Introduction: How to Create a Wooden Paperknife

Welcome to my Instructable, in which I will be outlining the simple steps necessary in order to create a wooden paperknife, which will be sharp enough in order to cut open your letters with it. Before starting with this project, please be aware of some general woodworking safety rules:

  1. Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (for our project we will only need safety goggles and a dust mask for prolonged sanding without a connected vacuum system)
  2. Do not touch the blades or belts of running machines.
  3. Do not get distracted whilst using heavy machinery.
  4. Wear appropriate clothing
    1. No long sleeves that could get caught up in the machine (pull up your sleeves if necessary)
    2. No loose bits of clothing that could get caught up in the machine
    3. Tie back long hair
  5. It is advisable you wear an apron, as you might otherwise dirty your clothes.

Remember that bad accidents can occur in the woodworking lab, so always be cautious of the above rules.

Happy Woodworking!

Step 1: Materials Needed

For this project, your materials and tools will be rather simple, provided you have a woodworking lab which you may work in.

The necessary materials are:

  1. A piece of wood which fits the dimensions in which you wish your knife to be in.
  2. A sheet of paper
    1. a pencil
    2. a ruler
    3. a pair of scissors
  3. A finish of your choice (I recommend varnish or oil finishes)
    1. a brush with which to apply the finish

The necessary tools are:

  1. A Belt Sander
  2. A scroll saw if applicable to the dimensions of your wood
    1. If your wood does not fit under the scroll saw at your disposal, you will require a chisel and mallet in order to get your knife into the rough shape which you want, before sanding it.

Step 2: The Shape of Your Knife

In order to give your knife the shape which you want it to have, you must first trace your wanted shape onto a piece of paper with a pencil, and a ruler for the straight edge. Make sure to get your round edge right, so that cutting will be effective, and your point is sharp. If you are not a talented sketcher, you might need a few attempts at this, for which it will be fine if you erase any imperfections, as this piece of paper must only be able to show you where to cut it out.

When you have completed your drawing of the outline of your knife, cut the shape out along the lines which you just drew

When you are done with this, place your paper cutout onto the piece of wood which you have selected for this project, and trace around the cutout onto the wooden block with your pencil.

Step 3: Cutting the Wood

Once you have the trace of your cutout on your piece of wood, you can remove the cutout from the piece of wood.

The next step will be to cut out the rough shape of your knife so that you can sand it down later.

If you have selected a piece of wood that has a thickness which fits under your scroll saw, you are in luck, as this saves you a lot of handiwork. In order to cut out your piece of wood, simply place the piece of wood onto the platform of the scroll saw, and turn on the scroll saw. Do not forget to put on your safety goggles! Cut into the piece of wood at a point in the wood where you can easily cut a line through the excess wood to the traced shape of your knife. Do this by pushing the piece of wood against the direction in which the sharp end of the moving blade of the scroll saw is facing. Once you have reached the outline of your knife, try to cut around this outline, always applying a gentle pushing force, not directly on the line, as this will leave you some space for errors in the cutting and sanding. Remember not to push too hard against the blade and to cut the curves gently.

In case your piece of wood does not fit under the scroll saw, simply chisel away the excess wood, again, leaving some space, so that the outline of the knife will still be visible, as this will leave a margin of error for when you sand it, later. In order to chisel a piece of wood, one must take a chisel, place it with the metal end downwards, and the curved or inclined side of the metal facing the wood. place the chisel in the angle in which you wish to take away the wood in, and apply pressure onto the wooden handle by hitting it with the wooden mallet. Repeat this until you only have the shape of your knife left, perhaps with the visible outline left on it.

Step 4: Sanding the Piece of Wood That Vaguely Resembles a Paperknife

Now we come to sanding, which is the part in which you really get to express yourself, and give your knife the right shape.

For this step, we will require a belt sander and your piece of wood. Turn on the Belt sander, make sure to wear goggles, and turn on any vacuum system you have. If you do not have this system, please make sure to wear a dust mask, as you could inhale the wooden dust otherwise. For sanding your knife, you must simply place it onto the belt sander with the side which you wish to decrease the size of. For the rounded edge, it is advisable to rock your knife up and down on the surface of your belt sander, as this will give you a nice even curve. Sand the knife down until it has reached the wanted shape and dimensions.

Step 5: Sharpening the Blade

In order to give your paper knife the necessary sharpness, we will sand both sides of the knife's blade to have a slight slope, as to form a wedge shape.

You will place the knife onto the running belt sander with a slight angle, as to only sand the part which you must sand in order to create a sharpness in the blade. Once you have created a slight incline on one flipside of the blade, it is time to repeat this process on the other side. When this is completed, your blade should be slightly sharp already.

The finer sharpening of the blade can be done with a piece of (fine) sandpaper.

Step 6: Finishing It Off

If you want to you can then finish your piece of woodwork, by applying a layer of the varnish or wood oil of your choice. This will harden the wood, smoothen it out, and give it a better look.