How to Make a Sgian Dubh

Written by steve sparkes
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How to Make a Sgian Dubh
Sgian Dubhs are rarely used today, except as ceremonial accessories. (A Scottish Piper image by Ray Carpenter from

A Sgian Dubh, pronounced "Skeen Doo," is a traditional Scottish knife, now worn ceremoniously in the top of stockings worn with kilts. Sgian Dubh translates as "Black Knife." This is either a reference to the early Sgian Dubh's appearance, which was likely to have a handle made from bog oak which would look quite black when well worn, or the "Black" part of the name may refer to its original use as a secret, or hidden, weapon. When among friends the Sgian Dubh would be worn in the stocking top so that it would be openly visible and not hidden, as a potential threat - hence the ceremonial tradition.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sgian Dubh kit (which includes handle material, blade and sheath)
  • Rough hasp
  • Wood-working oil
  • Variety of sandpaper grades
  • Pencil
  • Small chisels (or Dremmel type tool with V-shaped burr)
  • Drill
  • Long 1/8 inch drill bit
  • File (or ground down jigsaw blade)
  • Wax
  • Two-part epoxy resin
  • Sharp knife

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  1. 1

    Purchase a Sgian Dubh kit, which will include all the components you need to create your own knife.

  2. 2

    Shape the block of wood, or handle material, in the kit using a rough hasp. Use the hasp to scrape excess wood away until you have a good approximation of the handle shape you want to create.

  3. 3

    Mark your chosen pattern onto the handle with a pencil.

  4. 4

    Carve out the pattern with small chisels or with a V-shaped burr attachment in a Dremel-type power tool.

  5. 5

    Oil the handle with a good quality specialist woodworking oil.

  6. 6

    Sand the handle with increasingly fine sandpaper grades until the handle is of the required finish.

  7. 7

    Oil the handle again and allow it to dry.

  8. 8

    Drill the handle with a long, 1/8-inch drill bit, rocking the drill gently as it goes in to create an oval shaped hole.

  9. 9

    Enlarge the hole with a file or a ground-down jigsaw blade so that the tang (narrow extension on the blade that goes into the handle) will fit.

  10. 10

    Make a slot for the base of the blade to rest in at the bottom of the handle.

  11. 11

    Put wax on the blade where you don't want glue residue to be left.

  12. 12

    Use a quality two-part epoxy resin to set the blade into the handle. Mix the resin with wood dust or dye it, if you wish, to make it less noticeable after it has dried. Although, if the blade and handle fit together well, the resin shouldn't show much anyway.

  13. 13

    Peel and cut any excess resin away before it completely hardens.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep the Sgian Dubh out of its sheath during storage so that the blade has air circulating around it. Keep the knife dry and clean and oil the blade and handle occasionally with a quality walnut or olive oil.
  • Although the Sgian Dubh usually has a relatively short blade of 3-1/2 to 4 inches in length, it may be illegal to carry in some areas. Knives are always potentially dangerous and should be used with care.

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