Damascus Steel Sgian Dubh in Scottish Red Deer Stag Antler and Oak, Scottish
gift, wedding gift, groom gift, best man gift, mens gift
The Sgian Dubh is a ceremonial dagger that is traditionally worn (tucked into
the sock) as part of Scottish Highland dress along with a kilt. The translation
in Gaelic is knife or dagger for "Sgian" and black for "Dubh".
This is one of my new range of Natural Antler Sgian Dubhs in Damascus steel.
Damascus steel was first made over 2000 years ago and has a legendary status,
it is referred to as the steel of the Ancients. It is thought to have
originated in or near Damascus, Syria. During the Crusades, the Crusaders where
in awe of this steel that they witnessed slicing through their own lesser
quality swords. The exact process of making Damascus steel was lost around 1750
AD but it became very popular again in the 1970s with various craftsmen
claiming to have rediscovered the process. The process involves taking multiple
layers of metal and folding them together and bonding them by forge welding. If
done correctly the metalsmith will end up with a blade that is both hard and
flexible and of course have the swirling Damascus steel pattern that is so
sought after. Each blade has its own unique pattern, just like a finger print.
I have sourced top quality 15N20 Damascus steel blanks, they have a higher
Nickel content for extra hardness and are simply stunning to look at, an
absolute must have for any knife collection. The blades will be supplied
unsharpened but if required, they can be sharpened and will hold a razor edge.
If Damascus steel is ground to sharpen then the pattern will disappear, to
people unfamiliar with this metal, quite a distressing thing. After sharpening,
application of hydrochloric acid will instantly make the pattern pop again.
There is one draw back with Damascus steel, due to the high carbon content it
will rust and rust quickly. If the blade gets wet it must be dried quickly and
if stored for a period of time, especially in an environment that could get
damp, simply rub a little clear oil onto the blade to protect it.
I have made the primary outer handle of this Sgian Dubh from some Scottish Red
Deer Stag Antler. The antler came from a stag that roamed the hills above
Lairg, Sutherland, an extremely rugged and untouched part of Scotland. Antler
is one of these materials that is a joy to work, approximately the working
hardness of Oak, it responds well to careful working with both machine and hand
tools. My wood Sgian Dubhs tend to be very exacting in their shape where as
antler, due to its flowing curves can offer a more natural handle which is
exactly what has been achieved in this knife. I have left the antler just how
the deer made it, only sanding where necessary. When working this particular
piece of antler, there was a gorgeous smell of pine resin, this lad had been
thrashing about in Scots Pine, this is often where the dark colour on antler
For a professional finish i have used some Scottish Oak as a centre to lock
the knife tang and the outer scales together. Being a self-confessed wood snob,
i don't often use Oak on my knives as i feel it is sometimes just a little
plain. I was up in Ullapool the other day visiting my wood guru, Robert the
Spruce when he produced this lump of Oak. He informed me that it was from a 800
year old tree that grew in a Highland Estate just North of Inverness. It was
toppled in a huge storm some 5-6 years ago and had been slowly drying in his
store. It blows my mind to think that this tree was established in the late
Middle Ages when both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce where doing their
thing. It has been sawn on the quarter axis revealing its beautiful and
interesting grain. Its mid golden browns with streaks of darker brown work very
nicely with the Antler.
To finish and protect the handle I could not use polyurethane varnish as this
would turn the antler yellow. So in this case i first apply a sealer of Shellac
and Cellulose Thinners only to the wood centre, this brings out the colour.
Then i apply two types of industrial wax, the same as used on my antler kilt
pins. This gives a hard wearing finish and an attractive sheen not dissimilar
to a polyurethane finish.
This Sgian Dubh comes complete with an attractive embossed black leather
sheath and a black presentation box.
The Sgian Dubh measures:
Overall Length 177mm x Width 29mm x maximum Depth of 19mm
Blade Length 87mm x Width 25mm, this complies with UK knife law sizing.
As with all my pieces i have applied my company logo "UBC" with pyrography, in
this case on the bottom rear of the handle.