I’ve done several hundred of these knives. We soldered them - and
riveted them, depending on the size & requirements of the client.
Usually they were small - 3" or less stainless steel penknives. We
also overlaid a lot of stainless letter openers with sterling silver
One caveat - all of these knives and letter openers had perfectly
flat side panels…
To solder them, I would take a 6" x 6" or 6" x 12" piece of 24 or 26
ga sheet silver, and clean the side to be soldered with a 3M pad &
We use “Stay Brite” silver bearing solder, which is a low temp solder
- 400 degrees. It comes in various sizes of wire on spools. We use
1/16". The manufacturer listed on the box is: J. W. Harris Co., Inc.,
10930 Deerfield Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45242. It is available in
hardware stores, gunsmith suppliers, and some jewelry suppliers carry
Warm up the sheet, and using the flux sold by the same company, melt
the solder. About 3/8" piece of wire solder for every square inch.
Spread the solder to “flush” the entire sheet with a 1" steel, brass,
or copper spatula. I usually grab whatever sheet metal scrap happens
to be lying about the shop. You can use a painters spatula, which has
a handle to protect your hand a bit from the heat.
Sometimes it is necessary to “flush” the knife panels too…
Then, clean the knives - in both the ultrasonic and the steamer - and
dip them or brush them with the flux. Find some level fire brick to
lay your sterling sheet on. Put as many (or few) of the clean, fluxed
knives on top of the sheet as you wish. We would try to get about an
eighth or quarter inch space between 'em, so as to be able to saw
them out afterwards.You can use an oven, or a “rosebud” torch to
bring them and the sheet up to the solder melting temp.
If you use the torch - you can see what is is happening - and add a
bit of solder, or slide them around to make sure that they are
"wetted" with solder evenly. Let cool, clean the flux residue off in
boiling water/ultrasonic, dry, and saw them out of the sheet. Leave a
little bit to file/sand off later, unless you are really good with a
This solder bonds well to any metal - steel, stainless steel, brass,
and even aluminum. (though it requires a different flux, and I
haven’t tried it, the manufacturer claims it will work…)
Repeat the operation on the opposite side of the knives…
When we riveted them, which wasn’t often - we used a bit heavier
gauge of sheet - up to 18 ga. if the job looked like it needed it. We
would knock out the rivets that come in the knife, and make a jig for
the drill press vise to accomodate individual sterling blanks, cut to
the approximate dimensions of the knife panels.
After the holes are drilled in the sterling, we would either replace
the rivets with some of the same/similar material used on the
original, or use a contrasting colored metal - ie. hard brass. You
can decorate the rivet heads, or just set them and file 'em off
Do not forget to chamfer the holes - before you set the rivet! I use
a bud burr or conical burr to just bevel the inside of the hole edge
We have a belt/disc sander with 220 paper, set up in a box to catch
the “dust” from sanding - and we use this to trim up to the original
knife panels. Then “detail sand” the plates you’ve put on, and polish
We hand engraved most of our production, which made it easy to
incorporate the rivets into the design. They became the centers of
By the way the correct term for these side plates/panels on knives
and letter openers is “scales”…
There are other solders (Brownells’ Hi-Force 44 comes to mind) and
other methods or variations on these methods that will work.
Hope this helps, if I left out some detail, or didn’t make it clear
enough, let me know.
Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
704 W. Swain Rd.
Stockton, CA, USA 95207