Sgian Dubh, Damascus Steel, Kilt knife, Scottish knife, Scottish gift, wedding
gift, groom 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 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 in Surinese Snakewood,
one of the hardest and most expensive woods on the planet. It is the heartwood
of a relatively small tropical tree and is reddish brown with black markings
running throughout that resemble snakeskin. The iridescence on this super
exotic wood has to be seen to be believed, when the sunlight hits it it it
looks like its on fire! The amazing pattern of this wood also gives it its
other name of Letter wood. Its incredible hardness gives a finish like glass
making it ideal for knife handles.
The antler came from a stag that roamed the hills above Lairg, Sutherland.
This is an extremely rugged part of Scotland and I'm sure it makes the Stags
and their antlers extra tough! Antler is one of those 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. I have sanded it smooth to reveal the
antlers true creamy white colour that often has flushes of pink and grey.
For a professional finish i have used some local Scottish Yew as a centre to
lock the knife tang and the outer scales together. This particular piece came
from a very old tree that grew near Ullapool, West Coast of Scotland. Yew is a
very traditional and sought after wood in woodcraft. This extremely slow
growing, evergreen tree can live for many thousands of years and its use in
folklore and legend has given it an almost mystical status. It has a gorgeous
warm orange colour which complements the Snakewood and Antler perfectly.
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, 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
This Sgian Dubh comes complete with an attractive embossed black leather
sheath and a black presentation box.
The Sgian Dubh measures:
Overall Length 176mm x Width 27mm x Depth of 15mm.
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.