When I get a letter, I generally open it carefully with my hands if I think it’s a check, and rip it in half if looks like junk mail, or I do something in the middle if it looks like a bill. I hear there are also things known as “personal letters,” which I suppose I need to find a methodology for dealing with, in case I receive any in the future.
On the other hand, if I had a “sharpish” instrument with which to deal with letters, I could violently rip open good, bad, and neutral mail without damaging it. This tool is commonly known as a “letter opener,” and Daniel Quiroz, AKA “Dan the Maker Man” on YouTube, decided to make his own from fireplace tools that he found at a thrift store for four bucks. As he lives in the southern part of Texas, one must imagine that a fire for warmth is only necessary for a short portion of the year, while a letter opener can be used year-round!
Inspiration for this project started with him watching a television show where the participants had to make a leaf sword. As he puts it:
As soon as I saw it I fell in love with the shape and overall aesthetic of the sword. It became a brain worm of sorts. I really wanted to make a leaf sword but don’t have the ability or necessary tools to make an actual sword so I just let the idea marinate… Then one day I was moving the fireplace tools because I had to make some room for something and when I went to grab the handle of one of tools the idea hit me. I could use the fireplace tool handle as the handle for a leaf sword shaped letter opener.”
After obtaining the fire tools that he would use for the project, his first attempt was to reform the handle into something appropriate for a sword involved him heating it until it was red hot, then hitting it with a hammer. One might think this would work well, but Quiroz reports that it instead immediately crumbled. After trying this process again unsuccessfully, he decided to instead cut, grind, and file it into shape. He then deformed part of it with a hammer to hold the blade securely.
The shape of the blade was traced onto mild steel from a leaf sword found on Google images, then scaled to an appropriate size. As seen in the video above, he then cut the rough shape out with an angle grinder, then shaped it further with a sander and file. Finally, using the same tools, he added an edge to the blade then finished the tang to fit into the poker handle.
To attach everything, the handle, now deformed to the point where the tang would not slide into it, was drilled on a drill press, then further opened up with a file. He then applied epoxy to both the tang and handle and attached the two together, hitting the assembly with a hammer for good measure. Though not shown in the video, he did polish the handle after hammer blows, but Quiroz felt this wasn’t very interesting for his audience, as there is already quite a bit of sanding and filing in the video.
If you’d rather see the process in picture form, an abbreviated version of this project’s imgur set can be seen below.
The results seem quite good, but Quiroz notes a few things he would do differently next time, including improved grinding and beveling, and a pinned tang (though since it’s just a letter opener, he doesn’t see this as much of an issue). He notes that:
This was one of those projects where I felt like I was just making it up as I went along trying to problem solve as issues came up. In the end I am happy with the results it pretty much matches the image I had in my head.
It’s a neat project, and maybe it will provide some inspiration for others that either have unneeded fire tools lying around, or that happen to see a set at a local thrift store for an excellent price. After all, sometimes an item is good for much more than what it is advertised as if you have the right inspiration!