Handmade Knife


Introduction: Handmade Knife

About: i like to think of myself as artistic. i try to see beauty and adventure in everything in life. i dont stick to a single kind of making. when i get the urge to try something i do it the best i can. you learn...

In this intructable, I will be showing how to make a fairly simple yet professional handmade knife using 5 basic steps

1 design
2 shape
3 heat treat
4 sharpen
5 finish

When it comes down to it, the actual list of materials in the knife consist of
Steel (1/8" 0-1 in my case) and paracord. I did however use other things like plastic and glue so I will cover that when we get to it
Equipment list
Band saw
Drill press
Kiln w/bucket-o-oil

Step 1: Design

This step was the easiest; I knew I wanted to make an interesting knife so I started drawing lines until I came up with this guy here. After a little talk with a guy that has made knives for years (my Dad) we changed the design a little, you can see the final design just under the knife.

after the design is printed and cut out, its glued to a piece of plastic in order to make a permanent template, in this case I used an old knife design my dad had laying around.
When the glue dried i used a band saw to make quick work of the excess plastic and then cleaned it up using a sander

Step 2: Shape

For this knife I wanted to create a simple blade design without a lot of grind lines and design to it like the picture below, so I decided to do a flat grind…much easier so I hear. Also, if this was to be used as a survival situation, it’s good to have nice flat reflective surface to attract help.

After I finished the template, I clamped it on top of the steel and used a scribe to trace the pattern into it. I used a little Dykem(Bluing agent) to help me see the line better. It is exactly the same steps used in cutting out the template. I used the band saw to cut off the excess and then used the belt sander to clean up the edges.

I knew I wanted to add a rope handle when I was done, so I put a hole on each end of the handle and along with a chamfer to protect the paracord from sharp edges

Step 3: Shape...part 2

Remember the Dykem? I used that again to coat what will become the blade of the knife and used a little tool to score a couple lines down the middle(just off center). This acts like a guide when im grinding the edge down and keeps me from taking to much material off before its time. With that done, ITS TIME TO GRIND!!!!

 Grinding is fairly straight forward and easy. I ran the knife under the wheel of the sander using smooth strokes. There is one exception, this step is mainly to give the knife a taper so as your grinding away, apply less force on the back of the knife, and more pressure where you want the edge to be. When should I stop? Glad you asked. Do you remember the two lines I marked on the edge a minuet ago? That’s it; you don’t want to go any further than those lines right now. If you’re interested in trying, this is the time to add a grind line once you finish with this. its time to heat treat this bad boy.


I used 0-1 steel, this requires a trip to the kiln to heat treat it. My dad told me that the atmosphere in the kiln will more than likely create a lot of scale (crappy nasty surface stuff) the way he takes care of this is to wrap his knives in steel foil and seal it up nice and tight.

I’m not sure of the temperature needed, but dad taught me a little trick; when the knife gets nice and hot, stick a magnet to it, if it doesn’t stick your good to go. This happens because all the molecules in the knife have gone to a semi liquid state that allows them to drift out of alignment, something needed for magnetization. So after about 15 minutes in the kiln and checking it twice with the magnet we were ready to quench it.

To quench the knife you submerge it tip first into room temperature oil, vegetable oil in our case. This hardens the outside into a super hard shell while the inside stays a little more flexible. You have to do it quick so we held it over the oil and pretty much snipped the tip of the foil and it slid right in. you can jimmy it around in the oil a little bit till it cools down. Once that happens it’s into the over for an hour at 400 degrees. This step takes some of the brittle nature out of the steel, keeps it from snapping in half when you hit something hard.

Step 5: Handle Wrap and Sharpen

the best way to show you the handle is to have you watch a video or two.
Once I had the handle nice and tight I was ready to sharpen on the sander, this bit was a little tricky for me but with a little coaching I got the hang of it. This got it down to a mighty fine edge, but I wasn’t finished yet, the last step in sharpening the knife was to use a couple stones and get it to a razors edge.

Step 6: The End

I was going to make a nice leather sheath for the knife but this is a job more suited for my dad (he’s a busy fellow) so I made a simple one out of cardboard and some black duct tape, nothing fancy but it got me home without losing a finger.

I hope you like this instructable, I plan on doing a lot more so any questions, constructive criticism or requests are always welcome.



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    21 Discussions

    Could you post something on making a kiln? The heat-treating part of knife making has always been a problem of mine.

    4 replies

    there should be a few instructables on here on how to make a kiln and there's a lot online. this one was made from a scrap kiln that was found on craigslist. it didn't work, but the bricks were still good. they were stacked up to form a long tunnel(one end sealed up, the other open) with one of the bricks on the bottom cut to allow the flame to enter. everything was held together tightly by a box made out of tin sheeting. our fire came from a turkey fryer and a propane tank. if you want to make a smaller knife you can always make a small kiln by just stacking the bricks up around it and using a blowtorch. it will be some time before i could do an instructable on that so i hope this helps. what issues were you having with the heat treating? was it just a lack of kiln?

    Yeah, it was mostly because I didn't have a kiln. So far, all that has happened when I try to heat treat is part of the blade gets to the right temp and then when I try to heat the what's left, the first part cools down. Of course, I'm just using an old (think 30+ years old) propane torch, so that must be a big part of the problem.

    I'll poke around and see what I can see.

    Thanks for the help,
    black hole.

    yeah i would look into getting some kind of high heat insulation. its kind of a cheap way out but if you cant find any fire brick, you could always get a bunch of torches, buy a pizza, and have some friends over to help lol

    this thing took out my urls
    so add the

    for DOT and ad the W's to see the holster

    tandyleatherfactory DOT com/search/searchresults/44451-01.aspx

    do the same for the sheath kit
    tandyleatherfactory DOT com/home/44123-00.aspx


    I would make wooden grips for it, or bone (or bone over mahogany or a fine grained dark wood). Your dad taught you well cause this is a beaut!! Deserves a fine sheath or scabbard. For scabbard use wood core and thin leather then outside leather and belt loop (I like a safety belt loop, to keep knife in when walking).

    again a very very very sweet piece of metal craftwork.

    2 replies

    Thank you, its much appreciated. I agree with the wood handle, when i came up with the design i thought wood would be great, but i havent quite gotten the hang of the wood working yet and the leather, well its hard work. my dad cuts and stitches all his leather work for the sheaths by hand and can take forever to get it right. its been a while since i posted this, but maybe i will try to make a sheath instructable for it.

    heck if this is an old post and you do not have a sream of "WOW can I have one too!!!" then the instructables robot is not doing his job. Your machining was a masterful manipulation of steel. I am not a collector, nor an iron monger/blacksmith. I have made two knives a spoon gouge and a couple of scribes for bone work. I carve when possible and make walking sticks. I am a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for wood carving and leather badge. Simple sheaths are easy and Tandy Leather Craft sells nice kits.

    Forget the tooling it is harder then it looks. I modified a kit sorta like this

    for a leftie shooter, all the guys at the range loved it. I made it simple for him, I only put his intials on it and then made it totally black (was ehh to me), he loved it.

    Two thin pieces of mahogany or maybe ebony , full lenght and two bone inserts even if you just put fancy initials and maybe a cross hatch (knurled?) look would be incredible.

    Another , perhaps simpler thing would be same wood then you cut a border with a U gouge around the perimeters and epoxy in a copper or brass wire, (think black ink drawing then you fill in color, like a kids coloring book), if you use yellow bronze wire it will stand off more.

    as far as sheaths go a nice one can be made with old leather from a couch and wooden paint stirring sticks, very thing (delaminated) wood paneling. I made one for a scout who made a knife. It was a scabbard since it had a hard sided case covered in whatever I had (bone color, stained sorta brown). It had a curved blade as well and it6 needed to "slide" around the pivot, with out slicing open the sheath. Ergo the paint stick frame. The wood frame, ( a real thick separator piece think washer) was strong enough to withstand removal and insertions. Leather good leather is hard to get nowadays. If you can find a real cobbler (shoemaker), buy heavy duty replacement soles (full sized for size 12. use them for sheaths and attach a belt loop, simple loop stiching is fine but secure it at least two place with rivets.

    finally if you make it leather lined, leave suede side to the blade and before gluing/sewing rivetting, rub in generous amount of polishing compound where ever the knife can be. Then any rubbing is a buffing. If they make other compounds that are better in absorbing water or O2 use that.

    I wish I had taken pics as I did that.


    I like your knife a lot. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I want to make one and hand carve a handle. Luckily, my sister owns a kiln for her glassworks ;)

    What recommendation do you have for wood. And where can I get steel blanks like what you have? It's tempting to cut up a lawnmower blade.

    3 replies

    well, you Could cut up a lawnmower blade, its been done. its pretty popular to use old leaf springs from junk yard cars and trucks cause they will hold an edge really well and the have good flex. the best place i can recommend online would have to be www.alphaknifesupply.com they have some great wood and knife blanks on there, you just need to look around for something you like and in your price range. i used 1/8th inch thick 01 steel for mine. you can go thicker if your doing a survival knife so you have no problem chopping down a tree or cutting through bone. oh and when you look for wood, its not much of a price difference but i would look for stabilized wood, doesn't suck up much moisture and no shrinking over time, its good stuff.

    Gedian. Thanks for the great tips. I think you're right about the blade blanks. It's a lot of trouble to make a knife to have it mess up due to recycling old parts probably doesn't make sense. I'll also look into that stabilized wood.

    sweet, be sure to post pictures of whatever you make. would love to see what you do.

    Very Nice and great job. I really like the shape but love the simplicity of the handle. I thought of a way to rap the handle with one piece of cord . If you thread the cord threw the second hole first and down to the first hole second, hope that made sense? Then rap the handle you don't have to tie the start ends in and if you ever need to use the cord you will have a nice long piece. Keep up the good work. JIM.

    1 reply

    we did that too, you cant relly see it in any of the pictures but inside the oil there is a little basket the knife lands in we uced to swirl it around. on my knife the first head treat didnt take so i put it back in without the foil on, it was much easier to grab it out and go stright into the oil with a pair of tongs.

    Very Nice indeed I'm starting out some knife making myself.

    We must admit that having all the needed tools like the sander and the kiln is a hell of a head start since those are very expensive and uncommon tools to have.
    So far so good!!
    Keep it up and post your next productions !!

    1 reply

    thanks. my dad was lucky enough to find a studio kiln on line that someone was giving away. all the electronics were ripped out so he build his own out of the bricks. the sander on the other hand can be a little expensive. im sure all the shaping can be done with a bench grinder, it would just take a little longer.

    one thing i learned from grinding with the belt grinder is to sand a notch into wood that you want to use to hold the metal