How I make my knives
- I sit at the kitchen table and draw the outline of a knife, either from one I've purchased or seen or just one from my mind. I use only a couple of handle designs that I know to be ergonomically correct and vary only the blade design/length etc.
- I transfer the paper design to aluminum or Plexiglas and make a usable pattern from which to scribe on the steel.
- I scribe the pattern on the 6-foot length of steel and rough cut the knife on a metal cutting bandsaw.
- I profile the knife on my belt grinder (a Ron Wilson floor model design which uses a 6 foot X 2 inch sanding belt)
- I determine whether the knife will receive a guard or bolsters and drill 3/32" holes as appropriate utilizing drill press and a vice to assure holes are drilled straight.
- I determine handle pin sizes and placement and drill holes as described in 5 (I utilize 1/16", 3/32", 3/16" and ¼" pins).
- I reduce handle weight by drilling ½" holes to remove excess steel (occasionally I will taper the tang to accomplish similar results).
- I notch the blade at the bottom of the cutting edge to establish grinding parameters and to facilitate sharpening by the user.
- I hollow grind the blades, 60 grit first, 150 grit second, and finish with 320 grit.
- I do the filework on back of blades/handle using various sizes of chainsaw files (put the knives in a vise and hope I don't mess it up!!!)
- I notch the knife to allow for the guard if so designed.
- I send out blade for heat treating (Alton D'Holder does my heat treating though I've also used the services of Paul Bos in the past)
- Upon receipt of the heat treated knives, I grind the blades and flats using 400 grit paper/belts
- Then comes the buffing process, I use a series of 5 different buffing wheels of varying courseness and buffing compounds to achieve a mirror polish.
- I then attach bolsters through the use of two 3/32" pins which are peaned or silver solder guards as appropriate
- I rebuff the blade
- I drill pin holes in handle material then epoxy handle slabs and pins in place.
- I contour handle and sand tang and back of blade down to 400 grit and buff to mirrorlike finish.
- I make the sheath. Each sheath is cut from double shoulder 9-10 oz. vegetable tanned leather, hand stamped/carved, edges glued with a center welt in place, holes drilled with stainless needle in drill press, hand sewn with sinew or waxed nylon thread, wet formed to knife, edges smoothed and waxed, and belt attached to sheath forming belt loop (no threads exposed inside my sheath and no metal (rivots) used). 2 coats of Super Sheen is applied to waterproof the leather and to provide luster.
- Process complete!
Things you should know
- I make knives via the stock removal method
- Most knives are of the full tang variety and are hollow ground
- My basic steel is 440C
- My basic handle material is stabilized woods or Pakkawood
- Knives are made with or without bolsters/guards
- Bolsters/guards are made from stainless steel, nickel silver or brass
- Handles are contoured to fit the hand both in the knife design and in profiling the handle material (I take pride in how my knives "feel" when you pick them up and use them)
- My sheaths are normally of the pouch style, made of 9-10 oz. vegetable tanned leather, wet formed to the knife, dyed and tooled and hand sewn. Unlike many knifemakers, I believe a sheath should look nice as well as being functional. I think you'll like my sheaths.
- I normally include filework on the back of the blades and sometimes to the end of the handle. Doesn't make a knife function any better, but it surely does look nice!
I would like to thank my immediate family for putting up with me when my limited knifemaking skills aren't performing up to par and for quietly accepting the noise and sometimes weird smells that permeate the house while practicing my "hobby". There are three specific individuals who have had a positive influence on my knife making activities: Bill Blakely took a person (me) who had no skills whatsoever and taught him the fundamentals of the trade; Larry Beverly who has provided me with helpful hints over the years; and Ron Wilson who made my equipment (belt and disc grinder) and shared his house and family for a weekend to show me the finer points of knife making (particularly his tried and true method of mirror polishing).