Lead rivets.


50 Shooter
August 30, 2013, 10:31 PM
So with the talk about the EK knives and the mention about the handles being held on with lead rivets... How would you pour lead into the holes without burning the wood or whatever material you used?

Or am I missing something here? How would one even go about doing this? How would you protect yourself from handling the knife with lead in the handles.

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August 30, 2013, 10:51 PM
Well, rivets are not poured into anything, so the lead doesn't need to be hot. Or even warm. They're inserted into a hole bored through a couple or three pieces of material -- they're a bit longer than the hole is deep -- and then "upset" by hammering each end into a head, or into a heading form. Hammering the end of a piece of malleable metal makes it get shorter and fatter. Thus a rivet will swell a little to fill the hole, and then the heads will continue to swell a little more on either side of the hole and continue to tighten the pieces of stock together.

50 Shooter
August 30, 2013, 11:54 PM
Ahh, got it. Anyone know where to actually find lead rivets?

I guess you would need a rivet gun and a bucking bar to flatten them out or at least a heavy slab of steel to flatten them out right. I suppose with lead you might be able to get away with a good mallet to pound out the lead rivets.

August 31, 2013, 12:22 AM

Ek's history is that the lead was poured into place. The "rivet" part is probably just a convenient term.

50 Shooter,

I'm not aware of anything called a lead rivet. Read the history on John Ek's knives and you'll only see references to his pouring the lead. I corresponded with his son and asked if some alloy was used and he said his father melted lead and poured it and that aluminum or alloys weren't used in the day.

50 Shooter
August 31, 2013, 01:10 AM
Yeah, I did some Googlefu and saw that EK did pour the rivets. Wonder how they kept the wood from burning.

I did find plenty of places that make lead rivets, so finding something close or if you're making your own scales you can make them to match the rivets. If you have access to a press it would make seating the rivets easy.

August 31, 2013, 08:57 AM
Although the commando knives get all the attention... Ek did a few other styles back in the war years. Here's a "Navy knife" that shows what I'm talking about...


The one time I spoke with him, all those years ago, he did have old blanks for this style of blade as well as the commando knife in that dusty old shop. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd think that the lead rivets after pouring were sanded down as part of the final sanding process -that would also clean off any burn marks in the wood.... If you look closely at picture number three you can see how those old blades were marked (use the zoom feature). All of this was long before Blackjack, etc.

August 31, 2013, 09:11 AM
Ek's history is that the lead was poured into place. The "rivet" part is probably just a convenient term.Oh! How interesting.

August 31, 2013, 09:45 AM
I remember asking John Ek's son about the burning issue and he said that's why his dad used hard maple. They'd flair, but then the lead just got pounded and a quick hand sand and that was that.

BTW, he's quite the interesting character on his own.

August 31, 2013, 01:01 PM
How would you protect yourself from handling the knife with lead in the handles.You wouldn't.

Lead is not plutonium, and won't kill you from skin contact.

Besides, nobody knew any better back when John Ek was making knives for WWII.
They had much more truly dangerous things to worry about then.

Here is a fake EK I made several years ago.
I clamped the blade and scales to another board.
And poured the melted lead into the holes..

Final shaping and sanding took off anything that wasn't supposed to be there.




50 Shooter
August 31, 2013, 01:54 PM
Thanks RC, once again you post something too cool.

That and making me need to get off my arse to figure out what I'm going to do to finish the handle. Did you pour the lead through the hole and block the other side with something? Or do one side at a time?

August 31, 2013, 02:00 PM
I clamped the blade and scales to another board.
And poured the melted lead into the holes..Poured clear through all at once.
That is the only possible way to do it and have the lead hold the scales on the tang.

The handle clamped to the backing board stops up the holes on the back side so the lead doesn't run out the back scale before it can harden.

Countersink the holes on both side of the scales so you have a flared head on each side when you get done.


50 Shooter
August 31, 2013, 02:22 PM
Thanks RC, while I don't have a melting pot I have a friend that does. Now all I need to do is find the wood that I want to use for the handles. Would like to to use black walnut but that's pretty pricey and if I make a mistake (more the likely) I'll be smacking myself in the head.

August 31, 2013, 03:33 PM
Why don't you use micarta?

50 Shooter
August 31, 2013, 03:58 PM
I could as I like RC's scales that he did on his EK knife, he also did a good job with the wood scales in the pic above. I like both and its just something to think about, if I use the lead rivet method it permanent. If I use micarta I could swap out the scales at anytime.

Decisions decisions....

I think the lead rivets would be the harder way to go and requires more work but adds a more authentic look.

August 31, 2013, 05:24 PM
Use whatever wood you want! Very few woods are so expensive that you can't afford a LOT of knife scale material. Black walnut tends to be about $5-$7 a board foot. A board foot might make handles for roughly 40 knives if you cut carefully!

Now you might want the wood stabilized for a knife handle. (Pores and fiber filled as much as possible with a hardening chemical.) Even so, stabilized walnut scale blanks might run you $8.

We aren't talking about snakewood here.

(Though, if you do use snakewood, I've GOT to see that!)

August 31, 2013, 06:17 PM
Considering micarta is even less sensitive to heat than wood, you do have the option of using the lead and micarta, too.

August 31, 2013, 06:18 PM
Is it? Cool, I didn't know that. Something else to play with someday!

August 31, 2013, 08:09 PM
I would not use poured lead rivets with any type of Micarta.

Although it is not especially heat sensitive to normal heat?
It is extremely poor at carrying off excess heat at 500 degrees too!

Molten lead will scorch the epoxy & and likely delaminate next to the poured lead rivets.

Native hardwood like Oak or Hickory is best for this, as it will char inside the holes and stop the heat there.

If you want positive fasteners with the option of removable scales??

Use something like Corby fasteners.

Or slotted screw fasteners:


Sam Cade
August 31, 2013, 08:38 PM
Max working temp for micarta is 250-300 F depending on specifics.

Sam Cade
August 31, 2013, 08:40 PM
Oh hey!

Looks like they make a silicone glop based micarta that is good till 428 F... still not good enough...maybe. Hmmmm..


August 31, 2013, 08:56 PM
They also make a glass fiber high temp Micarta that will eat up your carbide tools working it faster then you can buy new ones!!

Plus give you a fiber glass rash in all the wrong places for a week before you get done!!



August 31, 2013, 09:25 PM
Oh no! Yuk. Worse than G10?

August 31, 2013, 09:32 PM
Much worse!!


August 31, 2013, 09:42 PM
Oooh. None for me, thanks.

September 1, 2013, 01:30 PM
RC's Ek reproduction shows that it can be done and done well. Maple is what John Ek used for the most part and rock maple is readily available to play with.

Besides, nobody knew any better back when John Ek was making knives for WWII.

Most people thought that you had to work with molten lead to have an overexposure risk. Industry cared, a little, but the general public wasn't aware of any hazard and most never had a problem. There were those that did understand that plumbism/lead poisoning was a hazard as far back as the first century and then it became well recognized in the 19th. It wasn't really until the later half of the 20th that real clinical understanding came about.

BTW, the lead rivets in the Eks represent a miniscule exposure problem. I wouldn't worry about them for normal use.

if I use the lead rivet method it permanent

No more permanent than drilling them out. I wouldn't use pure lead unless I was intent on restoring an original John Ek using all original methods.

I agree with RC for all the same reasons that micarta is a poor choice with poured lead. Scortched phenolic resin isn't something you want to be exposed to.

50 Shooter
September 1, 2013, 07:30 PM
Thanks guys for options and info, either way I go I'll take pics of it and post them. That way everyone can get a laugh and see how it went.

Still deciding on which way I want to go, guess I'll pick up some micarta and some maple. I have a bag of 00 buck that no one wanted to buy so I have plenty of lead.

September 4, 2013, 08:14 AM
I use lead rivets on many knives I make. They are easy to make any size. I wrap foil around a drill bit of the desired diameter then carefully remove said bit. Clamp one end in a vise grip and carefully pour molten lead in the open end. Let it cool and unwrap. Cut to length, insert, and pound away.

I've also done poured ones. Both work good.

September 6, 2013, 12:10 PM
If you are able to use something other than pure lead you can reduce your temps way down. 63/37 solder used for electronics is eutectic with a melting point of 361 degrees or you can go to a stained glass shop and pick up a one pound roll of 60/40 wire solder that would have melting range from 361 - 375 degrees.

I'm not a knife builder so I don't know if you have that as an option or not, just thought I'd throw that info out there just incase.

Brian Williams
September 6, 2013, 11:47 PM
I have helped salvage a few nice turned bowls that had the bottom turned too thin and the mounting screws poked thru. We turned a dovetail shaped circle where the screws showed and poured in pewter and then turned the pewter smooth. Also pewter has a real low melting point around 330 to 420 and good pewter has no lead in it.

September 15, 2013, 08:36 PM
That is good to know.

Ole Coot
September 15, 2013, 09:24 PM
My well used EK edge and 1/2 has walnut slab handles with the poured rivets and were used I was told when it was made that the lead could be peened to tighten if they came loose. The knife was used by me in the '60s and the pins had an X on each like hit with a screwdriver and were slightly recessed. The blade is still shaving sharp on both sides. Saved now with my USMC K-Bar.

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