So, recently, I went to a Renaissance Festival in my area for a wedding with my fiancee and a few of her friends. And I was utterly put to shame by their elaborate costumes. In my defense, however, they were veterans of this festival, and they were the bridesmaids in the wedding.
However, not wanting to be outdone, I wanted to make a prop that I would be able to carry at a festival such as this, and immediately thought of a knife. I usually go with a hunter/ranger type costume, and one thing that probably every woodsman has on his belt is a knife.
A real knife was out of the question (for cost and safety reasons), so I thought that I would make this prop knife out of some scrap wood that I had laying around.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
I used a 1x4 board for the material, although I would suggest you use a larger board, something like a 1x12 instead, as this will make the process of clamping it down and sawing the shape out a whole lot easier
For tools, I used:
- Hand saw with Miter Box
- 2 Quick Clamps and 2 spring clamps (1")
- A Jigsaw
- A Power Sander
- Shop Glasses, Dust Mask, and sometimes a pair of hearing protection "earmuffs"
- And a bit of wood filler for a mistake I made during the build.
- 1x4 or similar board (1x12 is suggested)
- Metallic Paint for the blade
- Wood stain or oil finish for the handle (I also used some stain conditioner to even out the stain)
- Leather cord for the final handle wrap
- Leather Adhesive; I used some "Leather Cement" adhesive that I borrowed from a friend. I'm sure regular glue or super glue would also work just as well, but your mileage may vary
Step 2: Plan, Plan, Plan
So, the first thing you will need to make this knife is a plan on how you want it to look. I drew out what I wanted the knife to look like on a piece of notebook paper and refined the shape until I was happy with it.
I based the width of my handle off of the handle of a wooden mallet I made recently that was sanded until it was comfortable for my hand. For me that was about 1.25" in width, but for you it might be different.
After that, I went ahead and cut out a cardboard template based on the shape and saw if the size itself was comfortable for my hand. In my case, that was just about perfect. The blade that I cut out needed to be much more curved, however, so I would need to modify that during the build. So, let's continue.
Step 3: Drawing Our Blade
For this project, I used a scrap piece of 1x4 that I had laying around. A larger board, like a 1x12 would actually be better to use, since you would have more space to apply clamps.
This board was actually a scrap piece from some risers that my mother built for her quilting table. Sadly, they never turned out to be stable enough for her to actually use, so they were disassembled and found their way into the scrap wood pile. I actually made the mallet that I mentioned earlier from the same pile of wood.
Anyway, I marked the section I wanted to make the blade out of (which ended up being about 8.5" in length) and cut it away from the main board. I later realized this was a mistake, because this cut off valuable clamping space for me to use when cutting the blank out with the jigsaw. Note that when I marked out the section for my knife, I intentionally avoided any sections with nail holes.
Now, draw the blade shape you want on the marked section of wood. I had to redraw it several times until I was happy with the shape.
Step 4: Cut Out Your Blank
Now we can use the jigsaw to cut out the blank for the knife. This will be really rough, but will be sanded down heavily later on.
Clamp the board down to your workbench (preferably with 2 or more clamps so it doesn't wiggle) and use a jigsaw to cut the lines you drew. If you neglected to cut off the excess or used a wider board, you might be able to cut this blank out in a single pass. However, since I made both these mistakes, I had to make several cuts and re-position the clamps many times. But, when I finished, I had the blank for my knife.
Be careful with the jigsaw, and wear proper protective gear, such as a dust mask, shop glasses, and hearing protection. If the surface of your board wiggles at all, you should quickly stop the jigsaw and re-clamp your board to be completely stable.
Also, save the offcuts from this process. They can be used to test out stains to make sure you like the color of them before you actually put them on the knife (if you wish to stain it).
Step 5: Starting to Sand It Down
Okay, now that we have the blank for our knife, we need to sand it down to the right profile, as well as knock off a lot of the sharp corners that will dig into our hand when we hold the blade.
Now, as commenter "BossyRangs" suggested, if you have a good sharp wood rasp, that would actually knock off a lot more material much faster than even a power sander. However, if you have nothing else, a sander with 40 grit sandpaper will work, even though it will take a lot longer and produce a lot more fine wood dust.
Be sure to use a dust mask and shop goggles, as the sander can put off a lot of wood dust, which probably isn't the best thing to be inhaling.
I would advise sanding down the handle first, and then sanding down the blade itself. This is also a good idea because the blade needs to be a lot narrower than the handle does, so it will require quite a bit more sanding. I started off with 40 grit sandpaper to remove a lot of material.
However, after some sanding of the knife handle, I made a little mistake...okay maybe a big mistake...
Step 6: Fail at Making the Blade Thinner
So, someway through the sanding process, I realized that the blade should be thinner than the handle. I could have, and probably should have, kept sanding, but I wanted to shave off some time from the project.
So, in my infinite wisdom, I decided that the best way to make the blade thinner would be to use the saw, as well as a mallet and improvised chisel to take off a small slice of material off of each side of the blade.
Yeah, this didn't work too well. The wood fibers ripped away, leaving me with some large ugly looking craters to fill. If you are doing this, I would advise just using the 40 grit to sand off a bunch of this material.
As a side note, if you have a set of sharp wood chisels, you might even be able to simply use them to carve off sections of the blade until you are happy with the thickness. However, I neither have wood chisels nor the desire to purchase them, at least not at this point.
Step 7: After a Whole Lot of Sanding...
So, after a lot of sanding, I managed to remove the ugly crater on one side and narrow the other side down to a much smaller crater that I later filled in with wood filler. During this sanding process, go ahead and try to taper the blade from the spine to the blade to give it a more realistic shape.
I started off with 40 grit to knock off the bigger chunks of material, and then used 100 grit and 150 grit to smooth it out and finished the surface by hand sanding with 220 grit.
Now if you want the whole knife as just wooden, then congratulations! Past applying some polyurethane or other finish, you are done. However, especially because of that white patch left over by the wood filler, I wanted to make this look a bit more realistic.
Step 8: Painting the Blade
Okay, now that we have our basic shape, we need to make the blade look like an actual weapon. I thought about using some aluminum tape to do this, but decided on simply painting it because the curvature of the blade would likely make the aluminum tape look a little less smooth along the surface.
Wrap some masking tape around the "hilt" section of the blade so that your blade will have clean, professional paint lines when you are done.
I used some small tubs of metallic paint that I had laying around from a previous project. I used some masking tape to cover the section of the blade around the hilt and carefully painted the blade with some silver paint. I did one side and the edges and allowed it to dry before painting the other side.
Step 9: Finishing the Handle
This was the step that held me up the longest. There are a lot of ways to finish wood. You can use oil, stain, paint, etc...
For me, I wanted to use a stain to make this look like dark brown wood. It took me a few cans to figure out which one would work best (I used a stain called "Special Walnut"). This is where your offcuts come in handy, as you can stain them and get a pretty good idea what your handle will look like.
First, I used a product called a "stain conditioner" on the handle of the knife. Pine, because it's a softwood, can be a little difficult to stain with a good color. This is because the wood has a loose grain that will suck up the stain really easily, giving you darker colors than you may want. A stain conditioner will block up some of the pores in the wood, making the stain lighter and more even. However, if you used a more tightly grained wood, or a different stain, you may not need this stain conditioner (despite what Minwax will tell you).
In hindsight, I would have done this before the painting, because the paint will cover up any stain that overlaps onto the blade. Also, I had to touch up the paint in places where the stain didn't quite meet up with the edge of the paint, leaving ugly bare spots.
After both the paint and stain were done, I gave the whole thing a single coat of polyurethane.
And, again, you could stop here and you would have a very nice looking prop. However, I took it just a bit further.
Step 10: Leather Cord Wrap - Turk's Head
You could simply stop at the last step, but I wanted to also give the knife handle a leather cord wrap to decorate it a little more. I have some skill with knotwork and decided to put it to use with this project. If you don't have such skill in knotwork, or you don't think you want to go through the effort, you can skip this step.
I started by tying a turk's head knot (also known as a "woggle") around the hilt of the blade. I won't go over the details of tying this knot here, but you can find plenty of instructables and youtube videos on the subject that can probably explain it much better than I can.
The one thing to keep in mind when tying it with the leather cord is to keep the leather cord un-twisted. Unlike paracord, the leather cord is flat and can have a tendency to twist as you tie. Prevent this as well as you can, as you will have to go in later and work those twists through the whole knot, or at least hide them in places they wont be seen.
I like to tie the knot on my hand and periodically pushed it onto the blade at the position I wanted it at to keep it the necessary size. After the knot was tied, I used some 'leather cement' to keep it in place on the blade. If you don't have this, regular glue, epoxy, or superglue might work just as well. I secured it with some 1" spring clamps and let it dry. If it doesn't adhere enough, you can apply a little more glue under the knot and clamp it again.
However, if you want to continue the leather cord wrap down the handle, read the next step before gluing the turk's head in place.
Step 11: Leather Cord Wrap 2 - Handle X Wrap
A further option that you could do is to finish the cord wrap with an X-shaped wrap around the handle, ending with a knot at the end. I didn't end up doing this, because the handle was already really well shaped to my hand and the leather cord just made the whole thing a bit uncomfortable to hold. However, here are a few photos to show you what the end result would generally look like
If you want to do this, after the Turk's Head knot is fully tied, work a bit of slack through from one side to the other to help even the remaining cord to each side a bit. Also, when finished with the Turk's Head Knot, make sure each end is coming out below the knot on the same side. After gluing the knot in place, these will provide material to finish off the wrapping.
Okay, now you can glue the turk's head in place.
Then, take each end and wrap each around the handle, allowing them to intersect in an "X" shape. Put some glue under each intersecting part and clamp until dry. Continue until you reach a length to your liking. After you get to the end of your wrap, you can tie an overhand knot, or something a little more decorative to finish it off. I would also suggest gluing part of this to the handle as well.
Step 12: Finished!
Congratulations, and thanks for sticking around through the whole instructable. You now have a knife prop for renaissance fairs or just for Halloween.
This project turned out really well, despite the mistakes I made during the process. The only thing I am missing is a sheath for it, but that will likely be a future project.