Making a knife requires a design, proper materials, and proper equipment. The right tools will contribute to creating a durable blade and handle. The blade is made from steel by a heating process, grinding and cooling. It can be made at home or small warehouse with heavy or homemade equipment. The machinery needed for more finely detailed knife blades are a disc grinder, surface grinder, magnetized table and power drill.
Safety equipment is highly advisable – even necessary. The use of hand gloves is important to avoid cutting and burning during the sharpening and heating process. Eye goggles are recommended for those using grinders. Powdered steel and debris may inflict the eye or become inhaled. A common work apron may be useful to avoid irritation caused by steel dust and dirtiness.
Non-Electric/ Alternative Equipment
Knives can be made without the aid of such equipment. As an alternative heavy machinery knife making can be performed using tools more available at hardware stores. Tools for knife making at home are a hand drill, rivets, a hammer, an anvil, scribe, epoxy, tongs, workbench, a set of engineer files, coarse bench stone and different grades of wet and dry sandpapers.
Tools for Shaping
Knifemaking begins in the laying out of the design. The shape of the blade and size is finalized and may be made into a plastic or a wooden template. The scribe is used to draw the design unto an annealed piece of steel. The metal cutting band saw easily cuts the steel into its proper shape.
The disc grinder is used to smoothen the edge of the annealed steel while the surface grinder flattens it. Magnetized tables firmly keep the blade in place as it is being carved, smoothed and sharpened. Knifemaking without machinery requires the hammer, anvil, and tongs for flattening the steel blade. Files are used to shape the edge if there is no band saw available. Surface grinders are important for removing any burr or scratches on the steel blade.
Equipment for Heating Treatment
If constantly heated properly, the blade’s shape and flatness are easier to manipulate by hand. Gas forgers or stone ovens are ideal for achieving the high temperature of 800 degrees Celsius. It will remove any magnetic material in the steel and become hard and durable as it is treated. The heat must gradually decrease as the blade is treated to avoid a brittle outcome.
The steel blade will be hardened by submerging it under cool water after the heating treatment and shaping. The blade is not submerged immediately after being heated, it must be allowed to cool in the air until it is no longer glowing, otherwise the blade will become brittle and break. The heating process is only done when the desired shape is accomplished, otherwise, the maker continues to hammer or put it under the surface grinder.
The proper use of whetstones or a combination of wet and dry sandstones can give the knife’s edge and surface a satin finish. Readymade handles are attached with epoxy or by drilling holes into the blade and applying small screws or rivets. An oilstone is the most ideal for creating a fine finish, it does not create burrs and is easier to manipulate.
Specific Recommendation for Beginners
A O1 tool steel with a dimension of 40mmx500mmx5mm is the most ideal for beginners in knife making. A 4mm thick tool steel may be substituted but a 5mm is more available and has wider size ranges. It is easiest to heat treat but requires constant care as it can rust easily when left wet.
The handle for the knife is made of two slabs of hardwood or another wood type. To match the size of the steel mentioned above it must have a dimension of at least 140mm x 60mm x 10mm. Walnut and birch wood are recommended for making handles as they are easier to carve. Epoxy will keep the wood attached firmly.
Once you are done making your knife, check out this article on how to clean and properly maintain your knife.
Have you made a knife from scratch? If so, we want to hear from you! Send us a comment below.