Introduction: Make a Steampunk Pen Knife

Picture of Make a Steampunk Pen Knife

Here is how to make a Steampunk pen knife, this isn't a modification on an existing pocket knife, rather these are instructions on how to make one from only basic materials. This knife includes scissors, philips screw driver, imperial ruler, two sizes of flat screwdrivers, bottle opener, old fashion jar opener, can opener, file, wood saw, scribe and knife.

special note I have updated this with an additional step and the main image has been changed slightly, as a result of this some of comments apply to first 8 steps.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

tools list
1 files
2 awl
3 dremmel with cutting disk
4 scissors
5 pliers
6 wire cutters
7 hammer
8 drill bits and milling bits
9 double edge tape
10 Screwdrivers
11 circle guide
12 blow torch
13 hack saw
14 taps, dies
15 hand held drill
16 rasp
17 vice
18 printer
19 basic photo editing soft ware
20 computer (although it's a bit of a given if you're reading this now)

optional tools
1 band saw
2 belt sander
3 drill press

1 steel bar 1/8.............................. $2
2 brass sheet 1/16 .......................$12
3 rosewood 1/4 .............................$5
4 Phillips Screwdrivers...................$2
5 brass rod 1/8 ...............................$4
6 brass tube 3/16 od 9/64 id.......$1.5
7 four small screws..........................$0.5
8 two nuts and two bolts.................$1
9 file....................................................$4

keep in mind that the price of the parts will vary depending on where and how you get the parts the list given is what I had to pay and I had some discounts for example the green steel bar was on the curb destined for the trash, the bolts were part of an useless attachment on my bicycle and the brass was floor scraps from a sheet metal shop, for $12. Even though some of these were free for me I still put what it would cost. To get the parts the best place to get them from is a local metal shops in a phone book ,the rose wood can be found in a music store for a guitar finger board, if you can't find it then go to a hardware store and get a wood such as maple or mahogany, if you cant find a metal shop locally then go to and all the remaining parts can be found at a hardware store.

Step 2: Part Designee

Picture of Part Designee

The hardest part of the progect I found was to design all of the components and to adjust the locking mechanism. this took longer to do, then all the metal fabricating. You could go ahead and design them yourself or take the scanned images of the parts I made. Start by dragging the first three images to a word, photo shop or any basic photo editing software file, then adjust the magnification until the rulers belonging to the software are accurate to a hand held ruler, then adjust the size of the scanned image until the ruler in the image is accurate to a hand held ruler ,then print. the parts are identified with a letter as given in the photo.
pieces A, C, D, H, I, K, L, are 1/16 brass E, F, J, N, O, are 1/8 steel
K, M, are 1/4 rose wood
P is a 3/4x3/16 od x 9/64 id
R in a 1/16 washer you could buy them from a hard were store or make them from brass
piece G, is 3/16 i decided to make piece C thicker then the rest for durability
some of the peaces are repeated K 8x L 5x P 2x Q 3x R 2x S 2x T 2x

Step 3: Preliminary Metal Fabricating

Picture of Preliminary Metal Fabricating

Start by cutting the printed sheet then use double edge tape to attach the paper piece to the pieces of metal then cut them, just be sure to make them a little bigger than the the paper guides so they can be filed. I used a dremmel with a cutting wheel. Once you have finished cutting the pieces use a circle guide to find the center of the holes then drill them to the appropriate sizes. For the wood saw use the dremmell to cut the teeth then file all of the rough edges. some of the pieces are repeated, reefer to the previous page and the numbers.

Step 4: Wood Work

Picture of Wood Work

Start by cutting the wood the same way as the metal by using thF paper guide. Follow this by drilling the holes then use a milling bit to cut square holes in the wood. for the metal nuts make sure that they cant turn., finish this step by using a rasp to round the edges.

Step 5: Final Metal Fabricating

Picture of Final Metal Fabricating

In this step you will perform some small alterations to the pieces, starting with the file you may have noticed that it is made of two pieces. I have done this was because the file was made of tool steel witch has a high carbon content and is heat treated and i was not able to drill it so I made an insert of soft steel attached with a dovetail joint (which is basically what you see in a jig saw puzzle). The insert was bigger then by hammering it resulted in a tight fit. the notch in the file can be made with a dremel. Follow that with making the thumb nail slot this can be made with a cutting disk. The scissors are one of the hardest parts to make start with the drilling a 1/16 hole in the center of both pieces then counter sink the hole with a /8 bit on both sides, then use a 1/16 headed smooth nail cut it to an 1/8 longer then the two pieces of metal then hammer and file it resulting in a smooth rivet, and for the Phillips screwdriver start by cutting a cheap screwdriver with a dremmel then place the cutting wheel in a drill press and use it to cut a notch follow that with drilling two 1/16 holes which should be countersunk with a 1/8 bit . then make a brass insert inside the steel screwdriver then drill two holes in the insert then finish it with two rivets such as the scissors. For the knife and other sharp edges use a file or a belt sander to turn the flat edge to a sharpened edge. Some of the item are complex and can not be cut with the dremmel so they can be cut on the inside with a hacksaw and file. To connect all of the stationary brass pieces it best to use thredded rods along the bottom, to thread the rod use a die and simply screw it on like a nut, and as for the threaded holes, use a tap to thread the three holes often seen in the bottom of the brass peaces. For the ruler engrave the the brass piece with a scribe. Finally next to the scissors two 1/16 washers are required make them by drilling two holes then cut the exterior. Once you have the peaces you could harden the steel by heating them with a propane torch then wen heated place them in an open metal container filled with water to quickly cool the metal, making it harder but beware that this will slightly change the shape and size of the metal so do not directly heat the hinge point or the brass. When you have finished hardening the metal compare it to the paper guide and file them to the right size.
Final be carful wen working with tools and the torch and I will not be held responsible for any injures.

Step 6: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

LAYER 1 start by arranging all of the pieces, then take M and two of the bolts and insert them head side down in the wood and cap it with piece D then use the small countersunk screws to seal the bolts in. the large holes in the side of the wood is for a screw driver to turn the bolts. as seen on image 1-7

LAYER 2 add the two tubes on top of the threaded bolts then instal piece L and peace N then place both of piece R the washers on the opposite side of the the screw driver as seen on images 8-11

LAYER 3 place 3 of piece K and the scissors piece P on opposites sides as seen on image 12-15

LAYER 4 add one peace K and peace I the ruler on opposite sides then cap it with peace C as seen in images 16-20

LAYER 5 add two peaces of peace L then place peace E and peace U on either side as seen in images 21-23

LAYERS 6 and 7 are much the same add four peaces of K to one side and peace B and J as see in image 24-31

LAYER 8 if you using a 3/16 knife peace A then add peace L twice then peace G, if your using a 1/8 blade then remove peace A, ether way place peace F to the opposite side of the knife.

LAYER 9 place peace H on peace O then screw it down after placing the nuts in the square holes, then take the three 3/4 threaded rods and file a slot in the top of the rod so that you can use a flat head screwdriver to turn it, next use an all to line up all the holes then screw down the threaded rods in the holes. finish this by capping it with the peace H and O combination and screwing it in and your done.

Step 7: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

After finishing this project I had done some research and found the closest Swiss army knife to buy is at costing $35 plus S.H allthough the one I made is about $32 it's not exactly cost effective however, it is a great project for the sake of doing a project and buying one doesn't give you a sense of accomplishment or some thing to brag to your friends about.

I hope you enjoyed this instrucaible, if you have any question or comments feel free to leave a message and I will leave a response if I am able, and since you have read this instructable this far I ask that you please leave a rating and good luck with your project.

Step 8: Legal Document and Disclaimer

This project can be dangerous while being built and when completed so be sure to take safety precautions. I will not be held responsible for any negative actions resulting from viewing this. The only image that was used that I did not make myself has the url on the previous page and is again placed here

Step 9: Update, Optional Engraving and Inlay

Picture of Update, Optional Engraving and Inlay

After having read the comments I have noticed that some viewers argue that this does not look Victorian enough to be called steampunk, so in answer to this I have made an update of an optional step of how to engrave metal wire into the wood. To make the inlay start by drawing the design on transparent drafting mylar and tape it down with double edge tape. Then use a hobby knife to cut lines ,then carve a groove with a router bit. The router will leave a rough line so carve it with a chisel. For the brass lines use 1/16 wire, and bend it so that it fits in the grooves then use super glue to adhere the pieces. This will most likely leave a mess of glue, either way use a file to remove the top layer of wood, glue and metal; this cleans the surface as well as making the wire seem wider.


budharpey. (author)2014-11-25

that's a cool project for training metal working skills... maybe i'm gonna try that...

Qwertyfish (author)2014-11-02

Did you heat treat the blade?

sconner1 (author)2011-09-17

Nice inlays, it really pops against the rosewood.
It would be cool to put only period tools in.
Phillips screws although superior weren't invented yet.
A straight shaving razor would be, even if it were difficult to use and maybe even downright dangerous.
I like the idea someone posted about including a clock key.
Steampunk is fiction after all so go ahead and add bluetooth :)

DIY-Guy (author)sconner12014-09-08

Beautiful concept.
I'd add a key to the Nautilus (Captain Nemo's submarine).

3366carlos (author)2014-05-27

outstanding project.

triumphman (author)2012-02-23

Excellent, anything hand made is awesome and stands in the face of mass produced chinese trash! Bully for you! Keep up the good work!

bobthebuilder728 (author)2012-01-05

Thats awesome! I want to attempt to build one of these in the future. How hard was it on a scale of 1-10?

weasel999 (author)2009-08-06

an easier way to get the metal pieces cut is plasmacam

chicken12175 (author)weasel9992011-04-15

but is anyone really gonna pay £5k for one just to do this project?

chicken12175 (author)2011-04-14

what material is B? looks like 1/8 steel but i can tell

Void Schism (author)2011-01-24

Great instructable. I have been thinking of building a knife for a while. It was very useful to see the stages of assembly.

antonia27 (author)2011-01-04

hey I really love the pen knife you made and want to try making it myself, but I have a couple of questions. could you please tell me the measurements of the metal sheets in more accurate terms? (height, width, length and which measurement system you use). also, i'm having a lot of difficulty resizing your template files. is there a way you could e-mail them to me pre-sized? i would be really grateful :-)

LaBeasy (author)2010-11-24

would it be better to just use a sawblade from a multitool or something else with teeth at more regular intervals?

alexander.m (author)LaBeasy2010-11-26

If take a saw out of a existing multitool then you will have compromised the usefulness of the tool. The saw its self didn't take tool long to make and it is surprisingly effective. I know I used an existing file then modified it to fit, but it was a cheap hardware store file, and making a file is vary difficult.

sneaky snake (author)2010-07-27

Very nice.

jhonny (author)2010-07-03

would you ever sell this and if so how much.

Foaly7 (author)2010-04-16

Can you add more blades & tools to this knife at all?

alexander.m (author)Foaly72010-04-23

 I could, but the that means that I would have to make; the new tool, the brass spring and I would need to replace the bolts and the brass tubes. This would be a rather time consuming job and I cant think of any other tools I would need to add. 

How2BRandy (author)2009-07-19

Where is the steampunk? This looks more like a horror prop for a rusty scenario.

a.nony.mouse (author)How2BRandy2009-07-20

the steampunk is in the fact that it's all handcrafted. the true spirit of steampunk lies not in the appearance, but in the hand-made quality that has been lost in the modern world through plastic injection molds and assembly lines. any true steampunk would know this.

smurfsahoy (author)a.nony.mouse2009-07-21

So these handmade guitar picks of Mt. Rushmore are steampunk?

Or a homemade rubber band ball?

It's clearly very wrong to claim that steampunk is only about hand-made quality. There are BOTH handmade things that are decidedly not steampunk, and classic steampunk things that are decidedly not handmade (railroad rails anyone?).

Yes, hand crafting is one efficient way to make something lean more toward steampunk, but without other elements, it will not make the cut. (And I do not see really any of those elements here. Materials would count, but pretty much every pen knife in the world is made of wood and metal...)

Robotrix (author)smurfsahoy2009-07-23

steampunk is modern technology cast in the production techniques of teh victorian era, eg. steam powered tanks or spacecraft or robots. the idea is to combine two very different levels of technology. If i were to judge i would say this is probably more accurately just victorian-looking, since i'm sure they already had the technology for folding knives in the 1800's.

smurfsahoy (author)Robotrix2009-07-23

I disagree with that definition as well, although it seems a bit closer. Modern people who dress in a Victorian fashion are very often referred to as steampunk, for instance, and are accepted as such by most of the major steampunk online communities. But that does not involve combining any two levels of technology. The notion of combining in general does seem central somehow, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe in the case of clothing, it is the mixture of a style/technology of dress, and a modern CONTEXT? Whereas with the pocket knife, the context is less relevant, because folding knives were prevalent both then and now, and as a result, it isn't anything so out of place or much of a change? Also, I would discourage latching onto any one specific defining characteristic in general. Most words and ideas of any kind are actually used in conjunction with more of a "cloud of features." For instance, you might have a list of things, like: -hand crafted -combinations of technologies/styles/eras/etc. -Aesthetics > Practicality -Romanticism -A nostalgic tone (usually when modern and Victorian are combined by steampunks, it seems to be more of an attempt to make the modern better as a result, not vice versa) -(And so on) Then, steampunk is defined merely as "The more of these features you have at the same time and the more strongly each feature is represented, the more strongly steampunk the thing or event or idea probably is."

Robotrix (author)smurfsahoy2009-07-23

well spoken, but giving actual genres vague definitions sort of defeats the purpose of genres. Just as cyberpunk has a defined style and defined literary characteristics, so too should steampunk. If you let the internet decide on what steampunk comprises, then yes, everyone wearing a top hat is steampunk. I think a narrower definition with actual content is more useful for describing both the aesthetic and the sort of objects that are built and considered steampunk. If you look at the steampunk keyboard on this site by Jake Von Slatt, for instance, you can see modern technology cast in past technology. The whole idea of steampunk is to have a modern society with modern problems and steam-based industrial revolution level technology. That contrast is what gives the genre its interest. Anything lacking one of those two is either just modern or just neo-victorian.

Nitidus (author)Robotrix2010-04-19

 Yes, folding knives were very much apart of the 1800's. (there's one that dates to the Roman Empire) The Multi-tool... not so common at that time?  I agree that this project is less "punk" than "steam". 

smurfsahoy (author)Robotrix2009-07-28

Why shouldn't the internet have a say in defining steampunk? A guy in a top hat is a pretty weak showing by pretty much any standard, but I think it's quite legitimate to say that full victorian dress in downtown manhattan is fairly steampunk, just by sheer volume of consensus on the internet. Especially since it's a largely internet movement.

Also, I challenge your notion that just because something isn't a crisply defined category, it must therefore be a useless category, or that we must be missing something. I don't happen to believe that ANY naturally evolving category in language is a crisply defined category... And I don't think there's anything wrong with that or suspicious about it.

Even stuff that you think is super well defined, like the category "chair" is almost always very fuzzy. "Has legs?" well no, not beanbag chairs. "You can sit in it?" Well no, not a dollhouse chair. "One could theoretically sit in it if they were the right scale?" Well no, not this chair And then what about benches or stools? They have legs, and you can sit in them. In fact, if you made it the right shape, I'd say you could probably make a piece of furniture that would only seat one person that people would call a "bench," just from the carpentry style. What about a picture of a chair (a la Magritte's "this is not a pipe.")? A chair that doesn't exist, but which you are designing in your head? A metaphorical chair (e.g., Jesus sits on the right hand of God)? What if I sit against a wall with my knees at 90 degrees and claim I'm on a chair, does that count as an imaginary/air chair? What makes it a chair (it doesn't even have material substance...)? What about this chair?

If we are that far off of having a definition of common household nouns, then I think it's a pretty silly and uphill battle to try and pin down a definitive description of steampunk. It should be good enough to list things that characterize it.

existence of the tech in the 1800s means its not steampunk? that's a rather blatant oversimplification. Tech for folders? yes, as far back as the mid-1700s-albeit somewhat rare). That fact does not, however, negate the "steampunk- ness" of the item; I'm sure that they had steam technology during the 1800s. Does that mean, then, that a modern-day reproduction of a steam engine cannot be steampunk?.

H3xx (author)smurfsahoy2009-10-13

What if he made a notch in the side and put some gears from an old watch in it?

a.nony.mouse (author)H3xx2009-10-14

no, gears are far too cliche when it comes to steampunk. once upon atime it was nice, but the way they are now being overused (mostly bythose new to the culture), in most cases by being glued onto everypossible surface, the use of gears in steampunk artwork and items hasbecome quite tasteless with a few, albeit rare, exceptions.

whiteoakart (author)a.nony.mouse2009-07-23

I have to agree with smurfsahoy. SteamPunk is a specific kind of craftwork. It is a style. Otherwise, it would simply be called "hand-crafted." A Native American flint arrowhead is handmade, but it is certainly not steampunk. I like this Instructable a lot. But I don't see anything remotely Victorian-looking about it. My grandfather had a pocket knife that looked a lot like this, but it was made in the 1930s.

Foaly7 (author)How2BRandy2009-09-21

It may not be strictly dictionary-definition steampunk, but it is closer than anything I could come up with.

Atlas22 (author)Foaly72009-11-23

Why is it called a Steam "punk" anyways? Firts time i herd of this i thought it was some sort of rocker

Foaly7 (author)Atlas222009-11-23

Well, my best guess is to make it sound less nerdy. "Victorian- Era/ Current Technology Fusion" doesn't sound so appealing.

vinylcreations (author)Foaly72009-11-23

its called steampunk because it is a mix of steam powered era style and futuristic style. sort of as if the future happened in the past (if that makes any sense). and its punk because its a bit of that style thrown in. so really you can call anything that looks futuristic and also belongs in the steam powered era steampunk. and throwing in some brass wouldn't hurt

jhonny (author)2010-02-26

that is very cool

Aaronius (author)2009-10-14

Wow! Fantastic Job! I might try it and add a magnifing lens and aclock-winding key!

Wareagle (author)2009-07-23

oh my god! i had no idea that someone could do this. this is amazing work! you should start selling them and having people order them custom very cool.

alexander.m (author)Wareagle2009-07-23

Would you want to buy one?

Kaiven (author)alexander.m2009-10-10

Highest I would pay is $50. This is just SO awesome! And I never knew you could inlay metal wire in wood!

alexander.m (author)Kaiven2009-10-11

Well I am sorry but I would not sell this for any less then $500 CAD because it is vary  labor intensive, and takes about 40 hours to make. With that in mind I am not working for $ 0.45 CAD an hour. The reason why factory made pocketknives are cheap is because they have expensive specialty tools such as a die cutter and are made in countries where people will work for $0.45 an hour.  

Kaiven (author)alexander.m2009-10-12

Wooow! I had no idea how much time went into this! Great job man!

Foaly7 (author)alexander.m2009-09-21


cursed_kross (author)alexander.m2009-08-01

I'd buy one too (_)

poparoo4 (author)alexander.m2009-07-26

I would = D

Wareagle (author)alexander.m2009-07-24

holy crap yes

I would buy one!

Foaly7 (author)Wareagle2009-09-21

Are you sure you don't just want to be lazy and buy one instead of build one? Or have you already built one? That is the question here isn't it?

ALCHEMYSTEAMPUNK (author)2009-09-06

For those of you who are inerested in "steampunk", I have a line of Steampunk accessories for sale.--even have rosenthals'transfer for info. ANDI think this guys knife is Rockin Awesome !!

79spitfire (author)2009-08-29

This is simply awesome! I think it looks steampunk! Great job and thank you! You should have won, but then again you don't need a Leatherman now!

smashbob (author)2009-08-27

great i'ble. cool idea.

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