Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Folding Knife

Picture of How to Make a Wooden Folding Knife

Knives are useful tools for many different applications (as Mrballeng has demonstrated), but what if you've got an aspiring boy scout around or you just want to teach someone how to handle knives safely? Or maybe you're like me; you're trying to make a knife of your own design and need to make a prototype first. Well then this is just the thing for you!

The main reason I chose to make my own folder is because most of the nicer ones you find on the market nowadays are over 3" long or are a bit too wide to fit comfortably in "girl pockets" (if you've never experienced them you have no idea how lucky you are). Plus I figured it'd be a nice challenge.

**Note** Please make an effort to read the annotations, I think they're more helpful than the formal instructions.

Step 1: The Design

Picture of The Design

Now this is where you get creative. You have to keep a few things in mind, but other than that you have free reign here. Just do whatever you want and by the end of it you should have a nice blade and handle shape. 

Remember that you need to leave room for standoffs or a backspacer while the blade is in the closed position (see last pic). Also you should put a fair bit of care into figuring out the placement of the pivot and adjusting the blade length accordingly. If the pivot isn't aligned properly you're liable to end up losing a lot of blade and handle width by trying to correct it (or you could turn the misalignment into a "feature").

Step 2: Cutting Out the Scales

Picture of Cutting Out the Scales

Now for the fun part, actually making the prototype!
I used some 1/8" hardboard we had lying around, but anything should do (real wood, acrylic, platinum, unobtanium, etc.). I just traced around the template twice, cut out both pieces with a bandsaw (a coping saw or even a hacksaw would do just as nicely), and held them together while sanding the edges smooth for nice crisp lines. 
At the end I took just a bit more out of the choil area on the left scale to help with ergonomics and releasing the lockbar (but that would only apply to the real thing).

Step 3: The Blade

Picture of The Blade

Basically the same as the scales: trace --> cut --> sand --> enjoy!

Step 4: Assembly!

Picture of Assembly!

Here's the nerve wracking bit, drilling the pivot hole. Mark the center of the hole (I used a screw, very high tech), then just go for it and hope it works (but you know it works, right? You did all that prepping). After you drill the first hole, line up the two scales and, using the first as a guide, drill through the second. Now for the blade. Position it where you want it to be, then use the first scale as a guide again and drill through. 
Now comes the moment of truth. Using a rod or dowel as the pivot, rotate the blade to the closed position and check the fit. In my case, it came out perfectly!

Step 5: The Standoff (nope, Not a Mafia Movie)

Picture of The Standoff (nope, Not a Mafia Movie)

Now that the pivot's done, we need to keep the other side from shifting around too much. Enter the standoff! In this case it's just a little piece of scrap that serves as a spacer to prevent the blade from pinching.

Step 6: Whaddya Call a Good-looking Thumb? a Thumbstud! (I Can Hear the Crickets Chirping)

Picture of Whaddya Call a Good-looking Thumb? a Thumbstud! (I Can Hear the Crickets Chirping)

If you're planning on making your folder a one-handed opener, a thumbstud (or other variant such as a thumbdisk or spydie hole) is a must. It's easy enough, just make sure that it'll clear the choil, drill a hole, and glue in a piece of rod. I'd recommend filing or sanding down the top of the stud so you don't chew up your thumb while using it.

Step 7: Stop! Hammer Time! Or, Well, Stop Pin Time. (part 1: the Closed Position)

Picture of Stop! Hammer Time! Or, Well, Stop Pin Time. (part 1: the Closed Position)

This is what makes the knife impressive (at least, in my opinion). Once you've got this, you have a fully functioning folder! The only thing it doesn't do is lock in the open position, but we can just call it a friction folder for now, right? Right.

Now this is a bit tricky to explain, so hopefully the pictures will help. You want the stop pin to rest in a semicircular cutout in the blade. Mark the bottom of the blade (when positioned exactly where you want it to be in the end), and mark where the pin will go.  I suck at explaining, so please look at the pictures (and feel free to leave comments if it still makes no sense, I don't blame you).

Step 8: Stop! Part 2: the Open Position

Picture of Stop! Part 2: the Open Position

Same deal as the last step, but in the open position :)
See annotations for details about what's going on.

Step 9: Admire Your Work! :)

Picture of Admire Your Work! :)


Obsidian Man (author)2016-02-10

Can you PLEASE post up the designs/templates??

mohammad ali meftahpour made it! (author)2015-09-02

good i like it

jpineda6 (author)2012-09-12

Hey man can you post up the desgins?

gg1220 (author)jpineda62012-09-13

If I scan the templates and send them to you will that work? I haven't gotten around to cading them up yet.

maurvz800 (author)gg12202015-03-01

Can you send them to me as well?

jpineda6 (author)gg12202012-09-20

sure man you can send them

gg1220 (author)jpineda62012-09-21

Alright, just warning you that I'm in the middle of college apps so it may take a little while to get the files up.

Climber03 (author)2014-06-18

Will it cut or whittle any thing?

Grazerquart (author)2014-06-18

Do you think that with the right kind of wood you could sharpen it enough to be useful for cutting rope or even to make a wooden wood carving knife

DF_Man (author)2012-09-17

Thanks. Very userful Instructable, and good photos & schemes. You provoked same new ideas to modeling of some instruments for works on wood. (Sorry by my English, can speak very little)

gg1220 (author)DF_Man2012-09-19

Thank you! What kind of instruments do you make?

eszaq1 (author)2012-09-10

in the wrong hands, with the wrong intentions, the perfect weapon. Schools and colleges should be right to be concerned.

Instructables should take a view on whether this sort of content is appropriate.

What next... build your own IED?

stringstretcher (author)eszaq12012-09-18

pencils don't kill people, People kill people!

riff raff (author)eszaq12012-09-14

I saw a guy stabbed with a wooden pencil. I guess in your eyes writing utensils are inappropriate, too, eh? Ah, the nanny state is alive and well. Geeze.

Zombie_BBQ (author)eszaq12012-09-13

Wow...please tell me your joking?

srilyk (author)eszaq12012-09-13

In the wrong hands, with the wrong intentions *everything* is a weapon. Textbooks make a good club. Picture frames on the wall make good stabbing tools. Heck, you could pick up a chair and swing it. And you know those very same pens and pencils that they use to write with? Guess what make *great* stabbing tools? That's why prisons only allow stab-proof wobbly pens.

It is quite literally insane to think that you can stop a person who intends to be violent from being violent AND also allow them freedom of movement.

And, despite what the media might lead you to believe, most people are, in fact, nice people. Very few kids actually commit serious violence UNLESS... they're subjected to peer pressure (e.g. gangs), or psychotropic drugs, or other factors of that nature. Instead of "we need to prohibit weapons" policies, we need "this is a safe place to learn and grow" policies. Instead of expelling/suspending children for drawing pictures of guns, or bringing water guns to school, we need to stop the much more insidious problem of kids verbally abusing other kids. Remember Casey, the kid who (quite awesomely) power bombed the much smaller bullies because he /felt he had no other recourse/? Yeah, Casey did the right thing - the school totally failed to prevent the behavior that leads to violence in the first place. The bully? Yeah, that's totally gang behavior on the small scale.

So yes, building your own wooden knife *is* appropriate.

rrfxxxr (author)eszaq12012-09-13

Look around you, paper weight on your desk, or tire iron in your car. What about a PC mouse as improvised garrotte, PC keyboard, wire from spiral bound tablet. Bare hands with the "wrong intentions" ..... and on and on. Just looking at the bigger picture.

kage_no_mozaiku (author)eszaq12012-09-11

if someone was to use this as a weapon, they'd have to use aluminium for the blade. pressboard like this would snap in half w/o causing more then a serious bruise and putting a point on it would weaken the structure even further. especially in such a thin cross section.

seriously, it's people like you that are getting our liberties slowly stripped away from us and are going to be part of the ruination of this country. being paranoid about what can be used as a weapon and all. like in california, because of your logic, you can't even carry certain pens because they can be potential weapons. dirk (and dagger) definition in the law, see Dirk Or Dagger in PC 16100-17360 definitions, covers pretty much anything, because ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death applies to the screwdrives and pens just as well. And those things do get used in crimes as a stabbing weapon.

michaelnelson (author)eszaq12012-09-11

I think answered your cries for nanny-statehood nicely by making this a featured article on 9/11. Lol! Go Insructables!

Denger (author)eszaq12012-09-11

The only difference between a tool and a weapon lies in its application.

If you're worried about wooden weapons, baseball players will have to start switching over to using polyethylene foam bats (a.k.a. pool noodles), since wooden or metal bats can be (and frequently are) used as weapons. This Instructable shows only how to create a non-dangerous model for instructing a young person in the proper use of a knife (and that is as a tool).

gg1220 (author)eszaq12012-09-10

I agree with arawn. There's nothing anyone can really do to prevent the use of everything that could possibly be weaponized, and sometimes people try to misconstrue everything they see as a weapon just to make a point. Furthermore, a blunt object made from pressed wood fibers is very far down the list of choice weapons, especially when there are no metal detectors to deter the real thing (e.g. at schools). The mechanical pencil in the penultimate photo is honestly a more dangerous item than the knife.

And in regards to your quip about an IED, you might want to think about your timing, seeing as how tomorrow's the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

I understand your concern, but I just don't think your points are quite valid in this case. You may disagree, but hey, that's how these things work :)

arawn (author)eszaq12012-09-10

Man... if the person has bad intantions in school, even a pencil makes a good weapon.

riff raff (author)2012-09-14

Nice! Looks amazingly similar to some Kershaw designs! ;-)

gg1220 (author)riff raff2012-09-14

Haha I wouldn't be surprised, I've gone through their catalog many a time :)

Denger (author)2012-09-11

Nice Instructable, and great photos. I plan to use paint stirring sticks to construct these for Cub Scouts to use in practicing their knife safety skills.

gg1220 (author)Denger2012-09-11

That sounds great! I'd love to see pictures when you finish :)

Microbe (author)2012-09-09

Fantastic, just what I needed to take on a plane with me.

NitroRustlerDriver (author)2012-09-09

Take a look at kershaw knives, specifically the leek. They make some of the thinnest knives I've come across. I've got a composite blade version as my EDC.

Thanks for the heads up!

chuckyd (author)2012-09-09

That looks good for a prototype. I would love to see it done with a noble wood, or even an exotic wood.

gg1220 (author)chuckyd2012-09-09

Haha that's a great idea, and there's a very easy way to make sure you see one, get to hold it in your hands, and feel the pride that comes with making it! If you decide to do it I'd love to see what you come up with :)

Frank_Zuccarini (author)2012-09-09

Very nicely done. Thank-you for sharing.

There is a strongly postivie correlation between edc-ing a knife and edc-ing a flashlight. Based on your fist/last photos, I suspect that you do both. :-)

As someone else has suggested, there are a number of very good choices for those with small hands and/or pockets. Your Paraframe is larger than anything I edc, and of marginal quality as well. If you've never handled a Spyderco Dragonfly with fibre reinforced nylon scales, I encourage you to do so. It is a very nice, well made, lightweight, small locking folder with excellent steel and ergonomics.

Again, thank-you for sharing your work with us.


gg1220 (author)Frank_Zuccarini2012-09-09

Thanks Mr. Frank :)
I'll definitely keep an eye on the Dragonfly. The main reason I've been hesitating about getting one is that I'm not much of a fan of lockbacks. I feel much safer with linerlocks or framelocks when it comes to closing the blades one-handed (yeah, I know it's a bit backwards). So I figured if I could make something more to my liking at roughly the same cost, why not?

Plus, for better or for worse, I'll be reminded of my craftsmanship every time I use it, and it'll make me work harder to produce a higher quality version next time around!

And that's a neat observation about the correlation between knives and flashlights.

Take care :)

MacNoska (author)2012-09-09

By Jove, that's a good-looking knife! How i wish i had the ability to measure accurately and cut in straight lines...

...and how I wish you anglophones would use centimeters instead of inches!!! I don't know who's to blame, but he must be in History books somewhere...I think I might track his descendants down and tell them a thing or two.  :-/

Great work, and so plainly and funnily explained! Thank you!

gg1220 (author)MacNoska2012-09-09

Thanks for the kind words! And you know what? You don't need straight lines at all. Some of the best designs out there are all curves :)

Haha I have no idea how we managed to earn our rep as cutting edge innovators and not switch over to metric... tsk tsk. However, if it makes you feel better, my brother and I are currently working on a project that's strictly metric (life is just so much easier that way).


l8nite (author)2012-08-30

Nice looking knife and very nice "ible". I use hardwood flooring to make sheath knives, although they won't hold a sharp edge for cutting they do have a use for protection

 Both of my daughters carry folding/lockable knives and have for many years, there are quality knives out there that fit a females smaller hand (and smaller pockets) just as there are handguns designed with females in mind,
I hope you follow through and make this knife and then share it with us

gg1220 (author)l8nite2012-08-30

Thanks for the tips! I do carry an edc (when legal), it's just that I have a few problems with it. It's not a bad knife at all (a Gerber Paraframe), but there are some things I figured I could do better (ergonomics, blade steel, fit and finish, etc.). Also, I just wanted something that was designed exactly for me (and others with smallish hands). 

By the way, nice use of recycled flooring! We've got a bunch lying around and I've just been doing turning projects to use it up.

And I'll definitely keep you guys posted on the real knife :)

M3G (author)2012-08-30


gg1220 (author)M3G2012-08-30

thanks :)

useraaaaa (author)2012-08-30

waiting for wooden 1911 instructable!

gg1220 (author)useraaaaa2012-08-30

Haha that'll be a few years off, but... challenge accepted!

aliasaint (author)2012-08-30

nice work! it looks great!

gg1220 (author)aliasaint2012-08-30


desertsniper (author)2012-08-30

thats pretty good! have you thought about making a knife out of steel? also, the locking mechanism is on your basic knife is not that hard to recreate for this one. i made a pretty nifty folding bottle opener, it was my first instructable.

gg1220 (author)desertsniper2012-08-30

Thanks! I'm hoping to start working on a steel version after school starts because I'll have access to much better equipment (namely a CNC mill). My metalworking capabilities are pretty much nil when it comes to parts that actually have tolerances (I made an aluminum version of this but the mating surfaces aren't perfectly flat so the blade is sticky when opening). Also, your folding bottle opener is a great idea! I had no clue how to do a lockback, so thank you :) I've already planned this out for a framelock, but I can see a few lockbacks in the future (they're less complicated than I was expecting).

desertsniper (author)gg12202012-08-30

my knife making is on hold until i and build a forge and buy a knife grinder and a few other costly tools. but im always working on something! and yes when making folding knives your measurements and sufaces need to be near perfect, good luck, and if you have any questions ill help if i can.

gg1220 (author)desertsniper2012-08-30

Wow, good luck with the forge. Can't wait to see what you come up with! And I'll definitely take you up on that offer if I've got questions :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make stuff and learn through the process. That's pretty much it :)
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