Makonde Dagger

If you watch the videos from Punished Props channel, you may know they do a subscriber challenge at certain milestones. For 250 Subscribers the challenge was to build a dagger  called the Makonde dagger which was designed by artist Jonah Lobe.

The dagger in the video was made mainly from plastics and two part epoxy putty; materials I use for my builds. For this challenge I wanted to try something different and settled on having a go at wood carving. I have shaped some balsa wood before but never tried carving figures. Looking up suggestions I came across basswood.  This is pretty easy to shape – not being as hard as some woods but not as soft as balsa.

Having printed off the template that is available I broke it down into parts: The dagger, crossguard parts, two cylinders and the moon pommel. Next I had a look for some wood and found some 5mm planks with would fit all the parts on. I brought two of these and glued together using wood glue, clamped and left overnight. I used two planks rather than one as they would show the join between them and make it easier when beveling.

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The next day I traced the templates onto the wood, doing two handles, two large cylinders and leaving out smaller crossguard template. I then cut out all the parts with my scroll saw and tidied them up with files. The reason behind missing out the smaller crossguard was that the  sections were 4 and 6mm. Taking the large crossguard piece, I set up my bandsaw to cut 6mm and sliced it in two. I then took the 4mm half and traced on the small template and cut that out giving me the two right sized parts. These were shaped using a 180/100 grit nail file, glued together and a 4mm hole was drilled through them in the place marked on the template. The larger of the cylinders was made in the same way, by cutting one of the two and gluing the 4mm section to the second.

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The handle was 2cm around and was made by gluing the two 1 cm pieces together. I drew 2cm circles at either end using a compass, as a guide and used rasps then files to shape it. 4mm Holes were drilled in each end using the compass mark to get them on center.

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After drawing the bevels on the dagger and moon pommel, they were shaped using files, before being sanded with 400 grit sandpaper. Next was the fun part: carving the figures. But before I did this I masked of the top and bottom blades with tape to prevent them from being damaged. Thinking about this later, it may have been better to do the carving first then the bevels.

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Using the template and screenshots from the tutorial video I marked out where the figures would go. Reference images really helped when I was having difficulty working out what to remove and at what levels (layers) everything should be at. The carving was done with my Dremel using engraving bits (ball and spike) and a set of cheap diamond coated needle files. This did prove to be a bit of a challenge to me as I’m so used to additive sculpting rather than sutractive. Issues included making the levels too shallow or deep and making the details too subtle.  The finished result looks okay, but I need some practice if I have a go again. Rather than try to explain the levels, they are shown in the image below.

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  •  Layer 1: 1mm
  • Layer 2:  2mm
  • Layer 3: 3mm
  • Layer 4: 5m

 

 

 

 

When the carving was done I removed the tape and added some nics to the bottom blade.

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To join all the parts together I cut up to two 4mm machine screws which would go into all the 4mm holes I had drilled. The parts were made into two sub-assemblies: the short screw connected the moon pommel, small cylinder then the handle. While the other joined the dagger, the two crossguards, large cylinder and handle. A bit of superglue was used to keep the parts extra secure when I was happy everything was straight.

Using the screws or hole to hold them, the two sub were then given a coat of dark wood dye. This is the first time I could really see if the carving and details worked. I was expecting the dye to pool in the details and help make them stand out, but this wasn’t the case.

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Plan B involved painting a watered down mix of brown and black acrylic carefully in any crevices. I then did a second coat of dye to blend everything together and was happier with the result. When both assemblies had dried they were screwed together and glued.

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Finally, I cut a strip of dark brown leatherette and wrapped it around the handle using a tiny drop of superglue to secure it.

I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out overall, having not done any wood carving before. I enjoyed trying something new. The wood was also really nice to work with. I Found carving the figures a challenge, but would like to try some carving again.

The video of the Punished props build is below. Templates and details are available from the website – here.

The word TWO appears 14  times in this post?