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 the blade!

Picture of First thing's 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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fathertime3 days ago

very nice, and an excellent finished project

kamhunter1 month 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. :)

ppchrispp1 month 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!1 month 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)

Basta (author)  MartimV1 month ago

Awesome job, man! It looks really good.

MartimV Basta1 month ago


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

Rebreg2 months ago

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

ppchrispp2 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.

joshr1234 months ago
purple heart aint cheap 9.80 a board foot
zstarkovich4 months ago
Where did you find the carbon steel sheet?
Sebastien Loo4 months ago

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

loganrt116 months 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?
xd12c loganrt115 months ago

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

xd12c loganrt115 months ago

TomThaiTom5 months 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
phillip Wise10 months ago
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 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.
harter11211 months 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.
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-bust1 year 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.
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.
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
Reiff1 year 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.
Basta (author)  Jestersteelsmith1 year ago
I don't think I can claim exclusive ownership of a knife design! So yeah, go ahead, in fact I'd be honored. I do actually forge knives and other things--it's been a while since I published this thing and I haven't thought to document any of my forgings, but hopefully some day I'll post another on forging blades. I'm running a very small gas forge right now, need to upsize.
Actually, I was planning on making an instructable for a large forge in this next week, I need one too because mine is an 8" diameter firebowl. I would be likewise honored if you would use it. I am making two designs, one for 5$ and one for 20$. My overall goal is to make an entire forge setup for 20$, including anvil and tools. My designs are both going to be for swords, but you could easily adjust them for your own purposes. And I noticed that you used O1 steel, which is good steel, but if I might make a suggestion 5140 spring steel is easy to come by (truck leaf springs are made with it and a broken one from a junk yard is 20$) and if you plan on making big bowies, it is the steel for the job. It isn't the best at holding an edge but you can fix that with an edge quench, plus it was designed to support tricks so it won't break. If you want more proof of how awesome the steel is, look up "Gurkha kukri" they are made of this stuff and they are downright legendary. They have even helped in both world wars. I love that steel and it is cheep. If you want a smaller knife, try a wood rasp or a old file
zombskii1 year ago
I'm wanting to make a knife (Or things along that line, bladey things) but not for use, only for display, would i still need to heat treat them?
Basta (author)  zombskii1 year ago
I'm a purist, and not too much of a fan of non-functional things for display, so I would personally heat treat anything I could. However, some knives have been historically made of unhardened iron or bronze, so it's not a stretch. Many modern wallhangers are even made of aluminum (much lighter and easier to work with, though completely useless as a functional blade). If you're just using it as a wallhanger I see no need for your to heat treat it, provided you're still happy with the idea of a non-functional tool.
wardog02 years ago
umm i cant seem to find any carbon steel other than 1018 and 1006 will those work?
Those are low-carbon steels. They can't be hardened. Look online for 1084 steel, it's eutectoid, which basically boils down to making it the easiest of all steels to heat treat at home. A higher alloy steel like O1 requires longer soak times at specific temperature to get your moneys worth out of it. I can tell you where to look for steel if you PM me.
Thoes are brittle. Leaf springs are good for bigger knifes like Bowles or kukris.
Freakin autocorrect
Get a leaf spring from a car or truck, that will work
how about you come to my house and you can show me all this in person. i would love to learn all this. i dont have a grinder or anything :( you did great work though. how did you learn all this stuff?
If you don't have thoes things, you could try your hand at primitive blades. They are just blades made with a forge and hammers and other hand tools, no power tools. They aren't shiny but if you like the kind of fallout, or madmax post-appocolyptic looks, you will like them.
mamajr961 year ago
Which kind of flap wheel are you using for the edge, this kind

or this
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