Introduction: Carving a Giant Utility Knife (entirely Out of Wood)

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

Inspired by the giant utility knife blade created by Jimmy Diresta, and the Stanley knife that it was modeled after, I created this giant knife perfectly to scale and entirely out of wood because stupid challenges are often the most rewarding. Put that on a t-shirt, or don't (probably don't). As soon as I saw Jimmy create the blade I knew this had to happen, I was able to get one from him and then decided to set the totally unnecessary requirement that it be made entirely out of wood because (everyone say it with me now) "I hate myself", good work everyone... The body is made from maple butcher block. The internal mechanism is made from 1/4" plywood, a piece of white oak for the spring because of it's flexibility, and it's handle is a piece cut from padauk. Lastly, the screw is turned on a lathe from a piece of chechen. For slower consumption, but all of the details, read below, and for faster consumption, but much more shenanigans, check out the build video linked above. Either way, enjoy, you're a great person and I believe in you.

Step 1: Materials & Tools


> Maple countertop scrap

> Padauk scrap for handle

> Chechen scrap for screw

> Giant utility knife blade

> Double sided tape

> Carbon paper

> Wood glue

> Tung oil finish

Power Carving Tools

> Arbortech Turbo Plane

> Arbortech Mini Grinder

> Arbortech Turbo Shaft

> Arbortech Contour Sander

Other Tools

> ISOtunes bluetooth hearing protection

> Stanley utility knife

> Bandsaw

> Disk sander

> Angle grinder

> Drill press

> Random orbital sander

> Palm router

> Chisels

> Screw clamps

> Router table

> Wood lathe

> Turning tools

> Tap & die set

> Step bit

> Giant screwdriver

Step 2: Preparing the Template and the Blanks

This all started with the giant blade from Jimmy Diresta. I wanted to scale the body of the standard knife up to fit the blade so I did this by taking a photo of both next to a ruler to allow me to pull dimensions off of the photo. I did the same with the top and bottom of the knife and then pulled them into my computer to scale them to the write size and then print them out at full scale.

The template is printed out on 2 separate sheets of paper, since it's so large, and taped together where they meet up. I found a couple of pieces of maple butcher block that were perfect for the task! Each half of the knife was a bit under 1.5" thick, which is exactly what these pieces were, so I trace out the outer profile on one of the pieces of wood.

My bandsaw is used to cut out this profile and then I use the first cut out as a pattern to trace and cut the 2nd half of the knife. I leave just a hair of space beyond the line so sand each of the halves down flush in the next step.

Step 3: Attaching the Halves Together and Rough Sizing

I actually decided to hold the 2 halves together with some double sided tape during the whole shaping process of the outside of the knife. It's nice that I have a perfect sharp knife to cut the tape with...

With the pieces stuck firmly together, I can now treat them as one big piece of wood instead. I flush up the perimeter using the disk sander and then trace the profile on the top of the knife using my template just like I did for the sides.

Step 4: Power Carving the Curves

Now starts the fun that I've been waiting for... making a mess. I pull out my angle grinder with my Arbortech Turbo Plane attachment and go to town shaping the piece. The shape is defined in one direction so all I need to do for now is shape it in the opposite direction (as is you're looking from the top or bottom). This is done by just carving up to the lines that I just traced on it.

With that shape defined, I can use the template again, this time giving me all the details to carve out. I use the template along with carbon paper to transfer the pattern.

Now I can start carving those sexy, sexy curves. Actually, I drilled out the hole first, and then moved on to those sexy, sexy curves. I use the Turbo Plane again, using the lines from the ridges on the face of the knife and the line between the 2 halves as reference points when rounding the edges over.

Next, I transition from the Turbo Plane to the sander. The Turbo Plane leaves behind a slight texture, so a little bit of sanding is needed with the random orbital sander to bring the surface down totally smooth. This is just a rough sanding since a finish sanding will be done just prior to applying finish.

Step 5: Carving Out the Details

There are a couple of pockets on either side of the knife. On one side that is where the "Stanley" branding and model number are stamped, and on the other side they are there but just for symmetry I guess, since there is no text on the opposite side. Anyway... I use a palm router with a 1/4" end mill bit to cut out these pockets by hand. The edges of them are fine tuned with a chisel to bring it perfectly up to the lines.

Now I want to soften the edges of these newly created pockets, so I sand them down. It's important to sand vigorously for best results...

Step 6: Adding the Texture to the Outside

Now for all of the ridges that add texture and grip to the side of the knife. To achieve this same look, I cut a bunch of strips of the same maple material and then cut them to length with my utility knife, appropriately enough.

I have all of these pieces marked out already on the body of the knife, so I apply a dab of wood glue at each location and hold each of the pieces in place for a few seconds until they're held on there. The pieces are small enough, so the capillary action of the glue is all you really need to hold them in place. I install them in location, rub them around slightly to spread out the glue, and then let them be while it dries.

On the back end of the knife, the longer strips don't lay flat on the surface since the surface is slightly convex. To fix this, I put some wood glue inside the open space and then clamp them down tight with the surface. These are also set to dry and then unclamped.

Step 7: Cutting the Handle Slot and Starting Internals

I touch the surface with the orbital sander again just to bring all of the ridges down even with one another and also make them slightly convex to match the surface of the knife. Now it's time to split open this beast and work on the internals! I use a putty knife to separate the halves where I tapped them together earlier.

The point where the knife transitions from the outside to the inside is where the knob that protrudes/retracts the knife is located. I create this profile with a 1/4" end mill bit in the router table and run it along the top of the knife where this slot is located. I make the first cut where the outside surface is and then a deeper cut where the knob actually passes through the knife.

Taking a break on the body for a second, the sliding mechanism is next. For this, I use a small piece of 1/4" plywood and glue on some strips of maple to hold the blade in place. I also cut a small notch on the top and insert a small sliver of maple that will be what registers in the notch on the knife blade and holds it from sliding out.

Step 8: Cutting Out the Internal Cavity

Now that I have the mechanism figured out, I use that dimension to draw a line parallel with the profile that I cut earlier on the top of the knife. The front extent is made so that the knife will slide out the exact scaled amount as the regular knife and the same thing when the blade slides back into the body of the knife. I also make sure that it won't interfere with the screw location later.

Now I set the palm router for the depth of the plywood on the sliding mechanism and half the thickness of the blade on the knife. With this set, it will allow for the knife to extend out the front centered on the body of the knife. I use a 1/4" end mill again to carve this out and fine tune the cut with a chisel to bring it up perfect with the line. This needs to be a perfect cut so there is no slop in the blade, steady hands Jackman, don't mess up!

The other half of the knife is then cut half the thickness of the blade and this clears the cavity out perfectly to allow for the blade to pass through.

Step 9: Refining the Sliding Mechanism

Then there is just one more slot to cut, between where the knife mechanism sits and the knob pokes through, to connect the 2 of them. This slot is also cut on the router table just like the previous ones, except this one is a plunge cut on one end since it is deeper than the previous cuts. This is done to allow for the sliding mechanism's handle to lock into place. There are also 4 notches cut just above this slot where the handle will register to hold the blade in place, just like the real thing.

You can see here the last part of the sliding mechanism which is a "T" shape that is glued to the top of the 1/4" plywood plate. The top of the "T" will be what holds the blade in place at each of the 4 registration points so I glue this to the top of the mechanism too. I also add a little sliver of maple wood on top of this to keep the mechanism sliding straight.

To finish up the sliding mechanism, I just need to add the handle to it. I cut this out of a piece of padauk on the bandsaw. I ended up having to space it out with a couple of pieces of maple to make it tall enough, but you can't see those in the finished piece. To get it in the right place, I installed the handle onto the mechanism while it was in place inside of the knife and then after the glue set a little bit, I pulled it out and clamped it in place until it dried.

I found it quite comical to see the parts to this knife come together, Jackman sized vs Stanley sized.

Step 10: Trying to Make the Wooden Screw

Screw it, we're moving onto the next piece now, the screw. This proved to be quite the challenge, which I'll explain why later. I expected it to be difficult to make a perfectly functioning screw out of wood, but not this difficult. I start by rounding over a piece of padauk on the lathe to match the handle. I use some digital calipers to scale the screw up and mark the dimensions out on the piece.

Then I round over the head of the screw and turn down the profile to the correct scaled diameter. I then part the piece off the lathe after a little sanding and proceed to use a tap and die set to add threads to the screw, or try to at least.

Sitting here on my table is almost a days worth of work and about a dozen attempts at making a wood screw. I decided that padauk was not dense enough to hold the threads after I tried cutting threads into a few of them. I tried mahogany because I had some material of the correct size but that definitely didn't work, so I moved onto chechen which is a super dense hardwood that ended up holding the threads perfectly. I ended up blowing the head of the screw off by being too aggressive but ended up getting a perfect one after all these attempts. Not bad for a millennial, right?

Step 11: Making the Actual Screw

I smartened up and actually turned the screw the opposite way around when I turned the chechen. This allowed for me to cut the threads directly on the lathe by holding the die in place and using the motor of the lathe to turn it slowly and cut the threads. I can then cut the head of the screw which luckily doesn't need sanding because the wood is so dense.

A parting tool is used to remove it from the lathe at the top of the head of the screw. Then to cut the slots in the top of the screw, I decided to do this by hand using the Arbortech Mini Grinder. I lock the head of the lathe in place and use my tool rest to carefully run the tool along the surface and then spin the screw 90 degrees and cut the slot again just in the center. This is very similar to how you would see a machinist make a screw, just not free handed.

Step 12: Taping the Hole and Installing the Screw

With that successful attempt at a screw, the diameter of it is set, so I can now drill out the hole in the center of the body of the knife. The first hole is slightly larger than the diameter of the screw to allow it to slip through freely, and then the other half of the knife gets a hole a bit smaller to perfectly fit the thread tap.

I start the tap off with my handheld drill and then once it's aligned, I can give it more torque and finesse by finishing up the hole by hand.

Then for the first half of the knife, it needs a countersunk hole for the head of the screw to sit in. To achieve this, I used a step bit, usually used on metal, to cut out the hole perfectly to the size of the head of the screw.

I can then fasten the 2 halves of the knife together, except this time using the screw! And for my giant screwdriver I just use a flat bar prybar for now, maybe the giant screw driver will have to be a future project.

Step 13: Adding Front Notches

The last real shaping on the outside is the set of clips on the front of the knife that align the nose of the knife body in place and lock it together. I establish these lines again based on the model and cut out the material by first cutting the lines with a pull saw and then removing the material with a chisel. There will be new material added in it's place, but instead it will be attached to the other half of the knife this time.

I cut some pieces of maple to fit these new holes, except with about a 1/8" gap on either end. This little bit of slop is what allows for the knife half to slide next to one another to unlatch them and pop them apart. These pieces are glued into place, and because of the odd shape they need to be held in place while the glue dries slightly and then I can add some painters tape while it dries the rest of the way.

Extra material is left on the outside, so I cut most of that off using the bandsaw. The rest of the material is removed using the disk sander which brings it down flush and smooths it out to match the rest of the surface.

Step 14: Cutting the Blade Storage Cavity

Last bit of shaping on the inside is of coarse to add blade storage. I only have one of these blades right now, but it can still be useful for other things like you'll see later. I use the old woodworking trick of tracing with a washer around the perimeter of the blade. Using a very small washer, this gives me a line just larger than the size of the knife so that it will easily fit in the opening with no fuss.

To hollow out this cavity, I use the Turbo Shaft. This has some carbide cutters on the end of it to hog out the materials, but also has a stop collar on the shaft that you lock in place to set the depth. I cut away until I hit that depth and then keep cutting a little at a time until I hit my line, then the edges are cleaned up with a chisel.

Step 15: Final Details, Sanding, and Finishing

Now for the final touch on the outside of the knife, I want to add the lettering just like on the regular knife. Only difference from the normal knife is that this isn't extruded, do do that out of wood would be next to impossible without using the CNC and I wanted to make this entirely by hand so opted to carve it out instead with a v-nose bit in the palm router. I trace on the model number and Stanley logo, except changed "STANLEY" to "JACKMAN", same amount of letters and same font so I think I can get away with it :)

Then it's just a final sanding and for this I use the Contour Sander. This has a flexible rubber head on it so it fits into all the contours, appropriately enough. I sand through the grits up to 600 grit on the whole outside of the knife.

And last, I get to pull out the beautiful color of the oak with a few coats of tung oil. It makes the padauk really pop too! Shame that'll fade quite a bit over time, but I can enjoy it for now.

Step 16: Glamour Shots

Thanks to Shane the postman for the timely delivery!

You can see a view of the internals, see that knife storage is useful for other things too.

And about that last photo... It's the latest fashion trend, all the sexy woodworkers are wearing them in their tool belts this summer season... Check out the build video for the full experience. Thanks for checking this out!


Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

My Website: Essentially my entire life

YouTube: Me, in moving picture form

Instagram: Preview my projects as they progress #nofilter

Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting what I do!

Creative Misuse Contest

Participated in the
Creative Misuse Contest