Knife Making Instructions
I usually start a knife by picking the blade that I want to use. Unless I have a design in mind, I
will often surf the Nordic knife
makers sites to get ideas.
I then pick a handle block that compliments the blade.
For this knife, I am going to use a Bjorkman blade, 24x80 mm, stainless
San12c27, with a bead blasted side. I picked a traditional Curly
Birch handle block. The design will consist of a nickel silver
guard and a Moose antler spacer with black vulcanized fiber spacers and
nickel silver spacers on either side of the antler.
The first step is to cut the guard, vulcanized fiber, and nickel
to size. I use the end of the handle block to lay out the
spacer dimensions before cutting. Because I am going to put
Moose antler spacer back from the guard about an inch, I
also cut the handle block at this time.
The next step is to find the centers of the handle block and
spacers. I think the most important step in getting a good
looking knife is the tang hole through the guard. It must tightly
fit the tang where it meets the blade. I take
pains to lay out the tang width and height dimensions accurately on
the guard using a caliper.
The third step is to drill the handle block, guard, antler, vulcanized
spacers, and nickel silver spacers for the tang. An advantage of
placing the antler spacer back an inch from the guard is that
you don't need as long a drill bit as you would otherwise. It
also makes it easier to keep the holes running straight. I have
found that the relatively long and small diameter drill bits (usually
an 1/8" diameter or smaller) you use have a tendency to wander off
I center punch the guard where the holes will be drilled to prevent the
bit from wandering and improve accuracy. I
don't worry too much about the holes drilled in the handle block and
spacers. Because I glue the parts together, I will often oversize
these holes to give the glue a little more something to grab on to.
The fourth step is to file the holes that you drilled to fit the tang.
Here again, the most important piece is the guard and it is the
piece that I start with. If you value your fingers, now is a good time
to tape the blade. Not only does this protect your fingers, it
also protects the blade from accidental scratches during the
Getting the tang to fit the guard accurately requires a lot of trial
and error. A set of needle files is indispensable for this step.
I fit the pieces to the tang in the order that they will be
assembled. I also polish the guard at this time. It is much
easier to do it now than after it has been mounted to the blade.
Also, you may find that your antler spacer has a porous area running
down the core. After drilling, I saturate this porous area with
Crazy Glue. The antler will soak it up like a sponge. This
helps ensure the strength of the antler once you start sanding it down
to its finished size, and if you run into this area while sanding, it
look just like the antler rather than leaving you with grooves running
length of the spacer.
Once you are satisfied with how all the pieces fit together, it is time
to start gluing.
The fifth step is to glue up the knife. I use a polyurethane
glue. I like the way that it expands to fill gaps
and grabs on to anything that it touches. The good old standby
is epoxy glue. I usually do the glue up in two or more stages.
I start with the guard and the piece behind it. Limiting the
first stage to these two pieces makes it easier to ensure that they are
square to the blade. Once the glue from this stage has set up,
you can usually glue the rest of the pieces together. To assist
gluing up the knife, I made a gluing jig from mild steel and threaded
The sixth step is to shape the handle after the glue
has set up. If you have a good idea of how you want your
handle to look, you can use a coping saw to cut it to rough shape.
Because I like to let my handle shape evolve as I make it,
I use a belt sander with 80 grit paper. My method is messy
a lot of dust!) so wear a dust mask. Once you are satisfied
with the rough shape of your handle: how does it look with the blade?;
how does it fit the hand?; you can start finishing the handle.
The seventh step, finishing the handle, consists of finish sanding and
applying a wood finish. I start with a 100 grit sandpaper and
work up to a 1500 grit sandpaper.
This handle is it's natural color. You can experiment with
staining the handle. Leather stain works well. You start
with a dark color and then sand most of it off. You then apply
subsequently lighter colors, sanding between each.
The most important knife making instruction is to have fun!
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