In the past, the task of making knives was a reserve of a few blacksmiths. It was a respected art that would be passed down generations in one family, a family that would then be revered in all the land. With time, the art continued to lose its mysticism as easier ways of forging knives popped up. Once technology was incorporated, it was game over; now, anyone with the right machines and tech can whip up a blade in a short time.
The focus today will be on both fixed and folding knives. We will explore the ways through which they are made, the materials used, and some of the benefits that each design brings to the table. If you have been curious to know how some of the knives that you own are made, then this is for you.
The process involved in making camping and tactical hunting knife is not that hard if you have the right tools and resources for it. You can set up a small workshop in your garage if you are passionate enough to try making your own knives. The following are some of the steps you can use to make reliable knives.
Step 1: Getting the Tools Ready
You can choose to go basic if you are on a budget or use power tools if you have the means to go down that route. Either way, it can still be done. For most people following this guide, going with basic tools is more viable. The following are the tools you will need to have around you before starting.
- Angle Grinder: This will handle most of the hard cutting and shaping. It usually costs about $30 in most shops. If this is beyond you, then you can try using a hacksaw, but that would take more time and would require a lot of energy to get things done.
- Files: You will need a number of differently sized files to help you get things into shape. Especially the edges of the blade once they begin taking shape. Mix up rough and rounded files to increase your options.
- Sand Paper: You will also need a variety of waterproof sandpapers with varying grits that range from 120 all the way to 1000. Sandpapers are quite adept at smoothening metallic surfaces in an even manner.
- Clamps: These are necessary for holding metal bars in place tightly to allow you to work on them in a number of ways. This could be cutting, grinding, or smoothening. You need a good clamp that will secure the metal bars well.
- Drill: Drills are necessary for creating holes in the metal bars that will eventually become knife blades. Holes are needed for setting the handle in place, and they have to be made in the right diameter depending on the bolts that will be used to fasten the handles in position.
- Others: Some other minor tools that may help make the work easier, things like dremels for grinding, grills for heat treatment, and coping saws for making precise cuts and notches.
Step 2: Getting the Materials
Before assembling the materials, you have to first decide what you want your knife to be made of. There are many metals available, ranging from the most expensive ones like carbon steel to cheaper ones like brass and aluminum. But the most common and reliable material would be the good old stainless steel. The following are what you need to get ready.
- Steel: There are many types of steel to choose from, starting from $30 for a 5/32”. The bar should be thick enough and solid to give you room for making as many modifications as you can.
- Handle Material: This is another area where you have to make a decision beforehand. You can go with rubber, metal, plastic, wood, and a host of other options, even ivory, if you can afford it. For a homemade knife, you will be better off with a wooden knife handle as it is cheaper and easy to make.
- Pin Stock: This can be bought ready-made from online shops or any hardware in your locality. You can either go with a pinstock made of stainless steel or brass. Any can work just alright.
- Linseed Oil: This is for adding a cool finish to the wood handle once you have curbed it up nicely to fit the hand.
Step 3: Create a Pattern
With everything in place, it is time to start the actual knife-making process. Begin by creating a pattern on a piece of paper. This is a clear outline of the eventual knife. If you have a replica of the knife you want to make, then simply trace it on the paper. Once all that’s done, transfer that shape onto your steel bar. Depending on the size of the steel bar, you should be able to get about eight blades on the minimum end from an 8ft steel bar piece. That’s more than enough to give you a good supply of blades to work on in case a few get damaged along the way.
Step 4: Start Grinding
You have your steel strips in place, and now it is time to put the angle grinder to work. This is the initial stage where the rough edges of steel bars are taken care of, and the shape of the knife starts taking form. This process should be handled carefully with the right gear like gloves and face protectors to keep sparks from flying onto your skin and eyes. Make sure the cuts are close but leave ample space for further modifications down the line.
Step 5: Shape the Profile
Still using the grinder, clamp the metal strip you are working on tightly and start grinding away at the strip, following the outline you created in the first stage to cut out the perfect knife shape. Keep the grinder as flat as possible as you do this, and be careful not to overdo some parts more than others as that will result in an uneven blade.
Step 6: Drill Holes
Now turn your attention to the part of the blade that will go into the handle and start drilling even holes along the entire length. Mix them up a little, big ones and small ones in a zigzag manner to increase the strength of the bolts once they are set into the handle. Use a good hand drill to ensure that the hotels are even. This will also help reduce the weight of the blade. Start with smaller holes and widen them as you go; increase the size of the bit to avoid denting the blade with too much pressure.
Step 7: Grind the Bevel
Begin by finding the center of your bevel first. Once you have figured that out, pick your angle grinder again and this time, arm it with a flap disc to work on the bevel. This process should be delicate as any slight mistake will distort the shape of the bevel and add some imbalances to the overall weight of the knife. Also, avoid shaping the bevel to a fine point, as that will make the knife start warping once the heat treatment begins. This should be followed by bevel filing to make the edge smoother and even.
Step 8: Heat Treatment
If you don’t have state-of-the-art heat treatment equipment, then you will have to make do with your regular grill using charcoal to heat the blade. Fan the fire with cardboard or anything flexible to raise the temperature as high as possible because it is necessary for tempering the blade and giving it the tenacity and strength necessary to avoid chipping and bending. As the blade becomes hotter, make sure you handle it with care because at that point, if it were to drop to the hard cold floor, it would shatter like glass.
Step 9: Fix the Handle
Once the blade has cooled down, it’s time to fix the handle. Begin by inserting the blade into the crevice in the wooden handle. Make sure the holes you drilled earlier align with the holes on the handle. Drive in the bolts through the handle and the blade to the other side and secure them tightly. Shake the knife a little to check if there’s any movement in the handle. Once you are satisfied, sandpaper the handle nicely, then apply some linseed oil for the finish. You now have your complete knife.
If you have the right tools and expertise, there’s no single knife that will be too hard for you to make. It is a nice hobby to have if you are a lover of knives. Do extensive research to get more design ideas on the things you can try out. To get a better understanding of how fixed blades and personalized pocket knives operate, check out our website to get more tips and tricks for making knives of all shapes and sizes.