I love making knives too
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Old 02-24-2014, 06:04 PM   #1
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Default I love making knives too

I see there are a number of shadetree knife makers here. Color me one of you. I made my first knife in 1982 from a metal cutting saw blade I got from a local machine shop. Since 1982 I have made knives out of about every steel I could get my hands on including all sorts of saw blades and files and implement parts, etc. Those were fun times but a guy quickly learns you are making more work for yourself by repurposing old steel. If there is anything you can take away from this that helps you in your desire to make knives, then it was not a wasted effort. I’ve been reclaiming metal and repurposing it into knife blades ever since. I also make them from O1 tool steel as well or pre-made blanks of Damascus where I only attach scales and make the sheath. I enjoy sheath making nearly as much as knife making. Glad to see a bunch of other steel knockers on here. Im enjoying viewing your works.

In all the time I have been making knives I have only ever sold one pair. All my other knives and knife sets were gifted or donated to sporting orgs for their fund raisers. Now I only make a few knives a year (since I have far too many hobbies) but when the bug hits me I tend to crank out a few and then gift them out. The knives I make are meant to be used as tools. I don’t make show pieces or anything fancy (with the exception of one with a carved blade just to see if I could do it) Im a fan of simple, proven designs that fit well in a hand and stay sharp.

Here are some of the knives I have churned out.

I was asked by a friend to turn his antler into a hunting knife handle. This is not a show knife. Its meant to be a working man’s tool rather than a show piece.I bought some O1 steel for this project. 1/8 thick 1 1/2 wide. The wrapper even came with the recipe instructions on the label.




The antler he sent. It was a little long so I cut about an inch off the end but I will have a use for that as well.



I can see a blank slate here. I can't leave it that way.



First I removed as much of the core as I needed by drilling and grinding. The core is pitty and soft and is better replaced with epoxy.



Then I started working on the blade.





Then I roughed out a finger guard from brass.



Time to bevel.



Beveling completed. Time to heat treat. The label said to use light oil so I did.



I used the burner from my range in the "Man Room" as well as a MAP gas torch to get the blade hot enough that a magnet would not stick to it.



Then it hit the oil. (wear a glove as the oil on the blade will flare up.


With the blade still too hot to hold, It sat in a preheated oven for one hour at around 400F

During that time, I worked on the finger guard and the antler to get it ready to assemble. Epoxy needs a rough surface so you need to rough up the mating halves.







After tempering, I cleaned it up a bit.



Then I assembled it.



And let it sit over night.



After unwrapping and a bit of buffing, it;s starting to take shape.





I filled in the blank slate as well with a fine tip sharpie.



Here is how I used the cut off end of the antler. I cut a slot in it to display the knife.





Every knife needs a sheath. I started with 6 Oz. leather for the face.



in order not to trap the finger guard (and the knife) in the sheath. I had to build up the area behind the guard. I used foam and tape.



I soaked the leather front and back.



then started massaging the leather over the knife.



It's kind of like working with a piece of balogna. The white thing a bone folder/creaser



When finished. I set it in the sun to dry.



When it dried and while I still had it on the form. I punched the lacing holes.



Then I cut it out and used it as a template to make the back of the sheath. For this I used 8 Oz. leather



To keep the leather from cracking during the bend, I got it wet.



Then I glued and sewed the belt loop in place.



I then added a deer head stamp to the face.

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Old 02-24-2014, 06:05 PM   #2
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Next, I cut the pieces for the welt out of the scrap from the face and glued them in place.



Then I changed my mind and added a 2nd row of lacing holes To give it more strength.



After stitching, I trimmed all around for an even margin.



next, I wetted the edge and used the slicker to round it off.





I want this sheath to have a deep rich color but also wanted to see some of the tan through the die so I diluted the stain with alcohol.



Once thoroughly saturated, I let it sit for a few hours to dry.



To waterproof the leather and give it a nice sheen, I used mink oil and then warmed the sheath of the burner of the stove to make it soak in.



The knife and sheath are done.







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Old 02-24-2014, 06:06 PM   #3
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A friend from Maine, sent me a small moose antler and asked that I make a knife for a friend of ours, using that antler. This too is a working man’s knife

I cut the handle from a section of the antler that provided a finger guard.





Then picked a blade form that matched the handle.



Then made an O1 steel blade with a little file work.





Then contoured the brass and added a some ink.





Next I made a sheath with a moose antler image.



I used the tip of the antler as a display base.





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Old 02-24-2014, 06:07 PM   #4
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A member of our archery club asked if I would make him and his young Son a set of knives with shed antlers he had as the handles. I agreed.



I sent him all my blade forms and he picked a Nesmuk style blade.



I did a bit of custom file work on the backbones of the blades to dress them up and then polished the file work Then I applied gun blueing to the backbone and gave the blades a brushed finish leaving the blueing in the deep areas of the file work



He asked that I fill in the white bases of the antlers with "Dad" and "Mitch" I saved the brow tines for display bases.

The blades are O1 steel heat treated and twice tempered to RC58 hardness









For the sheaths, I used 8 Oz. Oak tanned leather with a medium brown dye to give an "Old" look to the leather..











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Old 02-24-2014, 06:08 PM   #5
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I used O1 steel, brass and bloodwood.



Just add a little labor and................







Plus a little file work.





Wrap it all in some leather and.............



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Old 02-24-2014, 06:09 PM   #6
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Making knives from saw blades is a good way to repurpose steel. blade is over an 1/8 of an inch thick. I am using a 24 inch diameter concrete saw blade.



I cut a chunk of it away with a angle grinder.



This will be a hunting knife with a drop point and a finger guard.



This is a very thick blade.





Next, I heated the blade cherry red and let it cool very slowly to soften the steel. so I could drill hole and grind a bevel and do some file work.



this time I am going to do a "W" pattern on the backbone of the blade. I marked off the spacing with a sharpie.



Then I used a small square file on one side of the blade.



Then turned the blade around and did the other side.



I added a little bluing to bring out the details.





With all the file work done, I heat treated the blade by heating it until it was non magnetic (around 1500F) and then quenched it in 130F salt water. Next I temper it at 400F for one hour. Finally I polish the blade to a mirror finish.

I used curly maple and aluminum pins. I'm calling it "Blonde"











The last step is to make a sheath. I use 7 Ox. Veg. tanned leather and then dye it to the color I want after I sew it.









Other knives from that same saw blade.



I annealed it so I could do some file work and drill pin holes.



Then I used some 1/4 inch aluminum plate to make bolsters. I have not made a knife with metal bolsters before. I used 1/8 brass pins.



I added Cocobolo scales and hollow brass pins and tried my hand at homemade mosaic pins. I used small diameter alum. tubes.





Today I finished the handle with tung oil. I do not want a glossy finish so I rubbed the tung oil in. I will give it a few more coats over the next few days. I only have a 2 Mega Pixel camera so the quality of the pics is low. I am trying to take better pics but until I get a better camera, this is about as good as it gets. I started this on Friday night and finished it Sunday after noon.











All the knives I have made from this saw blade finish out at RC55 to 58 for hardness. I heat until non magnetic and then quench in a 135F salt water bath. I then temper at 400F for 1 hour.

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Old 02-24-2014, 06:10 PM   #7
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This knife will have elk slab sides. It was a prize for a turkey contest. The blade comes from the same 1/8" thick rusty old concrete saw blade that I have made other knives from. Recently I cut a few small pieces from this blade and heat treated them and took them to work and used a hardness tester to see how effective my heat treat really is. The untouched blade material came in at Rockwell 35. The heat treated material came in at RC55 for hardness. A file is RC60. These will hold an edge nicely.



For the first step in stock removal, I use a 6 inch bench grinder. I don't care if the blade gets hot and turns blue because I will be heat treating it later. I simply clamp a metal stop on the tool rest to keep things consistent.





I move it once to get closer to the tip after removing material from higher up on the blade. The tape is to keep me from grinding away the finger guard



I follow up with a belt sander to smooth out the grind marks.





This leaves more of a straight or convex grind which is slightly stronger than the conventional concave grind.

With all the stock removal done and the blade heat treated, I give the blade a going over with 120 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander.



I used elk antler for the scales.



I split the section in half and sanded them to shape.



I added the antler scales to the knife blade. I used slow cure epoxy and brass pins. I turned out fairly well.



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Old 02-24-2014, 06:11 PM   #8
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If you don’t want to make the blade at all but rather want to purchase premade blade blanks and have fun designing and attaching scales or sheath making, there is no shortage of blades available. I like Damascus blanks. I get mine from two fingers knife works. When I make donation knives that I gift to sporting orgs I like the Damascus blades as well as playing around with making fancy pins.

I donated this knife to the Horicon Marsh Bowmen. Each year, they hold a Wisconsin Bowhunters Association banquet with the proceeds going to the WBH. This one club donates tens of thousands of dollars to the WBH annually and this banquet is a big part of where those dollars come from. They invited me to attend this year's event but do not know about this knife. Since I can't sing for my supper, I thought I'd give in another way.

I went back to the good folks at Two Finger Knife LLC and bought another forged Damascus Steel blank made from 1095 and 15N20 steels.





I also bought a set of Amboyna burl knife scales because of their beauty and the numerous, captivating swirls.

Amboyna Burl wood is extracted from the jungles of Southeast Asia and often transported (at least initially) via elephant. It is a favored wood used by folks that make knife handles and pens or bowls. It starts out reddish in color and over time and exposure to light, it turns a warm brown/red. The photo below gives a false impression of the color and exaggerates the red.



I won't use just Amboyna for the handle. I want to dress up this handle with a few different woods.



The woods I'm using are

1. South African, Bloodwood
2. South American, Cocobolo
3. Good old Wisconsin, Hard rock Maple
4. Sotheast Asian, Amboyna

This knife handle will have an impressive global pedigree



After laying out the pattern I wanted, I cut the pieces to size and rinsed 1, 2 and 4 in Acetone to remove the oils so the epoxy would give a better hold. Here they are waiting for the slow cure epoxy to do it's thing.



I am also making the pins from a variety of materials such as aluminum, brass, copper and maple. They will also be held together with epoxy.







Once all the components have time to cure, I will assemble the parts and shape the wood into what is hopefully a comfortable and attractive grip.

After the epoxy cured, I use the blade as the pattern to outline the shape of the handle and then cut it to size leaving a little extra material all the way around for cleanup. I also decided to add 1/16 thick Cocobolo spacers.



The spacers go against the metal of the handle and give another layer of color. Here it is assembled for a dry fit-up test.



Fast forward past sanding and applying 8 coats of super glue as the finish and this is what you have.







I think the cocobolo spacers give a great look to the handle.



Since the center of the pins is maple, prior to applying the finish, I held a red Sharpie marker against the wood and let it soak up the red ink.



Fast forward a little more and I have a sheath.



Flash forward again and you see the display base I made from bubinga. I used the same red/brown stain that I used to die the leather for the sheath to make the wood a little more red. I added a small antler and a WBH lapel pin and a gloss lacquer finish. I hope this knife helps in their fund raising effort.





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Old 02-24-2014, 06:13 PM   #9
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Another pre-made blade form. The blade is a drop point hunter and is forged Damascus Steel made from 1095 and 15N20 steels. I did not make the blank but rather purchased it as I do not have the tools or capabilities to make Damascus. I could have made the blank myself from O1 steel like I have in the past but I wanted this knife to unique and special so I went with a Damascus blade with a lot of character. Every Damascus blade is a one-of-a-kind.

The blank is a hefty 1/8 inch thick with a 3 1/2 inch blade and a 4 1/2 inch handle. The blank is mar-quenched and tempered to a Rockwell hardness of 57. This knife is sure to have great edge holding ability.







For the scales of the knife (sides of the handle) I wanted to keep the whole idea of the swirling pattern in the blade and in keeping with the one-of-a-kind idea so I am using hard rock maple burl died green (WBH color) and stabilized which will prevent the normal swelling and shrinking that happens to wood.



Normally, swelling and shrinking is not a problem with this sort of handle but I want to make extra sure the wood is stabilized because I am going to be inlaying metal and enamel WBH logos into the handle and I don't want the future owner to feel a line where the medallions and the wood meet and I want to make sure the medallions stay put for the life of the knife.



In keeping with uniqueness, I want all the little things to have detail. Rather than using a single material pin such as brass or copper or silver nickle or even aluminum I am making custom pins for the joint between the scales and the blade blank. I am making mosaic pins with an aluminum outer sleeve followed by a brass sleeve and then 3 aluminum pins inside the brass tube. All the parts of the mosaic pins will be held in place with J.B. Weld because I want the black background to contrast with the shiny aluminum just like the black and sliver lines in the blade.



Here they are after the epoxy is set and I ground the end flat on a belt sander.



And a close up.



I rough shaped the maple scales to fit the blank. I held the sides in place with two scrap pins.



Next, I roughed up the handle portion of the blank as well as the glue sides of the scales. Epoxy does much better with a rough surface than a smooth one.



I then drilled a shallow pocket in each scale for the WBH medallion.





To prevent scratching the blade, I pre-shaped the front end of the scales before attaching them to the blank.





The final prep work for the scales was to epoxy the medallions in place.



Once the epoxy that holds the medallions in place was cured, I attached both knife scales to the handle of the blade blank. I masked off all the areas of both the blank and the handle that I did not want to get epoxy on. This epoxy has a 3,500 pound holding strength and the wood scales and the knife blank are now forever joined.



After 24 hours, the clamps are removed and thus begins the tedious task of getting off the epoxy covered tape.





The joint is a good one with no gaps, just a nice thin line of epoxy between the blank and the scales.



The next step is to shape and smooth the handle. This is done with belt and palm sanders with various grits and then hand sanding and finally steel wool. I am pleased with how well the WBH logo shows through the epoxy.









The final step to finishing the handle is to apply several coats of tung oil finish. I rub each coat in with my finger tip and let it dry for 24 hours. I then buff it with fine steel wool and apply another coat. 4 coats should be enough. This wood has already been stabilized, It is already water proofed but this will further seal and water proof the wood and act as more of a protective coating that will take the abuse of every day use and if scratched, can be repaired with another rubbing with Tung oil and a little buffing.



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Old 02-24-2014, 06:13 PM   #10
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While the four coats are applied and drying, It's time to make a sheath..

In between coats 3 and 4, I used the knife to make the pattern for the sheath. I always make a pattern out of my favorite leather substitute.............. Cereal box paper board. This sheath will hold the knife by friction with a deep pocket that goes part way up the handle. It is a one piece with a folded belt loop.





Seems like a good fit.



I then transfer the pattern to some creamy 8 Oz. Veg. tanned leather and cut it out with a razor knife.



The first step is tapering the end of the belt loop so I have less bulk down in the pocket of the sheath.



Then I crease and wet the leather to make the fold.



I hold everything in place for stitching with rubber cement.



Then punch the stitching holes with a forked punch.



I want to see the stitching so I am using a waxed white cord. I put a needle at each end of the cord and stitch back and forth around the hole pattern.



Before I fold the sheath in half, I add a welt made from 4 Oz. leather. It protects the stitching and adds a layer of leather thickness so the blade has room in the sheath.



Once cemented, I wet the leather with a small paint brush and stamp in a pattern along the edge of where the stitching will go.



And then punch the stitching holes.



Using the same white cord and double needle method, I join the two sides and the welt.



It's hard on the hands and a pliers is needed to pull the needle through but the end result looks pretty good.



With the stitching complete, I trim off the excess leather.



8 Oz. leather is pretty stiff but once wetted, It can be formed and molded like clay to the shape of the knife.



A little time at the end of a blow dryer, locks the shape into the leather.







The next step is to give it a bit of color. I mixed, brown and Ox Blood and a little alcohol to get the reddish brown I was looking for.



Once all the alcohol is evaporated, I need to replace all the oils lost during the forming and dyeing process. I use warm neatsfoot oil and a cotton daubber. The oil also darkens the leather a bit more.



After sitting for a few hours wrapped in a paper towel, I warm the sheath with a blow dryer and apply a rub down of mink oil to further condition and water proof the leather. It turned out pretty good considering it's humble beginnings and will hopefully protect the knife better than it protected the cow that once wore it.





On the off chance that the future owner of this knife does not want to take her into the field and put her to work, I will design and build a display stand so it can sit all pretty like. The Damascus blade should not be stored in the sheath for long periods of time not to mention what a shame it would be to hide that blade from view.

With all the coats of tung oil dry on the handle and the finish on the base dry, I took a few snapshots of the finished knife.



I'm pleased with the look of the pins.









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