The very fist thing you need to do is make sure you have safety glasses and the proper clothing, I have both a leather apron and a welding jacket, along with a welding cap or ball cap.
Step 1: Selecting Your Steel
Next select the steel you want to use. In this case I am using some old Road Grader blades. They are not to hard to get as most towns, townships or cities use graders and they will either give you some or sell you some. All of the steel I use, it never cost me very much as I like to reuse old steel.
Step 2: Cutting Your Steel
I have a chop saw I use to cut the grader blade. I cut the blade about 1/2 inch thick, so in this case I will end up with a piece of steel that is ½ inch wide by ¾ inch thick by 5 ½ inch thick.
Step 3: Forging the Steel
Now that you have your piece of steel cut, it is time to start forging it. I have a Majestic two burner forge that I use. (My first forge I had I made by watching a video, on how to build a forge) Once your forge has warmed up and is ready, put your piece of steel in it. Well it is heating up get your hammer ready, also make sure to use a leather apron of welding jacked, leather gloves eye protection. The hammer I am using is a 6 lb. hammer.
Using your tongs remove the steel from the forge when it is cherry red hot. Hold the steel with the tongs onto the Anvil and using the hammer start to flatten one side of the steel, when it cools down, put the steel back into the forge, as you are hammering, it is best to hammer one side and turn it over and hammer the other side, rotating it, to keep it fairly the same thickness on both sides. Once you have that side of the steel hammered to the desired thickness (for me that is about 1/4 of a inch), turn the steel around and do the same to the other side.
Know you will want to shape your steel, I like to use a old grader blade because it is already rounded and easier to shape. Using your hammer and anvil, start to slowly hammer the steel flat in the areas you want and curved in the other areas you want. Know you have a rough knife shaped piece of steel.
Step 4: Rough Shaping of Steel
I put the steel in a vise and using a hand grinder with a grinding wheel on it, I start to shape the steel to the proper shape I want for a knife. I like to put a little curve on the handle area and use my 4"X36" sander to finish rounding that area smooth. Next you need to figure out how much is going to be your handle and how long is your blade going to be, in my case I have choose a 3 1/4 inch handle as the overall length is 8 1/4 inch long, giving me a blade length of 5 inches. Now figure out where you want to drill holes for your handle and what diameter you want, I am using a brass rod that is 1/8 inch, so my holes are 1/8 inch. If you have trouble drilling your holes you can take a torch and heat the handle tell it is red and then let it cool down and the steel will be softer to drill.
Now we are ready to harden the steel. Heat your forge up again and put the rough knife into the forge along with another piece of steel. You then need to have a container of oil, I use peanut oil. You will need to heat your knife to a nonmetallic state, you can use a magnet and when it will not stick to the hot steel it is ready, I usually heat my knife to a red hot state and leave it like that for about 10 min. Now take out the extra piece of steel that we heated along with the knife and put it into the oil, this is to warm your oil before putting in you knife, this will give you a nice even hardening. Once you have done that and your knife is ready, take the knife out and place it in the oil with the blade side up, hold the blade side out of the oil and submerge the rest of the knife into the oil, move it around for it will cool evenly once it has cooled for a few seconds, you can submerge all of the knife. Leave it in the oil until it is completely cooled.
Once your knife has cooled down, remove it from the oil and wipe it dry. Know we are ready for the first polishing, I use my hand grinder with a 60 grit flap wheel. Once you have your knife polished to you satisfaction you are ready to temper your knife. This is done to soften your knife a little so it is not so brittle. To do this you can use your oven or as I do, I use a toaster oven, as long as it goes to at least 450 degrees. Put your knife in the oven at this temperature for one hour, some steel need to be done two separate times at 450 cooling in between. I have found that with my grader blade steel I only need to do it one time.
Once you are done tempering your knife, remove it from the oven, it will be different color, like purple, gold, yellow, etc. Now take your hand grinder with the flap wheel attached and polish off the different colors a until you have a shinny steel color.
Next it is time to make your handle, it is your own personal choice. I have collected many types of wood and Deer Antlers, I have may people that have given me deer antlers and you can get a lot of good wood from places like we have a picture framing factory here and they have many left over pieces of wood that make great handles. In this case I have chosen to use Black Walnut wood.
Cut your piece of wood to the desired length, then trace out your handle using the knife and a pencil. Once you have it traced out, cut the excess wood off, when cutting leave yourself a little bigger that you need. Then using epoxy attach one side of the wood handle to the knife and use a clamp to hold it into place until it sets up hard.
When your wood handle has set up, remove clamps and drill the same size holes through the wood as is in the steel knife handle. Then using more epoxy put the other handle on the other side and clamp together again. If you want, as I did, you can install a brass spacer on the knife where it meets the wood handle. I used JB weld to attach it to the knife and wood handle.
I used a brass spacer that I bought from WWW.KNIFEMAKING.COM they only cost a couple of dollars apiece. This is something extra that I like to do, it does not need to be put on, I just like the way it makes the knife look.
Once your handles have set up on your steel, remove the clamps, now drill the other three hole through the other piece of wood, now you should have three holes in your knife handle. Cut three pieces of brass rod the width of your complete handle, mix up more epoxy and put a little on each of the three pins as you put then into the handle hole, so they are even installed in the handle.
I am using 1/8" brass pins, you can pick up many sizes of brass rod at almost any hardware store.
Now your knife is ready to sand and shape it. I use my 4X36 inch belt sander with 60 to 80 grit belts. You can sand down the brass and shape it with your knife handle. Once you have the shape you desire, I use fine sand paper around 150 to 200 grit, and sand all the edges smooth.
Next I have a 1X30 inch belt sander that I use to polish the blade of the knife, I use 600, 800 & 1000 grit belts. If you do not have one of these, you can do the sanding by hand with the same grit of sand paper, it will just take longer.
Just for a note, both my sander were bought at Harbor Freight and are very low in cost.
Ok, now you are ready to stain your handle. You don't have to do this, but I think it give the handle a very nice look. It is up to you as to the type and color of your stain. I like to use MinWax Penetrating stain, in this case I am using there Early American 230 stain.
These and other types of stains can be bought at Wal-Mart, L&M Fleet, etc. at little cost.
This step that I do is really up to a persons only choice. I like to make my handle look nicer and shine. I like to use Rust-Oleum Triple Thick Glaze, Clear. cover your blade with a piece of card board or something like that and carefully spray you handle, I usually put on one coat and let it set up and then if it needs another coat I put it on, until your get you desired finish. Before handling, make sure you let it dry completely as to the directions on the can of spray.
As with the stain, this spray clear coating and others can be bought at a minimal cost at places like Wal-Mart, L&L Fleet, etc.
This is the finished knife that was made out of a grader blade. There is many other metals you can use. Just follow the same steps. Good steels are things like, old leaf springs from cars and trucks, old used grader blades, used bolts (I like ones around 1" or larger), used lawn mower blades, old rebar, etc. I always try different types of metal, nothing ventured, nothing gained, if one don't turn out, just try another one. To me this looks like it would make a good hunters skinning knife.
Biggest thing is to be safe and have fun, you imagination is the only limits you have.