Peter Balch - Home

A Sgian-dubh memory stick

My son has taken to wearing a kilt and so needs a sgian-dubh ("skene-dhu", "skean-dhu", etc.)*. Although it is legal in the UK to wear a sgian-dubh as part of a national costume, it's going to cause difficulties so he said he wanted a memory stick version. What a great idea and his birthday is approaching.

I felt it should look like it had been passed down from his grandfather the hairy highlander - it must look old. (Neither of his grandfathers was a hairy highlander but the principle is sound.)

Fake resin sgians-dubh (sgianean-dubh?) are available but they're rather slim to work with. Then I saw someone wearing an antler sgian-dubh. That should have plenty of room.

* "Sgian-dubh" is the Scottish Gaelic word for a small knife. Literally "black knife" where black means "hidden". It is worn in the top of the sock to show that, as a guest, you have revealed all your weapons.



How it was made

I started with a fork from a carving set that I bought at a car-boot sale for £0.50.
Heating the metal part in a gas flame and pulling gently removed it.

A sanding disk and a polishing wheel rounded off the end.

Antler has a spongy bone centre which will need covering up.

The other end of the piece has a black cap. I'm not sure what it was made of, perhaps ebonite.
I'd have prefered a yellow "cairngorm" stone as more traditional but the only (fake) stones I could find the right size were blue earings.
I dug out a hole in the ebonite big enough for the stone.

The stone is held in with epoxy resin mixed with black poster paint powder to form a black putty.

The blue stone looks black now which is quite nice.
The memory stick is a 16GB Kingston Datatraveller.

The body is the same cross-section as the plug which means that the dust-cap can be as long as you like. I wanted a long dust-cap so that it will be held on firmly when you pull the sgian-dubh out of your sock.
Sawing the antler in half and polishing the ends is easy. It's nice material to work with.

Hollowing out the dust-cap was the hardest part of the project. I used a variety of drills and chisels to get a rectangular hole the same size as the memory stick.

The other ends is much easier. Just make a hole that's way too big, partly fill it with epoxy, push the memory stick into the expoxy, put on the dust cap and align them carefully.

When the epoxy has set, pull the halves apart and fill the remaining gap around the memory stick with more epoxy. Add a little flour into the epoxy to colour it to match the antler.
A spring clip made from a piece of clock main-spring helps keep the cap on.
The endcap is from an old bead. I adjusted it so it fit the antler then glued it on very thoroughly with epoxy. I hope that's enough - I don't want the curled ends to catch in the sock.
A nice presentation box makes it look even better.

Happy Birthday.

Other projects:
Hacking an antique clock
Old Telephones
An Orrery-Clock
A steampunk mouse
A 1960s webcam
A sgian dubh memory stick
A wheeled mouse
An external disk drive
A 1930s webcam
A Vintage Intercom