Introduction: Kiridashi Marking Knife

Picture of 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Step 10:

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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.

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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.

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I traced the handle shape on to the wood.

Step 13:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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More handle refinement and more sanding...

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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:

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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.

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After the epoxy cured.

Step 20:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.


GabberPelle made it! (author)2017-10-29

Really liked your curved design.
Tried to emulate it but went a little crazy on the blade design and made it more dagger like with a thumb-rest just behind the upper sharpened edge and the broader and slightly curved back end is made to rest against the pinky inside the fist to stop your fingers from sliding over the edge. Though still keeping it ground flat on one side.
Really handy knife that gets abused. Got allot of nice comments so I decided to make some for my colleges with some miner changes to the design, my original at the top, still experimenting on the finish or wheter or not to put a handle on.
Made from diamond tipped concrete saws I had left over after we redid our entire foundation slab from inside the house. Got a very nice hard edge after tempering and they have been thrown around for fun without chipping and still being razor sharp after several weeks of wood and electrical work.
Thanks for the inspiration! Greetings

I like your design a lot, nice work and thank you very much sharing its always cool to see other peoples work.

Neise (author)2017-02-21

Very "sharp" looking knife!

danthemakerman (author)Neise2017-02-22


Poppy Ann (author)2016-08-21

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.

tonygoffe (author)Poppy Ann2016-12-29

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

danthemakerman (author)Poppy Ann2016-08-21

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

Poppy Ann (author)danthemakerman2016-08-22

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.

danthemakerman (author)Poppy Ann2016-08-22

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.;)

Poppy Ann (author)2016-08-23

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.

treymartin82 (author)2016-08-20

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.

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.

M40 (author)John T MacF Mood2016-08-21

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.

Was1x (author)treymartin822016-08-20

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

liquidsands (author)2016-08-20

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.

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

Tones Shed (author)2016-08-20

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

Go for it, and thanks for the compliment.

dtextor (author)2016-08-20

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!

danthemakerman (author)dtextor2016-08-21

That's good to hear thanks.

LyndaForest (author)2016-08-20

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

Wow, thanks for the very kind words.

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-08-20

Very nice work!

Where did you get the firebrick with the hole in it? I've needed something like that to work blades for a while, can't seem to find it made, I guess I'll have to figure a way, or you could give me a tip, please?

Also, I have seen blacksmiths who heated their quench oil to about 140°F to avoid a shock to the metal before dropping from several hundred degrees to ambient temperature. (They heat old railroad spikes, and drop them in the oil until it's hot enough to avoid temperature shock.) Once down to about 140°F, they remove the metal and let it cool in ambient temp air.They SAY it keeps the metal from becoming too brittle as well. I have yet to test this concept though.

GREAT WORK! Beautiful handle too.

I am fairly new to this, I just saw a video were the knife maker heats up the oil which is probably something I will do next time. As for the fire brick mini forge I made it, I will eventually do an instructable on it but you can check out my YouTube channel and watch me make mine. Fire bricks are really easy to work.

Chipster48 (author)2016-08-20

Really terrific work in a nicely shot video. Well done, sir!


corneliusarkeveld (author)2016-08-20

Very clear instruction. I admire your collection of power tools and the neatness of your workshop. Just one question, would it have been wiser to use a brass pin rather than a steel one? Thanks.

I've seen folks use brass or stainless steel. I don't really think it matters much, I should have peened the end with a ball peen hammer but I didn't because I was afraid I would break the handles they were quite thin. I think the best thing to use are corby screws, you get the best mechanical connection with those

3DWulf (author)2016-08-21

Fantastic 'ible! Never thought about making a knife but this given me the urge!

danthemakerman (author)3DWulf2016-08-21

That's awesome I always love to hear this, if you do make one please share pics.

bdeems1 (author)2016-08-20

A Very Beautiful piece of Work! My "ONLY Question" is "WHY Reheat" it in a 400 Degree Oven "AFTER" It's "Already Tempered"? I "Will" ask a Local Blacksmith @ that. "I" would think that by Heating It AGAIN and NOT Quenching it you "Might Have" made it "Softer"?

danthemakerman (author)bdeems12016-08-21

When I heat treated it and then quenched it at this point the blade is very brittle and could be broken fairly easily. The tempering does make it softer in a sense, I rather say less brittle. Also at the heat treat stage the metal is very hard and would be very difficult to sharpen. To begin with the file itself is very hard it actually broke when I dropped it that is why I decided to use it to make a knife.

M40 (author)bdeems12016-08-21

I know others have answered, but I might have a more complete explanation.

There are two attributes that you want in a blade... hardness and toughness. Hardness comes from the quench (rapid descent from orange glowing hot to room temperature). Toughness comes from "tempering"... a specific heat treatment after the quench, usually a trip to somewhere between 300F-450F for an hour or so. Almost all blades are tempered. Those blades you might have seen made (on that terrible TV show about bladesmithing) are not simply quenched. They are ALL tempered. They just don't show that part of the process because it's boring.

Let's discuss the properties I mentioned... hardness vs. toughness. Hardness allows a blade to hold an edge through extended periods of cutting softer materials. Toughness provides impact resistance and strength when subjected to flexing or torque. The problem (with almost all steels) is that increasing hardness decreases toughness, and greater toughness decreases hardness. As such, a bladesmith typically needs to settle for a happy medium that suits the blade he's making.

If a blade will be used purely for cutting, then you can make it extremely hard. However that blade will NOT be tough. It can snap if you apply too much pressure or torque. I have seen steel quenched so hard that it can shatter like glass if dropped. If you need a blade that will flex and absorb impacts (ie: a machete), then you are looking for toughness over hardness. This blade will need to be sharpened more frequently, but will take a LOT of abuse. This is the tradeoff that all knifemakers consider when choosing steel and deciding on their heat treatments.

PS - For the knife shown being made here, I would have tempered at about 350F for a harder edge. Its a small blade and unlikely to see a lot of torque or impact stresses. The only blade I made that I never tempered was quite similar to this. It was a small (short) blade I made specifically for cutting thick leather hides. Edge holding is insane, but I could probably snap it in two quite easily if I applied side pressure. Most of my blades are larger and I prefer serious toughness. I don't mind sharpening more often.

michaelkosakfb (author)bdeems12016-08-21

"WHY" do you USE so "many" QUOTES and capitalIZATION in "your comments"?

alwhorley (author)bdeems12016-08-20

post quench heating in the oven is tempering. it makes the metal more flexible, less brittle.

as an aside, whats up with all the quotes and caps?

Just a different kind of tempering. A knife needs a slightly different hardness & flexibility than say, a horseshoe.

alwhorley is quite correct. If you wanted it harder and stiffer, you would sudden quench it in oil (it would be harder and hold an edge better but be harder to sharpen), or if you wanted it brittle (who would?) use room temp water and be ready for explosive boiling. Some quench in heated oil (140°F to 180°F) to allow a less sudden quench & different tempering.

AaronK70 (author)bdeems12016-08-20

Good question. Please do not use quotes unless you are quoting someone.

AlexB403 (author)2016-08-21

Very well done. Like the use of your own tools to achieve results .Have been there and done that. mostly in rushed circumstances when the business end was needed and the rest of the tool took a backseat. Used whatever file ( or in one case a ball bearing outer race) that was closest to required shape. What you built was a right handed Knife which begs the questions; Why make the wood handle symmetrical ? And why wait until the later stages of shaping the wood pieces before attaching to the blade ?

My thoughts in this , would have been to rough-out the wood, fasten it to the blade and then used the belt sander to shape the handle to favour the grip of my right hand.

Now there's a problem I have two left handed grand sons, I don't think they can buy a LH knife off-the-shelf.

However what you built was a Right-Handed knife.

danthemakerman (author)AlexB4032016-08-21

I added the wood handles because the file texture can be a little rough on the hands with constant use. The handles are very thin. As far as why I shaped the handles before attaching is because of the size of the a handles they are slightly smaller than the blade is wide at the front and rear of the knife. I have a downward slope on the front and back which is more aesthetic than anything. But I wouldn't be able to shape the handles below the edge of the knife if they were already attached. If I was to use a more traditional shape then I would have just roughed out the handles and then attached and then shaped. But in this case the shape of the handles dictated I change the order of operations. Thanks for your comment.

ddavidadams (author)2016-08-11

FYI, that is how I managed to cut off a finger on my table saw. Using the saw with no blade guard and holding the material with my hands instead of a pusher.

flyingfarm (author)ddavidadams2016-08-21

Dang! Sorry to hear you cut your finger off. I hope they were able to reattach it.

If you watch the video you see that I do use a push stick when its called for. As for the guard, I used to have it on there but this saw comes with a riving knife/blade guard combo that has some small anti-kick back spring tensioned blades attached to the riving knife that were the cause of the only instance of kickback I have ever had. The anti-kickback knives' spring tension was so taut that the front edge of a board got jammed and thrown back at me. Basically the spring mechanism worked too well and caught the board between the riving knife and the sawblade. Luckily I was standing to the side of the blade and didn't get hurt. I noticed that the spring tension would require me to push with excessive force on the wood to get it through the saw, which is also very dangerous. So I removed it and ever since then, along with remembering to use proper techniques, I haven't had any issues. If the safety equipment works the way its supposed to by all means use it but in my case it was more dangerous to leave it on. With that said I do appreciate your concern friend and I am sorry for your loss, its comments like this that keep me ever vigilant when it comes to safety.

The one on my $2000 Delta, purchased in 1989 only lasted a few days before being removed as well as the Blade guard. One of the uses of my saw is to resaw the boards from my saw mill. I rough cut to the full size with the mill then resaw and plane to conventional size. 20' boards are no problem.

I can sharpen my blades so dull isn't in my vocabulary and at the correct feed rate and blade height there is no kickback - at least for me.

I didn't view the video so I missed that detail. Thanks for pointing that out.

Drake88 (author)ddavidadams2016-08-11

I also rarely use a blade guard when using my table saw. I learned from past experience that most blade guard/anti-kickback devices do not work very well, and are often more hindrance than help. I double-check my cutting guides, materials, and the blade before making a cut. I then stand off to one side so if there is kick-back I am never in the path of it.

I also have a number of push-sticks that I use, all of various thicknesses and handle lengths(so I can keep pressure on the material). I even have a special one I use for large pieces I devised that allows me to stand on the short side of the material.

While my processes may not be the same, I am safe with all my tools.

PabloPickars (author)2016-08-16

Thank you. For me, you have connected so many areas of "knowledge(!)" that now make sense, both metal and wood. My father taught me a lot but was always a bit too busy, you know? Your skill and the way you explain is exemplary, thanks again.

Thank you I'm glad I could be of assistance.

vbrown1 (author)2016-08-11

Beautiful knife!! How's it hold an edge?

PabloPickars (author)vbrown12016-08-16

As Dan would probably say, the softer the mild steel, the sharper. The harder the longer ( might want to rephrase that one..). Like life and flight... it's a compromise.

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