Introduction: BlockLam Knife

About: Spent most of my life faffing about with various projects, I would classify myself as a Tinkerer. I can very often be seen disassembling something to make it better!!

I love a bit of wood. There's something pleasing and warm to it.

I am, however, no master craftsman and having tried sculpting (read mascerating!) wood in the past to make a knife handle, I thought there must be an easier way!

Whilst perusing a well known auction site, I came across a listing that included loads of marquetry off cuts.

The idea hit me like the 14:25 from Kings Cross!

Why not make a laminated knife handle?

So, I did the wood purchase, bought a knife blank (in my case a tang blank) and set to!

This is similar to the wood pack I bought. I include it to give you an idea of what you're looking for and cost.

Step 1: Provisions and Preparation

Some basic tools and supplies will be required to complete this Instructable, these are as follows;

  • Cardboard - to make a template
  • Scissors - to cut the template and the intial wood laminates
  • Plastic loyalty card - to spread the glue
  • Glue - I used Gorilla Glue, it's waterproof and works well
  • More Glue - 2 part epoxy to fit the blade
  • Basic Hand Tools - Files, sand paper, etc. A rotary multi-tool would be handy.
  • Film Wrap - for use when gluing up
  • Clamp of some form - a vice is better
  • Oil to finish the knife - it will need treating to prevent damage when you're done

It is pretty obvious that you are going to be working with sharp objects and chemicals - glues. Take sensible precautions, wear protection when working with anything that might harm including gloves, eye protection and dust protection, whilst working on this. In fact, there's probably an Instructable covering safety ;-)

Step 2: Preparing the Blanks

The concept is simple. We're going to be cutting up a load of sheets of wood, around 0.5mm in thickness and gluing them together to create 3 blocks of laminated wood.

We're then going to do a bit of trimming and sticking those 3 blocks together to create our knife handle "blank". A blank is a piece of wood that is ready for shaping to fit your own needs.

The first thing you need to do is cut out a shape on a piece of cardboard for a handle you like, you can see mine on the left of the first photo. To get this shape, I went around my kitchen knives and tried each one out, found one that was comfortable in my hand and used that for the initial shape. Lay the handle on the cardboard and trace around it. Cut it out. It doesn't need to be exact, the final fit to your hand will be done when you get to later stages and you're sanding / filing your handle to fit you perfectly.

Cutting Up

The first step is to trace out the pattern on to the sheets of wood. Using a pair of scissors, cut out your blanks, they don't have to be perfect, we'll be shaping it all up later.

Laying Out

Stack all the same pieces together. This should give you some piles of wood that you can use to start laying out your laminations.

I decided to go for a light - dark - light theme, so each lamination contrasted next the one next to it. Play around, go for something you fancy, light to dark across the whole handle, the choice is yours. You could even use dyed wood to create a rainbow pattern!

Prepping the Blocks

I had one odd lamination and used this one as my centre sheet, then adding equal shots either side of that, add layers until the thickness of this pile is the same as the width of the knife blank tang. This will be the middle of the block lamination sandwich.

Step 3: Centre Section

I will apologise now as I didn't take any photo's of the gluing up procedure. I had gloves on and obviously didn't want to cover my camera with gorilla glue.

The process, though, is as follows.

  1. Lay a sheet of film wrap (cling film - the stuff you wrap food up in the kitchen) on your work surface.
  2. Using a spreader (here's the shop loyalty card in play!), smear a thin film of glue on your first piece.
  3. Lay your next piece of wood on top of it.
  4. Repeat glue spreading and wood laying until you have a stack of wood sheets glued together.
  5. Wrap the whole lot in film wrap (cling film)
  6. CLAMP - I used a vice and clamped down hard, using some off cuts of wood to spread the load.
  7. Leave to dry - overnight is perfect.

What you will be left with is a solid piece of laminated wood.

Trace around the tang and cut this section out. Once it's all glued together, this pocket is where the blade will be held inside the handle.

Step 4: Scaley

From here on in, it's pretty straight forward.

The two remaining piles of your wood will form the two scale pieces for your knife. If you chose to use a knife blank that doesn't need a centre section, you could start here, I may cover this in a future Instructable.

Glue up the laminates in exactly the same way as before, sheet of wood - smear of glue - sheet of wood. You need to end up with the two sides mirroring your two piles of wood, but glued together.

I would advise doing one at a time. It got all a bit frantic when I was doing both together!

The pictures (again, glue covered hands!) show the three pieces ready for epoxy.

Step 5: Putting It Together

You will notice that I have already started to shape the front part of the knife handle. I did this so that there would be no work required later that might damage the finish of the blade.

Clamp the 3 blocks together using tape so that you have access to the front part of the handle and shape to your desired shape. If you want to use a bolster (brass, aluminium, etc) then you would just need to cut the mating part of the handle to the right shape for your bolster.

If you have the opportunity to put in a locating pin, this is the time to do it. My blade came with a hole precut, but you could equally drill a locating hole in your tang (check out the comments below for the what's and whyfores for different metal compositions - I'm not a master knife maker hence why I bought a premade blade :D ). What this loacting pin will do is provide a solid locking element in your tang to prevent the blade coming out of the handle, it's a belt and braces (suspenders) approach.

I used an old machine screw with the head cut off for this. It was a perfect fit for the hole in the tang.

Drilling two shallow locating holes in the two scales makes for a good anchor.

At this point we're switching from Gorilla Glue to two part epoxy. There's a simple reason for this, gorrilla glue has a tendancy to foam in spaces. Foam is flexible, not the most desireable trait to hold a sharp knife blade in place. Two part epoxy sets rock hard and is workable like thermoplastic to produce a good finish.

Mix up the epoxy, making sure the visible part of the blade is protected, and smear a thin layer on one cheek of the handle. Fill the hole for the tang rod completely.

Place the blade and centre section on. Fill the gaps with epoxy and smear all over the facing pice of wood.

Smear a thin layer on the remaining cheek, making sure to fill the tang rod hole.

Clamp the pieces together, making sure that the laminated blocks line up. Leave to set.

Step 6: Finishing Off

Once set, you should have the rudimentary knife with handle secured in place.

From here on in, it's a case of shaping, filing and sanding until you are happy with the feel of the handle.

Rough file to get the overall shape, it should be fairly easy, unlike with a solid piece of wood, the density of this is much lighter and easier to work.

Once you have the overall shape of the handle to fit your hand, smooth out the filing marks with sandpaper, starting at a rough grit and working your way up sequentially. I finished on 3000 grit.

One consideration that should be remembered, the final function of your knife and your own hand protection, shape your knife to give you grip to prevent your hand slipping onto the blade (thank you to another Instructables member for raising this in the comments)

Once you're happy, apply a couple of coats of your preferred finish. I dipped the wood in danish oil for 20 minutes, removed then hung to dry. Twice.

Perform another sanding to smooth down any raised grain, you shouldn't have much. Then apply another 4 coats as per your chosen coating instructions.

Happy new knife, now you just need to do a search for an Instructable to make a leather knife sheath :-D

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