Introduction: My First Knife

About: I'm an actor/tech/IT/graphics/editor/writer kind of guy. I do a fair share of voice over work and have the full time gig at Bard College at Simon's Rock. While waiting for machines to do things, I hit the wo…

First read this instructable.

Seriously. If I hadn't I would have never tried this.


Grinder with cut off wheel

Belt sander with 60 and 80 grit

Sand paper

Band Saw


Dremel tool






Finishing oil

Step 1: So I Had This Chunk of Steel...

I read that instructable, and knew what I had to do. This piece of steel had been hanging around my office for 5 years. It was thick on one edge, thinner on the other, and made a nice metallic ring when you struck it. Nothing flimsy.

The first step is to make a mockup. I took some paper, drew a knife. Glued it to a small scrap of Luan plywood and cut it out.

And I rested.

I played with this design for a day or so. See how it looked. And decided it was ok. I was limited by the width of the steel I had, so it couldn't be some sort of monster blade. The goal was to be a new sgian-dubh for my formal kilt.

Step 2: I Drew Out the Design on the Steel...

I traced the design onto the steel and cut it out with the help of the cutoff wheel, then a grinding wheel. Then over to the belt sander and spent some time on it.

Have a cup of water nearby to cool it off so you can keep holding it.

Wear safety glasses and hearing protection. Don't be an idiot.

You'll notice that the knife is smaller than the design. Yes, this was a mistake. Sort of. The blade felt to long, so I shortened it. Mainly because the handle came out short. Hey, it's my first knife...

Step 3: Grind, Grind, Grind, Sand, Sand, Sand...

This is the time to really get things right.

When I do my second knife, and that's going to happen. I'm going to start with a piece of steel that is flat. The angle on the steel was a lot of work.

A benchtop belt sander is my friend.

The knife should look right, it should have a nice visual balance.

Step 4: That Looks About Right

So far so good.

Before you move on to heat treating, be 100% happy with it. Remove all scratches and gouges.

Step 5: Heat Treating

I have a fireplace. So this was easy and it took no time at all.

I got the fire going with a good bed of coals and stuck the knife in the coals. I left the door open a crack to create a good draft and high heat.

The blade heated to a bright orange in minutes. I tested it with a magnet, and it was non-magnetic as it was orange. I took the blade out and quenched it in a to-go cup full of vegetable oil. The to-go cup was stainless steel, and I secured it in the ash bucket to keep it from tipping.

I let it cool in the oil.

Then to the oven. I put the blade in the cold oven and brought the oven up to 375 degrees. Let it sit there for an hour then turned the oven off.

The next day, I repeated that, let it sit in the oven for an hour at 375, turned the oven off, and left it there till it cooled.

Step 6: Handle

I'm lucky, there's a place nearby that has all kinds of specialty woods.

For $10 I got this piece of wood for the knife handle scales. I believe it was red oak.

I traced the handle onto the wood, cut them out on the bandsaw and drilled through the knife into the handle to get the holes to align. Go ahead and oversize the handles at this point. The belt sander will make quick work of the wood and make it flush.

Using 30 minute epoxy, and tapped in the brass rod, and lightly clamped it overnight in the vice. Don't clamp to hard, you don't want to split the wood.

Step 7: Sand and Shape

Starting with the belt sander, then hand sanding with 150 grit, to 200 then 400.

Notice the tape on the edge. No hands were injured in the making of this knife.

Step 8: Finishing Oil

I used boiled linseed oil. It's what I have around.

The wood was VERY dry, it soaked up a lot of oil. I did a final finish with some butchers wax.

Step 9: Finished!

This was a fun and satisfying project, again huge thanks to Phiske and his instructable.

Some final notes. Take your time with the shaping. Don't rush.

When making the handle, go the extra mile to really sand it smooth, it makes a difference.

Don't stop at one knife. Once you make one, go ahead and get some more steel and make the second one better..

I did a final polish of the blade with 1500 grit sandpaper and it looks amazing. Seriously, this was a great project.

I have some scrap leather to make a blade sheath, so it will tuck in nicely to my kilt hose. Pictures upon request lassies... ;)