Introduction: Knife Making - Make an Heirloom!

Picture of Knife Making - Make an Heirloom!

If you like the knives, please vote!!

I've always loved tools, specifically knives. I have a few old tools from my dad and even a few from his dad. The kind of old stuff that is still around and is just as good now as it was day one. Really cool history there. Not to mention it's still a usable tool.

No, I don't think you should give young children large fixed blade knives :)

I wanted to see if I could make a heirloom quality blade from start to finish.

Here we go.

Step 1: Build the Grinder

Picture of Build the Grinder

After much reading I chose to build a 2x72 grinder. This is the holy grail of grinders/sanders in the knife making and artist's workshop. They are fairly expensive, but I was sure I could build one on a budget. I was right. Go big or go home right?

This build is a complete instructable in itself, however I documented the build poorly - Maybe I'll have to build a better one, just so I can share it here :)

Here is a couple photos of the grinder and it's first test grind.

Step 2: Design the Blade

Picture of Design the Blade

I drew up 30-40 designs. I chose the most utilitarian profile I had and gave it a go on scrap steel.

I did not know the properties of the steel at the time, so I knew it probably would not harden during heat treat, but oh well, I wanted to play with my new grinder. More photos on Instagram: @themak5

The design was cool, but the material was very low carbon and would not harden.

Step 3: Better Material

Picture of Better Material

I was confident in my tooling and the process now, so I ordered some better steel and gave it a go again.

I bought a foot each of 01 and D2 - Tool Steel. Both materials should yield excellent knifes.

Cut, Grind, Cut, Grind... Sand, Sand, Sand...

Step 4: Harden the Blade

Picture of Harden the Blade

Heat Treating a knife is an art, the medium for that art is science.

It's a fascinating craft that will be debated for decades to come. There are entire college textbooks on the subject. I read all I could stand and went for it.

Here's the recipe I used for the 01 - Tool Steel:

Normalize 3 times at: 1300 degrees F (10 minutes each soak)

Harden once at: 1500 degrees F ( 4-5 minute soak)

Immediately quench in 125 degree vegetable oil. (untill cool)

Temper twice at: 400 degrees F ( 4 hours each soak)

I don't have a method to test hardness so I'm not sure of the final numerical hardness, but I do know it is harder that most of the files in my shop.

I'll take it.

Step 5: Handles

Picture of Handles

I cleaned up the blades and added some handles...

I bought various materials and used epoxy and stainless steel pins to connect everything together.

The resin looking stuff is Kirinite, the wood is Stabilized Desert Ironwood.

Once I had the handles glued up and the rough shape cut in, I took them back to the grinder and shaped them until they felt nice in the hand.

Step 6: Knife Test - 01 Tool Steel

Picture of Knife Test - 01 Tool Steel


So it looks cool, but how do I know if it is a good knife? A knife I'd carry in the mountains? A knife that my grandkids will be able to use? Time to test it...Watch the video and let me know what you think. What else would you have done in the test?

Follow me on instagram @themak5 for work in progress and other projects. Subscribe on Youtube too! Not much yet, but I'll have more project videos out soon!

Guess now I'll need to make a sheath... stay tuned!



If you like the knives, please vote!!


seancching (author)2015-04-02

In the words of Crocodile Dundee, "That's a knife!"

Mak5 (author)seancching2015-04-02

haha that made me laugh pretty good! I loved that movie as a kid!

Thanks for the read, dont forget to vote!

HogHunter (author)2015-04-01

I have a friend who has a Beaumont Metalworks grinder and I have used it. They are so expensive, I cannot come close to afford it. So I would love it if you would post whatever you have on making the grinder. Yours looks very effective and like something I can actually build.

Thanks so much for posting this.

Mak5 (author)HogHunter2016-02-12

Truly anyone with basic skills can build this:

Mak5 (author)HogHunter2015-04-01

They are expensive, but fantastic machines. Given the interest in the grinder I might do an instructable on it.

Thanks for the read!

mthompson64 (author)2015-04-01

Would love to see an instrctable for the grinder

Mak5 (author)mthompson642016-02-12

Better than an instructable:

Mak5 (author)mthompson642015-04-01

Noted! thanks for the read!

jaysouth88 (author)2015-03-31

These are awesom!! Would you be able to make an instructable for your grinder? This is exactly what we are after! Or could you post up some more overview pictures? I would really appreciate it.

I love the media you used for the handles, that's pretty awesome! Is it similar to Corian? Or benchtop sort of stuff?

Mak5 (author)jaysouth882016-02-12

Better than an instructable:

Mak5 (author)jaysouth882015-04-01

I'd love to, but I didn't document it very well... I need to paint it, maybe I'll make some sort of instructable about the grinder while I paint it as I will have it taken a part and can highlight each piece. The handle material is Kirinite, it's similiar to acrylic but seems much tougher.

jaysouth88 (author)Mak52015-04-01

That would be great if you could! I'm sure that people would be able to figure it out from some great pictures. Thanks for your time!

tangenendt (author)2015-04-02

I need a forge AND a Grinder....

Mak5 (author)tangenendt2015-04-02

I agree... :) If you build one, post a pic here! or even better, make an instructable!

czarnian (author)2015-04-02

<Please make that instructable on how to made that grinder. Pretty please.

Mak5 (author)czarnian2016-02-12

Here is the exact details including lists for everything you will need to build one.

platdujour (author)czarnian2015-04-02

Have you seen this amazing home-made grinder?

Mak5 (author)platdujour2016-02-12

czarnian (author)platdujour2015-04-02

In fact I did!! Way to scavenge!!!

The most amazing fact was, OMHO, the repurposed treadmill motor. I mean, variable speed control? How awesome is that? And the skate tracks and wheels? Pure genious.

Thanks for the link.!!

christhomas.wakefield (author)2015-04-02

Awesome work. I have a client who does this, but your work is a cut above. I became interested and he told me his uses the old steel from Sheffield that apparently makes good steel. Great work, appreciated, thanks.

Many thanks amigo!

DennisS4 (author)2015-04-02

Wow! This is the first time I've read a whole instructable, including the comments. Very nice knives and great craftmanship. I don't get why people misunderstand the title either. When something is passed down it's usually because the person can no longer use the item, or the person receiving the item is ready, willing and able to use the item the way it should be used.
I hope you make more of these instructables.

Mak5 (author)DennisS42016-02-12

Wow, great comment, thanks for that.

Machine (author)2015-04-03

Beautiful knives. Love the finish on them.

By the way, what is a 2x72 grinder and why it is so special? I see that the belt is very long could that be the 72" and could it be 2" wide? A vertically moving belt means no circular marks in the metal and wood which is nice.

Mak5 (author)Machine2015-04-03


2x72 is the most common belt size, so you have a lot of different option in grits and material. In addition, you get the best value for your dollar in terms of abrasive area. 2x72 yields 144in^2 of abrasive area for $6-10. where 1x42 is 42in^2 for $3-7.

xd12c (author)2015-04-02

Yeah, definitely need an Instructable on the grinder. And how did you heat treat them? I've been running into problems with that.

Mak5 (author)xd12c2016-02-12

Mak5 (author)xd12c2015-04-03

I have a kiln, its the nuclear crockpot looking photo... I'll do something on the grinder soon.

MacGyver1138 (author)2015-04-03

In the video, it looks like you have a name or emblem stamped in the blade. Did you do this, and if so can you maybe post steps on how you did it?

The knives are beautiful by the way. Thanks for the Instructable, and I hope you make one for the grinder as well.

Mak5 (author)MacGyver11382015-04-03

Thanks! Instructables on both in the works.

Upir (author)2015-04-07

Nice work. I was hoping you might be able to offer some more pictures of your grinder/sander or a separate Instructable on how you put it all together? Been collecting parts that I figure I'll need to put one together and plan to do it this summer and would like to know a bit more about yours since it will be put to the same application here. Sharing space in my back yard with a blacksmith who is teaching me and a nice grinder/sander would come in handy for cleaning up.

Mak5 (author)Upir2016-02-12

NightHawkInLight (author)2015-04-07

The grinder is sooo sweet. You should make an instructable specifically for building that. My favorite of your knives is probably the stubby green one, I don't have anything like it. Probably a great shape for carving.

Mak5 (author)NightHawkInLight2016-02-12

As discussed:

Mak5 (author)NightHawkInLight2015-04-08

Wow, Nighthawkinlight! I really dig your videos man, been watching you on YT for awhile now.

Thanks the good vibes, the little green one was an afterthought and came out of the scrap left over from the blue one. Fits the hand really well.

A lot of folks have asked about the grinder, I'll share something on that soon.

venkat2211 (author)2015-10-25

I love knives... and happy to see how you love making some

K.hall86 (author)2015-09-22

Mak, wow.

your work is awesome. I'm a tool maker and have been considering making a tool steel blade for quite a while. it is just really hard to motivate myself to get back on the surface grinder after working a 10...Regardless. You could probably find a local shop that has a Rockwell tester. I would suggest testing the blade before you attach the scales. test the tang area closest to the hilt. the Rockwell tester will leave a small dimple in the metal, but as long as it can be covered, who cares?

with what you're doing for heat treat, I would assume that your O1 is coming out in the high 50's / low 60's on the Rockwell C Scale (RHC). In our shop we like to keep our A2 and D2 blocks around 55 RHC, not too too hard and nowhere near soft. lol

great work, sorry for the rant.

Mak5 (author)K.hall862015-09-23

Thanks, Much appreciated feedback. Everything you said is spot on. I try to control my temperatures very closely at all stages so I'm aiming at about 57-58 RWC. Like you said though, no way to know until you test it... Thanks for the comment!

This video shows the process in much more detail.

Woodworker_17 (author)2015-09-21

Hey man, I didn't realize this was your instructable. Thumbs up in knife makin brother.

Mak5 (author)Woodworker_172015-09-22

Cheers, amigo.

tkjtkj (author)2015-04-04

As Yogi Berra *might* have said:

"Ya can't use that knife .. it looks tooo GOOD!"

(And you would have proved him to be totally wrong!)

Congrat's on your work.. beautiful instruments .. although, as a guy who spends hours sharpening stuff, I confess to cringing with each attack on the brick!!! I'm very impressed.

BTW, what was the grit of that final sharpening stone .. 'white' could be 2000+ .. i suspect it's 3000# .. did you then use diamond film??

Thanks for this great vid!

M2aestro (author)tkjtkj2015-08-29

Some might be interested to know that for nearly the complete group of elements used in creating the hard steel alloys that diamond film should better be used manually, to keep the temperature and pressures lowest at blade edge and reduce the tendency of the diamond to dissolve into/onto the steel blade surface as carbon at that sharpened edge. I found that Silicon carbide film worked as well, and that when setting the sharpening angle right, the right grit would even sharpen single edge razors to an edge about as sharp as a new edge, even when holding the razor blade manually. I backed the film with a tool room grade granite surface plate, but any really flat surface would have worked as well. I found that, depending on what I wanted to cut, that either a 9 microns (now 9 micrometers is the approved term) or a six microns film worked best. When I used diamond films I found that a film with a proprietary orientation of the diamond particles such that they were edge-bonded to the film in a more open surface cut faster. I needed edges to trim hard and filled epoxies flush to a surface such that they'd not stick up more than about 0.5 micrometers, and better if they were just to the negative side of the surface for what we were making. Sometimes the parts had alumina surfaces and sometimes steel surfaces, but the requirements were about the same for trimming the resins that got above the surfaces. Either way you sharpen, with a draw stroke or in the direction that you'd cut, these films would sharpen a surface much faster than an Arkansas stone or any fixed abrasive stone-like matrix. Incidentally, the draw stroke, by test, produced the weakest edge, but an edge that was easily straightened on a diamond-ground transverse-stabilized Cubic Zirconia block I'd obtained from Nilcra and had ground for my work. The zirconia formulations have a nearly perfect rejection or non-adhesive quality with respect to steels and can be used without oil to clean up a blade edge.

tkjtkj (author)M2aestro2015-09-05

Good, thorough and elegantly-stated reply .. thank you!
I had not known, til now, that diamond can 'melt' into the steel as carbon .. could be +'s and -'s for that !
I'm sure that granite slab (polished, of course) cost a few pennies ... I've had fine luck with 18" x 18" thick plate glass ... it comes already 'polished' and identifiably-so ... clear as a bell .. ;)

Aside: " .. micrometers is now the approved.." Sounds like a bad decision!
So , what's its abbreviation? mm ?? obviously not .. The millimeter people would jump 'n shout ..
"ok , so leave the interpretation to the 'context of the situation' ? Again, quite a sucky methodology ...
Mm for millimeters?? mm for micrometers ?? Again, a solution that adds to the problem ...
MM for 'really fuLL SIZED millimeters ?? It's becoming absurd ..

Why not: ' microns' ?? no confusion!

Who aRe those people who approved this new nomenclature??

M2aestro (author)tkjtkj2015-09-05

Hello to all with respect to "new" nomenclature for metric measurement and comparison terms. You can find all the terms and definitions by searching for SI units or System International units, I suspect, for that is what I used to do for engineering papers. That said, I can suggest different paths to state the value of the term, micron, which is still widely understood, but merely not the internationally approved term. You can use engineering or scientific notation with reference to either the meter (metre in many countries, but meter is understood in papers written here) or to the millimeter, for example. Consequently, the micron unit can be written in engineering units, which are grouped by changes in ten to the third at the exponent, as mm X 10 to negative third power. I'm not writing it that way here, for I find that I don't know the extended keyboard used in Instructables to write symbols, superscripts, and subscripts. Therefore 5 microns would be 5mm X 10 to the minus third exponent. Similarly, a half-micron would be 0.5 X 10 to the minus third exponent. Check equivalencies, if you would desire to express Angstroms now, and change to nm (nanometer) equivalents or to mp (picometer) or one millionth of a mm equivalents. in the day, we said millimicrons. These units were decided some decades ago, and for those of us who have been using them since they were published, they no longer seem new. I find I'm just as comfortable with conversing in new or old units, inch system or SI Metric system, however.

Some of these small units are very useful to folk in everyday work, and are not so exotic. When I left the industry of developing hardware to test memory disks and flying heads, I was hearing from people who did not want spindle axes to deviate radially in their work planes (so this would include the angular component at the work plane normal to the spindle axis) by more than 50nm (nanometers). You may note that I have no space between the number and the units, for that was the SI notation at that time, but that most spell checkers cannot be educated to accept that absence of a space, so we usually find it written as 50 nm. The axial deviation on-axis should have been less than 25nm, and now we hear that the test hardware community wants motions that appear not to repeat ( I have a bit of trouble with their descriptions and test methods on this one. ) at a level greater than 2nm. Small stuff, given a white light wavelength near 0.5 micrometer!

Mak5 (author)tkjtkj2015-08-27

No diamond and I'm not sure on the grit. I'll find out for ya.

TheAZAndyman (author)2015-04-04

It can take a beating alright but how sharp were you able to get it. Could you get it to shave hair? How many pieces of paper can you cut and still have it shave hair? They look great and you sure did put it through a torture test there with the hammer and license plate. What were the cost of the materials? How did you keep the edge even on both sides ^ when you ground it? What did that tip look like before and after poking that plate. That looks like a pretty thick blade how thick is that back? It looked like you glued and put the rivets through do you just cut them off and grind them down till all is smooth? Good job all in all.

Mak5 (author)TheAZAndyman2015-08-27

Watch the entire video, it shows the resharpen and quality test after the torture. :)

About This Instructable



Bio: A maker of things.
More by Mak5:How to sell custom knivesHow to Paint ALL OF Cadillac Ranch!World Map Wall Art
Add instructable to: