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Picture of How to Build a Knife
So you want to make a knife?

I'm not here to dissuade you (rather, I'd like to encourage you), but let me first get this out of the way: knife making is a slow, delicate, painstaking, multi-faceted, sometimes frustrating process. It requires skill in metalworking, woodworking and design, patience, attention, and general levelheadedness. You have to take your time if you want to do things right, otherwise your experience will be sub-optimal. Even I have trouble with this sometimes, as this project will, itself, show you, and some of my past projects will blatantly scream...*wink.* Don't be frustrated if your first project doesn't come out the way you want it. All good things take practice, and you may make several knives--or several dozen--before you make one you really, truly have no beefs about. But it's good fun, too. You can do it. Don't worry.

Okay, so you still want to make a knife. Read on.
 
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Step 1: First thing's first...design the blade!

Picture of First thing's first...design the blade!
The design of your knife is the single most important element of its construction. In my designs I try to find the best compromise between functionality and looks. I abhor inefficient fantasy designs and have a profound dislike of Persian-style blades--you know, the kind shaped like a banana--but if you like a specific design, go for it.

First, plot out the blade and handle shape on graph paper. Try to get it as close to actual-size as you can. The less changing you have to do to the design once it's on the steel, the better.

Now you need to decide how to attach the handle to the blade. There are three common methods of doing this: a full tang, a partial tang, or a through-tang. A full tang has the same profile as the handle of the knife, and the meat of the handle is formed by two slabs of wood (scales) to either side of the tang; most good knives are made this way. The knife I'm making here is a full tang knife. A partial tang is the most inconspicuous of the three and, in my view, the hardest to make. In this design the tang is a rod that protrudes back from the blade and is completely hidden inside the handle, secured with a rivet or two. Japanese swords and sushi knives are made this way, though the latter is secured with a cuff rather than rivets. A through-tang knife is similar to the partial tang except that the tang extends all the way through the handle to be secured by a nut or by peening on the other end. Ka-bars and most turned-handled knives are made this way. Choose whatever best suits your project. There is plenty of info on the web if you're not going to make a full-tang knife, though I recommend it for a first project.
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I know that using motor oil is most common but can you use olive oil instead or is the whole point to let the carbon from the motor oil soak into the blade as it is changing state?
great instructible by the way!
Basta (author)  baneling-bust2 years ago
I've used canola oil before, so yes. I've heard people talk about carbon leeching during the quench, but I really don't see a difference. With the correct steel gaining or losing a little carbon (if this even occurs, which I'm not sure of) will not noticeably change the blade's properties. Using oil is more about controlling the speed of the quench than altering the chemical properties of the steel.
What do you use to save the blade from rusting? Does the polish prevent it?
You are correct when you say the quench is more about controlling the rate of cool down. The carbon leeching is negligible. Peanut oil, motor oil, transmission fluid, those are all good quenchants. On a side note, most of these oils should be preheated to around 120 degrees so they are thin enough to release the vapor that is created by the work piece, this allows the fresh quenchant to stay in contact with the piece to cool it down at the rate needed. If you start off with a good steel and control your heat you shouldn't lose enough carbon during forging to decrease the stability of the steel. Msg me for more info.
WilliamD122 months ago

Is regular charcoal okay to use to heat treat the steel? does it have to be blacksmithing coal?

Yes, the important thing is the right temperature. I find using charcoal just burns faster than coal.

NeekM1 month ago

http://www.steampowers.net?join=790043

MrMercenary7 months ago
So I know this guys says to use carbon steel over stainless, but carbon steel doesn't have a lot of tensile strength, and can be snapped with somee pressure. It would still work, but I would suggest 400c stainless to make a knife.

Hey, just to drop a note on this for anyone reading, carbon steel (or rather high carbon steel, since all steel has carbon to some degree) is ideal for knifes. Yes it can snap, but that's if you don't do some tempering on it. Quench the blade once the shapes done and then clean it off a bit. Drop in in the oven on 400-450 for 45-90 minutes. Allow to cool and that should do it.

Problem with that is a) 400c is really not a good knife steel, but I'll presume you meant 440c, and b) stainless steels require a very complex heat treat process which is, generally speaking, not doable at home.

keimel3 months ago

Nice job! And hey, you're local! :) Nifty! I'm going to make some knives down at the Open Bench Project (at Thompson's Point) this spring and summer!

pmoore254 months ago
ok.... I've made knives swords tools, I'm an engineer... if you want a usable blade to chop skin dig etc use a leaf spring... work it.... aneal it, quench it....

Anyone thinking about making a knife should view this hands down the best tutorial I have found. Thank you!

im not miguel7 months ago
used th is ible as a guideline and got this.
temp_1062138959.jpg
samuelk27 months ago

Please check this link:

http://www.terasrenki.com/en/prod-cate/knife-steel...

I'm from finland and I'm gonna make a knife, can you tell me which of those steels in that site would be the best? Is any of them the 01?

fathertime9 months ago

very nice, and an excellent finished project

kamhunter10 months ago

Wait a second. IS THAT HOMEMADE I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!! that is awesome. if i saw that at a knife shop i would think it was made by a very large company like Olson Knives. wow just amazing. :)

ppchrispp10 months ago

Not bad. It seems easy enough. I have got a few throwing knife sets but I think making my own is the way forward. I guess I can make something like this, doesn't seem very complicated.

MartimV made it!11 months ago

hi! im just about to finish my knife,

i made it from an old car's suspension and used your guide as reference

its not as good as yours but im really happy with the outcome!

(the pic is badly taken srry for that)

knife.jpg
Basta (author)  MartimV11 months ago

Awesome job, man! It looks really good.

MartimV Basta11 months ago

Thanks!

there are certain parts that could be better but for my first knife using terrible steel i think its pretty good..

im glad the master aproves!:D

Rebreg11 months ago

very nice, im making one from a steel cable (forge welded into Damascus steel) with a bloodwood handle.

ppchrispp11 months ago

I sometime make my own throwing knife. It is pretty easy because my throwing knives are full-tang structure, meaning the blade and the handle are made with one single piece of metal. The important thing is the steel. Spend a bit more on a better quality steel and your knife will last long.

joshr1231 year ago
purple heart aint cheap 9.80 a board foot
Where did you find the carbon steel sheet?

Really nice article. I just found out that you can build a knife with a 3D printer as well. Maybe the next best folding knife will be done by a 3D Printer. :P

knife03.jpg
loganrt111 year ago
This is definitely one of my favorite instructables. And I've been looking around for an 01 stock still but I was just going to ask, about how much should I look to play for the steel?

We got a 2" x 36" length of the 1/8" O1. We got quite a few knives out of it.

http://www.amazon.com/Precision-Ground-Annealed-Thickness-Length/dp/B00CZDPAI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394767169&sr=8-1&keywords=o1+steel

TomThaiTom1 year ago
truly a god amongst men

Something I would like to tell you, and I am a complete knife knut :) is that you have really nailed the concept of the "organic" handle. So many VERY EXPENSIVE knives have the worst handles, some with protrusions that are ridiculous, that I would imagine "look" good but in actual use are worse that useless :( In my opinion, and I have used and owned MANY knives, the handle should be simple, as you have done. Now, you have also made it beautiful, but someone could use your knife for hours of hard work and not have any "hot spots"!!!

Well done

How long did u make your knife
im trying to build a throwing knife and could realy use some tips you can get me at facebook or at yahoo look me up at wisephillip@yahoo.com. I've drawn up alot of designs and have constantly tryed to build knife after knife i could realy use the tips so if anybody has any ideas could u please get ahold of me.
harter1121 year ago
socks very important to making a good blade
ScoutDadNC1 year ago
Thank you. I purchased a knife blade recently at a gun show and have been looking for a decent set of instructions for how to grind ans shape it, This instructable has a lot of good information.
Erm.. so... I'm gonna be making a karambit using this idea... and I only have a few of the tools mentioned... please help. Any advice would be appreciated.
Basta (author)  stabby_pyro1 year ago
It's hard to give good advice without the details...which tools don't you have? It's possible to make a (maybe not beautiful) knife with as little as as a rough file, sandpaper, a hot wood fire, oil, a conventional oven, and carbon steel. Filing a large primary bevel by hand will take some time, though.
Thanks for the instructable. I used a few tips by Wayne Goddard when making my sword, but I didn't fire mine--mine is more or less just for looks.
Make a Sword.png
Reiff2 years ago
Very good instructables and knife. You could probably sell these for a lot of money.
Hi basta. Your knife is beautiful and I was wondering if you would let me base one of mine off it (loosely).
I am a blade smith so I don't do the same processes as you do with your stock removal methods, so I was wondering if you wanted to try black smithing. It's allot more freeing than stock removal and you can even get most of the bevels on your blade before grinding. I am trying to make very cheep forge setups for people and if you would like, I will share my knowledge.
-jestersteelsmith
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