Introduction: Make a Wood Carving Knife From Scrap Wood and a Used Jigsaw Blade
What do you do when you are freshly interested in woodturning but you don't have the money to spend on nice materials or have access to well-seasoned wood? You go searching for some projects you can do with scraps!
As I perused YouTube for turning videos, I came across Doug Linker working on some simple wood carving projects. I thought it might be fun to try carving a little gnome. However, I spent a good amount of money on my midi-lathe and I really wanted to do some turning. After looking at Doug's knife, I thought to myself hey I can make something like that let's see what I have laying around. What I found was a used jigsaw blade that was getting dull. Then I remembered some heat-treated wood that I had pulled off of pallets from another project that I was about to throw out!
- Scrap wood 2" x 2" x 4" approximately
- Used jigsaw blade
- 1/4" Dowel
- Personal protective equipment (Face shield, safety glasses, etc.)
- Angle grinder with a grinding disk
- Belt sander or Dremel tool
- Sandpaper (various grits)
- Drill with 1/4" bit
- Japanese flush-cut saw (or hack saw)
- Flathead screwdriver
Step 1: Gathering and Prepping Materials
The handle blanks were made from 2" x 2" stock that I cut from leftover boards pried off of small pallets that I had used for another project. These boards still had nails and a few of them had holes drilled in them so I simply trimmed off either side to give myself a nice blank (rough-cut wood for turning) to put onto the lathe.
If you do not have a stock like this, any wood you have around could potentially be used with some modifications to the design. Perhaps a thinner handle, or even just cutting out a shape that works well for your hand and sanding down the edges until you can hold it comfortably. You will want the handle to be short enough that your thumb can place pressure on the back of the blade that will be set in it and make sure that it is wide enough on the blade side for a 1/4" hole to be drilled with extra material around it.
Since I did this on the lathe, I marked the center of the handle blank on both sides by drawing a line from one corner to the other to create an X, then I used a center punch to put a small dimple in the center. This allows me to align the spur center and live center of the lathe to the center of the blank.
Don't let the terminology confuse you, it really isn't that important. If you are interested in learning more about woodturning I highly recommend it as it can be a lot of fun!
Step 2: Making the Handle
The very first part of making the handle is to ensure you have your safety equipment on. Wood shavings in the eyes are not fun, go ahead ask me how I know! You can't see it here but I am wearing a full face shield while I work.
I could have just as easily made the handle without using a lathe but I really wanted to give it a go, and of course, I had a friend that wanted to try too. I went through the steps of rough gouging the blank to a rounded shape first and then adjusted the size and shape of the handle until it felt comfortable in my hand. I then used various grits of sandpaper ranging from 120 - 400 for smoothing out the handle. At this point, I could have stopped and left the handle alone since it is for a tool, but I also put a finish with paste wax to give the handle some protection and a little shine.
I could have used a parting tool all the way down to separate the handle from the rest of the blank but since I am new to turning and don't have one...I chose to use a Japanese flush-cut saw which is super fine and made a nice cut.
Step 3: Shaping the Blade
The next step was to shape the blade in a way that would work well for fine detail wood carving. I based my design off of the blade that I saw on one of Doug's videos. I didn't worry too much about trying to get the blade to any exact dimensions. I simply used a permanent marker to draw out approximately what I wanted, placed the blade tightly in a vice then began to grind away. I took off all of the areas that were covered in permanent marker and then beveled the blade the best I could for a cutting edge on both sides.
As with all of the other parts of this project please be sure you are wearing safety equipment and you are aware of your surroundings. Sparks will fly; you don't want to end up with a fire and should the vice not hold the blade well it could go flying!
Step 4: Handle Preparation for Setting the Blade
You will then need to prepare a place for the blade inside of the handle. By using the remaining length of the jigsaw blade I was able to get a good inch to inch and a half of the blade in the handle. I did this by drilling a 1/4" hole into the center of the blade end of the handle.
Placing the blade against the 1/4" drill bit will allow you to figure out how deep you will need to drill the hole and I used a small piece of painters tape wrapped around the drill bit as a depth gauge. Once the hole has been drilled you can test fit the blade into the handle. If the blade is too large you can use the grinder and make it a little narrower on the side that will be placed in the handle. You want it to be able to seat all the way to the bottom but still tight enough to provide a little resistance as you press it in.
Be careful, the blade may not have been fully sharpened yet but the edge created during the blade shaping is enough to give you a good cut!
Step 5: Mounting the Blade in the Handle
After the blade fits into the handle the way you want it to it is time to mount it permanently. I used a 1/4" hole specifically because I had a piece of leftover 1/4" dowel lying around my garage. This works perfectly for creating a nice tight fit around the blade once it is cut in half. Again, I used the flush-cut saw to split the dowel down the center and then cut across the dowel leaving plenty of extra material to cover past the start of the blade. The flush-cut saw is really the best here because it is so thin and cuts on the draw.
I placed the two pieces of dowel on either side of the blade and carefully test fit it but did not push it in too far. I just wanted to make sure it would fit tightly enough. At this point, you need to mix up your epoxy and hardener. I used 15-minute epoxy. Why? Because that is all I had! I used a scrap piece of wood that I had to press some e epoxy inside the handle and on either side of the blade as well as both sides of the dowel.
To assemble I placed the blade with one half of the dowel into the handle and then carefully slid the other half in as far as I could without forcing it. I then used a flat head screwdriver to help, safely, press the two dowels down until they would not go any further.
Step 6: Finishing the Blade
The final step is to cut off the dowel that protrudes from the handle flush to the handle. I did this immediately after placing the blade in case I "accidentally" got any epoxy between that protruding dowel and the blade.
Leave the epoxy to dry for a few hours at minimum and then depending on how well you did at grinding the blade you have a workable wood-carving knife!
But workable just isn't good enough for me...
Use various grit sandpapers and or a whetstone to sharpen and polish the blade until it is razor sharp on the cutting edge. Remember to leave the top edge flat and dull so you have a place to put your thumb for leverage!
(tip: if you have a hand held belt sander, a work bench and a clamp or two you could probably rig up a mighty nice sanding station and get an excellent bevel.)
Step 7: Optional Step
Blades that you get from the store have a few extra benefits that this homemade masterpiece doesn't provide. The carving knives that you purchase will have been hardened which, if you have a forge, you could do with the jigsaw blade before you mount it into the handle.
Unfortunately, I don't...yet, but this will make the blade stiffer and hold a better edge.
I hope you give this Instructable a try and let me know how it turns out for you!
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