Introduction: Wood Carving Knife

In this Instructable will show the basic steps I use to make a wood carving knife. The shape of the blade can be varied easily. The knife will have a custom hardwood handle that uses a hidden tang. The blade will be formed from a used "Sawzall" blade. The project takes about 1 day to complete including glue setting time. Actual time spent on the project is about 1 to 2 hours plus sharpening.

Step 1: Tools and Materials List

As with any project involving powered tools, use safety precautions and Personal Protection Equipment..

This is a list of tools and/or materials used to create the Wood Carving Knife:

  • Sawzall blade
  • Soapstone marker
  • Scales for the knife - Cherry wood scrap 1 1/2" x 10" x 3/8"
  • 1/8" brass rod - need about an inch.
  • Steel punch
  • Hammer
  • Metal grinder
  • Drill with 1/8" bit
  • Wood rasp
  • Sand paper
    • 60 grit
    • 120 grit
    • 200 grit
  • Belt Sander 1" x 30"
    • 120 grit belt
    • 400 grit belt
    • 1000 grit belt
    • Leather belt
  • Wood Glue
  • Sandpaper sharpening sticks with 320, 400, 600 and 1200 grit.
  • Leather Strop
  • Finishing oil - Boiled Lindseed Oil and Bees Wax

Step 2: Designing the Blade

Starting with a 'sawzall" blade, clean the surface and design the basic shape of the blade and the hidden tang. Try not to use any portion of the actual sawing area. This is a rough design to use on the grinding wheel. I used a piece of soapstone to mark the metal.

Plan to use the hole at the rear of the blade to hold a pin to anchor the blade in place. Next, using a model of the handle, determine the location of the second hole to anchor the blade to the handle. Use an awl or nail to mark the hole location on the metal. Sawzall blades are very hard and nearly impossible to drill, so we will punch a hole rather than drilling a hole. Place the metal over a hole in a steel plate or block of wood. Using an 1/8" punch, tap a hole in the metal.

Now take the blade to a grinding wheel and remove excess material to create the basic outline of the blade and tang. Use water to keep the blade cool as you shape the metal.

Step 3: Design the Handle: Part 1

Once the basic shape of the blade is finished it is time to design the handle. Using a previous handle helps to design this one.

Taking a scrap of a hardwood, cut two equal sized scales. Each scale should be about 5" x 1 1/4" x 3/8". Next, glue the scales together using a scrap of paper between the scales. This will allow the scales to be taken apart later. Allow to dry about a 1/2 hour.

Step 4: Defining the Blade

While the glue dries between the scales use this time to define the blade on the knife.

Using a block of wood as a stop start to shape the blade using the belt sander. First using 120 then 400 grit, start to bevel the blade (~10 degrees). Once a good bevel is on the blade change to 1000 grit and then the leather belt. The blade will start to get sharp, it is also getting thin and heat can build up fast, so, keep the metal cool by dipping into water frequently.


Use the sharpening blocks to go from 320 to 1200 grit then strop. Polish/sharpen the blade. A good bevel that is polished will glide through the wood as it is cut. This is the working part of the blade, take your time at this step.

Step 5: Defining the Handle: Part 2

The glue should be dry enough after a 1/2 hour to be able to form the scales. Using a pattern, trace the shape of the handle to the scales. Using a rasp or sanding disc shape the scales to the pattern.

Split the scales in half using a sharp knife. Clean the insides of the scales.

Step 6: Hidden Tang

Lay your blade on the inside surface of one scale. Determine the final shape of the blade and tang. Remove excess material as needed.

Again, lay your blade on the inside of one scale and trace the figure of the tang. Using a dremel, remove wood from the inside of one scale so that the tang is flush with the surface of the scale. Drill two holes part way into the scale for the pins.

Take a piece of 1/8" brazing rod or brass rod and make two 1/2" pins for the tang. Sharpen each end so that they will bite into the wood scales. Place the tang into the depression created on one scale, insert the pins into the tang holes of one scale and gently tap into place with a hammer. Place the other scale over the first and gently tap with a hammer to show the pin holes. Remove the top scale and drill shallow holes for the pins.

Cover the insides of the two scales with wood glue. Place the tang and pins into their respective locations and squeeze together in a vice. Use scrap wood between the scales and the jaws of the vise to protect the scales. When the two scales are together, leave the knife in the vise for two hours for the wood glue to cure.

Step 7: Finishing the Knife

At this point the knife handle and knife are joined. Cover the blade with blue tape while you shape the handle to your liking. Use a rasp to shape the handle to your hand. Use sandpaper for final smoothing. A mixture of Boiled linseed oil and bees wax is used to seal and protect the wood. One coat a day for a week. Then final sharpening and polishing of the blade and the handle. There are many methods for sharpening knives, so that will be up to your discretion.

A variety of blades can be made and attached to the handle scales using the methods shown in this Instructable.

As this is my first Instructable, but, not my first knife, I may have left out some steps that I do automatically. I hope you will make a a wood working knife of your own.

All my tools are branded with the Rune symbol for Joy.

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