Introduction: Kitchen Knife Saya

Today I'll be showing you how I make saya for kitchen knives! Saya are wooden scabbards that go over the blade of a knife. They are used to protect the blade when it is not in use, to protect you from cutting yourself on the edge when transporting the knife, and also to provide a unique aesthetic flair. There are many different ways that saya can be made, but here's how I do it for my kitchen knives.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Here are the materials and tools that I used for this project. You can do this whole project with very few tools, but I use a couple things that make it a little easier.

Tools:
*A Knife to Go in the Saya. This will work better if the knife has a large choil.
*Hacksaw
*Jigsaw
*Miter Saw
*Table Saw
*Router
*Belt Sander
*Drill
*~1/8" Drill Bit
*Vice
*Chisel
*Needle Files
*Clamps
*Sandpaper
*Safety Equipment (Gloves, Eye Protection, Ear Protection, Respirator, etc.)

Materials:
*A type of wood that is not too hard. I used spalted maple. It must be big enough to hold your knife inside the block.
*A hardwood, I used wenge. You will only need a small amount of this
*Wood Glue
*Mineral Oil or another similar finish

Step 2: Milling Out Your Wood

We will first need to cut our material into sizeable blocks. I started out with a large piece of live edge spalted maple, about 3/4" thick. Take your knife and mark a piece of wood that is about an inch longer than the tip of your knife, an inch over the handle, and about half an inch wider than the blade. I then go to the miter saw and cut out a block in these dimensions. You will see that I cut out two blocks of wood in the picture, that is because I was making two saya, you only need one block per knife.

Step 3: Cutting and Splitting the Saya

Lay your knife on the block of wood, and mark a small rectangle where the handle of the knife goes onto the wood. Then use a jigsaw or hacksaw to cut out that rectangle. This will allow the saya to slide over the handle of the blade a little.

Next we have to split the wood, I'll be using a table saw for this part. Set the table saw so that it will cut the block in half, but leave one half slightly thicker than the other. I use a piece of scrap wood as a guide, and a paintstick to push the piece through. Be careful, most kickback guards won't work on pieces this thin, you will have to keep your head and body out of the path of the saw in case the wood does kickback.

Step 4: Carving the Saya

Start by marking the outline of the blade in the saya on the thicker half of wood. Route out the wood to just under the thickness of the knife blade, then carve it smooth the rest of the way with a chisel. You can pretty easily do this part with just a chisel, it will just take a little longer. once you are done, you can clamp the two pieces of wood together to make sure the blade will slide smoothly into the saya.

Step 5: Glueing the Saya

Once you are sure the blade fits inside, you can glue the two halves together. Apply a small amount of glue to the carved side of the saya and use your finger to make sure the glue covers the whole surface evenly. Then clamp the two halves together. If you can see excess glue inside the saya, use a piece of wire to scrape it out before it dries.

Step 6: Shaping and Optional Spacer Addition

Now I go to the belt sander and sand all the faces smooth and flat, and bring all the sides down to the proper thickness. You want the wood to be as thin as possible around the blade without giving it a risk of breaking or cracking. At this point, I also sliced off a thin piece of wenge in the tablesaw which I used as a dark spacer for aesthetic value. That part is completely optional. Once the shaping was done, I used a miter saw to cut off the excess wood on both ends.

Step 7: Drilling the Mekugi-Ana and Making the Mekugi

Now we will make a mekugi, or tapered wooden pin, to hold the blade inside the saya. Start by laying your knife in top of the saya and mark a dot right at the top of the choil. Now drill through that hole with an approximately 1/8" bit. After this is done, I file in a slight taper to the hole using a round needle file. Now I go and cut off a very small piece of the wenge using a hacksaw and a vice. Then I go and chisel off the extra material until it starts to resemble a tapered round pin. The final shaping I do with 220 and 320 grit sandpaper, just keep sanding down the pin and checking the fit until it will slide smoothly into the hole you drilled and wedge itself in place. Finally, mark the part of the pin that sticks out on either side, and sand/cut it until only about 1/8" sticks out on either side of the saya.

Step 8: Polishing and Oiling

Now you can sand the blade up to whatever grit you want. For softer woods, 320 grit will leave a good finish, and harder woods can be taken all the way up to 2000 grit for a very nice finish. Make sure to soften any sharp corners or edges during sanding, you want the saya to be comfortable to hold. Once you have finished sanding, apply a light coat of mineral oil to the outside of the saya to bring out the color of the wood and waterproof it.

Step 9: Finished

Congrats, it's all done! Now all that's left to do is show off your knife in its fancy new saya.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!

Comments

author
ClareBS (author)2017-07-16

The knives and saya are absolutely beautiful. Thanks for posting.

author
Xexos (author)ClareBS2017-07-16

Thanks for looking! I appreciate the compliment :)

author
Jake_Makes (author)2017-07-13

Very nice! Did you make that knife?

author
Xexos (author)Jake_Makes2017-07-13

Thank you! Yes, I made both of the knives, they are called usuba and are used for finely slicing fruits and veggies :)

author
redwood00 (author)Xexos2017-07-16

Is there an instructable available for the knives? They are just SO beautiful, I'd really like to see that!

author
Xexos (author)redwood002017-07-16

Thank you so much! Yes, I have some instructables out about blade forging and yaki ire (differential heat treatment) that might help in making this style of blade. Nothing on blade polishing yet, but maybe in the future!

author
Jake_Makes (author)Xexos2017-07-13

Love that mirror polish :)

author
andrewty (author)2017-07-16

Be careful with UK knife law.

One must have good reason to have a knife in a place to which the public have access.

There are a few exceptions:

eg, a folding type penknife with a blade less than 75mm long and the blade does not lock open.

author
DeanC53 (author)andrewty2017-07-16

It's a kitchen knife for vegetables, even in the UK nanny state on steroids!

author
Xexos (author)andrewty2017-07-16

I live in Michigan in the United States, here the knife laws are a little different. They just repealed the switchblade ban, so now you can legally own any knife. You are allowed to carry almost any knife unconcealed (the exception being automatics), and you can carry a knife without a stabbing tip concealed. So those knives have almost no restrictions whatsoever on owning and carrying it in the state of michigan. It's really convenient, especially for EDC knives or other carry knives.

Thanks for reading!

author
deluges (author)2017-07-12

Beautiful, thanks for sharing

author
Xexos (author)deluges2017-07-12

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it

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