Introduction: Make a Custom Knife Handle

Pier 9 Starter Project

Make your own Knife handle

As some of you have seen, shop staff here at Pier 9's Workshop have dived deep into the exciting art of making Knives, particularly beautiful Knife handles. We have made Kitchen Blades, Hunting Knives, Fishing Knives, Retractable blades and rumor has it a mystical samurai dagger is in the works. Please remember it is important to follow all Shop rules and to treat shop staff in a respectful way.

This Instructable will detail all the steps you need to follow to make your very own custom knife.

Classes Required:

Basic WoodShop.
Basic Metal Shop (For metal Pins)
Paint Booth for Epoxy.

Machines used:

Wood shop Sanders, Wood Band Saw, Metal Band Saw, Metal Sanders, Scribe, Files, Drill Press, Clamps.

Necessary Materials

Knife Blade
Scales (Material for handle; wood, plastic, stabalized corn cob, mammoth tusk, stone ect.)
Epoxy
Masking Tape
Sand Paper (200-600)


Optional Materials

Pins (Mosaic, Solid, or Rivits)
Color spacers (Small spacers that add a line of color between your wood and metal Knife handle.)

Good websites to purchase materials:

Coming Soon.

Ordering:

Make sure to get the correct size pin for the Knife blade you chose.


Step 1: Preparing Materials and Cutting Handle Material to Size.

Step 1: Preparing Materials 

Once you have received your materials lay them out on a clean surface. Unsheathe your blade and cover the sharp section of the blade in Masking tape. This will protect you from cutting yourself and protect the blade from getting scratched. 

Prepare your Handle Scales and cut them down to a square with .5-1 inch of extra material around the blade handle. Using a Pencil trace the edge of the blade handle onto your Handle Scales.

Step 1.5: Cutting Handle Material to size

Next, use the Vertical Band saw to cut out the shape of your handle. Make sure to leave an eight of an inch of extra room so you don't cut away too much material. That will be done on the sanders. 

Step 2: Drilling Pin Holes

Step 2: Drilling Pin Holes

Knife handles come with predrilled holes. These represent where you can insert your pins and the size of pin you can use. Hopefully you ordered the correct size pin. If not you could drill larger holes using the Metal Drill Press.

Tape your two scales together and then tape tape your blade handle ontop. Mark the spots on the scales where the pins will go. You should drill the two scales together, so that you know the pin holes will line up. If you don't do this step correctly, you will have a challenge assembling your knife.

Next choose the drill bit just slightly larger than your sellected pin. 1/8 inch pin (.125) would use a slightly larger drill bit (.128-.132). Clamp down your Scale and drill a straight vertical pin hole. Drill hole nearest the blade first, drill hole at opposite end, and then drill center hole last. Now repeat with your second scale.

If your Knife came with Rivets instead of pins you must countersink your hole to the desired Depth. You can use a caliper to determine the size of the rivet head, which represents the size of the countersink hole you must drill.

Before you move onto Epoxying your blade together. Shape and sand the section of the scale that will touch the sharp edge of the blade. Once Epoxied, this section is difficult to work on the sanders without damaging the sharp edge of the blade. Also, remember to line up the two scales symmetrically if you want the front of your Handle to match on each side.

If you are adding a color spacer to the blade you must drill the holes in this piece as well. You can tape the spacer to your scale wood and Drill them together on the drill press. 

Step 3: Cutting Your Pins to Size.

Step 3: Cutting your Pins to size.

Put your handle together and let the end of the pin stick out of the handle an 1/8th. Mark 1/8th on the long side and cut out the desired number of pins on the Metal Band Saw to the right length. It is better to cut your pins longer than closer. It can be a bummer to realize you cut your fancy mosaic pin too short. 

Step 4: Epoxy the Blade Handle Together.

Step 4: Epoxy the Blade Handle Together. 

Next, in the paint booth, bring two clamps and set a fresh piece of paper down on the table. Lay you parts out and make sure your Pins go into the holes you drilled. Practice putting your Knife together, you will only have a short period of time to assemble and clamp your Knife together once epoxied. 

Next, prepare your epoxy and using a brush apply a light and constant coat of Epoxy over the first Scale handle. Attach that to the metal blade handle. Then push the pins through the drilled holes to bring the wood and metal into place. Finally Epoxy the other half of the handle scale and connect it, over the extruding pins to the other side of the metal handle. 

Once all the layers have been epoxied take two clamps and clamp the knife handle together. Check the time and let sit for at least 5 minutes. If there epoxy has squeezed out onto the front metal of the knife you can remove it  now before it dries. 

After the epoxy has cured you can remove it from the clamps and move onto sanding the blade into shape.

Step 5: Sanding Your Blade Handle Into Shape.

Step 5: Sanding your blade handle into shape.

Now you are ready to create the shape of your knife handle. Plan out the flow of how you want your knife to be shaped. Do you want it to be a wide Knife handle or a thin knife handle. Will it have sharp edges or no edges at all. You can plan this out before hand or just begin sanding and decide as you go.

I used the sanders in our Pier 9 woodshop. A belt sander, circle sander and our spindle sander was very useful. 

I started on the outside edges and sanded the wood down until it was flush with the knife metal. You can then form the rest of the handle by rotating the knife handle over the circle sander. You will need to sand down the metal pins that are sticking out to make sure they are not sticking out of your handle.

Once you are happy with the shape you can finish up with some other wood working tools and move onto polishing your handle.

Step 6: Polishing

Step 6: Polishing

You can now polish your handles using your the wood polish of your choice. I used 400 and then 600 grit sandpaper to wet sand the blade to a smooth surface. Depending on how smooth a finish you want you can go above 600 grit. 

Apply a your wood polish across the wood and then sand down. Repeat and let sit overnight with a coat of polish on it. Continue until you are happy with your knife. 


Step 7: Finishing

After your handle is dry from the wood polish, you can add any other finishes you like and remove the tape surrounding the sharp end of your knife blade. You have now finished your Knife blade handle, congratulations!

Next up text all of your friends to come over for a dinner party so you can show off your beautiful custom knife!

Hope this helped!

-Gabe Patin

Comments

author
rundlewoodworks made it!(author)2017-01-21

Thanks for the walk through! I have instructions and a video on how to make knife scales on my site: www.exoticknifescales.com, please check it out! I also sell exotic knife scales with species that include zebra wood, leopard, padauk and more!

author
YouNeverKnowItUntil made it!(author)2016-04-11

Where do I buy a basic metal shop?

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2016-11-09

Those are the classes someone would need to take at our workshop to complete this project.

author
YouNeverKnowItUntil made it!(author)2016-12-12

i got one at my school nvm

author
SirCooksalot made it!(author)2016-12-07

So I'm making a similar kitchen knife, and plan to use basically this method... But what about the pins? Do I epoxy the pins in? Or do I peen the ends lightly? (I'm using 5/32" brass tube for pins, the tube pins look sweet) Thanks for the cool Ible!

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2016-11-09

Those are beautiful!

author
sxcgreekboi_24 made it!(author)2015-02-20

Do you get your supplies of jantz?

author
dirkmartin made it!(author)2016-07-14

For the wood scales, for the handles, check out this link. Look close in the listing for a drop down arrow....they've got all kinds of species of wood. Great stuff.

https://www.amazon.com/Aromatic-Scales-Grips-called-Eastern/dp/B01F1LHDVQ?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

author
AlentoS made it!(author)2016-01-19

I am sure you can still buy handbook with all info you need on woodprix. Just google it.

author
gavinh6 made it!(author)2015-07-02

Awsome handles I am thinking of doing this to a few cheap knives with good blades that have plastic handles

author
PowellMade made it!(author)2015-01-20

Great job love it!!!

author
graydog111 made it!(author)2014-12-02

Great instructable and beautiful handles.

author
myrrhmaid made it!(author)2014-10-24

I LOVE the corn cob handle! That is so fantastic!

author
tsturtevant made it!(author)2014-01-18

5 minute epoxy is not resistant to water. A two part with a 24 he cure is better and will always remain waterproof.

author
egdette made it!(author)2013-12-30

I made one just now its really cool man

author
finn02 made it!(author)2013-12-22

Great job. I'd like to add some information if I may.

First, some sources for knife blades include Woodcraft (from whom I believe you bought the Damascus) and Jantz. I particularly like the Green River Paring knives from Russell. They are a great value though some don't like the way high carbon steel stains.

Second, a simple brass rod makes a great pin for a knife handle and it should be piened. However, limit the amount of mushrooming as this can easily split your handle scales.

Finally, a great finish for a natural knife handle is super glue. Wear gloves and don't breathe the fumes. Drip the glue onto the handle and rub it in with a paper towel. Keep the pad of paper towel moving or it will become part of the finish. Most of the glue is absorbed instantly into wood (and I would guess corn as well) so you are mostly spreading it around. You can start the final smoothing almost immediately. I like a bit of wax on the handle after finish, but that is merely my preference.

Thanks!

author
spark+master made it!(author)2013-12-15

need to show setting rivets and pins. Possible iit was there and I just missed it?

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-15

I had a small section on drilling holes for the pins. The pins are really easy and just push in the holes with epoxy and then sand down. The rivets are more challenging. I'll try and add a more detailed section later.

author
spark+master made it!(author)2013-12-16

Ok, I must ask though. when pocket knives are made they do not glue anything, so why use the epoxy. Are they smacking the pin at both ends to slightly mushroom it? ( essentially a a rivet )

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-17

These pins don't mushroom from the process so the standard knives need the epoxy to hold the handle scales in. If you are making a knife with Rivets or in the case of poket knives, screws you probably don't need epoxy.

author
spark+master made it!(author)2013-12-17

I did not realize pocket knives used screws. I thought they pressure fit pins so tight they were almost like rivets. Then the process of grinding flattened them , just enough!

thanks

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-18

Never made a Pocket Knife... Didn't know they were pressure fit. I have a couple of flip blades that use screws to attach them.

Thank you!

author
rnshaw made it!(author)2013-12-13

Awesome damascus steel blade, worthy of a custom handle. Well done.

author
stephenfitton made it!(author)2013-12-17

Damascus Steel blade, look alike, The blade looks as either layered or folded steel then acid etched to draw back to grain. Original Damascus steel centered along a mould to which different sized metal bearing were put in ,in sequence,as each layer melted it blended into the next giving both vertical and horizontal layering.This gave the blade both strength and lightness . To add to the effect when used poison was put onto the blade ,to render even a small cut as fatal

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-17

Kinda bummed, but thanks for the info really interesting.

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-14

So true and thank you, I love Damascus steel!

author
Basement_Craftsman made it!(author)2013-12-16

Pins provide more support for the scales on the knife. They are not required as a result of the strength of today's glues and epoxies, but essentially look better, and do provide some benefit. This is my understanding. BC

author
bstarling made it!(author)2013-12-16

Thank for the neat project and quick reply on the corn cob scales.

Bill

author
Ninzerbean made it!(author)2013-12-15

So the pins or rivets are for decoration only? The epoxy is what is holding the handles (why call them "scales") together? Why bother with them then? If they are there on all handles they must be important, maybe you could show how you used them.

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-15

Nice video Find! And your right the pins (especially mosaic, look really good) are pretty much just for looks. The rivets actually do hold it together but the epoxy is doing the real work. I'll try and add a more detailed section on the pins, as they are a great addition to a blade handle and drilling the right sized hole can be challenging.

author
Ninzerbean made it!(author)2013-12-15

I did some research and found a great video that explains all the pinning stuff here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79HzrIEknzAI

author
clazman made it!(author)2013-12-15

epoxy doesn't "dry" it "cures"

Other than that nice tutorial.

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-15

Thanks, that makes a lot more sense, fixing it now :)

author
Chikpeas+Brother made it!(author)2013-12-13

Nice job! I love the corn handle. :)

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-14

Thanks you, It makes me happy :)

author
bstarling made it!(author)2013-12-15

Please tell us how you made the corn handle blank. It is real or faux? If real is it resin bonded?

Bill

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-15

It's called stabilized corn cob. It is made from a real corn cob but I bought a scale that had already been stabilized. It was a really cool material and comes in different colors so maybe I will try making my own sometime and writing an instructable. I think it was bonded with a super glue material.

author
veeguy made it!(author)2013-12-15

Great project! I have a question, what type of handle material is shown? It looks sort of like corn cob but appears to be a flat scale type of material. I really like the look of it and would like to use it on a knife I'm making.

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-15

It actually is corn on the cob and is called stabilized corn cob. I believe they take dried corn, cut off a slice of it and stabilize it with a super glue material. You can make it yourself or purchase it in different corn colors. Just search Stabilized corn cob to find it.

author
tutdude98 made it!(author)2013-12-14

how long is your handle? i made one for my survival knife and its about 8 cm long its perfect for me ( i have small hand :D) but other people are saying that it's too small to fit comfortably in hand

author
gabrieltaft made it!(author)2013-12-14

My corn handle is 10 cm long from the front on the bolster, to the back and fits my hand perfectly. Handles can't be the wrong size since everyone has different proportions. Surivial kits are meant to be small and light, I wouldn't want a samurai sword in mine... I'm sure your knife is the perfect knife for you! :)

About This Instructable

268,021views

537favorites

License:

More by gabrieltaft:Pier 9 Guide: Next Engine 3D ScannerPier 9 Guide: Cleaning the Epilog LensDanish Sphere Pancakes : Aebleskiver
Add instructable to: