Introduction: Make a Custom Knife Handle

About: Gabrielle Patin reporting for duty.

Pier 9 Starter Project

Make your own Knife handle

As some of you have seen, shop staff here at Pier 9's Workshop have dived deep into the exciting art of making Knives, particularly beautiful Knife handles. We have made Kitchen Blades, Hunting Knives, Fishing Knives, Retractable blades and rumor has it a mystical samurai dagger is in the works. Please remember it is important to follow all Shop rules and to treat shop staff in a respectful way.

This Instructable will detail all the steps you need to follow to make your very own custom knife.

Classes Required:

Basic WoodShop.
Basic Metal Shop (For metal Pins)
Paint Booth for Epoxy.

Machines used:

Wood shop Sanders, Wood Band Saw, Metal Band Saw, Metal Sanders, Scribe, Files, Drill Press, Clamps.

Necessary Materials

Knife Blade
Scales (Material for handle; wood, plastic, stabalized corn cob, mammoth tusk, stone ect.)
Masking Tape
Sand Paper (200-600)

Optional Materials

Pins (Mosaic, Solid, or Rivits)
Color spacers (Small spacers that add a line of color between your wood and metal Knife handle.)

Good websites to purchase materials:

Coming Soon.


Make sure to get the correct size pin for the Knife blade you chose.

Step 1: Preparing Materials and Cutting Handle Material to Size.

Step 1: Preparing Materials 

Once you have received your materials lay them out on a clean surface. Unsheathe your blade and cover the sharp section of the blade in Masking tape. This will protect you from cutting yourself and protect the blade from getting scratched. 

Prepare your Handle Scales and cut them down to a square with .5-1 inch of extra material around the blade handle. Using a Pencil trace the edge of the blade handle onto your Handle Scales.

Step 1.5: Cutting Handle Material to size

Next, use the Vertical Band saw to cut out the shape of your handle. Make sure to leave an eight of an inch of extra room so you don't cut away too much material. That will be done on the sanders. 

Step 2: Drilling Pin Holes

Step 2: Drilling Pin Holes

Knife handles come with predrilled holes. These represent where you can insert your pins and the size of pin you can use. Hopefully you ordered the correct size pin. If not you could drill larger holes using the Metal Drill Press.

Tape your two scales together and then tape tape your blade handle ontop. Mark the spots on the scales where the pins will go. You should drill the two scales together, so that you know the pin holes will line up. If you don't do this step correctly, you will have a challenge assembling your knife.

Next choose the drill bit just slightly larger than your sellected pin. 1/8 inch pin (.125) would use a slightly larger drill bit (.128-.132). Clamp down your Scale and drill a straight vertical pin hole. Drill hole nearest the blade first, drill hole at opposite end, and then drill center hole last. Now repeat with your second scale.

If your Knife came with Rivets instead of pins you must countersink your hole to the desired Depth. You can use a caliper to determine the size of the rivet head, which represents the size of the countersink hole you must drill.

Before you move onto Epoxying your blade together. Shape and sand the section of the scale that will touch the sharp edge of the blade. Once Epoxied, this section is difficult to work on the sanders without damaging the sharp edge of the blade. Also, remember to line up the two scales symmetrically if you want the front of your Handle to match on each side.

If you are adding a color spacer to the blade you must drill the holes in this piece as well. You can tape the spacer to your scale wood and Drill them together on the drill press. 

Step 3: Cutting Your Pins to Size.

Step 3: Cutting your Pins to size.

Put your handle together and let the end of the pin stick out of the handle an 1/8th. Mark 1/8th on the long side and cut out the desired number of pins on the Metal Band Saw to the right length. It is better to cut your pins longer than closer. It can be a bummer to realize you cut your fancy mosaic pin too short. 

Step 4: Epoxy the Blade Handle Together.

Step 4: Epoxy the Blade Handle Together. 

Next, in the paint booth, bring two clamps and set a fresh piece of paper down on the table. Lay you parts out and make sure your Pins go into the holes you drilled. Practice putting your Knife together, you will only have a short period of time to assemble and clamp your Knife together once epoxied. 

Next, prepare your epoxy and using a brush apply a light and constant coat of Epoxy over the first Scale handle. Attach that to the metal blade handle. Then push the pins through the drilled holes to bring the wood and metal into place. Finally Epoxy the other half of the handle scale and connect it, over the extruding pins to the other side of the metal handle. 

Once all the layers have been epoxied take two clamps and clamp the knife handle together. Check the time and let sit for at least 5 minutes. If there epoxy has squeezed out onto the front metal of the knife you can remove it  now before it dries. 

After the epoxy has cured you can remove it from the clamps and move onto sanding the blade into shape.

Step 5: Sanding Your Blade Handle Into Shape.

Step 5: Sanding your blade handle into shape.

Now you are ready to create the shape of your knife handle. Plan out the flow of how you want your knife to be shaped. Do you want it to be a wide Knife handle or a thin knife handle. Will it have sharp edges or no edges at all. You can plan this out before hand or just begin sanding and decide as you go.

I used the sanders in our Pier 9 woodshop. A belt sander, circle sander and our spindle sander was very useful. 

I started on the outside edges and sanded the wood down until it was flush with the knife metal. You can then form the rest of the handle by rotating the knife handle over the circle sander. You will need to sand down the metal pins that are sticking out to make sure they are not sticking out of your handle.

Once you are happy with the shape you can finish up with some other wood working tools and move onto polishing your handle.

Step 6: Polishing

Step 6: Polishing

You can now polish your handles using your the wood polish of your choice. I used 400 and then 600 grit sandpaper to wet sand the blade to a smooth surface. Depending on how smooth a finish you want you can go above 600 grit. 

Apply a your wood polish across the wood and then sand down. Repeat and let sit overnight with a coat of polish on it. Continue until you are happy with your knife. 

Step 7: Finishing

After your handle is dry from the wood polish, you can add any other finishes you like and remove the tape surrounding the sharp end of your knife blade. You have now finished your Knife blade handle, congratulations!

Next up text all of your friends to come over for a dinner party so you can show off your beautiful custom knife!

Hope this helped!

-Gabe Patin