing steel.
- I use a Dremel moto-tool some of the time, but more often I use a much larger version that has a 1/4" collet and lots more power. Mine is a Sears Craftsman. Many tool companies sell them, calling them die grinders. They cost in the neighborhood of $100 to $150.
A band saw power hack saw is also very, very nice to have. The most economical that I know of is the 4-1/2 inch size, with 3 or 4 speeds and a 1/2 hp motor. You can use it horizontally or vertically and I use both! And I use it a lot! They're available from any machinery supply place, Sears, Harbor Freight Tools, and even the big home improvement centers (Delta sells a version, which comes with a very nice manual you should get a copy of, no matter which brand of saw you get!). They sell for $140 to $200 or so. Bi-metal blades cost about triple the price of hard-back or carbon steel blades, but last 5 or maybe even 10 times longer. This size saw uses a blade 1/2 inch wide and 62-1/2 inches long. Have a spare blade. You'll be sorry if the blade breaks on a weekend and you've just started a big project! It's mighty hard to get along without this saw once you've gotten used to having it. One to see is ITEM 35150-5VGA, the metalcutting bandsaw at HFT. There's a similar one available from and visible at www.grizzlyindustrial.com, but I can't get a link directly to an individual tool page. You'll have to go there and search for the "horizontal/vertical cutoff band saw." I've also seen these in the power tool departments of home-improvements stores like Lowe's, Home Depot, and Menard's. The imported bargain tools stores in many cities always carry them too.
- Dishing stump and hammer. I use a piece of hardwood 4 by 4 about a foot and a half long. I think it's oak, and it came from an old pallet or skid. I drilled a one-inch hole in the middle about 1/2 or 3/4 inch deep and then carved the edges away to make a broad dish-shaped depression in the end of the 4 by 4. I stand this 4 by 4 on its end on the cement floor in my basement workshop. I've dished the plates for a spangenhelm and several "saber bell" type sword hand guards on it. I find that I need a pretty heavy ball peen hammer, so I use a 32 ounce one. Having a short handle on it seems to help.
- Scotch-Brite surface conditioning belts, disks or pads are very convenient for removing scratches and rust and for final polishing. They are available in several different grades of coarseness.
- Hand hack saw with lever locking blade tension mechanism. I've had to saw apart some rings on damaged hilts and it really helps to have the quick release of the blade for threading it through the opening and quickly re-attaching it to the saw frame. Mine is made by Nicholson.
- Welder. An oxy-acetylene torch is the most useful. I also have a little 120 volt wire-feed welder but have only used it once, experimentally, on a hilt. The two primary advantages for the acetylene torch are that you can see your project while wearing the eye protection and that holding or clamping your work is much simpler because you don't have the electrode pushing your workpiece away. Right now I'm also looking seriously into a very small, relatively very inexpensive TIG welder. Most inexpensive TIG welders that I've seen cost $1100 and up. This one is only $400, although it is more limited in output current and duty cycle. But it should be just fine for hobby use.
- I'd really, really like to have a plasma cutter for cutting out blade shapes and for cutting sheet metal into armour pieces. But a decent one would cost about $1500 and that's a lot for a seldom-used hobby tool.
You can see more of my metalworking tools on my Machining Page.
A good source for sheet-metal working tools is the Eastwood Co. They specialize in supplies for automobile restoration and have a lot of useful tools in their catalog. For example, a kit of dies that clamp onto your bench vise jaws and convert it into a 6 inch press brake. And they have shears, nibblers and other forming tools. Go to www.eastwoodcompany.com and ask for their free catalog. It's about 100 pages, with lots of color pictures. Or call 1-800-345-1178.
------home ------ back to Swordmaking Page -----------e-mail me. ----- updated April 27, 2002