Kiridashi Marking Knife




Posted in WorkshopMetalworking

Introduction: Kiridashi Marking Knife

I've been wanting to try my hand at making a knife so I decided to try making one out of a broken file. This is a Kiridashi style marking knife with a chisel grind. The handles are made of walnut and the pin is a nail that I cut in to a smaller piece.

Here is a video of the process.

Step 1:

First step was to anneal the file so that I would be able to work the metal. I heated it up to non-magnetic temperature (until a magnet didn't stick to it anymore) and then set it on a fire brick to air cool.

Step 2:

I drew out a basic shape using a marker. Then I used my angle grinder with a cut off wheel to trim off the excess. The last picture is the rough shape of the knife.

Step 3:

To clean up the rough shape I used my 1x30 belt sander fitted with a 80 grit belt. If the metal got too hot I would dip it in the water bucket to cool it down. This is pretty much standard operating procedure when grinding. After two belts and some file work on the inside corner I finished sanding and refining the shape.

Step 4:

Next it was time to grind the bevel, which I believe is called a chisel grind. This was touch and go as this was my first time. It came out okay but it needed some clean up, it was slightly rounded over. I used my file to flatten the bevel which helped dress up the blade, its not perfect but it was good enough. Filing is a re-occurring theme in knife making and lots and lots of sanding.

Step 5:

Next I measured and punched for the pin hole. I drilled the hole with my drill press.

Step 6:

Next it was time to heat treat the blade or harden it. I turned off some of the lights so that I could see the color change better. I got the blade up to non-magnetic temperature before quenching it. I quenched it in peanut oil. In the last image you can see the scale that builds up on the blade after quenching.

Step 7:

This is the blade after cleaning it up a bit after quenching. I wet sanded the rest of the blade with 320 grit to get all of the scale off. Cleaning off the scale helps you see the color change after tempering. Now it was ready for tempering.

Step 8:

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and then placed the blade on the middle rack and set a 1 hour timer. Once the timer was done I turned off the oven and let it cool down in the oven to just above room temperature or rather until I could handle it without having to use an oven mitt.

Step 9:

While the blade was tempering I cut the wood for the handles.

Step 10:

This is the blade after tempering. The camera doesn't pick up the color very well. I think it got slightly darker than it should have, which probably means my oven temperature isn't accurate, which is very common. So I will likely invest in an oven thermometer and figure out any adjustments I need to make for future projects. I'll have to see how the blade holds up.

Step 11:

Cleaned up the discoloration after tempering using various grits of sandpaper starting with 320 and working my way up to 800. I wet sanded both sides. I also made sure to refine the blade or cutting edge at this point. I didn't sharpen it but I did clean it up quite a bit.

Step 12:

I traced the handle shape on to the wood.

Step 13:

I didn't really have a plan for the handles so I kind of went along with whatever looked good or whatever I thought might looked good. The last picture shows the final basic shape. I decided later to trim more or rather sand more of the handles down to expose the metal. Again I was kind of "designing" on the fly.

Step 14:

Drilling out the pin holes for the handle. I just taped the handle to the blade and then drilled the hole. Same process was used for the other side. I also checked the pin fit. The pin I used was a nail, which is what I had available, in the future I will buy some stainless steel rods to use as pins.

Step 15:

I taped the two handles together using the pin in the middle to help stabilize them while I sanded them. Because of the shape I used for the handles it meant that I had to get the handles pretty close to finished dimensions before glue up. This was more challenging than I was expecting. But at this point I was committed to the look.

Step 16:

More handle refinement and more sanding...

Step 17:

I used Acetone to clean up all the surface that were to be glued. This takes off any grease or dirt that may be present.

Step 18:

I used 5 minute epoxy to glue on the handles and the pin.

When clamping everything together I had to make sure to clean up any excess epoxy because of the size and shape of the handles that I made. I used a paper towel that had some acetone on it. I tired to make sure to use minimal amounts of acetone so that it wouldn't adversely affect the epoxy curing. This was a little hard to do around the clamps but it actually worked well I didn't have to address any epoxy squeeze out after it had cured. Also in my excitement to glue everything together I forgot to mask off the blade with tape. This would have made clean up a little easier also.

Step 19:

After the epoxy cured.

Step 20:

Yup you guessed it more sanding and refining. I used the belt sander to clean up the spine and then used 320 grit to clean up the handles.

Step 21:

I sharpened the blade using 1000 grit up to 2000 grit then I used a piece of MDF with jeweler's compound on it to hone the blade and then a piece of leather as a strop.

Step 22:

Now it was time for the finish I cleaned off all the surfaces and then I applied 3 coats of Danish Tung oil to the handles.

Step 23:

Here is the finished piece. I learned quite a bit from this project which I hope to apply to my next knife. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this Instructable.

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A great Instructable, it reminds me of when I was a apprentice almost 50 years ago and we use to collect the old files from the stores to use to make scrapers out off where I worked you had to hand in your old file to get a new one so there was always plenty of them for use some of the larger ones we made small machetes for use at our local scout camp for clearing bracken and brambles.

many thanks for the memories.

Regards Poppy Ann.

4 replies

Very interesting past !! Sorry I missed you when you were in the Caribbean....I live in the central Jamaican mountains. Am a self-taught lapidary and geologist and have discovered an agate deposit nearby. Built my first slab saw and also do smoked marlin, pork, chicken and cheese. A detached retina has curtailed this a bit, but soldier on ...Take care tony

That sounds really cool, what were you apprenticing for, if you don't mind my asking?

Hi Dan,
I was an apprentice Instrument Mechanic which involved basic bench fitting most types of machining from basic lath turning to precision cylindrical grinding I worked at Budenberg Gauge Company in Broadheath, Altrincham, Manchester. They made all types of Pressure Gauge, Dead Weight testers, and Thermometers after I had completed my apprenticeship I left and goinded the Army for 12 years where I trained as a Plant fitter in Royal Engineers for 6 years then transferred to REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) and then trained as a Vehicle Mechanic and a Electrician where I stayed for a further 6 years before they discharged me due to I was involved in an accident and was crushed and had my back broke in three places along with damaging most of the joints in my body when I left I worked as a crane and mobile elevating work platforms (cherry pickers) which i worked on until I was until I was 48 when I could not manage to work any longer but it was 7 years after my doctor wanted me to stop working at the time I sold up and went sailing around the Caribbean for 10 years I returned almost 4 years as getting on and off my boat was getting a little to much for me now I live in Mansfield in a small bungalow and just potter about building remote controlled models and little engineering projects at the moment I am in the process of building a small steam engine amongst other things I bought one of the mini laths and a mini oxyacetylene welding sets also I am part way threw building a couple of RC planes which will add to all the others I have at the moment I have 7 planes 6 quad-copters 2 cars 1 digger and a tank plus several of the mini quads that I fly indoors.

looks like I have waffled on again sorry about that.

Regards Poppy Ann.

Thanks for the great reply I love hearing about peoples backgrounds and history. Plus now I know if I ever attempt an RC project and run in to trouble I know exactly who to contact.;)

you are welcome to contact me on any problems that you think i may be able to help you with I seldom have no time to help.

Regards Poppy Ann.

How would I change up the shape of the blade up up if I wanted to use it as a cutting knife? Strange question I know. My dad does a lot of BBQ events (yes, I'm a good southern boy) and I'd love to make up something like this up so he can really show off at events. I love knifes but know nothing about them. Thanks.

4 replies

You could start with a different piece of stock metal. I have seen some folks make a knife from a lawnmower blade, though the carbon levels in those blades is not as high as it could be. Check YouTube and search for "Anthony Bourdain Meteorite Knife".

There is a video there showing a man (a Master Culinary Blade-smith) making a blade literally from the iron in a meteorite. It may be instructive. He etched the blade and it came out exceptionally beautiful. His method approached that of the old blade makers for Samurai.

Others have used specialty metals to make culinary blades, there is one on YouTube showing a man hand forging one from a high quality ball bearing (a big one), and comes out with a gorgeous knife.


Be careful about starting with ANY unknown metal. Lawnmower blades could be pretty much anything, and there's no easy way to tell. Usually it's very low grade, low carbon steel. No use putting a lot of work into something that will not take an edge and never amount to much. There are plenty of blademaking sites that sell decent blade steel and it's not usually expensive. 1095 in particular is fairly cheap and relatively easy stuff to work with. Likewise, 5160 is cheap and easy to process, and will make a really tough blade with decent edge holding.

I would suggest watching Walter Sorrells on YouTube he shows you how to make a knife with limited tools or with top of the line equipment. He has tons of knowledge and talent. I would also suggest watching Aaron Gough of Gough Customs on YouTube he some good videos for beginners as well. He also does some destructive tests that are very impressive. Both Walter and Arron are real down to earth folks that have a passion for knife making that can be very contagious.

A Kiridashi is a marking, in Japan a carving or Whittling knife. There would be better profiles for carving or chopping meat.

In answer to the question about the reheating of the metal, i can shed a little light on why. The type of steel he used in this instructable is a very high carbon steel. It is a very superior product for this knife making work because the temper or hardness of the steel is adjustable. Heat starts the process but the speed of cooling is what completes the process. When the steel is heated the carbon distributes within the molecular structure of the metal. If you air dry the metal very slowly the carbon stays distributed in the metal and the metal gets soft and "workable". You can then drill it, shape it etc. If you heat it again and quench it in water it cools so fast that the carbon is attracted to the thermal shock and makes the surface of the steel so hard that you can't even drill through it. This surface hardening is called case hardening. Case hardening may cause the majority of the concentrated carbon to form within 1/64th to 1/32nd of an inch from the surface or even less. This makes a very hard but very brittle surface coating and the knife blade would be much more susceptible to breaking. Although it can still be ground on a grinder you risk losing a lot of the high carbon material to grinding dust, thus weakening the overall strength of the steel and the rigidity of the knife to malforming. By heating the steel to high temp and cooling it quickly but still slower than water such as in oil, the carbon is slower to reach the surface and thus gets distributed through a much higher thickness of the surface material limiting the brittleness and making the steel much more resistant to bending or breaking. It also makes the steel still workable for sharpening and holding an edge. If you feel that the steel is a bit too close to case hardened, you can then again "anneal" the metal by controlled heat at a much lower temp and soaking it in the even heat of an oven over a longer soak time, thus allowing the carbon to redistribute a little and strengthen the steel at the same time. Annealing also de-stresses the metal if it has been hammered or welded making it more resistant to failure in holding an edge or breaking the blade.

1 reply

That's a great explanation thanks for all the info and contributing to the conversation.

Thats a great looking marking knife you made there, well done, might give it a go myself one day, excellent tutorial, thanks

1 reply

Go for it, and thanks for the compliment.

Thank you! I read a lot of threads and examples about knife making, but your video makes it so much easier to understand without over doing it in complexity. Brilliant!

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All I can say is..." Bloody Brilliant " !!! You've got talent, so keep on making beauties like these???