Forged Damascus Steel Pocket Knife W/ Common Tools!!!

About: 14 yrs old, Woodworking, woodcarving, knifemaking, DIY how to, and much more are just what I do everyday! Stay tuned and find out what I make next!

Pocket knives are one of the most common knives around, but are also some of the most useful knives around! Mostly for their ability to be small and compact, and while razor sharp and ready for any job at hand! So for this project we're going to go into detail of making one of these fantastic knives through a process of Pattern Welding Steel; while maintaining to use only common tools and nothing but unwanted materials.

So without further ado, let's get started!

Materials/ Tools needed:

  • Large File
  • Lawnmower blade
  • Small file set
  • Vise
  • Angle Grinder
  • Angle Grinder discs (cutting, grinding, and finishing)
  • Ferric Chloride
  • Canola Oil
  • Tongs
  • Forge (coal forge and/or propane forge)
  • Anvil (railroad track)
  • Borax
  • Mini Sledge Hammers
  • Sandpaper (220-1000 grit)
  • Exotic Wood (Figured Walnut)
  • 1/8" Brass Pin
  • 5/32" Rivet
  • Drill (or drill press)
  • Drill Bits (1/8" and 5/32")
  • Saw (hacksaw)
  • Palm Sander
  • 5-minute Epoxy
  • Kydex Plastic (or flexible 1/8" plastic)
  • Rejuvenating Oil (or wood finish of choice)
  • (optional) Torch
  • (optional) Dremel
  • (optional) Scrollsaw

Step 1: What Is Pattern Welded Steel? (damascus Steel)

Before we get started on making the knife, allow me to explain what is Damascus steel (pattern welded steel), and how is it made? First thing's first, we need to get into the science of it. Damascus steel is special above other steels because of the patterns that can be created from it. It is mostly made for looks, but it also has extreme strength in the steel that most steels have. Why? Let's first get into how Damascus steel works. The reason why Damascus steel shows it's pattern beneath it's surface, because it is simply different layers of steel that are forged at extremely high temperatures of up to 2500° Fahrenheit. This is called Forge-welding. How does the pattern show? When forging the steel, you're working with two different types of steels. One steel has a high carbon percentage, which gives it a special ability to etch extremely dark when submerged in Ferric Chloride. While the other steel has a special ability to etch extremely bright, due to it's high Nickel percentage. Both of these steels combined are both extremely durable due to their harden-ability, which is why Damascus steel is preferred for most knives. Common steels used for Damascus Steel is 1095 (high carbon steel), and 15n20 (high carbon nickel steel).

Many patterns can be made from Damascus Steel, and today we're going to be making a pattern called Twisted Damascus. For this project, I'll be using some common steels such as a File (etches dark), and a Lawn Mower Blade (etches bright). Both of these steels can be hardened, which will work great for the finished product.

NOTE: Keep in mind that some steels are different, and may not etch like mine did. If you're looking for steels that will work for this project, there are plenty of resources available on the internet.

Step 2: Choosing and Preparing the Steel

Now it's time to start choosing, and preparing the steel to use. For this I am using a File (which will etch dark) and a Lawn Mower Blade (which will etch bright). Both steels are hardenable, which is important to keep in mind. To tell wether your steel etches dark or not, you will have to etch it. To do so, you will need a solution called Ferric Chloride. This will need to be purchased online unless you know where to buy some.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Once the pieces are etched, always neutralize the acid on the metal in baking soda and water mixed together from a proportion from 1-5. If it is not neutralized, it can eat away at the steel until there is nothing left. It is not toxic to the touch, but be cautious to neutralize anything that it touches. Do not dispose in sink, toilet, or drain! This can eat away at your pipes and can cause serious damage!!!

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for anything that happens to you, your equipment, belongings, or anyone around you while doing this process.

Now that you know a little about the steel, let's start preparing it! Once your steels are chosen, you will want to cut 5 pieces of bright-etching steel, and 4 pieces of the dark-etching steel for a total of 9 layers. You can do as many layers as you want, but the more layers the more interesting the pattern will be! I cut the file directly in half length-wise, and then cut into 4 bars (see images above). This gave me 8 pieces of steel, but we will only need 4.(this was to make sure we have extra steel in case of a failure that may occur during forge-welding) The final pieces were 1/2 inch x 4 inches x 1/8 inches. I left one piece 6 inches long rather than 4 so that this will act as a handle (so that I can grab the steel when forging). If you're looking for a larger bar of steel you may use more steel. But keep in mind that the more steel you layer; the more heat you will need to produce to get to a forge-welding temperature of about 2500° Fahrenheit. Once the pieces are cut, layer them in a sequential pattern from (light, dark, light, dark, light, dark, light). (optional) Lay the larger piece of steel on the bottom so that You can grab the steel in the forge. Once done, use some Stainless Steel 16-gauge wire and wire the pieces together while being clamped in a vise. Try to wound it as tight as possible, and then tie it off.

Now you're ready for the next step!

Step 3: Forge-welding the Stack

Now that the steel it prepared, it's time to start forging. I did my forging using a simple Coal forge that was made from a broken Webber (barbecuer), and an old fan to produce air-travel to keep the coals hot. A forge like mine can be made extremely easily for under $50 USD. A Coal forge is not required; any forge that can get hot enough to produce up to 2500° Fahrenheit should work perfect. Keep in mind that any forge you use must be used in a well-ventilated area due to toxins produced by the forge. You will also need an anvil; but a hard flat stone and/ or railroad track would work perfect. You will also need a hammer, I used a small sledge hammer. Wear safety gear such as: protective glasses, welding gloves, and an apron if necessary.

To start, put the steel into the forge to heat up to a dull red color. Remove the steel, and apply flux. The flux you will need is simply Borax (as used in soap-making). Sprinkle flux unto the steel, while trying to apply most of it between the layers. Let it melt on the steel until the steel is glossy, then put it back into the forge to heat up to the forge welding heat. If you are unsure of how hot your steel should be, a color chart is provided in the images above. A basic idea of how hot your steel should get is when it is a bright orange/ yellow, or when you can see the surface of the steel "sweating" or "bubbling" due to the flux heating up. Once the steel is up to temperature, remove it from the forge and use a hammer to lightly hit the steel. Lightly hit it 3 times, then put it back into the forge to heat up once more. Repeat the process of fluxing and hammering about 5 times until you feel like the steel will not come apart no matter how hard to hit it.

Once done, you're ready to move on to the next step!

Step 4: Drawing Out the Steel and Twisting

Now it's time to start drawing out the steel to about 3.75" x .75" x .75". This process is fairly simple, and can simply be done by lots of hammering to draw out the steel. Make certain not to hit the opposite direction of the pattern too much, for this can cause de-lamination between the layers if the forge-welds are not strong. Continue to stretch out the steel, and fluxing the steel when necessary. Once done, take it to a vise and begin twisting the steel. Twist it about 7 rotations. Keep in mind that the more you twist it, the more interesting the pattern will be!

Once the steel it twisted, you're ready for the next step!

Step 5: Drawing Out the Steel

Now that the steel is twisted, it's time to start drawing out the steel. You will want to flux the steel before drawing it out to make sure that any de-laminations that may have occurred can be fixed. Draw out the steel so that it is about 3/4" x 1/8", and length doesn't matter as long as the finished piece is longer than 3 inches.

Once the steel is to the correct dimensions, you're ready for the next step!

Step 6: Grinding, and Finishing

Now that the piece of Damascus is drawn out, it's time to grind it to our desired thickness. I did this by clamping it in a vise, and using an Angle Grinder to start grinding the same amount of steel on either side until it was about the thickness of a U.S. Quarter, then I used a Finishing Sandpaper disk to put a smooth finish on it. Because my steel was about 6.5 inches long, I went ahead and cut the piece in half. This will give me two pieces of steel to make a knife from! If your piece turned out shorter than 6 inches, there is still a possibility you can make two knives from the pieces of Damascus you have; otherwise you will only need a piece about 3.25 inches long.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 7: Trace Your Template

Now it's time to trace the template unto the steel we have. But before we do, let's take a look at the pattern! To do this I etched the pieces in some Ferric Chloride for about 10 minutes, then neutralized the acid using Baking Soda and water. This will give you a general idea of what the pattern will look like! To start making the knife, you will need a knife template. For this project I will be making a Friction Folding knife, so I simply used a friction folder knife template from the internet. There are many designs to choose from, so pick your favorite! To start, lay the cut-out template unto the steel. Then, use a permanent ink marker to trace the pattern unto the steel. Once done, you will have an outline in which you will need to cut; and you'l be ready for the next step!

Step 8: Cut the Knife Out

Now that the template is traced, it's time to cut the shape of the knife out! To do this I used my angle grinder, and a cutting disk to do so. Clamp the knife into a vise, and begin cutting the knife according to the shape we traced. Once done, refine the mechanism side so that it is symmetrical with the design traced. Then, start grinding the knife smooth if necessary. Make sure everything matches up correctly according to the template, and then you're ready for the next step!

Step 9: Sanding, and Drilling.

Now that the knife is cut out, it's time to start drilling the knife blank. This will be the hole in which will fasten the blade to the handle. To start, mark the hole in which you will need to drill according to the template. Then, drill a 5/32" hole using a Drill and/ or Drill Press. I chose to drill it at 5/32" because that's the rivet size I'll be using. If you have a different sized rivet to use for this, drill the hole according to the rivet size. Keep in mind that when drilling metal, you want to go slow and make sure not to heat up your drill bits. Once done, clamp the knife down and start wet-sanding all the scratches in the blade. Work your way up from 220 grit on up to 1000 grit.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 10: Heat-treating

Now that the blade is polished, it's time heat-treat the knife. To do this you will need something to quench the blade in, Canola Oil, Tongs, and a Torch. The torch is optional, for you can heat the blade up using your forge. You will want to get the steel no hotter than 1600° Fahrenheit. Once the steel is up to temperature, dunk the blade into the Canola Oil and slowly stir. After about 10 seconds, remove the blade form the oil, and look down the spine of the blade to make sure there are no cracks or warps. If there is a warp, simply bend the steel back into place while it's still hot from removing from the oil. Once done, let the steel cool and use the torch to heat the steel until it is a gold or blue color. Do not heat past this point, for you can loose your heat-treat.

Once done, let cool, and re-polish. Then you're ready for the next step!

Step 11: Etching the Blade

Now it's time to etch the blade! This will again be done using Ferric Chloride. Keeping in mind all the dangers of using this chemical as described in previous steps; etch the blade for as long as you want. Keep in mind that the more time you leave it in the acid, the deeper the pattern will show. I left my knife in the acid for about 1 hour before polishing with 2000 grit sandpaper, and repeating the same process after about 6 hours. This step is completely up to you on how you want your pattern to show, so get creative!

Once the blade is etched and neutralized, you're ready for the next step!

Step 12: Choosing Handle Material and Cutting

Now that the blade is finished, it's time to choose the handle material for the knife! For this project I chose to use some rare feathered Walnut. For this step you can use any wood you like! Exotic woods are preferred for their ability to keep a polish. Once you have chosen your wood, it's time to cut it into two pieces. Since this piece is about 1/8" thick, less sanding will be necessary later on. Cut the wood into two pieces that are 1" x 4" x 1/8".

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 13: Drilling, Fitting, and Testing

Now that your wood scales are cut, it's time to drill the holes into the wood in which will fasten the blade to the handle. To start, drill a 5/32" hole into the top of both pieces (about 1/4" away from the edge). Make sure they are clamped together while drilling. Once done, take it over to the bench and insert your Rivet into the hole you just drilled; then put the blade unto the rivet (see images above). Once done, mark the outside of the blade with a pencil while the blade is over the wood (see images above). Then, open the blade so that it is point away from the wood, and mark the outside of the blade mechanism (see images above). Once done, you should see that there is a small clearance in which there is empty space; mark an X in this spot and drill a 1/8" hole while both pieces are clamped, and the rivet in the holes (see images above).

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 14: The Mechanism

Now it's time to test the mechanism on the knife. To do this, take one of the scales and insert the Rivet and then place the blade on top of it. Then insert a 1/8" brass pin that's 1/2" long. You should see that the blade can open and close like a folding knife should. If not, you may have to start over and repeat the previous steps. The blade should open and close according to the pictures above.

If everything works accordingly, you're ready for the next step!

Step 15: Cutting the Handle

Now that the mechanism is made, it's time to cut out the handle! To do this I simply drew out a simple handle design in which I found interesting, and made sure it fit according to the blade mechanism. Make sure the blade can fit into the handle shape drawn, and that it has about a 1/8" clearance from the backside of the handle. Once done, use a ScrollSaw to cut out the handle shape. You can also use a Hacksaw, Coping Saw, or Jigsaw to do this. Make sure that when cutting that both pieces of wood are on top of each other and fastened by the two pins (see images above).

Once they're cut, you're ready for the next step!

Step 16: The Liner

Now that the handle is cut out, it's time to make the liner in which will make the handle stronger. I chose to use Kydex for it's flexability, but almost any plastic should work fine. Repeat the steps of drilling from the previous steps, and make sure it aligns with the wood pieces your cut. Once done, fit the blade to the kydex; and mark where the blade stops. Then, cut the outside of that line in which you will need the piece where the blade does not overlap. (see images above)

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 17: Glueing

Now it's time to glue the handle together. We will be going this with 5-minute Epoxy. Brand does not matter. To start, mix an even about of epoxy until you are sure it is thoroughly mixed. Then, apply epoxy to the bottom of one of the scales. Then put the scale on top of the Kydex liner. Once done, repeat with the other scale. Then, apply epoxy to the inner piece and sandwich it between both scales. Clamp the piece together with two drill bits (5/2" & 1/8") in their designated holes.

Let dry for 30 minutes before moving on.

Step 18: Trimming and Sizing

Now that the handle is glued, it's time to trim the excess Kydex and then sand the final piece. To start, I'll use a scrollsaw to cut the excess liner. Keep in mind this can also be done using a jigsaw, hacksaw, or coping saw. Once done, sand the final piece until it is precisely 1/2" thick. (see images above) Then, feel free to do any more adjustments to the design of the knife.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 19: Sanding, Shaping, and Finishing

Now that the piece is all symmetrical, it's time to start shaping the contour of the knife! To start, I'll use a palm sander and start rounding the handle starting at 220 grit. Round it as much as you want, get creative! This step is all your personal preference and how you like it! Once the rounding is finished, move on to hand-sanding from 400 - 1000 grit. Take your time between each grit, and feel free to move up to 2000 grit for a better shine!

Once done, you're ready for the next step.

Step 20: Inserting Stopping Pin

Now it's time to insert the stopping pin in which will allow the knife to stop at a certain point when opened and closed. To start, cut a 1/8" brass pin to 1/2" inches long if you already haven't. Insert a U.S. Quarter between the handle, for this will keep it from getting to tight as to insert your blade (see images above). Then, take it to your anvil/ hard surface and peen the rod into the 1/8" hole that we drilled. To do so, slightly hammer each side of the pin while it's inserted into the hole. Repeat until the pin has been "mushroomed", and can't be removed from the wood. Then, if desired; sand the pin flush with the wood, then polish.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 21: Finishing the Handle

Now it's time to finish the handle! To do this we are going to oil the wood. This will preserve the wood and leave a very nice finish. To do so I will be using Rejuvenating Oil. If you decide to use a different wood finish, read it's directions on applying because some finishes are applied differently. To start, apply the oil to a Paper Towel and wipe the wood with the oil. Once done, wait about 1 minute then wipe off. Repeat this step about 10 times at least for a good finish.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 22: Putting It All Together

Now it's time to put the knife together! To start, you will need your 1/2" x 5/2" rivet prepared, as well as your blade. Then insert the blade into the handle so that it aligns with the 5/32" hole drilled. Then insert the rivet through the handle and through the blade. Once done, insert the screw for the rivet and tighten. Do not tighten too far, for you will want it a little loose so the blade can open and close freely.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 23: Sharpening

This is the last and most important step of making the knife; sharpening. This step can easily be done by simply using a Whestone, and going back and fourth on either side sharpening at about a 30° angle. Repeat until you can see that the blade is sharp and there are no dents nor nicks in the blade. Then take it to a strop and strop the cutting edge until you can see the micro-edge is polished.

Once done, you're done!

Step 24: Finished!

Now the knife is finished! This is a great project for almost anyone for it's simplicity in style, but complexity in making. It's a beautiful knife, and a great blade for almost any job! Not only is this blade made from hand-forged Damascus Steel, but it has a handle from rare exotic wood that catches almost everybody's eye! Overall, this is a great project and impresses almost anyone you show it to; making it a great project for you to try out!

But until next time, thanks for viewing and 'Create Something'.

Want to see more? Visit my Youtube Channel and Website for more!

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    46 Discussions

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    NoahPlayz

    Tip 2 months ago

    if you want the knife to have a more delicate or fancy pattern, pull the steel out, then fold it over. it works better if you have an even layer count to start, but I have make knives with 200+ layers.

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    AndreiY2

    Question 8 months ago

    Originally asked by sypoth, but I'll ask again. Although pattern welded steel is sometimes considered "Damascus" grade, it's just a lot of different types of steel. I'd gladly admit that it's stronger than most knife blades but original Damascus steel, forged in the Middle East, has been X-rayed and tends to contain *plant fibers* and not mixed pieces of metal. Essentially what's melted in is carbon nanotube structures. Although rudimentary, it definitely made them stronger than swords and knives of their era. Mixed steel, which is often called "Damascus" but is really just marbled steels of different levels of carbon concentration, I'll admit, is pretty resilient. I realize that a lot of this stems from misnomers - English is a weird language and we apply rather misleading names to things sometimes. I realize you've been getting a lot of flak in the comments regarding this, but if you're going to show someone how to build a switchblade, you've gotta nail the terminology first. This isn't really a question, but more of a reply to your answer regarding forge-welding and all.
    TLDR: Forge-welded "Damascus" grade Marbled/Mixed steel isn't equivalent to Damascus (forging process) steel, which has a specific creation process that involves plants containing carbon nanotubes and letting it cool a certain way.
    -A. Yang
    (Owns an OTF Automatic Knife - Tekto Polar)

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    Argyros

    8 months ago

    That's a nice, understandable instructable and also nice result! Thanks for sharing, this just might motivate me to try to build a forge and make a knife again.

    1 reply
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    Dakotamouse

    8 months ago

    A beautiful knife and a beautiful post. I very much enjoyed watching the process.

    1 reply
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    jfryar30272

    8 months ago

    That is a beautiful knife! The walnut really complements the steel. Very nice and keep up the good work!

    1 reply

    Right, that guy is talking about Damascus Steel and is saying that pattern welded steel and damascus steel are both the same thing, just different ways to call it. Hope this helps!

    Actually, let me clear that up for you... What you just said is exactly what it is? Pattern welded steel is called pattern welded steel because it is different types of steel forge-welded to make a pattern between the layers of the steel... because the finished product has a pattern... Damascus steel has a pattern in the steel because of the different types of steel, which makes it pattern welded steel. Whether it's crystals, or nano carbon tubes, they're both the same thing.... Both the same process, both the same steel, both the same thing; just different ways to call it. This process is not smelting actually, it's forge-welding. Smelting is melting steel, which in this case would actually ruin the steel if you're making a knife due to the molecules spreading out so far that the steel becomes extremely brittle. But in this case we're forge-welding, which is welding the steel together by forging the steels together just before the melting point of the steel... Hope this helps.

    I’ve been reading instructables for a long time and this is the first one that has compelled me to comment.

    I love pocket knives and this is a beautiful example..the most beautiful example I’ve seen so far.

    You are very talented, and should be proud!

    Thank you for sharing :)

    1 reply
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    cyrusdh

    8 months ago

    Excellent. This is an excellent How-to. You have every right to be proud of your finished product.

    CDH

    1 reply