This tutorial demonstrates how to make a kitchen knife out of a piece of new 0-1 tool steel.
In this post I make my first knife, and I do my best to document each step and provide you with the knowledge I had going into it, and also what I learned and how I would have done it differently. As I said, its my first knife, and I didn't do everything in exactly the right order. However, Im arranging this tutorial in the order that makes the most sense if I were to make another knife based on the knowledge I now have. Because of this, some of the pictures may reveal steps that you haven't seen yet. Dont worry, I dont think its too confusing.
Several weeks ago I was overcome by the need to make a kitchen knife. Right away I went online to find a tutorial (like this one), but didn't find exactly what I was looking for. Many websites I found showed how to, say, make a knife out of an old file or saw blade, but I couldn't find a complete, from scratch tutorial that combined all the steps and processes in one place. Through hours of online research I compiled all the different information I needed, and I thought I could make this easier for the next person by arranging all that info here. This is my first online tutorial so bear with me!
Step 1: Designing, Steel cutting
Before you do anything else, you must come up with a design for your knife. I based my design off of several kitchen knives I already had. I made several changed like the angular part by the tip instead of a smooth curve, and Im using an African rosewood called bubinga instead of the black wood/plastic for the handle piece. Otherwise, its basically the same knife: 1/8 inch thick blade, 5.5 inch handle, 6 inch blade. My first sketch was half-scale on an engineering pad, and then I did a full scale one to make sure the size felt right, etc. As you can see, it took me several tries to get the handle shape right.
There are also some differences in the metal itself. First of all I'm using 0-1 tool steel, and the other knives are stainless, but the other knives also have some metal flange things at the front of the handle, a feature thats impossible to create if you are just using a piece of flat bar stock like I did.
Anyway, these are just some things to consider.
Once you have your design, you should order or acquire your steel and wood. I bought my steel from Mcmastercarr.com (I love that website). I got 2" x 1/8" bar stock that was a foot and a half (18") long, I think if was $35. I had some scrap bubinga (the wood I used for the handle) laying around so I used that. Also, just because jargon is cool, the wood pieces for the handle are technically called scales, remember that. For the metal handle pins I used some 1/4" mild steel dowel (you can get this at any decent hardware store).
Using measurements from my full scale drawing, I scribed my knife outline onto the steel with a sharpie. Notice how I got steel that was exactly the right size so i didn't have to make many cuts. NOTE: If you only have one "true" straight edge in your steel that you can use, make this straight edge the blade, not the spine (the spine = flat top edge of knife where you can push down with your hand when chopping watermelon). When you get around to sharpening, you will see why you want as straight an edge as possible for the blade.
NOTE: Before using tools, make sure to wear eye protection, sometimes ear protection, and for this project, often some sort of ventilator or mask. Also I used big thick welding gloves a lot when working with the hot steel and sharp edges.
Cutting the blade out was no problem. I used a hand held angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to make the cuts. NOTE: Steel burns. Dont let that happen to your knife. When you are cutting, grinding, or sanding the steel make sure to have a container of water nearby that you can dunk the whole length of the knife in while working. Do this often, more often then you think. When cutting the knife out, burnt steel is OK if the burn marks dont go past the lines, but if they do, then your knife is already tainted. I stayed well away from the lines for these initial rough cuts using the grinder.
Cutting the handle out was trickier because I couldn't penetrate all the way through the steel without cutting into the other parts of the handle. I got as far as I could into it, then flipped it over and repeated on the bottom. I still had some material to remove though, so I used a mini version of the cutoff wheel on a dremel and cut through the last bit.
Its messy, but it sort of looks like a knife!