Sometimes a fellow will have a hard time getting started simply because he doesn't know a logical sequence to do the work. This doesn't mean he's not bright, but just that he probably hasn't had the company of a knife maker who took the time to explain how things work. There are also a heck of a lot of ways to arrive at a good knife, all of them correct.

Many of the publications have great how-to instruction, but tend to gloss over some of the very simplest steps. We offer this sequence or outline in an effort to make the routine more understandable.

And finally there are the voice preservation aspects of putting this all in print. I've had to explain these things over the phone so often that there are days when I feel like a record cut, being played over and over again.

1. Assemble the materials. Try to have everything on hand to complete the job when you get started. If you have to, hide the necessary tools from your brother in law, so they'll be there when you need them.

2. Fasten the blade firmly in a vise or clamp it to a heavy length of wood. Don't even think about trying to rub a blade with a hand sanding block while holding it in your other hand.

3. Hand rub 180 or 220 grit. This one is the essential step to get absolutely perfect if you want the rest of the rubbing to work right. Be sure to get the plunge cut perfectly clean with this grit and the others will be easy. Use a hard, narrow sanding block. A dremel type machine can be some help in cleaning up the plunge cuts and is essential on finger grooves, but you have to be very careful with it. If you want to use stones for the polishing, go back and read that section. Stubborn grinding marks may need a coarser grit to get rid of them. Use Cool Tool II to lubricate the sanding paper. It's a cutting fluid that will make the paper cut much better.

4. Hand rub 280 or 320 grit. Sanding with each new grit should be done in a different direction. Each grit should also be done around the entire blade before moving on, but you may leave the handle edges of a full tang knife to finish along with the handle material.

5. Hand rub 400 grit. Don't worry about getting the handle edges at this point. They'll get scuffed up when you shape the handle.

6. Hand rub 600 grit. You may want to rub with 600 several times, the last with the sanding motion lengthwise. Finer grits, up to 2000, are now available, and give a beautiful finish.

7. Measure and mark guard material for slot. Guards do not have to be wide, with 1" being considered the absolute maximum if one wants to fit it into a conventional sheath. If you're nervous about fitting a guard, remember, a heck of a lot of fine knives don't have any guard at all.

8. Center punch and drill holes in guard material for the guard slot. Do not hold the guard with your fingers while drilling!

9. File the guard slot to fit the blade.

10. Correct any loose fit on front of guard slot. Good trick for this is mentioned elsewhere.

11. Hand rub the front of the guard to fine finish. If you're using bolsters, polish the front edges.

12. If guard is to be pinned, locate and mark location of hole. With bolsters, treat them as you would a slab handle.

13. Punch and drill guard pin hole.

14. File the bottom of guard slot until the pin fits through. The sides of the slot should already fit. When you try and pull off the partially filed guard, tight spots in the slot will appear shiny.

15. Countersink the pin hole. Same for bolsters.

16. Install and hammer pin(s) into place.

17. Clean and rough up the area to be soldered. Tape the blade to protect it. Use heat fence to protect the back end of the cutting edge if your steel will anneal easily, 440-C, 0-1, carbon steels, etc.

18. Solder on the guard. We do not recommend soldering bolsters.

19. Clean the solder joint immediately. Remove the tape on the blade and clean the blade thoroughly. Flux can get under the tape and etch the polished blade like crazy. Most flux will neutralize with a baking soda solution. Re-tape the blade to protect the finish.

20. Fit the front edges of the grip slabs to match back of guard. If you don't use a guard, get those front portions shaped, sanded and polished at this point. If the tang is tapered, the angle of tang and guard will not be a precise 90 degrees. Hint. A couple of added decorative spacers will disguise a lot of mis-alignment.

21. Clamp the left slab to the tang in its' proper position. If there are burrs around the handle holes, they'll make a poor fit. Scrape the inner surface of the handle slab to make it fit properly. We don't suggest filing the tang because it's normally too hard to file. (Tangs are virtually never a true flat.)

22. Using the tang as a template, drill the small diameter hole for the handle bolt. If it's smaller than the hole in the tang, don't worry, the epoxy will fill in. If there's a thong hole in the tang, and you want to use one, drill it now. Remember, a 1/4" thong liner needs a few thousandths of an inch clearance, so use an "F" size drill.

23. Repeat with the opposite side. If there is no guard, use the first half of the handle as the guide to drill the second. Be sure the front edges are aligned perfectly. If the grip does not fit well along the length of the tang, scrape a bit off the inside of the handle until the joint looks good. It's a lot easier to change the handle than the tang.

24. Fit and drill any liners, etc. Liners should be glued to the handle slabs before the handle is assembled.

25. Countersink the bolt holes to take the bolt heads. Remember which side of the grip is towards center! With pins, you can skip this step because pins are not hammered in place on handles. They're likely to split the handle material if expanded.

26. Epoxy the entire handle assembly into place, slabs, spacers liner and bolts or pins. Fast setting epoxy is not the one to be using here. Once the epoxy has stiffened, scrape excess off with a sliver of wood so you won't have to sand it away later. Many of the parts, like liners, etc., may be pre-assembled and glued to the slabs before the final assembly.

27. Grind or saw off the excess length of handle pins, bolts, thong liner and handle slabs when the epoxy has cured. Dip the handle often to keep the bolts or pins from getting so hot that they burn the epoxy or scorch brown rings around them on the handle material.

28. Roughly shape the handle and guard by filing, power sanding or grinding. Remember that the bolt head that you just ground on one side is going to be hot as hell when you turn it around and try to grind on the other side.

29. File and sand handle and guard to their final shape. An elegant guard is rarely over 3/4" wide. If you have a belt grinder, the handle may be shaped very quickly with a fresh 50 grit belt.

30. Polish handle and guard.

31. Remove tape from blade.

32. Touch up the blade polish. They always get a few nicks while you work.

33. Buff blade. Buffing earlier makes it impossible to solder so you wait till now.

34. Buff handle. Do not attempt to flare the thong hole liner by bending it like a piece of fuel tubing. Just bevel the inner edges to keep them from cutting the thong.

35. Make sheath.

36. Grind the cutting edge sharp.

37. Hone the cutting edge. You'll note that I don't mention buffing the edge to sharpen it. There is no way that a sharp blade should ever be put on a buffer.

38. Deliver the knife and collect enough to make three or four more. Share the profit with your wife, after all, she's had to put up with all the mess.

This is merely the briefest explanation of the basic knife making sequence. More detailed instruction and drawings can be found in other parts of the catalog.

The order of items may not suit your working habits. You may find much of it unnecessary if you are working on a very simple blade.

No matter how you choose to go at it, have a plan to follow and try not to get lost in the tiny details until they're necessary.

There are no perfect knives!


This web page was created by Zoe Martin
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