Introduction: How to Make a Carving Knife With Limited Tools

About: I'm not an expert in anything. I just enjoy making things sometimes for the process sometimes for the end product.

This is something I've wanted to make for quite a while. Its a simple carving knife that I plan to use for marking and some occasional whittling. Little knives like these can come in really handy in the shop. Since I wanted to make one I figured I would challenge myself and make it using only hand tools. I feel like its a good exercise to get back to basics every once and a while. If you want to know how I made this please keep on reading.

I think this video compliments this Instructable quite well:

Step 1:

First I chose a shape that looked about right and drew it on to a cutoff piece of 1095 steel that I had left over. Since this requires a relatively small piece of steel this would be a good project for left over scraps. I took advantage of the shape of the cutoff to minimize the cutting I would have to do. Next I chucked the piece of steel in my bench vise and began to cut as close to line as I could manage. I had to use my larger hacksaw to cut the longer section. The last picture shows the rough shape after cutting.


1095 Knife steel 5/8 inch wide by 3 inches long by 1/8 inch thick

2 inch long brass rod 1/8 inch diameter

Wood (preferably hardwood) 5 inches long x 1-1/4 inches wide x 5/8 inch thick




Bench vise

Mill File

1/8 inch diameter drill bit

3 clamps

Sandpaper (320-2000 grit)

Hand saw

Small mini files

Hand drill

Propane torch

Peanut oil



Ball Peen Hammer

Coping Saw


Danish Tung Oil - Dark Walnut

Step 2:

Next I cleaned the shape of the blade using my file. I made sure to reposition the blade in my vise to allow me to remove the material from all the different sides. The last picture shows the cleaned up version of the blade.

Step 3:

I used a Sharpie marker to paint the blade edge and used a drill bit that is the same thickness as the steel to scribe a line down the middle of the edge. I lay the blade on a flat surface and use the point of the drill bit to mark the center lines. These will serve as my guide lines for shaping the bevels. The plan is to file to these lines from both sides which should result in equal bevels on both sides of the blade.

Step 4:

I drew in the approximate height of the bevel I was trying to achieve, I was just eyeballing here, I'm not stickler for perfection. Then I clamped the blade to my work bench and began to file away material. I tried to keep the file at a consistent angle and tried not to go past my edge scribed line. I worked the file to increase the bevel up to my transition line. Once I was done with one side I flipped the blade over and repeated the process.

Step 5:

The first picture shows what the bevel looks like, now it was time to clean up the scratch marks left from the file. I used 320 grit sandpaper and started to sand. There is a lot of sanding. I wrapped the sandpaper around the file and used it to draw file the blade. This is where you hold the file parallel to the blade and pull from the clamp towards yourself in one motion. This is done so that the sanding/scratch marks are uniform. The goal here is to try and remove all the scratch marks left from the previous grit of sandpapers. Once the lines started to disappear I went up in sandpaper grit stopping at 600 grit.

Step 6:

Here you can see what the blade looks like before the sanding. The scratches left from the file are very visible. The second picture shows what the blade looks like after all the sanding.

Step 7:

I had some scrap pieces of Mesquite wood flooring and decided to use it for the handle any piece of wood will work but if you have a hardwood use it. I marked my center line and depth on the wood.

Step 8:

I used my hand saw to cut down the center line and then my small file to remove more of the material until the blade fit snugly in the gap.

Step 9:

I wanted to make sure the blade was properly secured so I marked to pin holes and then used my hand drill to drill both holes. You can see in the picture that I used clamps to secure the piece in place to drill the holes. Ideally this would be done on a drill press using a vice but in keeping with the hand tool only challenge I used my hand drill.

NOTE: After you drill the first hole make sure to stick a pin in that hole to keep the blade from moving when drilling the second hole. This will keep all the holes lined up when it comes time to glue everything together.

Step 10:

Now it was time to heat treat the blade. I used my handheld propane torch, which is actually for soldering copper, to heat the blade up until it was no longer magnetic. Once at the temperature I quenched the blade in peanut oil until cool. I checked the hardness by running a file across the edge to see if it dug in to the edge or not. Luckily the file skated right off the edge meaning that the blade was hardened. If the file had dug in to and scratched the edge then I would have had to try and heat treat the blade again.

Step 11:

The blade was pretty filthy after the quench. I used some 600 grit sand paper to clean off the scale. You need a clean blade for the tempering so that you can see the color change. If the blade is full of scale and crud then you won't be able to see the color change caused by the tempering. This will make more sense in the next step.

Step 12:

Usually I would use my oven to temper the blade. But since I was sticking to hand tools I fired up my torch again and slowly heated the blade until it reached a dark straw or bronze-ish color. (This can also be achieved using a preheated oven set at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You would simply place the blade in the oven for one hour at that temperature.)

Step 13:

I used my hacksaw to cut a couple of brass pins from a 1/8 inch diameter rod.

Step 14:

I cleaned up the blade again using 600 grit sand paper and removed the dark straw color. I also took the time to sand the top of what would be the bolster section of the handle. This area is very difficult to sand once everything is glued together so do it now before the glue up. I did a quick test fit to make sure everything fit nicely.

Step 15:

I made sure to tape up the blade, this will protect it from any epoxy that may squeeze out during the glue up. I then mixed a two part 5 minute epoxy until it was a uniform color. I am using a small silicone bowl and popsicle stick to mix the epoxy. The epoxy will not stick to the silicone bowl so clean up is fairly easy. The bowl is not necessary you can just mix the epoxy on some card board with a scrap piece of wood.

Step 16:

I used 5 minute epoxy so I made sure all my pieces were clean and orderly before the glue up. Once the epoxy was mixed I spread it on to and in to all the nooks and crannies. I slide the pins in place and tapped them in gently with a small hammer. Then I cleaned off any excess epoxy using Acetone.

Step 17:

Since the pin area was so small I peened the pins in place to lock everything in place. Tapping the pins in place will secure the handle to the blade. I let the epoxy cure over night before moving on to the next step.

Step 18:

Next I drew on the rough shape of the handle. I was just kind of guessing what shape would work here. I used my coping saw to cut away the excess. Leave some extra material on the handle so that you can shape it to fit your hand.

Step 19:

Now it was time to refine the shape of the handle. I used my files, rasp and sand paper to clean up the handle. As I shaped it I would hold it in my hand to make sure the fit was good. Once I was happy I sanded it up to 600 grit.

Step 20:

With the handle shaping done I sharpened the blade using some 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper. The sandpaper is just taped to a flat piece of wood.

Step 21:

To finish off the handle I applied 4 coats of Dark Walnut Danish Tung Oil. I don't add any polyurethane because I like the feel of the Danish Oil finish but if you would like a little more protection use a polyurethane to protect the wood.

Step 22:

Making something is always rewarding but when I use as few tools as possible its just a little more rewarding. It also gives my a renewed appreciation for all my power tools as well. I hope you enjoyed this Instructable if you have any questions I will do my best to try and answer them below.

I plan to enter this in the Hand Tool Contest, if you think I deserve a vote please vote for my Instructable. Thank you.

Link to build video:

Hand Tools Only Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2017